An obnoxious blaring rang out in the night. Elizabeth jolted awake, heart beating wildly. Heat surrounded her, enclosing her like a wool blanket. She opened her eyes, but an acrid smoke stung them and she squeezed them shut again.
She reached out to turn the alarm off, but the cacophony continued. Nothing was making sense. Why wouldn’t the alarm stop?
In the hall, a loud crack resounded. Putting her feet on the floor, she peeked around the door frame into the hall.
A scream caught in her throat.
Flames danced on the little landing between her room and the stairs. Fear bubbled up in her stomach. She pulled back, grabbed the door handle, and released it as the metal burned her palm.
Her eyes welled up with the noxious smoke that swirled around the room. A little voice in her head whispered to her, “The good air is low. Get down.” Isn’t that what the firefighters had just told her first graders last week?
Obeying the voice, Elizabeth dropped to the floor. She’d have to try to get down the stairs. The window looked out on the parking lot, a two-story drop to the hard asphalt.
Please God. I need some help. Send me an angel.
A lot of good that would do. She hadn’t trusted anyone since her parents died when she was 10. Where was God then? Probably the same place he was right now.
Absent. Unwilling to help someone like her.
No, if she was going to survive, she had to do this herself.
The carpet scraped against her knees as she inched into the hallway. She stopped to make a plan. She’d have to get up onto her feet and try to step over the flames that were eating away at the top step.
Inhaling a deep breath brought smoke into her lungs instead of the burst of courage she’d hoped for. Coughs racked her body and she dropped flat on the floor.
Just give up. The fire swirled and taunted her. You can’t win against me. I’m too powerful.
No, she wouldn’t give in. Pushing up off the floor, she grabbed the banister. The warm wood didn’t burn as bad as the metal door handle. A large step forward and she was able to put her right foot on the second step.
Fire swirled around her left ankle and seared her pajama pants. Elizabeth swung her foot up and over the flames to land both feet on the step. Smoke whirled around her, tickling her nose.
Elizabeth turned to face the nightmare on the landing. She put one foot on the next step behind her, then the other, and then dropped her hands to the step above her feet. She’d have to go down backwards to keep low enough to find fresh air.
She reached her foot back, toes slipping past the edge. She tumbled backward. Head over heels, her body bumped down the stairs.
With a thump she hit the landing at the bottom. She could see the front door wavering in and out in front of her. If she could get to the door everything would be okay. Her lungs ached from breathing the smoke.
Wonder if this is what mom felt as she died in that car?
Get a hold of yourself, Elizabeth. You need to move.
She reached a hand toward the door. The rest of her body refused to respond. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Please God. I need help.
Darkness folded over her mind. This must be what it feels like to die. Her hand dropped to the floor.
Out of the darkness a hand reached out to her.
Elizabeth felt her body being lifted off the floor. Within minutes she felt the cool night air washing over her. She was laid gently on the grass. Her rescuer pulled his mask off and she saw him for the first time.
“Are you an angel?”
“No, ma’am. I’m Emmanuel. I’m a firefighter.”
“I thought God sent you. I should have known he wouldn’t help.”
“Dispatch sent me. Sometimes God works through Dispatch.”
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.