Fine dreams of sweets and the soft lilt of her fading lullaby are torn at the fabric; broken by a terrible wail, like a bird calling out a predator until I have no choice but to rise and gasp and plunge through the surface of a stormy sea. When the distressed caw doesn’t become another and the sound stretches into the distance I know what is coming.
The patter of quick feet, the swoop of the bedroom door, Grandmother’s warm hand resting on mine, just for a second, in a moment of pure peace.
We take off down the stairs, out into the biting November cold, towards the shelter at the end of the street.
“Count your paces,” she shouts and we try to beat our score from the night before and, despite knowing that another fleet of German bombers sweep in from the South East, I am safe as long as she’s at my back, tracing the steps of my small feet with her own.
The dust that clings to the city weighs her breaths and slows her steps, gifting me more time lingering in dreams. Slower and slower it takes until full minutes pass for her to shuffle to my room, calling out my name in increasingly strained tones, chased by rack and cough.
I guide her down the stairs and through the front door, the pinching air stealing her stride. I pull and tug with all my little muscles can muster. “Count your breaths”, I shout like she is in control.
She falls by the side of the road, slumping down the neighbour’s wall, looking up at me with a rueful smile. I count to three and count no more.
Chris Wright is from Northern Ireland. His work has featured in several publications such as The Bangor Literary Journal, The Belfast Telegraph, Panic Dots, Broadsheet.ie and Unsigned. Chris is a Politics Graduate from Queens University, Belfast and is currently working on his second novel.
You can find him on Twitter at @_ChrisWrites