Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult as I slept, and firstly I put it down to the recurring dream of being beaten up by Willie, this time not my arm but my legs, stopping me from running, and like always Bobby came to my rescue. My cough woke me, and I became aware through the haze of sleep deprivation that I was struggling to breathe due to the thick black smoke pouring in from beneath my door. Senses instinctively heightened, I leapt out of bed making for the door. Gun shots sounded downstairs, and through the smoky darkness I could hear Sally’s small body fall to the floor with eerie definition that deemed she had breathed her last breath before she even hit the ground.
Scurrying out into the hall, I could fell the scorching heat of the flames as they caressed the wooden beams of the staircase and kissed the old carpets with death. I had to find the others. Did John know that Sally, his sister, was dead? Where even was he? I called his name twice before breaking down into spluttering coughs that wrenched my chest open wide. Blinded by the poisonous gas, I staggered towards John’s door, wondering, no, hoping he was asleep not dead. I knew before I pushed open the door that he was not inside. What of Duck? What of Raymond? In faint hope I called out their names, determined to leave no man behind to burn alive. No answers. I raced down the stairs knowing that doing so was to risk my life, yet the fear I would have expected to be bubbling beneath the surface of my skin was not there, instead adrenalin pumped through my veins, pushing me forward, initiating survival mode.
The stench of burning flesh filled my nostrils as I squinted to see what bodies potentially lay on the ground. Someone outside of the house shouted an excited phrase, and this was followed by gunshots. I heard the bullets piercing the walls and breaking down the structures of the house, and I powered on, my breathing becoming harder and my sight becoming blurrier. I continued to call their names again and again as though doing so would bring them back to me, but even as I shouted, I could tell it was useless. I caught sight of what I guessed had been John’s body, probably burnt at the start of the fire. Duck’s body was slumped against the wall of the kitchen like an old forgotten rag doll. Skin melted like candle wax. The flames scorched my skin. I had been lucky enough to avoid direct contact until now, but the likeliness of me missing them decreased the longer I stayed inside. The pain caused me to scream involuntarily of agonising pain.
That was all they needed.
Bullets flew out around me, missing me by centimetres. Come on Carol; get out of here, run. I tried to will my body to move faster, but it seemed stuck on looking at the mutilated bodies of my friends, the ones who had come up with the smart idea of placing the bomb. I thought of Bobby and how he had saved me, and how brave he had been. He hadn’t been stuck staring at my messed up arm, he had saved me, so why couldn’t I leave now I knew they were all dead. All. Dead. As unwanted tears ran rivers down my cheeks, I tried to dodge the omnipresent flames that seemed to seek me out, a predator pursuing it’s prey.
One bullet cut through the air, searching for me, baying for the blood that ran through my veins. I felt it as it pierced my skin, sinking deep into the flesh, then my muscle, pushing on to break my bone, only slowing when it hit further muscle. It had cut through my arm as a road carves through a countryside, and I felt it as the blood gushed out of the hole that had been left, dripping down my arm and down to my fingers, forming spherical droplets of liquid ruby that fell to the floor in quick succession as my heart worked overtime to compensate for the loss of blood. Head feeling dizzy, legs hardly moving; I made it to the back door, just in time to see the grenade they chucked through the window, just in time to feel the blast from the explosion. A weight landed on me, protecting me from the brunt of the blast. Reymond. Someone else I owed my life to.