The heat of a steamy August day in the city cooled as the sun dipped below the horizon. Rain fell at a rhythmic pace while the congestion of the street cleared out. It was an unusually quiet night for this neighborhood, with the normal hustle from the ladies of the evening and local dope pushers ceasing for the time being.
The crescent moon took position high above the city, hiding ever so slightly behind blackened clouds. Every time it peeked from behind its heavenly covers, the darkness of the city briefly illuminated. Shadowy figures shuffled in and out of back alleys. Stray cats skittered across the streets with the traffic having completely dissipated. This didn’t last long, though, and the rain with its unrelenting pounding upon the pavement finally came to an end. All became quiet. All but the sounds of a pair of footsteps loudly echoing off of metal steps.
Midnight came and went and a single figure made its way down a rusty old metal fire escape. The cloud cover completely blanketed the moon and only the dull orange of the street lamps reflecting off the rain puddles brought any real light to the darkness. The figure was dressed in black and holding a suitcase. The fire escape was raised about ten feet above the ground, but the person didn’t hesitate to leap from the final step—landing with a soft thud. As the pounding of sprinting feet trailed off in the distance, smoke began to billow out from the top floor window.
The sound of a woman’s scream broke the silent night. Passing through the thick black smoke and entering the apartment window, we see a young woman tied to a bed. Her hands and feet are tied tightly to the bedpost with thin metal cables. Her screams give way to fits of coughing as the smoke grew thicker. “Oskar!” she yelled in a panic. “Please baby, you need get out now.”
“Mommy, I’m scared,” a tiny voice uttered from inside the closet.
With a sudden burst, a huge flame shot up between the cracks of the floor boards. “Oskar hunny, I need you to open the door and climb out the window onto the fire escape, just like mommy showed you before. Can you do that for mommy, baby?” the woman spoke calmly and deliberately.
The closet door creaked opened and a frail boy peered out.
“C’mon sweetheart, it’s okay.”
The young boy walked across the smoking floor boards making his way to the bed. Visibly frightened, his every step was speckled with fits of intermittent coughing.
“There’s my brave boy. Now I need you to climb out the window and down the stairs just like we practiced, hunny,” the woman said while doing her best to suppress her own coughing.
“But mommy I’m scared. Why can’t you come with me?”
The woman looked into the boys eyes and gave him a big smile. “Mommy can’t get out of bed until daddy gets home, okay baby? Now give mommy a kiss. I’ll see you outside at the bottom,” she said with a reassuring tone to her voice.
The woman leaned over as far as she could and kissed young Oskar on the forehead. The boy looked up and she was smiling at him. He returned the smile and his worres faded away.
“I love you Osk—” before she could finish, the ceiling gave way and crumbled on top of her. Young Oskar opened his mouth to scream but the flames engulfed the floor and he fell through before any sound could escape between his lips.
His limp body crashed through the ceiling of the room two floors below and settled in a pile of rubble while more debris landed on top of him. He faded in and out of consciousness while the fire built around him. Staring ahead, eyes half opened, he fixed his gaze on a burning chair leg in the distance. He watched as the flames flickered and danced all around.
The flames grew closer and closer until they were dancing right in front of him. One jumped up and licked his face. Another began to smolder his shoe strings. He watched the orange and yellow lights of the fire converge and split between each individual flame. He closed his eyes and a bright reddish hue filtered through his eyelids, Everything faded to black and all he could see was that last image of his moms face. Her beautiful smile brightened the room, pushing the fire out of view.
“I love you Oskar.”
“I love you mommy.”
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