Posts Tagged fire

Excerpt 151


Her legs weakened.  The line was long and the people seemed to be closing in on her, threatening to swallow her up. She tried to fan herself with her ticket, but the paper was too flimsy to have any affect.

The line seemed to be stopped and she couldn’t see far ahead enough to tell what the hold up was.  Her stomach twisted and she felt light-headed. She should have eaten. The tea was not enough. Between the flight, the letter and the farewell from Danno, she was ready to pass out. She put her hand on the man’s back in front of her, trying to steady herself.  He turned around and gave her a dirty look. His wife began yelling at her in another language.  People turned and stared.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but the woman continued to yell, getting closer to her face. Ala could smell remnants of meat on her breath. Ala’s eyes watered as she felt the fullness make it’s way up her throat.  With chipmunk cheeks, she ran out of the line down the hall in the direction she remembered the restroom to be.

There was still a line outside of the ladies room, so she ran into the men’s room and vomited, missing the stall by three feet.  She got down on all fours and closed her eyes. She needed to lie down. She needed to eat. She needed someone to tell her that she could make it through the flight if she just stood up, rinsed out her mouth and boarded.

She stared at the puddle. Because she was so hungry, it was mostly frothy bile.  She carefully rose to her feet and grabbed a stack of paper towels.  She threw them onto the mess and tried to wipe up as much as she could with her foot.  The nausea returned and she lied down on her stomach, letting her face rest on the freezing tile.

Her phone rang, and very slowly, she sat up and took it out of her bag.  It was Jase calling. She chose to ignore him.  Once again she stood up and kicked the soggy paper towels into the corner.  She had to get to her seat as quickly as possible.  She could relax then, and possibly even get some sleep.

Leaving the restroom, she realized that she had left her suitcase at the gate. This panic brought her to a jog even though she still felt like crawling.  The boarding area was empty. She read the monitor to make sure she was in the right place for the flight.  Her suitcase was gone. She looked under the row of seats . She went to the personnel desk, but no one was there to help.

It appeared that she had missed last call for boarding the plane.  There would have been announcements, but she wouldn’t have been able to hear them while vomiting. She had gotten to the gate as quickly as possible.  She would have to find Danno and see if there was a way she could switch to his flight instead.  She would also need to report her missing suitcase. She tried to remember if anything valuable was packed inside.

All she could think of was a brooch her mother had given her when she was seven years old.  They were Christmas shopping in the city in the middle of a blizzard.  The lady who helped Ala’s mother take care of her was supposed to go with to carry bags, but had gotten the flu.  It was a very special day for Ala. She and her mother had lunch in the tearoom and she was permitted to order off of the full menu, rather than the children’s portion.  They had bought presents for relatives who would be coming in for the holiday, back when Ala’s mother still invited people to come stay.

They hurried through the street, struggling to grip the bags blowing all in directions and made it to the revolving door of the grand department store. This was their last stop of the day. They both laughed with relief as soon as the warm air hit their faces with the rich new perfumes of the season surrounding them, and stepped onto the escalator.

Ala’s mother tried to untangle her purse strap from the cluster of bag handles, when the brooch on her coat fell off. Ala knew this was a gift from her grandmother and followed it with her eyes as it fell against the slatted step.

Ala looked up and saw the steps being swallowed, one by one, as they reached the top. She quickly crouched down to grab the brooch before it fell through the grate. Her small fingers gripped the gilded edge of the large pearl encrusted plate just as her mother turned to see what she was doing.

“Ala! Are you crazy?” Her mother yelled, grabbing the arm of Ala’s coat and yanking her up and off of the last step. She shook her shoulders hard.  “Do you want to get your hand cut off?”  Ala had no idea the escalator was dangerous.  She held out her hand to reveal the brooch, which had pierced and was stuck in the palm of her hand.

“I wanted to save it for you,” she whispered, now embarrassed at the few shoppers watching them.

“That?” her mother scoffed, “Keep it. It’s fake. Come on!”

Ala didn’t realize her mother had meant that the large pearl in the center was not an actual pearl, but painted plastic. She had thought it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever seen and loved it because her grandmother had loved it. She swallowed hard to avoid crying and pulled the needle from her hand. She followed her mother into housewares, shoving the brooch into her pocket.

She found a seat facing the wall of windows, and slouched down, watching the planes take off. Now the brooch was with whoever stole her suitcase. Even if she reported it missing, she knew she wouldn’t get it back.  She felt violated at the thought of someone looking through her underwear.

The plane she was supposed to be on backed out and taxied down the tarmac.  Ala opened her purse to make sure that her passport, license and the check from Emmanuel were still inside.  It would be inconceivably difficult to leave the airport, had her identification been in her suitcase.

A woman screamed, throwing her hands to her mouth and pointing to the window. Ala whipped her head around to see the fluffy clouds of black smoke floating up from the bright orange flames shooting out under the right wing of the plane.  She stood up slowly and pressed her face against the glass.

