August 14, 2010
She was choking on smoke.

Her room, which was once a pale blue, was filled with the smell of burning plastic, paper, and flowers. It was the smell of a burning house. She pressed a worn, black paisley bandana over her mouth and wiped the back of her hand across her watering eyes. Had her room been on the first floor instead of the third she would’ve gladly jumped through her window. The girl stumbled for her open door, nearly knocking over the table and vase sitting just outside her room. Her pajamas brushed the floor as she hurried for the stairs, still trying to wipe away the tears that the smoke was bringing on. She slid the bandana away from her mouth and shouted “Mom! Dad! Dad?”

Neither of her parents replied.

The girl kept tripping down the stairs. She kept her shoulder to the wall for balance but lurched away when she knocked into one of her mother’s paintings. The canvas fell off the wall, tumbling down the stairs ahead of the girl. It smashed into the wall where the second flight of stairs turned into the first. The girl ignored it and continued on, shouting for her parents more fervently. The house was on fire and they had either already gotten out, leaving her there, or they were still in their second floor room. That was where she was heading. Maybe they passed out from the smoke, she thought, they wouldn’t just leave me here to burn, would they?

She crashed through her parents’ semi-open door and nearly fell as she tried to catapult herself backward. There was fire everywhere, on the drapes, the closet, the Parisian wall hanging, the bed. The girl’s body went limp. The fire was thick and the smoke was like a heavy curtain, but she could make out the two bodies lying in the bed. It felt as if her chest was collapsing, that her heart was going to crack through her skin and bones and leap out. Her parents were there, their bodies burning. There was no way they were still alive. The girl let the bandana and hand slip from her face as she started to drift backward. Her knees were giving out from underneath her, and her legs felt like they were made of gelatin. She kept falling, unable to stop herself. The smoke was forcing itself upon her, making her bow to its power as she coughed and struggled for air. Her eyes were fluttering, and the tears from the smoke were joined by those of loss and pain. She let the smoke close them, what else was there to do?

As she finally hit the floor she felt something wrap around her body. It was a firm grip, but not as menacing as the one the smoke had on her. She let the new grasp take her, and she felt as if she was being dragged across a field of grass. Her grip on the bandana tightened automatically, for fear of losing anything else.

I must be dying, she thought, her mind slowing down. A sudden sense of relaxation, or maybe relief, dulled her remaining senses. To anyone watching closely enough, they would’ve seen the corners of her lips tip up gently in a mysteriously pretty smile. She wasn’t afraid anymore.

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