A beginning to a short story featuring Daniel Leland, soon to be released for Kindle.
The sound of the sirens is what has stayed with me. I remember the explosions, the engines of the Messerschmitts, the screams of men trapped beneath the rubble. Of course I do. But it is the wail of the sirens that yet haunts my dreams, settles that same cold sickness in my gut, that same cold slickness on my palms. It is the banshee shriek of coming death.
The night was cold and clear when that sound prickled along my arms like so many icy fingers reaching out from behind the drapes.
Rowan stilled her hands at the typewriter and ripped the sheet from the machine, lest some unscrupulous eye should take advantage of her temporary absence. She snatched up a grey cardigan, a torch, and the requisite gas mask, and had nearly gotten to the door before she turned back to look at me. Her dark eyes were as empty as ever.
“Are you coming?” she asked as she stuck one arm into a cardigan sleeve.
“I’ll follow later,” I said. “I thought to take advantage of the chaos.”
“Your job,” she said flatly.
She did not ask about that job. She never had, and I knew that she never would, just as I never asked about the papers she snatched from the typewriter to lock away in her briefcase each night. We had a good arrangement, Rowan and I. It was the most congenial possible billet.
She nodded and disappeared into the darkness of the garden, her exit punctuated by a pungent whiff of cordite.
I, meanwhile, indulged in my own business. I laid down my book and donned my hat and coat, slipping over my shoulder the strap of my own gas mask in its canvas bag; court danger though I might, I had no wish for scorched lungs.
The streets of London were deadly dark at that hour, save for the lurid orange stain of fires on the sky to the East. The blackout gave me the cover I required. Beneath me, I knew, were a million quivering hearts, children clinging to mothers, husbands to wives. They waited to hear the thunder of German boots, but I am no German, and my boots are silent.
The Wailing © 2012 MR Graham