An emergency chute sprung out and one by one, like wind up toy soldiers, tiny figures slid down and ran. There was a loud pop and people gathered around her at the window in time to see the large fire cloud engulf the plane, flames snaking both wings and all sides. Banging on the glass and screaming continued as Ala squinted ahead, trying to make sense of what was happening. Fire engines and squad cars surrounded the dying star, and the few who had escaped huddled together.

Running commenced with people going in all directions, crashing into one another.  She didn’t know what to do or who to call. She would’ve been dead had she made it on in time. At least she had been with him one last time. She heard people shouting and shoes squeaking, babies crying and whistles blowing.  She could smell smoke and wasn’t sure if it was from the cigarette she had or the world ending outside.

Danger had followed her.  She wasn’t safe being who she was. Her phone rang.  She took it out of her bag and, without looking to see who was calling, tossed it in the trashcan, along with her ticket.  She put her sunglasses on and looking straight ahead, walked quickly toward the exit of the airport.

 

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Excerpt 129


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.

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Excerpt 127


No alarm went off. Nor did anyone come to the door.  The fire burned on, eating her shoe, with no sign of its hunger being satisfied.  She coughed, pressed her chin against her chest and squeezed her eyes shut. She felt like there was smoke trapped under her eyelids and had to open them, only to let more smoke in, making them itch.

She decided she would need her hands free in order to control the fire, or to simply keep from dying from smoke inhalation.  She walked closer to the flames and turned her back to them.  Squatting down, she lowered her wrists just above the flames, trying to singe the rope.  Her skin burned, as she tried to keep her balance and not fall backwards into the fire.

She moved her wrists apart and then together rapidly, trying to snap the weakened rope.  She coughed and tears dripped from her eyes, which slowly seemed to shrivel up from the smoke. She saw the man rise and stagger closer to the fire.

“Stop. Don’t do that,” she said, before remembering that he did not speak English.  Surely, his sense of touch would indicate that it was hot, therefore dangerous, but he continued forward until his foot landed in the flames.

She ran over and tried to push him out of the way with her shoulder.  He was very strong and would not budge.  She leaned into him and pushed harder until he stumbled away.  She looked down to see that his shoe had caught on fire.  He must not have realized it yet, because he remained quiet.  Ala bent once again with her wrists over the fire and continued to work the rope.

The man began to scream. He jumped around the room as his trousers lit up. She smelled what she could only imagine to be burning skin and flesh. She pulled apart as hard as she could and the rope fell off.  The skin on her arms was numb and she could not bring herself to look at them.  She immediately tackled the man to the ground, trying to snuff out the fire with her bare legs.  The man struggled with her, thinking she was trying to hurt him.  The flames engulfed his shirt and she had to keep from getting more burns.

He hit himself on the chest and continued to scream.  Ala laid on her stomach as low to the ground as possible, and looked around the room to see what else she could use to put the fire out.  She knew she had used everything she had to fuel it.  And now it wasn’t stopping and no one was coming.

 

 

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Excerpt 126


She knelt down and picked up the cardboard cover with her teeth, being careful not to moisten the matched. Ala had always been afraid of fire.  She refused to sit anywhere near her parent’s fireplace or any fire pits their friend’s had in their backyards.  When she was very young, her father left the grill on after removing hamburgers for a party they were hosting.  Ala had always wanted to help him cook on it and was always told she could not.  She lifted the lid and watched the coals infused with orange and blue flames change colors.  It was wondrous to her, something beautiful she had never seen and she reached in to touch it.  She lost feeling in three of her fingers and had to visit the emergency room.

There was no other option. She would have to create smoke and hope that it would reach an alarm.  She went to the pile of her hair and kicked it into a pile.  She dropped the matches and sat down next to them.  Without any visibility, the grabbed the booklet with one hand and brought two fingers over from her other hand to rip a match out.  She then laid the match on the ground and scooted onto her stomach.  The saliva on her tongue adhered to the match, but she soon realized that she would not be able to strike it without the tip bending. She slid it further into her mouth until her teeth hit just above where the tip began.

She kept her eyes wide open and speedily dragged the match over the rough cement. She heard the whisper crack and knew it was light.  She dropped it on the pile of hair.  While pungent, very little smoke floated up out of the flames.  The man must have smelled it because he whimpered and clutched his knees tightly against his chest.

It took five seconds for the fire to burn out, leaving a black smear on the concrete.  Discouraged, Ala walked over to the door.  It looked sealed, but she could see light through roughly one half inch of space at the bottom.  Smoke could seep through if there was enough of it.

She kicked her shoes, clothes and purse into a heap close to the door.  She then feared not being able to get out of the room at all if there was a fire barrier in place, and kicked everything to the center of the room.  Sweat dripped down her chest.  She began to feel faintish again from the lack of food, water and sleep on top of the high level of energy it took to move things back and forth without her hands.

