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In The Heat Of The Night

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In the heat of the night they forgot about children. Beams fell, and the shouting from outside grew duller, drowned out by the sounds of screams as the house crumbled. The fire waged fierce and tall outside and was quickly burning through the walls.
They sat in the corner, crying, or screaming, or petrified with fear. A mass of bodies huddled close together despite the heat that seemed to close in from every direction. Only one boy stood apart from the others; his name was Leo. He pulled frantically at the doors to the root cellar. If he could get the children down there, away from the fire, he might be able to save them. Leo’s fingers clung to the door handle, his knuckles pale white against the endless red around him. He brushed a sweaty strand of his dark brown hair from his eyes. He thought of his parents, out there somewhere. He gave the door a strong stomp. He thought about how they had betrayed him, left him, and decided his life without ever asking him. Another stomp. Anger grasped him like a noose and he exploded with rage. Stomping, kicking, punching he attacked the door. With one final push the bolt broke and gave way. Leo felt his ire dissipating as he took deep breaths of the cool air from the root cellar. Tendrils of smoke flooded to the new air reminding him that he only had so much time.
“Here!” he coughed, “Over here.” He waved his arms up and down. Twelve heads swiveled toward him. A look of hope and direction flashed across the ashen stained faces of the children. It was a new feeling for them, to feel taken care of and looked out for. Like Leo, their lives they had been defined by the fact that their parents hadn’t cared about them. But that didn’t matter now.
Running, scurrying, flailing, they rushed to the door. One after the other they hurried down the stairs into the dirt chamber. He waited until they were all inside to pull the doors shut and shove in the bolt he had just broken.
And then… silence. Or so it seemed in comparison to what they had just experienced. The children were huddled in the corner shaking and shocked. He looked around at their resources. He directed the children to drink from the water pale as he handed out vegetables from assorted sacks and bins. The children wolfed down carrots, radishes, and lettuce while Leo took a few bites of hard potato. His pale pink lips shone against the dark brown skin of his snack. He watched the children for a moment. But a moment was all he could spare before returning to survival mode. He scanned the cellar until his eyes rested upon a shovel. He seized it and began to dig away from the house. They only had so much time left before they would run out of air and have to unseal the doors. This would either be his crowning glory or the reason for his death.



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