Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pantheon: Born in Fire

Johnathan stumbled from the chair he'd fallen asleep in toward his coat and helmet. He was in a daze, still unsure of whether he was waking up or whether he was beginning to dream. He suited up in a matter of seconds, and slid down the pole to the truck just as the sirens came to life and screamed at him, ordering him to wake. He climbed in and sat down as he rubbed his eyes.

 "What do we have, Brian?" Johnathan asked his friend. Brian Gray was Johnathan's best friend. They'd known each other since high school, which they'd graduated from a decade ago, and had worked for the fire department ever since. Brian was a bald African American, with a welcoming face and mischievous smile.

"Big fire in the house across the street from you. Started on the second story."

"Oh god. Natasha and Isaac."

"Natasha? Isn't that the girl you were telling me about?"

"Did everyone get out of the house?" Johnathan asked with rising panic.

"Calm down, John. We don't know. We won't until we get there. Just chill out and get ready to do your job."

"Isaac's room is on the second floor."

Natasha was a young single mother who lived across the street from John. John spent a lot of time helping her around the house and spending time with her seven year-old son, Isaac. They went for regular walks together, and Isaac always listened, mesmerized, to John's stories about firefighting.

The firetruck sped through the streets of Phoenix, weaving between traffic. After a few more excruciating minutes, the tires screeched to a halt, and Johnathan and his team leaped out of the truck. Another fire engine had made it ahead of them, and was already blasting water at the billowing orange and red inferno that was the roof of Natasha's house. As Johnathan's boots hit the asphalt of the street, a firefighter burst through the door, covering a coughing and crying Natasha. John rushed to her and caught her as she stumbled forward.

"Tasha, where's Isaac?" Johna asked urgently. She coughed up smoke violently and barely gasped out her words.

"His room. Couldn't get to him."

John left her with the fireman who had rescued her, pulled down his mask and rushed inside. As he ran through the doorway, he heard Brian yelling at him to turn back, but he kept going. The house was lit up from every corner with haunting orange light, and smoke swirled like the greedy tendrils of some formless demon. John sprinted up the precariously weak stairs. A beam fell behind him as he got to the top, rendering the stairs useless.

A wall of fire stood in the hallway between him and where Isaac's room was. John took a deep breath and prepared to run through it, when the flames parted in front of him. Thinking it strange, but not wanting to waste time, he hurried to Isaac's door.

He yelled Isaac's name, but could hear nothing over the violent cracking of flame and splintering of wood. He slammed into the door to Isaac's bedroom with his shoulder, and it collapsed into the room. John saw Isaac huddled in the corner crying.

Without saying a word, Johnathan grabbed Isaac and took him in his arms and rushed to the window. He kicked it open and began to climb out. As he was about to step out, the room behind him exploded, knocking him and Isaac out through the window. Johnathan held Isaac tight as they fell the two stories. Johnathan landed hard on his back, and felt several bones shatter.

Then it all went dark.

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