Beginning of the End
I woke up with the smell of burning in my nostrils. Even with the curtains closed I can see flames outside my window. So I jump up and rush out of the room. I try to head to the front door but the greasy smoke that leaks from the kitchen door tells me this isn’t an option as there are scorching hot flames broiling on the other side.
Knowing this is the only really available door I can go through, I scramble for a plan B. My balcony is the only one with stairs. . . but it’s boarded up. My eyes land on a window and before I can think I grab the closest thing to me: a wooden cane. I smash through the glass but it doesn’t go all the way through. I gulp as I suddenly remember the storm windows are locked in place, and only openable from the outside. I start to panic, breathing quickly and furthermore promoting the scorching of my lungs and throat.
I convulse into a coughing fit, tripping over nothing and cutting my palms, legs, and feet on the sharp glass shards. I’m trapped. Maybe this is my outing. . . my release to finally be free of this cruel world.
Suddenly, I hear a panicked scream. My little sister. Fueled by strong surges of adrenaline, I can’t feel the pain anymore as I rush upstairs to her room. The door is locked and the handle burns my hands, though I barely notice.
I kick the door, breaking it as it swings open and slams into the wall. The room is filled with a thick smoke just like the rest of the house. In my sudden need to survive, I drop into an army crawl, thankful for my time spent in military school these past few years.
“Cece!” I call out with a broken voice.
“Dee!” She cries, pain and fear evident in her tone.
I crawl over to her quickly and use my body to shield hers from whatever may come. I struggle to reach her scarf protector which lays a couple feet away. Eventually, I’m able to hook my finger onto the soft fabric and pull it over her face, using it to cover her nose and mouth.
“Don’t take this off,” I say sternly.
She nods before saying, “Chester’s stuck in the closet! I tried to get him out but- . . .”
As if on cue Chewy’s wail of panic is heard across the room. A fallen bookshelf is aflame and blocking the door.
“Stay here,” I instruct as I quickly crawl over to the closet. Adrenaline still pumps thickly through my veins and I somehow clear the way and yank the doors open. My beloved Maine Coon leaps into my arms, clinging to me with all twenty claws as I make my way back to my little sister.
“We need to get out of here!” I say just milliseconds before there’s a huge blast, fire and smoke exploding throughout the house, narrowly missing our spot. I throw myself over my main priorities and my sister screams, clutching my arm and shirt in surprisingly tight fists. The flames don’t calm down. “C’mon!” I shout over the roaring inferno and lead her over to the window.
Where the hell are the firefighters? The flashing lights? Our rescue? Shouldn’t they be here by now? I shake my head, clearing away the thoughts.
“Dee. . .″ Cece tugs on my sleeve. “It’s locked. And it’s so far down from the ground. . . and what about Daddy?” I grab her blanket and wrap it around my fist.
“We’ll climb down,” I say, ignoring the first and last things she said. “Cover your face,” I say, holding Chester under my shirt.
I punch through both layers of glass, shards go flying, cutting my exposed skin and barely missing my eye. I drop the blanket and lift the screen with one hand before helping Cecelia out of the second story window and onto her balcony, immediately followed by me as I keep a tight grip on Chewy. The door to it had been blocked.
We start to climb over to my balcony not too far away. I guide and soothe her nerves the whole way, trying to pretend I’m not on the verge of having a whole slew of attacks myself. I help her over the railing to the landing and practically throw ourselves down the stairs as another explosion rumbles through the house.
We sprint to the river of rushing water, far enough from the house to allow a break. We did it. We escaped. Alive. I keep an eye on what used to be my home, praying our father can’t make that same claim. I call 9-1-1, though barely able to speak.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”
“My hose is on fire. I was able to get my sister and myself out.”
“Is there anyone else still inside?” I pause for a second before saying,
“I’m not sure.” Not technically a lie.
“We’re on our way.”
I hang up and lay on the grass next to my sister, pulling Chewy from beneath my shirt and calming him with pets and kisses and soothing words. Eventually I hear the sirens.
Why has it taken them so long?
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