Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fire!


Oh, I ran. I ran, I did, I was running so hard it wasn’t funny. I was running so hard it hurt. And it was so far away, I just couldn’t get any closer, but I was running so hard. The house was burning. It was all up in flames, there was so much fire I couldn’t even see it. The whole house and the whole yard and the tree leaning on the side and the garage and the hedge separating us from the neighbours and the whole sky behind it, everything was red and orange and hot. And I ran and I kept on trying to get closer but it felt like I was running in place, and everywhere I looked there were more people running, like some freak race, whoever could make it to base first wins. A long time later I think I got close enough, or too close, so close I felt I was burning with it, and there were all these people in the way, fire fighters and policemen and other people, they were telling me to stay back but I told them that was my house, that is my house, my family's in there and I had to be in there too. There was no way I was being left behind in this world, no way.

Later at the hospital, holding ice to my face where the flames had burnt away my eyebrows and bits of skin off my forehead and nose, I tried not to think about anything. It wasn’t that hard, really; my mind was pretty blank as it was. I looked down at the remains of my T-shirt and jeans, piled next to me on the bed. The gown I had been placed in was open down the back and I was pretty much freezing. If I was feeling anything at all at that time, it was that my back was cold. And my nose hurt a bit. That was it. I couldn’t feel anything else. And I couldn’t think too clearly. I didn’t want to. Every once in a while a nurse would poke her head around the curtains, look in at me for a while and then walk away. I was vaguely aware of the presence of roughly 300 people outside my cubicle; neighbours and family and reporters and insurance people. People who were involved and not involved. No one tried to come in and talk to me. Or maybe they did but I hadn’t noticed in my blessed half-trance. Or maybe they hadn’t after all. I wondered why I cared, or how I could care anyway. It felt like the longest stretch of nothing I had ever been in. Longer than all the minutes I had spent waiting in front of the principles office after being told off in class. Longer than all the hours spent banned in my room and waiting for Dad to come home and punish me for a wrongdoing. Longer than all the days counting down to the dreaded trip down to the clinic for annual vaccination. Longer than anything. I was so tired. And confused. And nothing. Suddenly it all became something, and too much of it. My house had burnt down. With my family in it. I was now father-less and mother-less and sisters-less. There was no more us. There was no more me. How does that even happen to someone? How does that happen to someone who isn’t someone else? How does that happen to me? And then, blessedly, it stopped, and I was back again in nothing. Which was so much more comforting. And all I could feel was my shivering back and prickling at the tip of my nose.