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Death's Flames

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In the end, it didn’t matter.

In the end, my weak attempts had failed.

In the end, Death had won once again.

But let’s go back to the beginning…

An experiment gone wrong. That’s how it all began. In the lower levels of the lab, a careless scientist had spilled a highly inflammable liquid. Spreading rapidly yet silently, the people on the upper levels had no warning, no signal, no clue.

How I ended up in the elevator, I don’t remember. But I do remember this.

I was not alone. Another lady, old and fragile, had been in the elevator with me. I remember how welcome her warm smile felt, how rare those smiles were in the lab, and how quickly the smile had faded.

Looking back on it, I should’ve realized something was wrong as soon as I smelled the smoke. As it wafted through the cracks of the worn down elevator, I had thought it was merely the scent of an absentminded scientist who had forgotten to take his lunch out of the microwave.

So how had I known about the fire? The ringing in my head tells me all I need to know. Alarms. Sharp and deafening, the alarms had suddenly begun blaring throughout the building.

The memory of the fright on the lady’s face and the confusion on my own surfaces through my cluttered mind. The old lady had processed what was happening before I had, and after a moment of shock, she pushed the red button reading “Fire Emergency.” Immediately, a frantic voice over the speakers began to give instructions on trying to conserve our oxygen and staying where we were. “We’ll be there as soon as we can,” the speaker announced, and then there was only silence.

During this entire exchange, I had stood there numbly, eyes wide, feet glued to the elevator floor, as if no amount of force could ever move me again. Only when the old lady began to choke on the smoke that had begun to engulf the elevator did I finally start to realize what had happened.

Rushing over to the lady, I knelt down next to her and pulled our several napkins from my purse. “Ma’am? Are you all right? Here,” I said, handing her a napkin. Not wanting to risk taking in more smoke, the woman just nodded and put the napkin over her nose and mouth.

Slowly, I could feel the tendrils of smoke creeping in through every tiny crevice. It began to surround me, threatening to suffocate me.

Then the flashbacks started. A burning apartment. Flames blocking every exit. No way out. My mother clutching me tightly. Tears and sweat staining her shirt.

And the way she had ordered the firefighter to carry me out and leave her.

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. It was as if I were back in that burning house, watching the life drain out of my mother’s eyes, turning from that bright, brilliant green to a dull, dead black.

The groan of the old woman snapped me back to reality. Slumped against the wall, she looked just like my mother did 20 years ago, weak and helpless.

Where were the firefighters? Where were the men who were supposed to burst in to save the day?

I began to pound on the door. “Help!” I screamed.
“Hang in there!” I heard a voice yell on the other side. Loud grinding noises penetrated the thick metal doors.

I rushed back to the woman. She was unconscious, her breathing shallow, her pulse slow. She was alive, but only just. I could feel her slipping away, slipping into the hands of Death.

Just then, the last screw holding the elevator together broke. We were free, but it was too late.

The woman had gone cold. Her heart had stopped. She was dead.

“Out! Hurry!” the firefighter yelled through his heavy mask. He took the woman roughly in his arms and sprinted out of the building just as it came tumbling down.

The cool wind slapped my face, surprising me with its force. It knocked me down, and I didn’t make an attempt to get up. With no sensation in my body, I watched as the paramedics arrived with an ambulance, watched as the doctor tried to take the lady’s pulse, watched as he shook his head, and I watched as they covered her in a white sheet and took her away.

My head felt light. I knew I was going to faint. But before I slipped into darkness, my eyes found a star, and I whispered a prayer.





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