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Falling too Fast

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“Emma, come here now, and quickly.” The lights were gone . . . I couldn’t see where Emma was. But I knew, wherever she was, she would be frightened. She was seven years old and scared of the dark. The smell of burning wood and gun powder probably didn’t help either.

Something shook the house, or what was left of the house, and I heard Emma scream.
“It’s okay, Emmy. Come to me, follow my voice.” I rambled out senseless reassurances that I wasn’t sure she could hear. The airplanes were whistling above our house and I was almost positive that there were bombs going off. But those sounds were all cut off when I heard a shriek, one earsplitting shriek.
“Emma!” I ran forward, not knowing where to go. “Emma answer me!”
My baby sister, this couldn’t be happening. Mom had left me in charge of her.
“Emma!” My voice was hoarse. There were bombs going off, the lights were flashing outside, but it was all silent to me. There was only one thing I wanted to hear, and I wasn’t hearing it.
A flare from outside lit up the room with a blazing, orange light. I looked around before it disappeared, sentencing me to darkness once more.
My heart dropped, there was an arm bent awkwardly out of the rubble.
“Emma!” this scream surpassed all of my others.
My sister . . . my baby sister. I ran to the arm and clutched her hand. It was warm, but whether that meant anything, I had no idea, so I just held her hand for a minute, whispering her name. “Emma, Emma.” It was no use, there was no point anymore but I couldn’t tear myself away.
Tears started leaking down my face. The bombs were silent . . . the flashes were black . . . the shudders were non-existent. All that mattered was Emma’s warm hand in mine. I sat there crying; waiting for the impossible. I held her hand close to my heart, willing my life to jump into her.
I sat for a minute – not knowing what else to do, when suddenly there was a twitch. My heart stopped . . . her hand curled around mine. Yes!
“Annie?” her voice was weak.
“Yes, yes, Ems, I’m here.” I couldn’t believe it.
“I’m scared, Annie.”
“I know, Emma, I know.” I pulled her out of the rubble. Another shudder pushed me to go faster. “Come on, Em, stay next to me.”
I twisted through the familiar house, avoiding the weak spots and holes, but when we reached the stairs I stopped short. They were gone. Only a few charred pieces of wood were left and nothing else.
There was only one thing to do . . . otherwise we were stuck.
“Emma, I need you to do something for me,” I looked her square in the eye and saw her horrified expression. She knew what I had to ask her.
“No, Annie.” She shook her head back and forth with wide eyes.
“I’ll go first and I-I’ll catch you.” I hoped that I could keep that promise. “It’ll be okay.” I gave her one last look, and squeezed her hand gently before turning to the banister. Wow it was a long way down. Was it always that far? Well it didn’t matter now, I had to jump.
I walked closer to the edge and pulled off the weak, once wooden, handrail. I felt sick; it was about forty feet down, something I would never attempt by choice. The only way to do this was to close my eyes. I couldn’t afford any hesitation, Emma was watching.
I thrust my eyelids shut tight, tighter than I ever had. It’s just an amusement park ride I told myself, not believing it for one second.
No more hesitation, I had to do this. I moved one foot forward, feeling nothing beneath me. This next step was the hardest, but I pushed my foot forward keeping my mouth shut, Emma didn’t need to hear me scream.
Ow! I crumbled to the floor. I had landed directly on my feet and the pain shot up through my ankles.
“Annie!” She was worried; I didn’t want her to be worried.
“I’m fine Emmy, Don’t worry.” I was lying through my teeth, I couldn’t even stand up.
Acting on a whim I made a butterfly out of my legs – and all of those years I thought doing butterfly stretches in gym were useless. I also put my arms out though I wasn’t sure if that would help.
“Come on, Emma, I’ll catch you.” I hesitated. “I promise.” I prayed that she would jump into my lap.
This was harder to go through than jumping off the stairs myself. I had to force my eyes to stay open, hating the idea of watching my baby sister jump down forty feet. But despite my desire I kept my eyes on her.
Her scream was louder than any of the shudders, louder than the bombs or the planes. She was falling too fast and too far to the right. I had to catch her. Ignoring the stabbing pain in my ankles I stood up and ran toward her. Miraculously she fell right into my arms and we both fell to the floor.
“Em, Emma, are you okay?”
“I guess so,” her voice was weak, but I didn’t have time for that.
“Good, then stand up, we have to get out of here.” I grabbed her wrist and ran.
My ankles were both broken, but there was nothing that I could do about that. We ran far away, as far away as we could. We ran to some sort of bomb shelter and stayed there for the night.
There were other kids there and they were alone, just like us, but there was no talking; no discussing how awful a situation we were in, no one even dared to sleep . . . and I knew that in the morning, the nine children that were here were all going to the train station, same as us, to get the hell out of this war zone.



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