Beneath the blue sky she watches the palm trees sway in the warm breeze. Sunlight and shadows dance across the white facade of the mosque opposite her home. The air is heavy with the scent of jasmine. The lilting voice of the Imam calls the faithful to prayers. Her mother sings in the kitchen, her younger brothers bicker in the yard. She waves to her father who is walking across the road towards her…….Then…..she hears someone screaming……….
Rahel slowly realised it was she who was screaming. Then, the crash of breaking glass brought her back to the moment as burning debris fell past the window. She was sat on the floor in the corner of the lounge, terrified, struggling to breathe and holding her son close, covering his face with her scarf. Through the dense choking smoke she could discern the ghostly shapes of others crouched or curled up in resignation around the edge of the room.
As Rahel began to slip back into semiconsciousness she felt an unexpected cool hand on her forehead. She looked up dreamily to see a man looking into her eyes. When asked later, she would be unable to describe him, such were the ordinary features of his face and the style of his clothing.
The man bent down and gently lifted her to her feet. She felt a surge of energy pulse through her body.
“Walk.” Said the man. “Leave this place. You must live.”
Before she passed through the doorway she looked back over her shoulder. Despite the flames rolling across the ceiling the unremarkable man was moving around the room stooping over each huddled figure.
Yasser Qabanni too felt the cool hand and looked up with pleading eyes but the man shook his head and moved on to the next. On the other side of the room he helped Musa, a young teenager to his feet, told him he would live and gestured towards the doorway before continuing his circuit of the room deciding who would live and who would die.
Two months later an undamaged USB stick would be discovered during a search of the ash and debris of flat 801. It contained the plans for a terrorist attack on a large shopping mall in London. The attack was to be led by Yasser Qabbani. Then, later in November the analysis of DNA samples from the flat would identify the remains of a known people trafficker and child abuser.
Many decades into the future Rahel’s son, now a renowned neurosurgeon, would sit indulgently listening to his mother and Musa Badawi, the prominent civil rights activist, recall how they all survived the terrible fire in London.
“He must have been an angel” she said of the unremarkable man who saved their lives. “What other explanation is there? We were chosen by an angel.”
The prompt for this story was to write a piece about ‘meeting an angel’. The recent tragic fire at Grenfell Towers in London is the setting for my story.