That Night

July 19, 2017

The metal beams creaked and groaned under the pressure of the collapsing building.

The boards above me crackled and burned, ash and wood smolders sprinkling down onto my dirtied face and charred auburn hair.

I wiped a dirty and lightly burnt hand across my eyes, trying to see through the flickering yellows and reds. I tried desperately to ignore the heat that nearly made my corneas sizzle in their sockets, I had something more important to worry about.

"Sawyer!" My raspy voice echoed, sparsely heard through the roar of the quickly spreading flame.

My ears strained to hear any response from my baby brother, but none came. I could only hope that meant something good.

A thick board caught aflame overhead and cracked, separating from the falling structure and barrelling down, its fiery mass barely missing my splintered and aching feet.

I put a smoky sleeve filled with holes to my mouth and nose, hacking a dry and wheezing cough.

Breathing through the thin cloth barely made a difference to my already blackened lungs, it was doing little to help filter through the smoky air.

In the background, I could hear sirens wailing but vaguely noted that the house was already done for, and prayed for a moment to whatever god was listening that my brother and I wouldn't go down with it.

"Sawyer! Answer me!" I called again, my breath coming out in harsh pants, my chest nearly tearing open with each fleeting heave, I had to find him fast.

My feet dragged against the damaged floorboards, my tired and hazy blue eyes raking through my surroundings. No doubt if Sawyer was somewhere; he'd be in the cellar. The one place our father always said to go to in an emergency. I don't think he ever counted on fire...or maybe he did.

No way would the musty room withstand against the anger of such flames; flames that would engulf everything.

No way anyone could be so stupid to seek refuge there...except for the ever-so-loyal Sawyer.

Even after Father had set his home and family ablaze, no doubt  Sawyer would still heed his words, futilely praying he wouldn't steer him wrong.

And gods I wished he hadn't betrayed that trust like this. Any other way, but not this.

Flames licked at my heels and cheeks and I stumbled toward the crumbling staircase. They were right below where the fire started.

No doubt I'd fall through if I wasn't careful.

My breathing was nearly non-existent as I carefully swayed down the stairs, black filling the corners of my vision.

My foot fell through a board, the wood jabbing into my foot. The floor board crashed onto the ground below, my own blood dripping after it in a slow crimson rain.

"Sawyer!" I called again, my voice was breathy and quiet, the pain of my near-bloody wheezing winning over desperation.

Most of the floor above had already fallen through, now just a pile of wood and charcoal burning, adding to the fiery chaos.

I crawled past the smoldering rubble toward the cellar, my legs no longer strong enough to hold me up, I could smell the skin on my legs burning, no doubt it looked as awful as it felt.

I started weakly pushing at the door, tears streaking down my face. Luckily the door was no longer the defense it had been and gave way almost immediately.

I panted, dragging my tired and worn limbs through the threshold, once again calling for Sawyer.

'I don't think he's here...' the thought came in a mixture of relief and worry.

If he wasn't down here, then he might've gotten out. Someone might come for us. For him. I could only pray that he wasn't under any of the piles of rubble I'd crossed over.

I slowly lowered myself onto the ground, exhaustion fighting over my will to move; to escape.

My cheek rested on the floor as the flames roared louder, closer to my ears and smoldering the ends of my already blackened hair.

The raging inferno tore through my skin, the pain brought my lips open into a scream, but the only sound that escaped was a wet sounding croak.

The pain turned to light warmth as the heat of my own body slowly ebbed away.

My eyes fluttered closed, the fire burning away everything and engulfing me like a  delightfully warm blanket, its crackling offering me a lullaby as to drown out the other sounds of calamity around me. A strange, but not unwelcome, comfort

My wheezing breath slowed as my racing heart calmed, barely a low thrum in my chest.



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