Monday August 24th, 2015

The exercise:

I'm dusting off the continuation prompt today. I'll get things started and then whoever comes along next gets to pick things up where I left them. And so on and so forth.

The wildfire smoke was still smothering today so not much got done. Brought Max up to Kat's parents house this morning while she had a counselling client, and then brought him into town with me after lunch to get some shopping and coffee shop time in. Then we returned to his grandparent's house because if we're going to be stuck inside, avoiding the smokey air, they've got a whole lot more room than we do at our place.

I've only got one fairly small local order to harvest tomorrow morning so I'm hoping the air will be a little clearer and I'll actually be able to spend some time in the garden to get some weeding done.


It is an... unfortunate thing, when choices made in haste come back to haunt you. The full implications of the alternatives before you were not made clear at the time, because they never are. And yet, inevitably, you will find yourself cursing the day you chose the option that led to your current circumstances.

I can feel the heat upon my skin now. The hairs on my arms are singed. Thick, black smoke chokes my lungs. Standing here, on the roof of my home with a garden hose in my hands, I see fire in every direction. I am surrounded.

It is safe to say, I should think, that at this point I am in one of those unfortunate positions that I mentioned earlier.

The men had come knocking in the middle of the night. Evacuate now, they had told me, the expressions on their face conveying their earnest concern. They could not force me to go though. And even if they could have... they had so many more doors to rap their knuckles against. Time was not on my side, they had informed me. But, clearly, it was not on theirs either.

So I stayed. I grabbed the hose and a ladder, climbed up here and began soaking my home. Let the bastards try to burn this, I thought with grim satisfaction. And, it is obvious now, with foolish pride.

I could not let my precious home be destroyed without fighting for its survival until the very last moment. I am no naive captain going down with his ship. I had intended to leave as soon as it became clear my efforts were in vain.

But then the windstorm arrived, swirling the fire that had been approaching from the south into an inescapable burning circle with my house at its epicenter. A noose, really. And it is tightening around me now.

Still I run the hose back and forth. What else can I do? Jump in my truck and make a break for it? Drive right through the wall of flames closing in on me?

Well... I suppose it is worth a try.


Greg said...

Does Max not help in the counselling sessions then? ;-) It sounds like that would have been a perfectly nice day, were there no smoke to contend with. Maybe the smoke will choke the weeds as well. Selectively :)
Right, so that prompt isn't inspired by recent events at all... :-P I'm fairly glad you're not standing on the roof of your own house with a hose hoping to damp down a fire like that, not least because I'm sure the burns and the hospitalisation would stop you posting for a few weeks! There's some nice narration here, and a fairly dry tone of voice... which makes me think your narrator will burn quite quickly too!

No, of course it isn't. I wouldn't be stood up here with the hose and my own sheer obstinacy if getting in the truck and driving off were a real option. I wouldn't be hosing the roof and walls, listening to the trickle of water as it gets inside and damages carpets and peels wallpaper from the walls if I had any real hope of leaving here. I can't leave because... can I say this? Even in the privacy of my own head?
I set the hose down, jamming it between roof tiles. I'll have to come and fix them before it rains, but... hah, all the clouds out there at the moment are smoke. If the house survives the fire there'll be more damage to fix that one broken roof tile. I scramble down the ladder and back inside, and turn the lights on.
No, I don't. There's no electricity, the fire's seen to that. The light switch clicks hollowly and I empathise with it. It had a purpose, and now it looks like that's come to an untimely end. Fine, there are candles in the kitchen.
The fire's glow through the kitchen window provides enough light to see by, and for a moment I contemplate going outside to light my candle from the firestorm, but though the irony would be delicious even I can see that I've been stupid enough. Obstinate enough. Scared enough. Two lit candles later, and I stumble, coughing through the hallway and down to the cellar. It's small down here, warm too. The main feature is the life-size painting of Emmental, my ex-wife. Yes, her parents named her after the cheese. It's been a very long time, but I've not forgotten how. I set the candles down and lean up against the painting, my hands touching hers, my shoulders touching hers, my lips touching hers... the painting swings slowly inwards, revealing the rest of the cellar, the secret hidden part.
The reasons why I can't leave.
A mournful howl starts up and I know they can smell the smoke.

morganna said...

A faint crackling noise comes from the back wall of the basement. It's too late. I gambled, and I lost. But what else was I going to do? It's not like I can evacuate with a few Hellhounds in the back of my truck. Most shelters don't allow ordinary dogs and cats, let alone six foot long creatures with blazing red eyes and blue fur like the deep indigo blue of a summer night. I step into their den and let the door close behind me. Even though I have sheltered these creatures since Emmental left me (she said I was welcome to them, she was sick of being the daughter of demonspawn and planned to waitress her way across the country) I do not trust them. But I can hear the crackling even through the heavy door now, I have no choice. I open their pen and step inside. They surround me, nosing me, like the giant dogs they are. The smoke and flames seep around the edges of the door, and they nudge me into the center of the pen. Is this the end? They push me down onto the floor and pile on top of me, heads to the center of the pile. I close my eyes as the flames whoosh across the top of the pile. A long time later, the Hellhounds move aside. I blink in the acrid air. They appear to be unharmed, not even singed. I feel fine, though my clothes are burned off, but when I look down at myself, I realize I am transformed. My skin is no longer a human color, but the same indigo blue as the hounds' fur. And I look up at a crackling noise, and I realize that the house still burns around us, but I can breathe just fine. I have become what I always longed to be, and Emmental feared. Demonspawn.

Marc said...

Greg - Max wants to help with the counselling sessions. But then, he wants to help with pretty much everything.

Wonderful continuation. I think '... can I say this? Even in the privacy of my own head?' was my favorite part.

Morganna - well done taking things from where Greg left them and really running with it. That's some great work, especially the description of the transformation.