The Hammer’s Fall
By Amber Hunter
Emilie squirmed under the tight grip that the older woman had on her shoulders. Her face, pale as the moon and streaked with dirt and tears, tilted up to look her captor in the eyes.
The hammer fell again.
Emilie’s eyes shot forward at the sound; her body tensed. The hands on her shoulders tightened their grip as the older woman leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“Child will stay with Mouma. You will see.”
“I’m frightened.” Emilie’s lower lip trembled and tears pooled in her silver eyes.
“I know, child. Mouma is frightened, too.” Mouma stroked Emilie’s hair.
The crowd before them began to shuffle forward again. Mouma released her grip on Emilie’s tiny shoulders to give her a gentle nudge. The crowd behind them swelled to fill the position that the pair had occupied the moment before.
Mouma’s wrinkled hands settled back into position on Emilie’s shoulders as the girl leaned back into her. Emilie took the opportunity to stretch her cramped legs, one after the other, pointing her toes like a tattered ballerina. A soft rustling sound distracted her from the pain in her legs.
Emilie twisted from Mouma’s grip to stare at a man standing next to them. His face was thin like all the others and his eyes bulged from sunken sockets. Stubble shadowed his cheeks and his hair was thick with dust and and body oil. He reeked of desperation like all the others, sweet with stomach acid and sour with urine. But this man carried a more tantalizing scent with him that the others did not; a smell so faint that only a child could have detected it. Emilie watched with hungry eyes as he lifted something concealed in his palm from his jacket pocket to his mouth.
Emilie tugged on a corner of his jacket and pleaded with the man with her eyes. He glanced down at Emilie, batted her hand away and stole another bite of the substance hidden in his jacket pocket.
“Just share a little,” She whispered, her voice rising to a whine. Emilie began tugging harder on the man’s jacket to get his attention. The man grunted and spun away from her, but Emilie’s grip was firm. The pocket of his jacket ripped open, sending bits of stone cold meat and maggoty bread skittering onto the warehouse floor.
Emilie dropped to her knees. She plucked up bits of the fallen feast, and one hand after the other began stuffing them into her mouth. If she noticed the extra bits of protein wriggling around in the bread, she didn’t seem to care. Something was filling her hollow belly.
The man’s hand tried to snake back into his torn pocket to steal another bite, but his questing fingers connected with nothing but air. He snapped his head around and saw Emilie on the floor, inhaling the precious bits of food.
“Little bitch!” He snarled as he struck the girl on the crown of her head.
Emilie shielded her head with her arms as the blows continued to fall. She huddled back against Mouma’s legs, seeking her protection. “Mouma!” she wailed.
“Child, what…” Mouma stopped. Her face flushed with fear. She pushed the man back into the press of bodies with the full force of her bulk, and then scooped the child up into her arms.
Emilie watched in dazed silence over Mouma’s shoulder as she pressed forward into the crowd. Blood trickled like red tears over her ashen cheek, skin split from the beating the man had given her. Then man shook his raised fist at her and a string of four letter expletives erupted from his angry mouth. Others in the crowd began to perk up and take notice, drawn by the jostling and the noise. Emelie saw the man kneel down, never to rise again, as those nearest fell upon him.
The crowd of once men transformed by hunger into an unrecognizable mass of flailing limbs as each tried to get his portion. The dull thuds of fists and feet connecting with flesh echoed in Emilie’s ears, audible even over the din of angry voices and screams of the dying.
Mouma kept pressing forward with Emilie in her arms as guards in riot gear, faceguards black and shining like the carapaces of beetles, began to pour into the crowd behind her. Heavy black batons fell amongst the crowd without discrimination, and raised slickly painted in red.
The hammer fell again.
The sound ricocheted through the building like the blast of a gun. The throng of hungry men and women quieted and the guards paused with their batons paused in mid-air. All eyes focused front and center, facing the platform each knew lay before him in his turn.
Amber is a professional writer who writes content for businesses. She blogs over at Webliterate. Check it out to get some great tips to improve your writing!