Manchester

You say, ‘What was that?’

Soon, sirens and people start appearing on the street; a helicopter zones in overhead.

You approach two women to ask them, but they don’t know, and they hurry away.

The next people you stop to ask if anyone’s hurt.

‘Yes’, they say, then they too are gone.

Eye witness accounts at this stage are: two loud bangs, people running for the doors and smoke, nails, though your phone died halfway through your shift, so you know nothing of this.

You stop a man in his thirties.

‘Somebody bombed the place,’ he says. ‘Young kids, all young kids, all injured, like fucking dying up there man, on the road, blood everywhere.’

Then he’s gone too.

You walk between people moving away, to get closer to the noise. Here the sirens are overwhelming; there’s smoke and burning and people lying injured, on pavements and the road; some sitting, some being​​ helped and held up.

Keep your leg raised love. Keep it up so you don’t lose blood.

Hang on a minute, which leg is it? This one?

Call an ambulance.

Quickly, someone call an ambulance.

[Shouts] Can someone get an ambulance NOW?

Later, you walk home. Read the messages on the internet.

You watch the news and pour a drink. Send texts saying you are home safe,

thinking about the girl you saw wrapped in a t shirt, with someone, maybe her mum, cradling her.

You send more texts and when you try for sleep around 5 am you turn, unsettled, and pull the sheets close.

First published  London Independent Story Prize (August 2018),  Available to read here.