Beau Geste, The Best

Ezra Azra


© Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra

Photo by Carl Campbell on Unsplash
Photo by Carl Campbell on Unsplash

Abba opened her eyes with difficulty. She brushed off gravel and dust from her face and hands. It took her a few seconds to recognize some of the confusion of chaotic loud sounds about. Most of the sounds she did not recognize. The others were frightening: human screams of pain, groans, crying, shouts for help.

She was on the floor of the office.

Her memory exploded back. The building had been aerial bombed.

For days previously the official news outlets had continuously non-stop alerted the nation that there were indications the country was on the brink of war. Her duties in this office left her little time to give serious thought to matters outside this building and beyond her private life. Her family were constantly accusing her of being a workaholic.

She recognized some of those other deafening sounds; aeroplanes roaring in all directions. Instinctive terror drove her to move from where she lay.

She sat up, and looked about in hopeless fear. Motionless human bodies and parts of bodies lay scattered about. Blood spatters everywhere. There were three other workers, colleagues, in this office. She struggled to stifle in her the horror that was building.

She crawled to a space on the floor that had less debris. She worked up courage to dare to stand. This was the room in which she worked as a typist, along with three others, at separate tables. On the fifth floor.

She looked about for the doorway. She resisted the thought of looking for the other typists.

She saw at the far end the Companyís payroll safe. It was partially sunk in debris of broken office furniture and chunks of stone broken from walls.

Every day in her work routine she had glimpses of the contents of that safe when it was opened and closed by uniformed Company officers a few times a day. Only they knew the combination of the safeís two electronic locks. There was a huge amount of paper money in that safe. In a loud noise, the safe crashed downward, utterly out of sight in an instant.

She found what was left of the doorway; it was a hole in a pile of broken stones. She struggled through the hole, suffering bruises and scratches from jagged ends of broken brick and concrete. She thought a quick thanks she was wearing long trousers.
Gravel inside her shoes was causing her sharp pains, but she did not pause to do anything about that. Her determination was focused on getting as far down from the fifth floor as quickly as she could. She paused a second to look about to see if there was anyone who needed help.

After a while of slowly climbing-crawling-scraping down through and over broken stones and twisted iron bars and pipes, she hoped she was off the fifth floor.

She did not know how far down. The sounds of the aeroplanes were diminished. Human sounds of trouble and agony were increasing all around.

She was extra careful to not touch any of the many motionless bodies she had to squeeze by on her way down. She paused to figure out how to move over the fully clothed body wedged partially under a shattered heavy wood beam. When the body stirred, she stifled an impulsive gasp of fright.

So far, all the other bodies had been motionless and, she assumed, lifeless.

She struggled to ignore this one. Why? She was upset by not understanding why. She inched her way through obstacles to get near enough to touch the person. She got close enough to see the face. The eyes were closed. It was a woman. A woman clothed as a man; a white lace scarf draped around her neck.

The womanís eyes opened wide.

She saw Abba. She struggled to speak. Abba squeezed herself close enough to hear, and to speak.

The woman: Iím not in pain. I cannot feel any part of me. I am not going to make it. Do not stay. Keep moving. Just one favor. Please?

Of course. I promise

We were on our way to get married. Sheís dead. My Sarai. My Dad said he would disown me if I did not get married. I said there would not be any grandchildren, Dad. He was okay with that. He was looking forward to meeting my Sarai.

She paused in pain: bodily and emotional.

Please tell me the favor. I cannot stay.

Yes. Sorry. Find my ring finger. Take the two rings. Return them to Dad. Dad bought them. Will you do it?

Yes; I promise.

Those bomber aeroplanes seemed to be getting nearer. Abba whispered, hoarsely: Give me your hand.

I donít know where it is. I cannot feel any part of me.

There was an explosion in another building close by. The vibrations brought down rubble over them. The vibrations dislodged the stones that had pinned down the woman. In a deafening crash, the stones and the woman disappeared with a roar downward, out of sight.

Abba remained motionless for seconds. She tried to move, but her body had stiffened. She waited, helplessly and hopelessly, struggling to breathe through the dust.

Someone whispered her name. Abba answered, but did not try to look around to see where the voice was coming from.

Yes. Iím Abba. Above me?

Yes. I can see you through cracks. Is there a way down?

I cannot see one. Abba slowly eased her feet out of the rubble. She cautiously looked about.

Hopelessness increased, and stung worse when she recalled, bewilderedly, she had not removed the rings from the womanís finger, as the woman had asked. She felt hurt that she had let the woman down; she tried to find comfort in the thought that it was highly probable she, too, in the next few seconds would be dead.

Abba placed a foot against a large flat stone, and thrust; she did not know what she thought to make happen. She repeated thrusting her foot, angrily.

While her movements did not disturb any rocks she could see, she heard rocks below her nearby beginning to be dislodged. She pulled herself back.

The voice called out to her: I see a gap opening. Iím going to it.

Abba looked, but saw no gap opening. She saw rubble at her feet beginning to sink. She stepped on the unstable rubble. The rubble plunged down.

Abba struggled to her haunches while digging her fingers into the crumbling rubble. She slowly sank down with the rubble.

As she slowly sank in and with the rubble, she somewhat steered her descent by grabbing onto broken stones and metal parts of the walls she moved against.

The sounds of aeroplanes stopped. She heard sounds from people: shouts, screams. She paid little attention to the people sounds as she was concentrating on safely easing her struggle down in and with the rubble.

The rubble rush quickened; Abba instinctually clutched a metal bar to stop herself, and to squeeze herself against a wall of firmly stuck furniture wood. Just in time.

Within seconds, the slow rubble descent turned into a waterfall-like cascade, from above her and ripping at her clothes as it roared passed her. If there had not been the furniture wood splinters hooked into her clothes, she would have plunged to death in the rubble.

A wind picked up. The clouds of rubble dust were carried away from her. Someone from below was calling out. To her? A rescue group; she desperately hoped?

Abba moved ever so slowly because she did not know which of her moves would dislodge things. Clutching onto the furniture wood, she slid along it to its edge.

There, behind the polished wood, and crushed against broken chunks of wall, was the body of the woman draped in lace; her dead hand with two wedding rings on a finger, barely discernible through the rubble and debris; within easy though precarious reach.

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