A family gathering, a party so bright, revellers dancing well into the night. Everyone filled with joyful mirth, role models all; the salt of the earth. Lost in their laughter with a roof to raise, failing to see the mans cold vacant gaze. Music and singing, they don't see their guest as his face gives a flicker of hate and disgust. He tries the door and it opens with ease so he steps inside before anyone sees. The cold of the steel he can feel in his hand as the thrill of the chase dances round in his mind. The room is a mural of wonderful smiles as he raises his hand; cold steel to defile. The click of the hammer is lost in the noise as the lead flashes free to covet and destroy. Screams ring out as the party is crashed, scenes frozen in time with each powder flash. Crimson walls paint an abstract relief of people screaming with terror and grief. The chamber is emptied, each finding its mark. The room is awash with death, rank and stark. He casually turns and walks out to the yard, not a flicker of emotion on a face cold and hard. The flashing of lights and radios blaring, police tape holding back crowds who are staring at the scene of the crime and the carnage inside, as horror has again, crossed over the divide. *** Out on the plains, way down in the south, the kids are in bed as he kisses her mouth. The fire crackling warm as they snuggle on down, the couch, the comfort and her silky soft gown. The lovers entwine in a tryst of abandon, minds swimming free as the flames dance in tandem. Ignoring the wind whipping leaves on the wall or the distant rumble of the thunderheads call. The sated lovers in the lightning’s frieze, the roar of the wind is now rattling the eaves. The realization that all is not right descends on them both like the slash of a knife. The kids are screaming as, in nightmare, they wake. The windows are rattling and threatening to break as they're dragged from their beds with dust in their eyes and carried to the shelter amidst mothers stark cries. The deafening roar as the twister emerges from out of the gloom as it crosses the verges. Tearing to shreds all that lies in its path, dealing death and destruction, it cuts a wide swath. Down in the dark of the basement they hide, clinging to each other in fear; terrified as a force of nature beyond demons dread, obliterates their world; all they have, overhead. Crawling from beneath what is left of their home, shocked and dismayed in the wake of the storm. All around them homes are flattened; destroyed like so many matchsticks thrown into the void. *** She lovingly stares into innocent eyes, mother and child they are bonded by life. Joined far beyond any minds eye can see as she walks the dead streets, yearning just to be free. She ducks into an alley as the bullets return, shielding her child from shrapnel and burns. Crouching low; there’s the bridge at the end, if she makes it across then salvation descends. The war-torn streets are littered; destroyed, where once children played and screamed out their joy. In a crouching run with her child held tight she makes for the bridge and the end of her plight. The bombs and bullets so deafeningly loud, raining random destruction and carnage all round. She ducks behind a car, burned out black in defeat, as an un-seen force carries her back off her feet. A ringing in her ears and dirt in her eyes, the shock of the blast caught her quite by surprise, throwing her back to the remains of a wall, bricks and rubble continuing to fall. She’s staring down at her black, charred hands and wondering what it is that she doesn't understand, then reality hits hard and she crumbles inside, searching the rubble for her sweet little child She sits in the rubble fingers bloodied and torn, looking bereft at the life she had borne. She cradles her child, hanging limp in defeat and she kisses its forehead, forever to sleep. *** We take so much for granted in our everyday lives, looking down our noses on the poor and deprived. We place such importance on possessions and pride and yet all we are doing is stretching the divide. We wake every day expecting nothing to change; that all that we have will remain for an age. But the life that we know is a fickle old thing, no matter how we dress it with baubles and bling. In the blink of an eye it can all turn to dust; the baubles can break and be tarnished by rust. Be it nature or man with a hand on the spear, never fret, never doubt, death is circling near. * Written by Darren Scanlon, 16th October 2014. Revised by Darren Scanlon, 17th March 2015. ©2015 Darren Scanlon. All rights reserved.