"Is anybody in here? Hello? Anybody here?" It was hard to know if the voices were real or imagined as he roused himself from the exhausted sleep that had finally claimed him. The apartment was still dark, the only light that which came from the small fires still burning throughout the ruined building.
"Hello? Is anyone here?" The call came again, louder this time. As exhausted as he was, Luka forced himself to sit up.
"Danijela, help is here, I told you they'd come." Reaching across his children he brushed a lock of hair from his wife's face.
"I'll get them, we'll get you all to the hospital, everyone will be fine." Scrambling to his feet he ignored the stab of pain as a sliver of wood pierced it, shock already having distorted his reality that it barely registered.
"In here..." He stumbled to the door, tripping over the debris as he made his way to it.
"I've got a live one." He heard the voice only moments before the owner of it grabbed him by the arms.
"My wife, my children, I need to get them to the hospital." Luka immediately tried to pull out of the man's hold, his only thoughts those of Danijela and the children.
"Slow down, we'll get to them, let's look at you, are you hurt?" That the man's hands were stained red with blood had the rescuer immediately looking for visible injuries on the dark man in front of him.
"My wife, my children, please..." He struggled to pull free of the man's hold.
"They're waiting for me, I couldn't get them there alone." The admission wasn't an easy one to make but neither was standing there when Danijela and the children were still inside.
"They'll get them, let me take care of you. Ante, Ivo, he says his wife and children are inside and injured." He'd no sooner sent the two men inside the apartment and turned his attention back to Luka then the two returned, their faces grim.
"Dusan." Ante was the first to speak and as the man looked his way he simply shook his head.
"You said you would take them." Luka broke free of the man's grasp and started for the door again, determined to do what they would not.
"It's too late, I'm sorry, they're gone..." Even as Dusan confirmed what the man had to know he wondered if he would allow it to register. He'd struggled tosave them, no doubt they had died in his arms, yet some part of him continued to cling to the hope of the miracle that wouldn't come.
"We'll bring them out for you." Ante made the offer without knowing how it would be received.
"No..." With his way back to Danijela and the children blocked by the two who had confirmed the unavoidable truth Luka was forced to stop and as he looked from one to the other he was finally forced to accept what he wanted so badly to deny.
"No..." Sinking to his knees the shock began to fade and he allowed the grief to consume him. They were gone...his eyes locked on his hands, stained red with their blood, the same hands that had failed them. No, not his hands, he had failed them...all of them.