A peek over the fence.
It was one of those days when it was almost possible to believe peace had broken out. The sun shone in a pure blue sky, dotted with soft white clouds. Birds chirped and cheeped, bees buzzed; all that was missing was the Sunday morning sound of lawnmowers.
For once, the beauty of the sky remained unmarred by the darting, victory rolling shapes of Spitfires. The drone of their Merlin engines was conspicuous by their absence. No bomb dropping Messerschmidt cast its ominous death shadow over the rows of suburban houses. All seemed serene.
Eleven-year-old Susie turned her pale, freckled face upwards, like a flower turning to seek out the warmth of the sun. Her paleness was due to too many nights spent quaking with terror in bomb shelters, hands clapped over her ears to block out the banshee wail of the sirens.
She recalled the day a German pilot bailed out of his plane, over the nearby allotments. His parachute billowed out behind him, before it settled like a snowdrift over the beds of potatoes and cabbages.
Susie scuffed the toe of her worn sandal against the dried out earth, and leaned her arms on top of the garden fence. The movement caused the already too short skirt of her blue and white gingham dress to ride further up her thighs. Tugging it down, she sighed. Mum kept saying that she was going to take Susie to the clothing repository, in the hope of swapping the dress for one that fitted.
Gazing around the barren garden, she wondered why her dad hadn’t finished digging the the soil over, before he planted the vegetables that would replace his beloved flowers. She shrugged, both he and her mum were never around these days, always busy doing something to help the”war effort”.
It was so quiet. Usually there’d be people hanging out washing, children playing, and dogs barking. But there was nothing to be seen or heard, just the rows of house dozing quietly in the brilliant sunshine.
She peered over the top of the fence, into the heat haze that hovered just above the surface of the road. Funny, but there seemed to be shapes moving inside it. She squinted, and could just about make out the outlines of two girls a little older than herself. They were dressed strangely and talked in loud voices, laughing and shrieking in way Susie would never have been allowed to, especially on a Sunday.
‘It’s creepy ’round here,’ one of the strangely clad girls said, interrupting Susie’s thoughts.
‘Told you,’ the other replied. It’s supposed to be haunted by some kid that was killed during the war. Apparently there was this air raid, an’ she tried to get to the shelter, but didn’t make it.’ The girl heaved a sigh. ‘Shame, really. She was only about ten or eleven-years-old, or so they say.’
Her companion didn’t seem to be listening. She’d dug a slim, flat object out of her pocket and was tapping it’s shiny glass face with a finger. Susie stared at it curiously, she’d never seen anything like it before.
‘That the new Iphone?’ the other girl asked.
‘Yeah,’ she replied, without looking up. ‘Anyway,’ she added, shoving the object back in her pocket. ‘You don’t really believe this place’s haunted, d’you?’
‘It could be true, this all used to be streets and houses, before the council knocked it down and turned it into a park.’
A cold feeling crept into the pit of Susie’s stomach, and along with it a memory. As the memory grew and swelled, like an oncoming storm, she glanced fearfully around. Summer days always seemed to last an age, but this one… She suddenly realised she hadn’t seen her parents for ages, nor any of her friends. They’d all left, gone away to a place she couldn’t follow.
That night, the last one she remembered seeing her parents, had been full of sound and fury. The rumble of enemy planes growled far above. Searchlights raked the sky, seeking them out. The “ack, ack, ack” of the guns spewed dots of light into the air, trying to bring down the harbingers of death. Wood splintered, windows shattered, and choking dust filled the air. Her mother had screamed at Susie to get out, as she and Dad hauled her younger brother and sister out the back door and into the garden.
‘Susie! Shift yourself – get down to the shelter!’
She’d moved to obey, but then the ceiling came down, blocking the way out. All became darkness and confusion, followed by a silence that lasted and lasted.
‘C’mon, let’s go,’ one of the girls said, and the two of them disappeared into the haze, along with the houses and the road itself. Breath hitching in her chest, Susie looked over her shoulder. Her house , and the garden too, had vanished. In its place was a huge crater of exploded earth and grass. Tears filled her eyes. She’d been here, caught in a moment of time, unaware that her life had ended that last, fateful night!
Tears blurred her vision, and she wiped them roughly away. When she opened her eyes again, the bomb crater had gone. In its place was something so wonderful, Susie’s mouth fell open in astonishment.
‘We’ve been waiting so long for you to remember,’ a voice said – her mother’s voice. ‘Now you have, you can come home.’
Four figures stood silhouetted against the glorious light, and as she ran towards them Susie knew she would never be alone again.
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