My lungs are burning as I gasp for breath. I need to keep running or they will find me but my body is screaming at me to stop and rest. Thalia told me to meet her in the courtyard past the Bazaar. She told me not to get caught or I would be killed and she would be punished by the Christian soldiers. My heart is pounding as I skid around a corner in a full sprint. Screams echo from behind me as the attack reaches the center of the city. The sounds of millions of Jews being slaughtered will be the soundtrack of my nightmares. I speed up and pump my arms, propelling myself forward through the air trying to put some distance between me and the men trying to kill me.
An arm shoots out from the alley and wraps itself around my mouth and waist. I struggle but my eight year old frame is not big enough to fend off my attacker.
“Stop it Amahlya! It’s me!”
I quickly turn around and hug my best friend. Thalia smiles and strokes my hair, comforting me.
“It’s alright now, you’re safe.”
I look up at her and see the tears in her once bright eyes. I know she is terrified for me. I’m a Jew living in Alexandria and the Christian enforcers have declared the extermination of every Jew in the city, just as they had done with the Pagans years ago. Thalia’s family has been hiding me for several days now, protecting me and feeding me. If I live through this, I will be forever in their debt.
She grasps my arms and turns towards the great library. We skirt along the buildings’ canopies so as not to be seen from the attackers above. She pushes open the door and shoves me inside.
“Do not leave here until I come and get you. understand?”
I nod and back away from the door as she slams it closed. I sit down on the cold stone floor of the library and finally allow myself to cry. Millions of my people being slaughtered just outside this door, and my fate rests in the hands of a ten year old Christian girl and God. I close my eyes and begin to pray. I pray with every last bit of energy I have left in my small body for the souls of the men, and women, and children who were prematurely taken from this world. I pray that Thalia will return soon and that she will have a smile on her face and that she will tell me that everything is alright. I pray that Mama got away in the first stages of the attack and that she is somewhere safe but most of all I pray that they do not find me here tonight.
My eyes drift shut and I’m finally able to rest.
Crash! I spring up from underneath the stack of scrolls I had been sleeping in. I stand perfectly still and listen but the only sound I can hear is the thumping of my own heart beating out of my chest. I crouch behind a stack of old looking scrolls and stare at the door.
Hours pass but I remain in the same position. Not taking my eyes away from the set of large wooden double doors. My legs aching and screaming at me to change positions but still I remain unmoving.
Finally after what seemed like days, I stand from my uncomfortable position and stretch my sore legs. I dust myself off and come out from behind the shelf. I gather some scrolls and make myself a makeshift bed. Laying myself down I close my tired eyes, not even bothering with my prayers.
It goes on like this for days. The same routine, over and over. I’m beginning to wonder what has happened to Thalia. I am worried she has been caught or is in trouble because of me but I’m mostly worried because I have no food or water. I can feel myself getting weaker as the days go by. I begin hallucinating and dreaming that the Christians have found me or that they killed Thalia. The gruesome images dance behind my eyelids almost every night. I know that I can’t stay in here much longer and that I will have to go outside these doors so I gather the few things I have with me and pull my scarf over my head.
I walk up to the heavy doors, take a deep breath and push.
The harsh light turned everything white. I cover my eyes and wait for them to adjust. Those few moments of blissful ignorance is something that I thank god for. As my eyes become accustomed to the light I can finally make out the scene before me.
Bodies are stacked, one on top of the other. Their throats slit and the street running with blood. Their accusing eyes are open and staring into my soul, questioning why I am still alive while they are dead. They never look away, nor do I. I stand there frozen in shock. My cheeks feel warm and I reach up and realize I am crying. Sobs racked my body as I take a few steps towards my slaughtered kin. I kneel on the ground in front of an elderly woman, whose frail body is mutilated and covered in blood, and I grasp her hand in mine. I grieve for the loss of people I have never met. My hands and clothes becoming soaked in their blood as I cry out for their unjust executions.
Then a sharp pain goes through my back.
I rise up above my body and look around. A Christian soldier who had been stationed on the rooftop of a nearby house had spotted me and shot me with his arrow. I look around and see the souls of all those who have been killed in this violent attack. I spot Thalia’s soul amongst the many and she spots mine. We smile at each other and embrace. Together all of us rise up.