When the pile was ready, she once again, sat on the ground, ripped out a match, turned on her stomach and positioned her head just so.  She struck the tip against the ground and tossed it toward the only possessions she had with her.  Her shorts caught on fire and then her bag. The flames were stronger and larger this time.  Smoke billowed up to the ceiling and the man began to cough.  She tried to hold her breath, as she could not use her hands to shield her airways from the smoke.  The fire roared, now being fueled by the whole pile. It was much more powerful than she expected.  She stepped back, watching the smoke make its way out of the crevice between the door and floor.

“Where are they?” She said.  “Come on.”

 

 

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Excerpt 125


The man clutched his face and grumbled out a stream of words Ala could not understand.  The rhythm and inflection sounded like he was praying. He could’ve been praying for his eyesight or his mother. Ala ignored him and reached for her bag.

She bent forward to stick her face inside and, using her mouth, pulled out her phone and whipped it to the ground. It was dark and did not have any battery life left.  She bit down the power button anyway, squinting to see even the faintest signal line on the dusty screen.  Frustrated, she used her teeth to grasp the bottom of her purse and sat back on her heels, letting everything inside fall to the floor.  The adrenaline through as the blood rushed from her head, forcing her to stop to catch her breath.  She leaned forward again and used her nose to comb through all of the items. There had to be something that could help her get out of the room.

There were several tubes of lipstick, all smoothed bodied with round caps.  There were tissues, mints and loose change. She also found a matchbook from Flynn’s and her compact mirror with a peacock on the cover that Abigail had given her for Christmas one year. She stared at everything, trying to force and idea.  They would be back soon.

The skin on her wrists stung from the scratches the rope made.  She tries to pull her wrists apart, and after, the rope felt even tighter. The man was now crying. She could tell he was scared to move because he didn’t know what she would do to him.

“Think. Think. They’re coming,” she said.  The mirror was easily the heaviest item.  Fortunately, the clasp had been broken last summer after falling from her pocket, so she was able to open it with her teeth.  The only way to break the glass seemed to be to bite it, and this scared her, so she carried it in her mouth back to where her shoes had been removed. She dropped it to the floor and forced herself to her feet.

Cold sweat sprouted up on her back as she forced herself to balance while shoving one foot back into her shoe.  It was still damp from her sweat and the water Bruno threw on her, but she was able to wiggle her heel all the way in.  She raised her foot and crashed it down on the mirror.  Her knees ached as she did this ten times.  On the eleventh stomping, she heard a crack.

She carefully got down on her knees and saw her face warped in the broken glass.  Her lips looked blue and she barely recognized her hair, slicked with grease and knotty in the angular cut the man gave her.  The bones in her neck stuck out and her eyes were very dark and feral.

She struggled to sit on her bottom with the mirror behind her.  The glass was loose in the frame, but she could not see what her hands were doing. She felt sticky warm blood and kept prodding around until she felt a sizable piece to reach for.  She jostled the mirror back and forth and finally flipped it over, hearing the delicate shards fall to the floor.  She located the largest sliver of glass and tried to grip it. It wasn’t possible to grip it and feel where to cut the rope.

The glass plunged into one of her wrists and she stomped her foot, stifling a scream.  It was apparent that she would not be able to free her hands with the glass.  She got back up on her feet and wobbled over back to the pile of purse contents.  She looked over each item again, saying out loud, “What could I use this for?” to make sure there wasn’t an obvious solution she was missing.

She read “Flynn’s” again on the shiny blue cardboard and it hit her. People either want to get out, or they want to stay in and need to be forced out.  There would have to be a fire.

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segment 17


Ala’s purse fell hard to the ground when someone bumped into the table.  Embarrassed, she quickly picked up every item she could see and shoved them back into the bag.  It was now time to go, no doubt.  She approached the now drunken Dora and lightly kissed her cheek.

“Happy Birthday, Dora.”

“Thanks, talk soon.”

Ala waved to Gene, who was clearly getting cozy with Myra, and walked carefully down the steel steps. She briefly thought of finding the nerd to see f he won enough money for the men, but decided against it.

Her feet were on fire by the time she reached her car.  Peeling the heels off, she saw that her cut skin had bled into her mother’s pumps.  They would have to be taken in to be cleaned first thing in the morning.  She drove home, wondering if she would ever enjoy those types of parties or the people in them. She wondered what would’ve happened if she stayed in Boston, or perhaps never had gone at all.  She wondered what Jase was doing and if he ever just paused to wonder about her.  It didn’t matter, of course, because she left him.  But still, she could wonder.

Returning home she saw that both of her parent’s cars were in the driveway and all of the lights were on in the house.  The doors were unlocked and the radio was on in the kitchen.  Ala called for them but no one answered.  She went upstairs to their bedroom, but they weren’t there.  She went into the yard and spotted smoke coming from the Neely’s yard next door.  She approached the ivy covered fence and peered over.  She saw a mammoth fire roaring out of the pit and several people, some recognizable, others only faintly so, sitting around it, their faces orange in the light.

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