December 1, 2011 § 3 Comments
The signs were such that a deaf, blind and dumb man could have seen them. Great billowing red and black clouds boiled and rolled over the tops of trees and oozed between elderly trunks. The smell of burning rubber and flesh was heavy, a floating devil released from the overtaxed bowels of the earth.
Johanna fell once, twice, and a third time. She could see Stuart caught under a shape-shifting black ball that burned loud and orange on his leg. The third time she fell, she started to commando crawl and it worked marvelously.
She reached Stuart and shook him. She called his name. No response. She rotated her body so her feet were facing the flame ball eating Stuart. She brought her knees to her chest then kicked with all her might.
The black stink ball seemed to roar, infuriated. It bounced away and landed at the bottom of a cluster of rocks towards the tree line. Johanna felt her heart pick up speed. She hadn’t thought of the trees catching fire. How would they escape?
Stuart moaned and it brought Johanna back to the present moment. She inspected his leg which resembled a rack of lamb, charred and lumpy. She told him he needed to wake up. He didn’t respond. She yelled in his ear and his eyes blinked up.
“Get the fuck up.” She stared right into his eyes, which grew wide in response to her words. He nodded, pulled himself to sitting, and then broke out in rib racking cough. Johanna felt her patience draining, her anxiety growing. She barked at him that she would be right back.
Instantly she was up on her feet and running. She had to weave around chunks of anonymous debris, some of which she knew had to be people. The clearing was oddly silent, only crackling and the occasional fire scream.
On reaching the northern tree line, she was greeted with green, no smoke, no visible fire. Instantly Johanna crossed herself and said a quick prayer. She turned on her heel and ran back to Stuart.
Stuart had managed to pull himself up to standing. He was turned away slightly, looking west. He seemed to have the hiccups, but when she arrived next to him she saw he was actually sobbing. She pointed north, away from the fire. He shook his head no then pointed west. The forest went on for endless miles to the north. But the fire was spreading in a westerly direction. Already smoke was rising in small tendrils. And that was the way to civilization. He repeated again, that the north was certain death. She smiled sadly at him and turned to go north. He grabbed a stick to assist his walking and headed west.
During the surgery, he wished he had listened to her.