I was putting the finishing touches on a Bowler hat for a regular customer when I learned the news. One of the local boys who sell newspapers on the corner burst into the shop.
“Mr. Young, Mr. Young!” he shouted.
“What is it boy, what do you need?” I replied impatiently.
“It’s your house, sir.”
“What? What about my house?” I dropped my work.
“It’s on fire, sir.”
I started making my way towards the door. “What about my family?”
“Don’t know, sir, but you better hurry. It’s all ablaze!”
The boy continued shouting after me, but I was already halfway down the street.
My house was not close to town. We enjoyed our seclusion and extra room outside of the city. Anna never really liked city life; she preferred the slower pace of the countryside, where she swore we would move to eventually. Never did I think living so far off would be such a problem.
I was able to convince a carriage driver to drive at top speed. The carriage rattled almost as much as my nerves as we raced over the rough dirt roads that led to the house. Soon I was able to see the smoke from the window. We were probably still about a kilometer away, but the cloud of smoke was massive and more than visible. The smell of burning wood and other substances filled the air.
When I arrived there was little left of our perfect home. The flames had subsided, but smoke still billowed out of the ash and rubble that was left.
“ANNA! DORIS!” I shouted, running frantically towards the house. “ANNA!” I started tearing through the rubble. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would burst. I searched everywhere hoping to find - and hoping not to find. I wished for nothing more than to hold my dear wife and child in my arms again.
Unfortunately, I was granted my wish. From under a pile of collapsed boards emerged a small white hand and the hem of a dress. I tore the boards off, revealing Anna completely covering Doris with her body save the hand that stuck out from the rubble. I shook the both of them.
“Anna, Anna darling wake up. Doris, wake up Daddy’s home.” Tears started to cloud my vision. “Please wake up. Come on sweetie, wake up. WAKE UP!”
But no matter how much I shook them or shouted, they would not awaken. Anna had given her life to save Doris’s, but Doris did not survive. Why hadn’t they just gotten out when the fire started? How did this happen? Why did it happen?
But what did it matter? All that I wanted, all that I loved in the world was gone. I was alone; my life had no purpose or meaning anymore. And the pain, oh the pain, it was like everything was stabbing me or injuring me. The air was too thick and suffocated me, the sun was too hot and burning me, the trees loomed overhead and their needles pierced into my skin. My insides felt as if they were to burst at any given moment, such a swelling like I was being filled with poisonous gasses until I would explode. And yet it also felt as if there was a gaping hole going right through me, like every ship in the British navy had shot a cannon right through me.
There was nothing I could do. I was hopeless. I just sat amongst the smoke and the rubble, holding my dear wife and child, my Anna and Doris, sobbing.