Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The End of the World

Hello, lovely blog readers! I'm not dead, I promise! I have, as usual when my blog posts trickle to a halt, been incredibly busy this semester - the kind of busy that when I stop to take a break for a few hours (or sometimes an evening) because I can't think straight anymore, I feel guilty about neglecting my mountain of work. Sigh. 

Anyway, enough about my overabundance of homework - it's time for a teaser!!

This is the opening chapter (it's a short chapter) of the short novel I'm working on for my class. Long time blog readers might recognize it, as the idea came from a short story I wrote about a year ago, although there are quite a few differences in the new version - namely that the protagonist is about two years older, and that it's now a novel instead of a short story.

In any case, I hope you enjoy it!


November, 1940

            The air raid siren did not scare Sophie Miller any longer. 

            Never mind that it was cold and the middle of the night; the siren went off, whooping across the darkness like some sort of alien bird, and Sophie obeyed its call. She and her mother got out of bed, pulled on socks and slippers and dressing gowns at coats, bundling up against the possibility of a long night in the tin-and-concrete Anderson shelter. The air outside was bitingly cold, and it did not yet smell of dust and smoke and burnt things the way Sophie knew it would sooner or later. So far, there was no sound aside from the siren and neighbors clattering towards their own backyard shelters.

            Sophie and her mother crossed the yard in silence – there was nothing that needed to be said – and clambered inside their little vegetable-covered Anderson shelter. She switched on the torch then, hoping that the batteries would last till the end of the raid this time, and reached for the overstuffed suitcase that was settled beneath the little wooden cot inside the bomb shelter. The suitcase held anything she and her mother had, in a fit of fancy, deemed important – a layer of legal documents settled at the bottom, covered by pictures of her father, favorite earrings, a carefully wrapped tea set that had belonged to Sophie’s grandmother, and books. Sophie took out one of the books and clambered onto the cot beside her mother, letting half the blanket be wrapped around her as they snuggled together while Sophie balanced the torch between her cheek and her shoulder and the book on her bony knees and began to read. In a voice that was at first heavy with sleep, then louder as the sound of the siren was replaced by the eerie soft roar of plane engines and the distant soul-shattering crashes of bombs, she read from the evening’s chosen book – this time it was Twelfth Night – relishing in the feel of the familiar syllables falling from her lips and the warm weight of her mother’s shoulder pressing in to hers. 

            The explosions that battered the world outside their tin can shelter grew closer, and Sophie had to raise her voice again and again to make herself heard above the noise and above the panic that threatened to overtake her as each explosion sounded more and more near. 

            And then the earth itself seemed to shake. 

            The force of the explosion knocked the pair off the cot and onto the hard, cold floor, which was where they stayed, gasping and clinging and frightened, for a good long while. There were more explosions outside, although none so close, but Twelfth Night lay forgotten on the floor, and the glass of the torch was cracked, keeping them in darkness. 

            When at last the all-clear signal sounded and Sophie creaked open the door of the Anderson shelter, she had expected to see what she had always seen: the back door of her little house in Brixton, where she had spent all her life, with its grey painted siding and blue painted windows. She expected to see the fence along her yard and the shadow of the neighbor’s houses. But all of that was gone. 

            Her mother put her hand on Sophie’s shoulder in what was probably meant to be a comforting gesture but was in reality a vice grip as the two of them stepped into a wholly alien landscape. There was a great, gaping black hole where her house had been, stretching across the street, leaving the back wall of the house to stand precariously on its own. The windows had shattered, and the curtains that her mother had made were beginning to catch fire. 

            It was as though Sophie had closed the door on the world she’d known and opened it on an utterly new one. Had she been able to speak, she might have echoed Viola and said “what country, friends, is this?” because it was not Brixton. 

            It was not home, and it would never be home again.