His breath dug into his aching side as he attempted to stand up and scan the fallen city of his home. Shane couldn’t tell if the pain in his chest was his aching heart or the grueling sensation deep inside his body.
The heat from the flames from down below the mountain licked his face, numbing his skin.
Glancing behind him, he saw the pieces of his camera scattered across the dirt and grassy hilltop. Though the mechanical devices were replaceable, he felt excruciatingly powerless and vulnerable.
Turning back to the city below, Shane eyed the location where his home used to stand. Dark clouds and smoke engulfed his childhood. He could barely see the houses on his street still standing.
Without a second thought, he sprinted down the hill, dodging patches of fire and smoke. It didn’t take long for him to reach the end of Alpine Street where few of his neighbors huddled in clusters, some holding each other closely. Some praying.
Baby Anne, with dark ashes on her soft, fat cheeks, clutched onto her mother’s shoulders.
Shane’s ears, filled with cotton, hardly caught the sound of firetrucks and ambulances rushing across the town. He wasn’t going to wait any longer for them to arrive.
He darted into the thick brown ash surrounding his home, and knocked down the front door with his shoulder.
“Mom! Dad!” he shouted, tossing over the obstacles of furniture and broken glass. Only the haunting sound of dangling pictures frames and smell of burnt wood responded to his cry.
“Can you hear me?! Mom! Dad!” Shane called. He moved cautiously through the broken house, feeling more and more alone.
He took the stairs, two by two, up to their room. The hallway was flooded with glass and shrapnel from the blast.
The memory of father’s words before a baseball game steadied the panic rising in his throat.
Just remember one thing, son. Breathe.
Shane felt his heart beating in his chest, harder and harder with every step toward their bedroom. It drummed until he saw the streak of blood.
“Christ,” he whispered.
The iron stench burned his nose. Apprehensively, he pushed open their door and the site of their limp, pale bodies on the black carpet of their room brought tears to his eyes and a throbbing within his core.
Shane’s shoulders shook with fear and devastation.
“Anybody here?!” shouted a voice from the firefighter on the first floor.
A moment went by before he could find words.
“Yes,” he mumbled, his throat dry and sore. “Help. Please. Help! Help!”
Shuffling of boots and equipment echoed from below.
He realized how utterly useless and alone he was.
And yet, just another bead on the statistic necklace of mass genocide.