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Dismal afternoon; a Lisburn lower-middle class street. The old two-lane road is empty aside from two derelict sedans parked by the quiet brick apartment.
An umbrella, colored dark green with a few holes by the edge. A small boy, perhaps barely ten years old, turtles himself underneath its scarce, makeshift roof.
Rain batters the umbrella - it holds up the storm admirably. Tiny, timid hands grip a chipped mug. The boy sips lukewarm, powdered milk. He can afford still a simple pleasure; the milk has chocolate chips, and just a hint of mint. His favorite.
Pavement, cracked and neglected, but still sturdy… still strong. The boy wipes a stain of mud from his cheek. The mud smells stale and damp. Flashes of not-too-distant memories play inside the boy's mind.
He remembers two others. The thought is… recent…
A lively and carefree picnic at a cliffside. Two figures aside from the boy; one, not much older than him… Brother. The boy smiles at the memory, eating sandwiches with liver spread and olives.
The other figure, a woman in her early-20s. Sister. She laughs as Brother unwraps her present, a big, nifty hat. He puts it on and smiles his widest.They all share lemonade and a small bottle of dandelion wine Sister made.
The boy's thoughts drift from better times to worse.
Indoors. Small apartment; his old home. Still the same: two figures, but there are more his mind still refuses to be reminded of. Brother, Sister. He could remember waking up that night. It was cold, the wind was angry. The moonlight was dim. Sister woke both of them up. She looked scared. Her gun was at her back. It seemed odd.
The boy shuts his eyes tight. He hates what happened after.
Sister hurried the best she could, packing the brothers' things; food, medicine, their favorite book (though they could only afford two), Brother's small guitar, his toy gun. She told both of them to run out back, and to go inside the tunnel they built together. There was a scary manticore there when they dug it… Sister said it was there to protect them.
Both brothers refused to go without Sister. They both wanted to stay. Sister pleaded so much for them to go.
The boy shuts his eyes tighter. Sister was always so brave. The tears in her eyes themselves seemed to beg for them. Beg for them to run.
They both hugged her tight. She lifted both of them up for the last time. Sister was so nice, how could they leave without her?
The gunshots. The boy hated them. Sister lowered the brothers. They had to go. Had to survive, she said. They both said their goodbyes, to her, and to each other. They went in the small crevice, and ran.
They hid inside the nest where the creature slept. Had to wait. Wait until it was over.
He counted the minutes.
One minute, more gunshots. Tears run down their faces.
Two minutes, the screams started. Less gunshots. Less sound.
Four minutes, and everything was quiet. The sound of the helicopter was no more.
Seven, and the next team arrives; explosions.
Finally, one, two gunshots. A loud, short-lived scream. He closed his eyes.
Sister was brave.
The boy opens his eyes. He is no longer reliving the memories. The rain stops, the sky is still cloudy. He drinks up the last of his comforting milk. He stands up, and moves to find a good place to stay for the night. The simple aftertaste of the milk was still fresh, and the mint and berries that accented it too, just the way he liked it.
He walks, away from the apartments. He holds the umbrella firmly. He looks set on his way, but still…
There was a brother to find.
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