The further she went, the worse her battered body felt, and the more panicked she became. She tried to look for landmarks as best she could, but the deeper north she went the harder it became to keep track of where she was. There was barely telling one street from the next, but she kept moving until she saw something else she recognized and rerouted.
The atmosphere had changed. The grey fog had lifted and then came the sun. That great big cloud out in the harbour had changed from black to white.
If someone had asked her where she was, she wasn't sure if the answer would be Halifax or Hell. Mothers screamed for their babies trapped in collapsed buildings. She bumped into an old woman, and only after she had kept on moving did she realize that the woman had been holding an arm that wasn't attached to her body. Grown men wept openly on the sidewalk. A group had to hold another to the ground to keep him from running into an inferno to save a family that couldn't possibly have lived through the blaze.
She tied a knot in the tablecloth at her neck so she could cover her ears as she moved along. She couldn't stand hearing another minute of suffering.
But she couldn't walk with her eyes closed.
There were blackened and bloodied corpses on front lawns and on the street, and far worse. A whole half a leg ripped from someone's body just lying in her path; an entire woman's torso slumped in the middle of the road, like someone had plopped down for a rest and the head and limbs just ran off; a man carried past her on top of a door, his eyes gone like they had been gouged out, and as Dorothy looked away from him she registered that he was also missing the top of his scalp.
Gore splattered on the side of a building and the ground beneath it like someone had simply exploded while standing in place. She could even see the shape of them, like a sickening shadow.
She moved faster in spite of her own pain, and for the first time in years, she began to pray.
Please God, let Charlie be alive.
And then the thing crossed her path.
She slowed as she saw it move across the sidewalk, and for a horrific moment thought it was an arm somehow still animated and pulling itself out of the rubble.
It was a dog. A poor little thing burned almost to death. By the time she had reached it, it had stopped. After panting a few times died right in front of her.
It reminded her of a ghoulish version of Larsen the day he had been taken out to the yard to die, and she thought of Robbie.
The memory of him had been buried amidst the noise in her head. How far had he gotten before it happened? Without his car, he would have still been walking. Had he made it at least partway home? He always went over Citadel Hill. Maybe he had been sheltered on the other side when it happened.
She beat back her worry for him. She couldn't go looking for him yet. She had to find Charlie. Once she knew Charlie was safe, she would take him to the Monroe house.
Leaving the dead dog in the road, she moved on.
Relief washed through her as she realized she was on North Street. Carnage or not, the view straight across the harbour was the same. She kept on hobbling until at last the school came into view.
It was still standing. Damaged, with all the windows blown out, but still standing, and there were children outside.
She threw herself amidst them, looking from one face to another. Some children sat crying for their mothers and fathers. Others said nothing. Almost all shivered together.
She didn't see Charlie, but she saw John MacInnes.
"John!" she called out, and before he could turn she had him by the shoulders. "Where's Charlie?"
YOU ARE READING
Shadows May FallHistorical Fiction
Winter, 1917. Dorothy never really thought that war would take her older brother, but like so many others before him, Ian enlisted and departed Canada in khaki, leaving Dorothy to care for the youngest Gaston, Charlie. The return of her employer's s...