“Can you give me a sign?” she cried, not knowing what else to say in the suffocating silence of the cellar. There were no gunshots anymore, but she didn’t dare peek outside just yet. Richard was gone for too long and there was no point thinking the growing pains of the house every night were his steps coming back from the town with food and supplies.

The radio didn’t work anymore, but sometimes she could still hear their voices—sometimes they laughed at her, sometimes they taunted her to go outside, sometimes they pleaded for help. Relentless, amplified by the silence, the whirlwind of whispers kept her awake at night. She didn’t know how long it has passed until she started hearing noises in the backyard creeping slowly inside the house: laboured huffs and heavy steps, the cellar trap door squeaking open. She tensed up and shut her eyes, breathless, not knowing if the steps climbing down came from the outside or from her own head.

“It’s over,” a quiet, low voice said, and when she opened her eyes again, the lights were on and she saw a large shadow putting two large cloth bags on the table. “There’s not much left out there, but I caught a rabbit on my way back. I haven’t checked the house yet, but I’m sure it’s not in terrible condition.” Richard looked at her slowly rocking back and forth and staring at him through squinted eyes still not used to the light. “Are you alright, Isabel?”

His voice barely reached her, drowned by the echoes in her head telling her he was one of them, only a shadow from a world of chaos, who could never help her.

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