The sky is clear. There are no clouds to hide the drone coasting above your home. Despite being thousands of meters above you, its camera sees everything. You wonder if the drone operator, who sits comfortably in an air conditioned room in a remote Israeli military base, is making eye contact with you.
You hear a faint scraping sound. And then you hear a loud blast. Israel has just knocked on your roof.
Quick. You have fifty-eight seconds to make it out alive. The missile that hit your home wasn’t equipped with an explosive warhead. It’s purpose, you’ve been told, is to warn you that your home is slated for destruction. Your neighbors poke their heads out of their windows and urge you to run.
You have forty seconds left. The warning blast knocked in your roof. What good is a warning that kills you before you’re actually meant to die?
Your neighbors are shouting now. The hum from the drone is faint and for a short moment you foolishly hope that the operation is done, that the drone has been called back and the mission aborted. But the sound of pounding footsteps outside — everyone is running away now — reassures you more than ever before that the Israeli drone operator is desperately hoping for one last glance.
You decide to give it to him. You stumble through the living room, past the photograph of your late grandmother who fed you sweet mangos every summer night for the first six years of your life. You have less than twenty-two seconds to get out. You chase your family out the door and down the concrete steps. You are empty-handed, you realize, as the photograph of your grandmother flashes before your eyes. There is no time to go back.
But there’s more than enough time for defiance.
Your family keeps running, but you — you pause. As the seconds pass by — twelve, eleven, ten — you take one long look at the drone above you. Something tells you the pilot broke his stare first.
You have time to make it to the next block. Around the corner is a wall you will take cover behind. It is tall enough to protect you but short enough for you to look over.
Five, four, three.
Your mother stops abruptly. She turns her head and runs in your direction. You wave her off. Go, mama, keep going. You’ll catch up, you tell her.
Two seconds left.
Someone from the neighborhood grabs your hand and pulls you into the safety of her home. She pushes you to your knees where you crouch in the corridor.
She covers her ears. You don’t.