I opened my eyes to darkness so profound that I thought for a moment that I might already be dead, or pretty damned close to it. Then, the pain hit my nervous system and I screamed.
The darkness came to life with other screams. Pain. Terror. Around me, the darkness violently roared and rumbled as the ground above was hit with yet another incoming round of mortar fire. More dirt, more chunks of concrete fell, pelting me as I tried to cover my head with my hands.
I heard my name being called. I tried to call back, tried to locate the sound in the darkness.
‘Leah, follow my voice.’
The voice was louder, more coherent. Overhead another impact broke my tenuous hold on the phantom voice and it’s order as the roar of another cave-in plunged be back into the hell of my mind. Surely, this was death. I was dying. The cave would collapse. The stones would bury me forever in their tomb.
‘You are not dead, Leah.’
That voice was there again, right above me, strong and clear. I had to get to that voice. I clawed upwards, clawing for purchase against the stones. Trapped, unable to pull my legs up. My body trapped…no, held down. Strong arms, the weight of a body. HIS body. The blood… dripping down into my eyes. The stench of evacuated bowels. The smell of death. The odor of decay. The flies… The screams…. my screams…
The hands gripping my arms tightly. The voice…giving me orders to stand down. What the hell does ‘stand down’ mean. The voice ordering me to stop fighting…to calm down. The voice telling me I’m safe. Like hell I am. I’m trapped underground, the walls are falling in, the bombs are trying to kill me… Like HELL I’m safe!
The voice repeats itself, calling me by name, over and over.
The darkness fades. The pain returns. I scream.
‘Leah, calm down!’ The voice orders gruffly behind a surgical mask. I see only the eyes.