In the year of our Lord
Eighteen Hundred and Ninety One
This August Twenty Fifth
231 C Rue Claire
My Papas looked to my Mamas, who nodded their heads reluctantly, and they took off running. I never saw Mama, look so frightened and worried at the same time. It was horrible what had just happened, but at the age of ten, horror can only last so long and childishness settles back in again. I and Valentine knew where our Papas were running to and that frightened us even more.
Towards the source of the explosion!
"Julyanna, Valentine, we must seek shelter in the basement at once." Mama told us.
"But why?" Valentine protested. She was becoming a teenager, and they question everything adults command. And I did so as well, which is why my mother called me a pre-adolescent teenager in the bud.
"The sky has fallen." Amy commented, tracing the bloody gash in the sky to where it had entered our atmosphere.
We turned to look and saw the same. Whatever had fallen had to have been huge, for it had left a trail that went high up into the atmosphere. I remember Papa saying put two fingers together across the sky, that's ten miles, and four is twenty and so forth. I and Val did that and as we did, our eyes widened further and further, for whatever had tracked across the ceiling of the sky had been traveling at great speed and graveled from one horizon to the next.
Mama didn't have to say anymore. We both gripped each other's hands and quickly went to the basement door, which Mama Verne opened for us.
Bernard Matre and his ailing daughter came into view and were invited to join us by Mama Wells. In a matter of minutes our basement was filled with tense, but laughing friends and neighbors. They had brought with them fruit and wine, cakes and breads, sweet vegetables and corn on the cob. It was like an end of the world party. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow...
Of course I didn't think such thoughts at that age, but I felt it to be quite queer that so many adults acted as if nothing out of the usual had just happened. None of them wanted to put to words what their hearts feared.
Then we heard this horrible sound, like the shriek of a huge dying animal and an explosion. Mama gathered us into her arms and held us close, tears coming down her eyes.
Mama Verne sat next to us tense, holding the hand of Marietta, our end neighbor on the same floor of our flat. Her father was tending to some wounded at the other end of the basement and giving them encouragement.
Some of the younger children began to cry when a repeat of the first sound struck the air and shook our building. I felt for sure that it was indeed the end of the world.
The sounds grew closer and more intense and we could hear the sound of horses outside the basement door screaming and men hollering and cursing, then the sounds of weapons firing. Then the tide of the battle swept past us. It became deathly silent. So silent that both our Mamas began to say prayers over and over, crossing themselves again and again as they did so, as if that would stave off the horror and evil that had invaded our world.
Val and I laid down at our Mama's feet, using our arms for cushions and fell asleep, as did many of the other worn out and beaten done inhabitants of our street. It became the silence of the night and sleep and one by one the candles in the basement went out, until only one by the basement door remained lit.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of the basement door slamming open. Papa Verne and Wells stood framed in the morning light. They were dirty, their clothing torn and burnt in parts. They descended into the basement without a word. Both our Mamas jumped up and ran to them.
No one said anything. Papa Verne held Amy close to him, whispering something in her ears. She nodded, but neither spoke loud enough for anyone to hear.
Finally, my Papa Wells sat down, looking worn and weary, but not defeated, he had a gleam in his eyes like someone who has seen an angel, or a demon!
"A war has begun." He said gently.
Everyone, in the basement, let out gasps.
"But who would want to harm us?" Bernard demanded. "We are friends with the Brits and the Germans."
"It is not they." Papa Verne answered.
"It is another. Far less human. Far less forgiving." Papa Wells said.
Then they both looked at me and Val.
I shuddered, as did Val. We knew immediately that they had figured out we had been at the base of the incident. They knew we had somehow triggered this invasion. But neither ever said it out loud, as long as we were children. But the horrible look of just knowing that lit their eyes was enough to bring great remorse to I and Val.
And somehow both Mamas knew then as well. They gathered us into their arms and held us close, as if fearful our Papas might harm us.
We all went one by one up the basement stairs into the daylight of a new world. One which would never be the same again.
We gasped as we entered the sunlit street. The buildings about us were smoking and shattered. There were dead horses, and burnt carriages smoking up and down the street. The sight of men fallen in battle was everywhere. It was a nightmare that none dared to believe could ever happen.
We had been invaded by another world!