Sunday, October 14, 2012

Light Before Death

It’s been such a long day, and all I want to do is sleep. I drag my exhausted body to my room and snuggle deep into my bed. The softness of my pillow and the warmth of my blankets make me feel safe, and before I know it I am drifting off to sleep. Not long after I fall asleep my pager goes off.  It’s a structure fire. Throwing my blankets back and slipping on my shoes, I grab my keys and dart out the door as fast as I can. My headlights pierce through the darkness of the night and illuminate my driveway as I speed out of it. My tires squeal as I rush into the parking lot of the fire station and throw my truck in park. I see the lights of the other trucks pulling into the parking lot and know that this one is big.

I sprint into the station and as I’m kicking off my shoes I hear the thunderous footsteps of the other guys barreling in to get their gear. I pull up my burnt, black bunkers, button up my coat, strap my helmet on my small head and jump into Rescue 17. As the sirens begin to screech I suddenly go deaf. I can only feel my pulse palpitating in my ears. We pull out of the station, and I see cars part like the Red Sea when they encounter the red flashing lights of the fire trucks. I sit in silence as we speed out of town.

Suddenly, a familiar smell burns my nostrils. It’s a whiff of burning wood that makes me think of a campfire. I imagine my family sitting around roasting hot dogs and making s’mores. I like that smell. I finally snap out of my coma and look out the window. The smell of a campfire quickly diminishes and turns foul when I see where the odor is actually coming from.

When we arrive on scene, I help get equipment out of trucks. I grab tarps out of Engine 1, hoses and connectors out of Engine 2, and spare bottles out of Rescue 17. After I hook up hoses and begin to spread out the tarp I hear my name being called. I look up and see Chief waving me over. “We need more bottles and packs!” He must have seen the confusion twisted into my face because he then said, “We can’t reach it. We need to go in.” Despite the knot in my chest, I do as I’m told.

One by one, I pull the bottles out of the truck, lug a pack over my shoulders, and stumble my way back to the blue, crinkled tarp. The guys start coming over to get ready and then I see him. “No,” I whispered to myself. When RJ reaches me, he puts a pack on and says with excitement, “I get to be at the front of the line.”

“Please be careful,” I manage to sputter out. He could sense the fear that began pulsing through my body. I see a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

 “These guys would never let anything happen to me. I trust them with my life.” The sincerity in his voice makes me feel somewhat optimistic and I manage to smile back. I turn on his air tank and watch him walk away and line up. He looks back and through his mask I see the slightest wink from his big, gleaming, brown eyes as he enters the house.

Fifteen minutes pass. I turn to look back at the house, and I can feel the heat on my face. There is an orange glow bursting through the night around the house. It’s almost pretty and comforting like my warm bed. A burst of smoke  breaks me of my trance. It’s coming from the roof. The roof begins to sag and is getting worse with each passing second. After I point it out to our assistant chief all I can do is wait. Wait for my boys to walk out of that house to safety. Five more minutes pass and they’re still not out. “Brad, what is taking so long? The roof is going to collapse any minute!”

 “They’re on their way.” There was uneasiness in his voice as he looked back at the house and called over the radio for them to pick up the pace. It goes lower and lower and lower. I think I see a shadow in the doorway but it’s too late. The roof is collapsing.
Everyone starts running toward the house to pull their brothers out of the fiery furnace. I don’t realize what I’m doing until I feel hands holding me back. I’m kicking and screaming wanting to get to the house. Boiling tears roll down my face as I watch debris being pulled off of them. As guys are being helped away from the hell I see one person being carried, he’s unconscious and bloody. I see them take off his helmet and mask, it’s RJ.

I shoot straight up in bed sweating and panting. “It was just a dream,” I say with a sigh of relief. As my breath calms and my nerves ease, I lay my head back down on my soft, plump pillow and snuggle back under my blankets. As I close my eyes I hear the scream of my pager. I jump out of bed and realize this isn’t a dream. This is my crazy and twisted reality.
--Michaela M.

The Great Demise

The day started out perfect. It was the beginning of spring. The lilac tree was in bloom; its sweet smell filled the air while the fallen petals swirled around the tree in the breeze. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, as I twirled around in the tall un-cut grass. It was a glorious day and nothing was going to ruin it.
I put on my most beautiful dress to match the gorgeous day. I called it my pizza dress because when I twirled around, the bottom would spread out like pizza dough being tossed in the air by an Italian chef. It also had bright blue, pink, orange, yellow, and lime green polka dots that resembled the pepperoni. As I circled around bare-footed in the grass the dimpled texture of the fabric brushed my fingertips--I loved that the most about my dress. Its rippling was mesmerizing, but that one time I looked up long enough to notice the sparkling pink and silver tinsel pom-poms of my Barbie bike.
I had just gotten my Barbie bike for my fourth birthday in September. My dad took off the training wheels for me when it was warm enough to ride it. Now, in my mind, I was a natural born pro with the need for speed. So I hopped on my bike in my lovely pizza dress and pedaled down the driveway toward the road. My glorious day was about to taste like a mouthful of gravel.
I was in the zone, showing off my speed and skill to my audience, the birds and squirrels. All eyes were on me, and it was time for my big finale. I started on the cement part of my driveway; one foot was on the pedal, the other on the ground, and both hands gripped the handlebars. I touched the pom-poms for good luck and popped a start-off wheelie. I yelled “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go!” I was off.
Flying down the road at a supersonic speed with the wind in my hair, I felt so free. After I got up to speed, I let it coast for a while. I was almost to the poles that once held the city limit sign and decided I would turn around when I got to them, but I didn’t quite make it there. I kept feeling little tugs on my dress, but when I looked back I didn’t see anything. I looked back one more time, only for a split second, to see my dress being sucked between the frame and the tire. One second more and that bitter taste of gravel would be forever etched on my tongue.
It seemed as if the world around me stopped to watch me plunge, in slow motion, over the handlebars. I could almost hear the slow, deep voice of that male opera singer as I plummeted toward the ground. The fall had knocked the wind out of me and when I caught my breath I lifted my head to spit out the grit and stones I collected in my crash landing. I looked at my arms and legs. All the skin that the dress didn’t shield was either covered in dirt or a deep crimson liquid.  In that quiet moment, before I started crying, I could hear the birds and squirrels make noise, but they weren’t the usual tweets and chatters I’d heard before. They sounded like they inhaled nitrous oxide. The birds and squirrels were laughing at me! The tears started cascading down my face as I picked myself up off the ground and walked my bike back to the house.
The sun was hidden behind the clouds and the breeze turned into blasting gusts. I saw my dress in the garage door window. It was filthy and had an enormous black tire streak up the back. I twirled around but the dress was motionless. It didn’t ripple, it didn’t graze my fingertips. It wasn’t my pizza dress anymore it was a dirty, lifeless rag. My dress was dead. My day was dead. I was dead.
--Ashley V.