A scream echoed wildly through the mangled framework of the building. "What?" It was my mind's first unspoken question. Sounds of a hail of debris followed from the same direction as the scream. I wiped my face with the back of my hand, and opened my eyes. Smoke stung them, and made it impossible to see anything. My head throbbed as I tried to stand unsteadily. I groped for something to haul myself up from, and there was a hissing as my fingers found a metal door handle and instinctively recoiled instantly from the searing object. I shuddered, clutching my hand against my chest. It was then I realised that my clothes were drenched, actually all of me was drenched. Some form of liquid was being sprayed down on me. "Huuu huuu," my breathing was loud and erratic. What in the world was on my leg? Twisting around, I shoved my free foot hard against an apparently solid object. A grinding crash ensued as a filing cabinet stood back up, some of its drawers falling completely out, one landing on my face. On my feet, I kicked at the door handle. As the door swung open, a billow of smoke hit me, transporting me to a whole new level of inability to see. Or breathe for that matter, I coughed and choked, dropping to my hands and knees in a vain attempt to get under the cloud. My whole body was shaking as I clambered down the corridor.
"He...e...elp," a female voice was almost crying from somewhere behind me, probably the same one that had screamed just a few minutes ago.
"Oh, screw it," I tied my damp, smoky handkerchief around my nose and mouth, and reversed direction. There was a ripping of Velcro as I withdrew my torch from its belt-holster. The beam from the torch served only to blind me by bouncing straight back off the smoke particles and into my eyes. Blood dripped from my face onto the industrial carpet as I continued to inch my way deeper into the building. I reached the top of a staircase leading down to our showroom, and froze. The smoke downstairs was thin enough to see through. An arm protruded from the rubble of the collapsed staircase. "Who's that?" I tried to call, but "Eh" was all I could manage.
There was a struggle just below me, as the woman tried again to free herself. The roof creaked above us as more flaming material descended to the pile. I opened my mouth as if it yell, but there was nothing I could say that would help. I didn't realise it was her hair until it began to ignite. The drop between us was only roughly two metres, but I may not have done anything different had it been further. My leg that had previously been pinned under a filing cabinet, collapsed underneath me as I landed. My hand, already raw from its encounter with the door handle of my office, reached for her head. Who on Earth grabs things that are on fire? I don't know, but I was desperate. With my hand, I suffocated the flames, snuffing out her hair.
She turned her head to face me as I kicked at the mess of building materials that had followed her down. She smiled, and my heart missed a beat. Suddenly, despite the urgency of the situation, time stood still as our eyes met. Her face was perfectly symmetrical, and not a blemish on it; her eyes were hazel, with every lash perfectly defined; every one of her baby-white teeth perfectly aligned, the strands of her smooth honey-blonde hair, though some now charcoaled, were still in my hand. She was extremely pretty, probably even attractive, yet to me only my wife would ever be beautiful. My heart pounded loudly in my ears over the commotion of the fire, "Are you right to walk?"
She half nodded, and I drew a deep breath. I've gotta get home to my wife, I'm going to get home to my wife. "Ok mate, I'm gonna get you out of here. You ready?" I glanced up at the landing I had dropped from.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Grab my hand."