L’Esprit D’Escalier: Part Twelve. Raimund

by | Dec 6, 2023 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

After a further age of silence, Raimund decided to remove the hatch.

Pierre Cournoir lifted his young son up towards the opening.

“Quickly Raimund we don’t have much time, pull yourself up. When you’re inside, replace the hatch and do not put on the light, they can see it from outside.” The boy was balanced on his father’s shoulders and pulled himself into the dark attic. A shaft of light pierced the blackness through the hole in which he had climbed. He closed his eyes and felt around the dusty floor for the square piece of wood. As he placed it over the opening the light was extinguished and he sat in total darkness.

As one sense was completely obliterated, the others became heightened. Although the sounds of his parents and uncle became muffled through the floor below, those of the approaching Germans could be heard clearly through the eaves. Raimund sat still, hardly able to breathe for fear he would be heard as he listened to the faint departing footsteps of his elders. The musty smell of centuries of fires, mixed with the odour of damp wood, lingered in his nostrils.

Following a few moments of silence, which seemed like hours, the peace was shattered by loud, insistent banging. The sound was split between the clearness of it outside and it’s stifled version penetrating the hatch. The banging was followed by voices in a foreign tongue, harsh and equally emphatic.

The boy froze, not even breathing now, as his chest burned with the desire to inhale. Eventually he gasped deeply, taking in a lung full of the black, acrid dust surrounding him. The irritating particles sent his chest and throat into spasms and he desperately tried to avoid the inevitable cough. Raimunds eyes watered and he swallowed the saliva that flooded his mouth, stifling the tickling in his throat.

The brittle sound of shattering wood was followed by raised voices below. The words were indistinct, accompanied by another less familiar hubbub. It seemed as if there was a struggle going on beneath his feet. Suddenly the din was shattered by three loud, clear bangs. Raimund’s whole body tensed with each crack of the gun; then silence. He began to shake violently, wrapping his arms around his knees and drawing them up tight to his chest.

More protracted silence followed, in which the boy’s mind raced. He tried to block out his fears concerning events below him. Then a single sound pierced his thoughts. The slow rhythmic beat of footsteps. Indistinct at first, but becoming clearer as the source entered the room below. The person was evidently walking back and forth, their heavy boots clearer now on the bare floorboards of the bedroom.

Another level of frozen terror gripped the boy as the sound abruptly stopped. Seconds turned to minutes and minutes to hours. Presently, the sound resumed, becoming more faint until it disappeared altogether. The clear voices recommenced outside, until they too soon faded into the distance.

After a further age of silence, Raimund decided to remove the hatch. His muscles screamed at their first action in hours as the light burst through from below, igniting the millions of particles in the air surrounding him. He listened for several seconds, before lowering himself through the opening.

Raimund dropped the final few feet onto the floor below with a loud thump that echoed through the house. He remained crouched where he landed for several seconds more, blinking in the harsh light. He got up and tiptoed silently through the house, hesitating at each door. At the top of the stairs, he looked down to see the heavy front door off its hinges, several ragged holes piercing its ornate panelling.

His next vision took his breath away as he observed three figures spread untidily in the hallway. Each was marked by a dark circular stain the size of a tea plate in the middle of the back. He recognised the clothing of his parents and uncle but his mind refused to connect the two. Raimund slowly sat on the top step and lowered his head onto his knees. He placed his hands over his head and the sobs came like a tsunami over the horizon.

From that moment, the fourteen year old’s life changed forever. In the space of a few moments, Raimund Cournoir’s heart turned to granite.

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs

    Descriptive Dramatic Occupation.


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