Conquest (Flash Fiction)

Two children hurried by a sapling tree while smoke rolled up from the valley below. They coughed and covered their mouths, and the smoke made their eyes water and sting. Catherine, the oldest, pulled her sister along, always upward, always away from the explosions and smoke. Catherine’s small feet tripped and stumbled in the rocky soil. Several times, she scraped her knees and bloodied the palm of her hand. But she continued onward.

They came to the crest of the small hill, and the breeze freed them from the smoke nagging at their lungs. They both fell, older sister first and then younger sister beside her, and coughed at the blue sky. The concussive force of explosions thundered closer. It shook the stones and sent tiny land-slides down the hill.

“Where is Momma?” cried Susanne.

“She’s coming,” said Catherine. She knew it was a lie. The hot liquid that spattered across her face when the shooting started several minutes ago told her that her mother was long gone. “We’ll see her soon.” Another explosion, much closer than the others, shook the ground. The tanks were firing into the hills now. The rows of shanties that the poor called their home were being destroyed.

Susanne screamed with fear. “I want my Momma!”

Catherine felt the grit of sand in her mouth and the dust in her blinking eyes. She looked up through a clear blue sky and wondered, how does God not see such things? Another explosion rocked the hillside and the two girls were bombarded by falling dirt and debris. A piece of tin fell and clipped Catherine just above the knee. Blood began to flow immediately. Her ears were ringing again, worse than before, and she could barely hear her younger sister screaming.

“Why is this happening!?” screamed Susanne.

Catherine remembered her father’s rantings at the dinner table. She heard his voice cursing those in charge, those who stand to make the most money, those who would use the bones of the poor to pave their streets if they ever ran out of gold, not that they would anytime soon. As the artillery pounded the hills and strike planes flew overhead, she heard her father’s fist pounding the dinner table where they would gather to eat a meager meal.

“It’s happening because this is all that’s ever been,” Catherine said to herself. A high-pitched screech filled the air, the ground around her exploded, and she was doused in the blood of her sister. She rolled over and rubbed the dirt and flesh from her face. Somewhere close, a fire was beginning to rage, and she could feel the flames clawing at her back. Catherine scrambled to her feet, despite her growing desire to die, and began running once more. Behind her, the village she called her home burned to the ground. As she ran, an attack helicopter performed a strafing run over the fleeing villagers and the large-caliber munitions tore her body in half. Her torso tumbled and she landed on her back, facing that clear blue sky for a final time. How does God not see this? she thought to herself.

And then she died.

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