Karen's Story- Christmas Eve 2003

As I sat, I stared, unblinking, at the wall. Above me I could make out the sound of my brother’s delicate strums on his bass guitar. I listened to its doloroso sounds. The wall before me blurred with tears that stung and obscured my vision, paintwork and floral patterned wall coverings dripped from the wall. I broke slowly from within as I listened. The melody tormented me, it enveloped me up within itself with its subtle dolces and striking pesantes. The sound slithered down the stairs toward me. It reminded me, it shook me, it made me shudder and it sent me back with vicious intent to the night before, with its scorching flames and choking smoke. The sounds echoed my torment and mocked my pain. My memory, my burning agony. Christmas Eve, oh that terrible night.

I lay awake for what seemed like an eternity, slowly stirred by the violent alarm. It screamed at me and desperately shook me awake with its sirenical outcry. I awoke from my conscious slumber, to find the alarm no longer alone, it was collaborating with another, joined by the smell of smoke. Together they worked against me, terrifying me, warning me of my impending doom. The alarm; my damning death knell, the smoke; Dante’s greeting to my helpless heart.

My partner and I climbed out from the safe haven of our marital bed. The events that followed were, even as I sat staring at the wall the following day, a complete haze of panic. I remember the sound of my children’s sobs, I remember the way I felt, the pain I was going through, like my heart was being ripped roughly from within me through my throat.

I was pulled from the recollection of my former torment. The sounds coming from above were summarising my pain once more. The interruption was both welcomed and unwanted, I was glad to be free of my flashback but the calm harmonic interlude that had stirred me seemed to play out my misery, like one of the sad songs I would always hear on the radio.

As we reached the ground floor I truly felt the heat of the raging inferno that was ravaging my home, the fire was getting worse, the flames were white hot and they licked against the walls that stood in the way of its advance. I knew the danger I was in, I knew that if I stayed I would face certain death but I wanted nothing more than to stay in my home, I didn’t want to leave it, I didn’t want to stand outside in the cold and watch my dream home burn to the ground. I couldn’t stay, I resisted temptation and pushed through the pain, I could never leave my children, not like that. They needed me, what would they do without me?

I took one last look over my shoulder, I caught sight of the devastation that I was leaving behind, I had to stop and turn around. The sight that greeted me was one that I know will never leave me. My eyes were dazzled by the bright lights of the flame, I could barely focus on what I was looking at. I felt like I was standing in the middle of a Hollywood film, my life was burning up around me and I could barely believe it was really happening. What my eyes had caught sight of was truly heartbreaking, I witnessed as the beautiful Christmas tree I had decorated with my four wonderful children became a pillar of flame brushing against the ceiling of my living room. I couldn’t make myself look any longer, my dream home was in ruins, the home I had worked my whole life to afford was no more.

The music stopped. My visions were no more. I starred in silence for a few minutes before I looked around the room I was sitting in. It was decorated with things me and my sister had made as children, family portraits hung on the wall, I saw one of me with my little brother, perhaps the only one that had ever been taken. My home was gone, I had lost a lot, but all I lost was material, I still had my boys, I still had my husband, I still had my family and I still had my memories. The fire had taken my home, but I would rebuil

The End

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