Cry in the Dark
Mashka's boots loudly echoed as she ran inside the derelict ground floor parking garage. She spun around trying to detect the source of the screams. He heart echoed in her ears. She closed her eyes and listened. A wail echoed through the garage, but her sharp hearing gave direction to her right. Hurrying the direction of the voice she noticed a metal door ajar with the word ‘podval’ painted on the front. As she rushed up to the entrance, she became aware of the small holes drilled into the cement supports. She knew now that the building was nearly primed for detonation.
At the entrance, Mashka hesitated. The stairs went down into the unknown and there were ten stories of apartments above her, ready bury her alive. She started to wonder if she had just imagined the noise, but a resounding scream urged her on. Rushing down the stairs, she glanced through the first door and found nothing. Her nostrils flared as she picked up any scent the cold air would allow her nose to catch. A woman, sweat, ammonia, a man, blood, dust, cologne, cement, and a thousand other smells she could not name assaulted her mind.
She moved on to the second door. It took more effort to open, being heavy and rusted. Inside it was dark but her eyes quickly adjusted. She could just make out that there was a young woman, her hair shorn, and the long brown tresses lay on the floor and her lap. Her hands were tied to a pipe above her and she was dressed in only her nightgown. Mashka ran up and tore at the ropes. As she did, she felt a warm fluid coat her hands, the revolting scent of blood flooded her nostrils. She had obviously been struggling for a while, since there were drops of blood flowing down her arms from her raw wrists.
As she struggled to untie the rope, Mashka began to question the young woman, trying to calm her, “How did you get down here?” The back of her mind noted the sound of movement behind her, but she was too shocked by the sight before her she failed to give it any thought.
Words tumbled from the woman’s mouth. Mashka recognized them as Baltic, but failed to catch any meaning.
So instead, Mashka asked what her name was, hoping that the basic question would be understood.
The woman started to collect herself and answered in broken Russian, “Name be Dasha.”
“Ok, what a pretty name,” Mashka stalled until finally the rope gave in. She helped the woman up and placed her arm over her shoulders. Then she turned her around and found the door closed. She knew she had left it open. Grabbing the knob, she turned it, but the door was bolted from the outside. She leaned Dasha against the wall.
Mashka yanked at the door and yelled, “Open up! We‘re trapped!”
Dasha began to cry and Mashka snapped at her, “Shut up! We’re going to be fine!” But Mashka’s own eyes were starting to wet as she realized this might be the end. But she thought of Aleksei, and how he had already lost a mother. She was not going to give up like mother did. Grabbing the door, she shove with every ounce of her being, unleashing a haunting roar that reverberated in the enclosed space. The bolt snapped and the door flew off its hinges and hit the opposite wall of the corridor with a thud, bent in half. For a moment, she stopped, baffled at what she had just done.
Forcefully, Mashka snapped herself back to reality, as she grabbed Dasha and with her arm over her shoulder she backtracked down the hall, up the stairs, and into the garage. She heard the noise of work quiet down. The power tools that had previously been as white noise had fallen silent. Looking up at the ceiling she could see wires connecting from the holes drilled in supports For a split second, she considered dropping Dasha and bolting to safety, then she could get the workers’ attention. But she banished that thought quickly with the image of the young lady lying on the cement, calling out to her as she was abandoned. She tried to go even faster, ignoring Dasha’s cries of pain. The seconds it took for them to get out felt like hours, until finally they ran into bright spot lights shining down from the surrounding scaffolding.
Behind the blast shelter wall, one of the workers noticed the two women and shouted into his radio, “Don‘t detonate!”
But on the other end the worker replied, “I just hit the button, what’s the matter?”
“There’s two women out there!” All the workers watched in dread as the young women fled. The building detonated. As each story collapsed in on itself, like a card house, dust and debris were expelled outwards and upwards as a blossoming grey flower. When the roof crashed to the ground, billowing clouds of dust engulfed the scene.
Down on the ground, the two women were hit with the blast of dust like a tsunami. Mashka shielded Dasha and buried her face in her coat, as the gale whipped at her hair.
Two of the workers started to dash headlong into the cloud, but their boss’s voice halted them, “Wait right there you two! It’s too dangerous! Let it clear up! You there! Call the emergency services!”
The rest of the construction workers reluctantly stood still, waiting tensely.
A few moments later, the dust began to clear and the workers could just make out the forms of the two women. The crew master yelled, “Well, get going!” and walked quickly, but cautiously, to them. The other men followed suit, securing their dust masks.
For Mashka, the world was silent, the dust muffled everything. The gray powder was everywhere, in her hair, ground into her back, in her mouth and nose. She sneezed, but even that brief moment of noise vanished all to quickly into the emptiness. There was no feeling, her legs, her arms, they did not seem to be there, she was just floating. The only thing she felt was the shaking and coughing form of the young woman she had saved, tucked underneath her chin. At some point, she did not remember when, the world began to fade back out of the void. She started to hear the sound of sirens, and felt a calloused, but gentle hand of on her shoulder. She released her hold on the woman, who was still shaking but seemed unhurt.
Everything passed in a blur, until a warm mug was pressed into her hands as she sat on the tailgate of a truck with a blanket wrapped around her. She watched in a daze, as Dasha was loaded into the ambulance.
Mashka turned as a police officer sat next to her. She attempted a weak smile.
“My name is Lt. Dimitri Basov. I would like you to give as good an explanation as you can of the events. Let’s start with your name.”
“Maryja Sharova,” she replied.
“Pleased to meet you,” he said quietly. “So what happened?”
Mashka began, “I was commuting to school and I pulled over to let a bird out of my car, a sparrow I think, but-but that‘s not important.” she mumbled as she tried to collect her thoughts. “I was about to get back into my car but I heard a faint cry. It seemed to be coming from the construction site. I yelled to one of the workers, but he must have not heard me over the drilling.”
“How did you hear her then?”
“I- I don‘t know, I just did.” The situation finally hit her, and she thought how very near she had come to having her life ended. Tears started to stream down her face.
The police officer patted her on the shoulder and gave her a kerchief from his pocket. “I think that’s all I need from you today. Would you like to head home?”
“Alright, I will speak to you when you have calmed down a bit.”
He assisted Mashka to her feet, but she screamed in sudden pain.
“Get a medic!” he shouted.
One of the medics hurried over with his supplies. “Where’s does it hurt?”
Through gritted teeth Mashka answered, “Left leg, something is in it.”
They had her sit down again and the medic carefully lifted her skirt. There, buried in her calf, was a three inch wide shard of shrapnel. The blood and dirt had caked around it, staunching the wound.
“The shock must have kept her from feeling anything.” the medic said, “Gaspazha, we’re going to have to take you to the hospital. I can’t remove this here.”
Mashka ground her teeth, trying hard not to scream. Just before she was lifted onto a gurney, she remembered the most disturbing part of the ordeal.
“Dimitri!” she yelled, getting the officer’s attention. “She was tied up. This was not an accident!”
He nodded gravely and Mashka slipped into the muffled world again.