The Sunflower by Felicity Edwards

The terrifying sound of sirens reverberated through the streets. People grabbed children and went down the metro tunnels. Family groups settled on the ground. They knew they were in for another night of hell. Children squabbled, babies fussed and grizzled, tempers frayed. Fear and sleeplessness were taking their toll.

A young woman descended the steps. She looked so small, too small to be in army fatigues, much less in the army. Her helmet displayed the national flower, the sunflower. Instead of coming onto the platform, she stood a few steps up and looked over the crowd.

A man called. “If you’re a soldier, what are you doing down here? Frightened, I expect.”

An old woman shook her finger at him and said, “She’s not scared of anything.” She puffed her chest. “She’s my granddaughter.”

The soldier shook her head. “No, not afraid. I think you all need cheering up.”

His lips curled in a sneer. “The only good news will be that someone has assassinated that megalomaniac, and the invaders have withdrawn.”

She said, “Sorry, I can’t do that, but will this do?” She held a microphone, closed her eyes and sang the sweetest notes.

The children sat quietly. Even the babies stopped fussing as a cascade of song flowed out from the tiny woman. It was as if an angel had walked into their presence. She sang of their homeland, of the sunflowers nodding in the fields, the barley swaying in the wind, the blue skies, the indomitable spirit of their ancestors. The sound of the siren broke through again. She said, “That’s it, guys. I must go back to my post.”

She did not go alone. They left the children and babies with the old. Like the pied piper, a stream of able-bodied people followed her up the stairs.

Published in Issue #26

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