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♈ Michael ♈
“Michael, get out of the house, and don’t stop until you’ve made it to the willow tree, do you understand me?” Michael’s mother yelled from the burning embers.
Michael nodded, repositioning his little sister in his arms.
“I’ve got you, Kya,” he said, “and I promise you, I’m not letting go.”
Kya looked up at him with wide eyes, revealing emotions of petrifying fear and the desperate hope of survival.
“Mom?” he asked. “You’ll be okay, right? You and dad?”
His mother nodded, though tears made their way down her cheeks. “Now go. Please.”
Michael tightened his grip on Kya and headed away from the flames as his mother went back up the stairs for their father. The fire was everywhere- scorching the furniture, tearing down the foundation, eating up the entire house. The smoke stung his eyes and he crouched, struggling to crawl across the floor and keep Kya with him at the same time.
“You’re going to have to go ahead of me, okay? Crawl as fast as you can to the other side. Don’t wait for me.”
His sister looked at him once more, and his heart broke. A six-year-old shouldn’t have to deal with something this tragic and life-altering, something so wrong, something that shouldn’t exist…
The sound of a burning lamp falling against a window and shattering it snapped him away from his thoughts. “Go! Hurry!” Michael pleaded. Kya turned and, seeming reluctant, crawled across the floor, her small arms stronger than Michael had realized.
A second crash startled him. His eyes darted to the left, where the framed picture of his family had fallen against the floor, scattering broken glass. He picked it up, tracing his finger over the photo before clutching it to his chest.
He wouldn’t let this precious piece of his life go.
Michael felt the flames lick at his body, and he let out a panicked yell. He stood up, running towards the door, getting closer and closer with every second and hearing his sister scream in front of him and…
The flames exploded.
Powerful, sharp bursts of fire knocked him off his feet. He was thrown against the floor, slamming into the door and crying out in pain. His eyes squeezed shut, and he was considering surrendering until he remembered his sister.
“Kya!” He yelled, calling her name over and over. “Kya, where are you?!” A soft moan brought him to his feet. He followed the sound, and finally he found…
She lay on the ground in a small, unmoving heap, her clothes scorched and her body scratched with must have been hundreds of cuts. Michael knelt beside her and cradled her in his arms.
“Oh, Kya, I’m so, so sorry…”
The tears came, and he let them. He traced his thumb over her cheek, which was bleeding from the cuts. Kya closed her eyes for the last time.
Then she was gone.
Michael needed to get away from everything- the EMTs, the firefighters, the police officers… even his own house. Really, his whole life was something he needed to get away from. Hours had passed since the fire had stopped, when the firefighters had come out of the charred mass that had once been his house.
“We’re so sorry,” they had said. “No one else made it out alive.”
After Michael had finished putting up with their pity party that involved quite a lot of shouting on his part, someone had asked him several questions, none of which he actually felt like answering. He’d given them basic information, like how he’d woken up at four thirty in the morning to hear the smoke detector going off, and how his family hadn’t known what the cause of the fire was. No, he didn’t start the fire. No, none of them had been aware of any fire hazards. And no, his grandparents didn’t live around here, and neither did his godparents.
Of course, he didn’t want to admit that neither his grandparents nor his godparents were still alive.
None of his close family members were with him anymore.
Michael let out a long, shuddering sob, safely hidden by the treeline of his backyard. The flames hadn’t reached far enough to devour the growth that began the entrance to the forest. He used to take walks there with his family, never stopping to think about what life would be like without them.
Now, everything had been ripped away from him, torn apart like a leaf in a hurricane.
A leaf in a hurricane…
He wiped away the last of his tears, finally able to get his bearings. He had two options. Number One: Stay here and weep like a useless wreck. Number Two: Find somewhere to go before the others went looking for him so they could ask even more questions.
Michael chose option two.
He headed for the forest.