Here’s another piece of my story that has finally made it from my brain to the computer. I really need a self-imposed NaNoWriMo to get this all out more quickly. And to support the NaNoWriMo philosophy, I haven’t proofread this to perfection yet. Just getting it out of my head as best I can, so please forgive any typos and awkward sentences.
“Deacon!” I screamed, stretching my arms toward the building, as though I could somehow reach him and pull him out. My mind was racing to the point of incomprehension, I couldn’t process anything in the moment so it might as well have been blank. All I knew was that I had to get to Deacon and was sprinting toward the door where I last saw him.
Out of nowhere, and arm reached out and grabbed me around the waist. I hit it so hard, my feet left the ground, and all the wind was knocked out of me. I folded over his arm as he spun around and started moving in the opposite direction. I wanted to scream, but I still had no breath. I tried to get back to the building, but my feet were still off the ground. I was being carried away from the fire. Away from Deacon.
The second blast ripped through the air with deafening finality. We floated for an instant before my right leg hit the ground and thousands of tiny daggers sliced through my skin. My left forearm hit next, screaming along the same ragged, biting pavement. I braced for a head impact that never happened. Somehow Blaze had cocooned himself around me. The impact took my breath away again, and I instinctively curled myself into a ball. I could feel Blaze’s hot breath on my neck and could faintly make out his scent under the smell of smoke of and char.
His protective presence started to calm me and bring me back, my brain clicked through the fractured images of the last few minutes. Deacon. A new wave of grief washed over me and my insides crumbled. I began to whimper. Deacon. No, no, no. Blaze got up and stood over me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that he was surveying the landscape, looking for the next immediate danger, determining our options. I should be doing the same, but I was shattered. I pulled myself to my hands and knees. I wanted to wail, instead I vomited. Bile blackened by soot formed a sticky pool beneath me. I spat, trying to clear the taste of death and fear from my mouth. No, no, no, no.
Blaze hooked his hands under my armpits and hauled me to my feet. Grabbing my good arm, he pushed and dragged me forward, my feet stumbling along at first. I cleared my mind of everything except the sound of his feet hitting the ground and forced mine to match his pace. Soon, we were both sprinting away from the city and toward the woods. I fell in line behind Blaze so he could control the direction. We hit the woods at breakneck speed and didn’t slow down until we were far enough in that it was impossible to see or hear anything from outside the trees.
Blaze put his arm out to stop me and looked around. He seemed to be already catching his breath while my lungs were screaming and my heart was racing. I closed my eyes, gulped a deep breath and forced everything to slow down. I heard the trickling of a stream and looked at Blaze. He nodded and started walking toward the sound. When we came upon the stream, he looked carefully up and down to make sure nobody was around before kneeling by the water’s edge and scooping handfuls to drink. Then he stood up and started to walk around as though he was searching for something.
I sighed and looked down at myself. My clothes were torn and smeared with red and black. My leg and arm were caked with blood, dirt, and soot. I was certain my face was streaked with dirty tears. I peeled off my shirt and shook it, getting only the most superficial dust and ash off. I draped it over a branch of a nearby tree, found a stick on the ground and started beating the shirt. I was pretty sure I had seen something like this in an old history film. Sure enough, with each whack, a small cloud of gray billowed out of my shirt and into the woods. There was something very satisfying and cathartic about it all and after a few minutes, I was feeling almost collected. The shirt was still dirty, but looked far less menacing and could pass as not-well-cared-for instead of from-a-war-zone. My pants were black, so I only gave them a few whacks after hanging them next to my shirt.
I looked around for Blaze but couldn’t see him. I heard rustling nearby and assumed he was still searching for whatever it was he was searching for. I walked to the stream and took off the rest of my clothes, dropping them with my shoes onto a rock. The water was frigid and flowing quickly, though the stream itself was not very deep. Gritting my teeth against the cold, I walked in until the water was almost to my knees, and then I sat on the bottom of the creek, with my toes pointing downstream. I gingerly brushed my wounds while the water flowed over them, carrying away scabs and dirt. I could feel another bubble of sadness filling me as I thought about Deacon. No, no, no.
The tears stung my eyes and before they could drop over the edges of my eyelids, I laid back in the water. I was fully submerged now and had to concentrate on digging in my heels and hands to avoid floating away. I opened my eyes and looked up at the sky. Through the blurred sheen of running water, I could see deep blues and bright white clouds, while green and gold shapes bowed in and out of my peripheral. It could be just any beautiful, early summer day.
I stayed under until my lungs ached and then sat up with a gasp. Blaze was back on shore and obviously trying to look in every direction but mine. I felt heavy. He had already seen me at my worse, I didn’t care if he now saw me naked. I bent over to splash water on my face and scrubbed it with my hands until I was certain there were no traces of tears. I leaned farther to get my hair in the water, combing it with my fingers as the water flowed through it. Then I shook my head and stood up. Blaze had his back to me, watching the woods, as I came out of the stream. I dressed as quickly as I could manage.
“You can turn around now.”