Archive for September, 2012
There was shouting in the man’s language that sounded closer as Ala scooted along the wall. She knew that the other man had come in, but was unsure if he was alone, and did not want to move quickly and draw attention to herself. She skimmed the floor with her eyes until she spotted her phone. It was the only possession, besides her frayed underwear, that had not burned in the fire. She crawled toward it slowly as the man stood at the edge of the fire.
“Drei! Drei!” He yelled, which Ala assumed was the man’s name who was burning alive. She wondered why the man didn’t run out and get water or something to try to swat the fire out with. Her joints froze up and nausea seized her as she thought about having to move without making a sound with the state her body was in.
Slowly, she shimmied to the phone under the cloud of smoke and picked it up. She had never been so happy to be able to hold something that belonged to her in her hands. She had taken everything and every person in her life for granted. And she could be killed in this room without ever showing her appreciation and without anyone knowing what had happened to her.
She shook her head, trying to focus and snaked her way past the fire and to the large heavy door the man had left open. The light outside of the door made her dizzy. She pushed herself onto her feet and slammed the door shut. It clicked and she imagined the man banging from the inside but could not hear anything through the metal.
There were pendant lamps lining the long hallway and she noticed, as she took her first step, that the floor was heated. She turned left and stepped lightly, terrified that Bruno would be waiting for her. It was amazing that there was no fire alarm or smoke detector going off, that a room existed where terrible things could be done and no one had to find out about them.
She grabbed for the wall and leaned against it, craving water, forcing herself to stay upright. She had to find the door. At the end of the hallway was a steep staircase with a door at the top. She clutched the railing and raised herself up. After three steps, she got down on her knees and crawled instead. The air began to smell sweeter as she reached the top.
The door was unlocked and as her shaking hand turned the knob, she braced herself for an attack. But no one was there. She was in a living room. There were sofas and books and a fireplace. There was art on the walls and area rugs. It was a beautiful house without any distinguishable décor to indicate that criminals lived in it. No one seemed to be home. She crept through, wanting desperately to look for photographs, but knowing that she had little time to successfully escape.
After wrapping herself in a blanket she pulled from the back of the couch, she wandered until finding the foyer and looked on the side table for keys in case the bronze plated front door was locked. There weren’t any to be found, so she took a deep breath and pulled the door open. The outside air hit her face and she cried, feeling free. A high-pitched tone rang through her ears. She had tripped an alarm.
She ran outside and stubbed her toe on a large garden stone. She got back up and continued down a steep hill where at the bottom, she could see a small road. The moon and the grass and the hum of the bugs forced there presence into her awareness, making her tired. She forced herself to look ahead and not to turn back to the house. If someone were chasing her, knowing would only slow her down.
Something sharp plunged into her foot and she cried out before covering her mouth with her hands. Her own sound frightened her. She located the thorn in the bottom of her foot and yanked in out. With her calculations, she should have been captured by now. She turned around and faced the house. It looked the same as the houses she had seen through the window on the other side of the mountain. She became angry, wondering if she had imagined the entire episode.
A car’s headlights filled up the road and she dashed down, waving her arms in the air and screaming for help. The car stopped and without hesitation, she opened the passenger door and let herself in.
She had climbed a rock wall several times during high school, but had never attempted an actual mountain. Also, this facade had no cracks or indentations to tuck fingers or toes into. There was nothing to push off of, or provide a resting spot or leverage. It was just a flat wall. If she had a rope or a sheet, she could have scaled the wall down. Although, there was nothing in the room to tie the rope around, so she would still be stranded. The only safe way out was the door. And even if she could get out that way, she had no idea who was waiting on the other side.
The fire continued to crackle, the smoke coming off ashy and black. Her lungs would soon be overwhelmed and unable to cope with the poison filling them. The man’s body was a lot of ammunition and would take a long time to burn off completely. The thought of throwing the body through the window crossed Ala’s mind. Surely, someone who lived in one of the twinkling houses would notice a large fireball tumbling down the mountain. However, since the body was engulfed, there was no way to lift it without her burning herself.
Also, throwing the man down the mountain would for sure qualify as first degree manslaughter. While Ala believed she was responsible for taking this man’s life, it had been an accident. She had built the fire because she had wanted to sound an alarm to make someone come open the door. She did not intend for him to burn to death, and at this point, to possibly be killing herself as well. If she ever did make it out and somehow Bruno, or the other accomplice, came forward and pressed charges, at least this really had been unplanned. This would also mean a judge would have to overlook the kidnapping and assault on Ala in the first place.
She should have removed the man’s wallet to try to find out about his identity. Was he a citizen? Where was he from? He could have a wife and children. He could be someone entirely different to the rest of the world than she had known. This job could have been a small part of his life. Even though his profession was unsavory and he appeared to be a dangerous human being, doing one thing differently could have saved his life. He could have avoided the fire and spared himself.
Her head pounded harder. Even though she feared falling asleep, she lowered herself to the ground. Why hadn’t Bruno just taken her from Emmanuel’s house? And how had he known she would be running on the beach that morning? If he had been following here for awhile, Danno could be in danger as well.
She could no longer see through the smoke, but her stomach contracted as she heard the weighted door click and then swing open.