He ran down the uneven lane; beautiful archways and renaissance style porticos surrounding him in a panorama of splendor. The city was perfect; Ancient Rome meets 15th century Florence. It was home. It was safety.
The boy lifted his face off the cobblestones. White spots, like stars, danced before his eyes, an unexpected meteor shower that sprung into life just for him. A warmth rolled down his face and he swiped at it, trying to push it away. His hand was red. It was blood; his life’s essence displaying itself for the world to see.
He stood, unsure of his balance as the tremor subsided. The boy could not comprehend what was happening to his city, his sanctuary. Huge sections of stone were now strewn across his path like a jenga tower when it has fallen. Pieces that were high, were now low. The city was changing. It was under siege; a crack in the façade resembling the blemish on his face.
He started running again, away from the damage, away from the change.
Yet another rumble.
Yet another flash.
He caught the marble railing along the canal as his foot slid out from under him, bloodying his knee. Something was wrong. This place had never done this, it had always been benign. Gentle. At peace.
A roar erupted from below; a sound concocted in nightmares. He caught his breath, hoping whatever it was wouldn’t find him. Despite his trepidation, he peered over the rail.
The canal was gone, replaced by the ground far below; the city was in the air, an island racing toward the clouds in hope of salvation.
He straightened, straining to see over the edge. A bellow that could shatter worlds met him with hot, concussive force. The boy froze at the sight of the fiery maw below. Tentacles of flame lashed upward as if from hell itself, reaching for the city as it tried to escape. There was no hope, they moved too slowly. The street groaned as the creature whipped at the island’s underbelly, loosening large chunks of earth that plummeted into the inferno beneath him. He didn’t know where to go; which direction to flee. A massive cupola split atop the building behind him, the ground heaving like an animal in its last moments.
The last rumble.
The last flash.
“Come on, wake up son,” an officer said, kneeling next to him, wiping the hair back from his face. He tried to breathe and coughed, fire racing through his chest with each exhalation. A loud crackle and shouts erupted behind him; he turned to look, stiff and covered in soot. A brick apartment building was blazing; smoke pluming upward, filling the air with its black malevolence. The boy sat on the pavement unable to move, a hoarse, raspy sound emanating from his lips. Something was wrong, this place was wrong. He looked to his left; two paramedics were zipping up a woman’s charred remains in a body bag.
“Mama…” he croaked as tears rolled down his cheeks. Black streams polluted his face as ash collected in the salty anguish of his soul. The city was broken. His home was no more. There was no more safety. The dream was shattered.
“I know little guy… I know,” said the officer, lifting him up, holding him tightly as he carried him to the ambulance.
“We will take care of you. She’s still with you. I promise.”
The confirmation was there, nothing else was needed; hollow words ringing in the boy’s ears. A dream of innocence was destroyed as the nightmare of reality was born.
Mama was gone…