9) Under Attack
A few months went by and it was their secret that Aiden was in fact Kaspar’s son. If it ever left their tiny family circle that Kaspar had cheated on Gayora and a son was produced cacophony would erupt all across Existence. Ana was quiet alright with it though. No one had been able to predict what type of mother Ana would become but from the moment she first held her son a mother was all she was. For the first three months of Aiden’s life he was constantly being held, passing between Ana and Sonja, to Guineviva, or Noralie, Kim when he needed a check up, Gaius on occasion as well. The only time he wasn’t being coddled and held was when he was sleeping but even then Ana sat by his crib and watched him or slept along beside him. Kim said they were spoiling him prematurely but no one did anything about it. It had been so long since there was any measurable peace and happiness in their home and Aiden, with his innocence and “personality” as Ana liked to call it, seemed to radiate pure joy. After the first four months Aiden’s eyes turned the same bright green as Ana’s, he had Kaspar’s smile, and was a chatter box even though he couldn’t yet speak.
In Guineviva’s house one could almost forget the civil war entirely. One could forget that they were living in poverty. Ana was concerned that Aiden might be blind but Kim assured her that he was a normal and healthy baby. Besides his mother Aiden’s favorite person was Sonja. When either of them came into his view he’d stop what he was doing and insist they pick him up. Aiden hated to be held I any manner in which he could look around and see the world. Ana sang to him a lullaby she remember her father singing to her called Raio de Sol it was in an old language no longer spoken in Existence and Aiden wouldn’t fall asleep unless someone sang it to him.
Life was peaceful, like it had never been before o ever would be again.
When Ana walked down the street in the market square no one could have recognized her for the miserable creature she’d been only a year earlier. Ana was now twenty, her hair had grown back in and she kept it at shoulder length, she no longer dressed in trench coats and combat boots, and smiled at the people she passed on the streets. One day in the middle of summer she took Aiden and Noralie with her to shop for some kitchen supplies. The permanent snow on the tops of the mountains in the distance reflected the sunlight and warmed to little plateau that Unther rested upon. Noralie turned her face upwards to the sun as she strolled along beside Ana. I suppose she had spent so many years hiding from the government inside Guineviva’s home the sunlight is still a new experience for her.
“I wanted to take a look inside that little furniture store on the corner to see if they have a better cradle for Aiden,” Ana told Noralie. Noralie didn’t answer but followed. As they passed by the fountain in the town square Noralie came to an abrupt halt in her steps and stared at the fountain for several seconds, just staring as if she were trying to see through its concrete surfaces.
“Is everything okay?” Ana asked touching Noralie’s arm lightly.
“Um… yes, yes everything is alright,” she said giving her head a shake.
“Are you sure?” Ana asked nervously.
“Yes, I’m quite certain,” Noralie said pushing Aiden’s stroller towards the store. He was wearing a blue hat Sonja had knitted and a warm sweater, just because it was summer in Rest Shade didn’t make the mountain villages warm. “Has the fountain always been there?”
“Yes why?” Ana asked as they entered the store. She moved to the side of the store away from a man that seemed vaguely familiar to her.
“I don’t know, it seemed, oh never mind I can’t explain it,” she sighed in exasperation. Ana was about to say something else when a bomb went off. Yes I said a bomb. The force of it blew out shop windows and ripped the old fountain apart. Ana covered Aiden with her body and Noralie dove to the ground screaming. Ana brushed the glass off her coat and helped Noralie to her feet again. Aiden was crying, woken up from his sleep by the sound of the explosion.
“What was that?” Ana asked, her ears were ringing and she felt a dull ache behind her eyes. She lifted Aiden from his stroller and bounced him on her hip whispering reassurances to him. Noralie took Ana’s elbow and guided her to the back of the store. Ana looked outside and saw people running and screaming in frenzy no one quite sure what had happened. Noralie ducked behind the cashier’s counter and peaked over.
“I thought I felt something bad,” she whispered mournfully. Ana could see people injured in the streets a few fires had started but were already being put out by the store owners and the fountain spray.
Another bomb went off.
This time people ran screaming for shelter ducking into stores and hiding behind whatever they could.
The man Ana had seen in the store and wanted to avoid was hiding near the front behind an expensive furniture set.
“It’s the Legion,” Ana said.
“The Legion’s gone,” Noralie whispered.
“From Rest Shade and loyalist Existence they are. I’ll bet you anything that Cyril’s army calls themselves the Legion still,” Ana said trying to control her breathing. Another bomb went off and Noralie yelped covering her ears and cowering into Ana’s side. Her blood pounded in her ears and panic made her chest rise and fall rapidly. Unther was such a tiny out of the way city in a state of perpetual poverty, Ana didn’t understand why it of all places would be bombed by Cyril’s army. She couldn’t remember if Cyril had ever known she lived there and aside from that there was no political strategy to bombing the town. None except for how quickly the inhabitants of Unther embraced the new philosophies introduce to Orderism by Kaspar.
Ana’s muse was interrupted by a sound that made her heart sink in horror. A child’s voice in the distance calling for his mother. Aiden, still in her arms crying Ana didn’t know how she heard the voice but she knew with absolute certainty it existed. Ana turned to look out the windows and couldn’t see any child.
“Did, you hear that?” Noralie asked.
“Yes,” Ana turned to look at the man she’d evaded and saw his face was pale with horror and he too was searching for the source.
He called out a name and they heard a faint cry in response.
“Daddy!” Ana passed Aiden to Noralie. It had been a few minutes since the last explosion so there was a limited amount of time for the child to be found before another could go off.
Ana didn’t stop and think about what she was doing she got up from the ground, ignoring Noralie’s protests and started running.
“Keep calling him,” she shouted to the man in the store. He nodded and started calling the child’s name again.
“Kyle,” the boy’s name was. Ana leapt out the store’s blown out window.
“Kyle,” she called listening and looking frantically for the source of the sound she’d heard. A response came from the direction of a pile of rubble one couldn’t recognize as a store. Ana sprinted towards it, calling the boy’s name. She confirmed he was in the rubble somewhere and began moving the rubble as quickly as possible. She found him huddled under what looked like a beam from a building protecting him from most of the rubble, he was three years old with ginger hair and freckles.
“Hi, is your name Kyle,” she asked, a bit out of breathe. He looked up at her and nodded. Ana reached a hand out to him.
“Kyle, I think your day is looking for you.”
“I…can’t find mommy…” Kyle cried.
“Oh, I’m sure your mommy is fine, but let me get you out of here first and then I’ll go find her,” she said holding her hand out, counting down the seconds in her head since the last explosion, and she was getting panicked. The boy grabbed her hand and she hoisted him out of the rubble and picked him up. He wrapped his arms and legs around her and she began running as best she could back to where Noralie and Aiden were.
A bomb went off.