Arrow hears another mortar hit as she reaches the ground, and although the front entrance leading to the street is only steps away she continues to the basement, where she feels her way along a dim corridor until she finds a door. She shoulders it open. The immediate shift from darkness to light momen-tarily blinds her, but she emerges without hesitation into a low stairwell on the north side of the building, somewhat sheltered from the men on the southern hill. Before her eyes adjust to the world around her she begins to notice the percussion of mortars affecting her hearing, and it reminds her of being in a swimming pool, of a day when she and a friend took turns shouting each other's names underwater and laughing at how they came out, all garbled and distorted and foreign. When she turns east, away from the building, she feels a pain in her side, and she looks down, half expecting to see her stomach distended between splintered ribs. A quick inspection reveals only a slight cut, a small nothing that attached itself to her at some point during her exit.
As she walks toward her unit's headquarters in the city center, she notices that the sky is beginning to darken. A few drops of rain hit her forehead, make her feel her own heat as they evaporate. When she touches her side, her hand comes away without any fresh blood on it, and Arrow wonders what it means that the insignificance of her injury does not bring her any particular sense of relief.
Reprinted from The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (pages 3-12) by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright 2008 by Steven Galloway.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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