The first we knew were the multi-coloured spotlights going dark, leaving the inside of The Logan Rock lit only with the emergency lights as they sparked to life over the double doors. The music fell away as the spots stopped spinning, just the rumbling groans of confusion left behind as the last cold beer drained down my neck. I had no idea of the time, but we hadn’t sung together, so there must have been a long while to go before the telly chimed twelve times over.
The second we knew was on the long walk home, mobiles and the landline were dead, no taxis could respond and the car park emptied all too quickly. Leaving my best buddy and I with no choice, we walked, tripping over our feet in the pitch black, but out in the middle of nowhere where we lived, the darkness didn’t mean a thing. Halfway to home the road lit with a constant stream of coaches, each in a hurry, none stopping to tell us the news and before long they had gone. Helicopters replaced their noise, the sky filling with blinking lights high above our heads. Between us we gave up racking our brains through all the possibilities. It wasn’t until we reached my house, finding the place double locked, Mum and Dad not answering to the hammering, the car gone, that I took things as serious as I could after drinking since lunch time. There was nothing we could do, no one to ask for help, so we walked the next mile to Mike’s house in a drink fuelled haze, flocks of helicopters coming and going over our heads.
His house was the same, but that’s how he’d left it, his girlfriend having already stormed out on Christmas Eve, something to do with spending too much time with his mates. The power was off there too, so after ten minutes of rifling in drawers he’d never been in, we lit candles and started on the beer warming in the fridge. I awoke still in my coat, coughing to clear acrid smoke from my lungs, it was morning, I first thought as I opened my eyes to the brightness in the room. Realisation took only a moment, fire had taken control of the other half of the room, the half where Mike had sat as we both fell asleep. I couldn’t see, but knew he wouldn’t still be there, couldn’t sit in the centre of the flames. Coughing up my lungs, I fell to all fours and tired to remember the layout, tried twice to navigate in the bright smoke which blocked each way I turned. Somehow I found my way to the door, found my way through the kitchen, told only by the change of floor. Found my way out to the front of the house in the freezing cold with the early morning light just coming over the horizon.
I watched the house burning for no longer than a few seconds before I screamed, calling out for help, banging on the four neighbour’s doors, but all in vain. His house was engulfed as I returned, Mike nowhere to be seen and the horrible truth sunk in. He was still in the corner and I’d left him there to die, my only thoughts were to save myself. Why the hell hadn’t the fire brigade come? I fell to the ground in the middle of the road and there I lay tears streaming as the fire warmed my face and the cold bit into my back.
After not too long I headed back to the first house, to where people had lived that I didn’t know. I smashed my elbow through the glass in the front door, had the place open in no time at all. Inside was decked out for Christmas, long lines of decorations ran along the hall ceiling, tinsel wrapped around the phone just inside the door. I batted the stuffed Father Christmas to the floor and pulled up the receiver, pushing the three digits even though I hadn’t registered the tone I needed to hear. I let the phone drop as no one answered and stared out at the flames as the roof caved in on Mike’s house. He’d lived there for five years, had bought the place with the girlfriend, but would have to sell. Not any more. It was someone else’s problem.
It was warm in the house and I wondered around trying to think of what I should do next. We lived in the middle of nowhere, all the cars gone, I would have to walk, to find out what the hell this was all about. The rest of the house was decorated the same, not one corner had escaped the cheap, plastic coated decorations. The tree was up in the front room; the presents gone from underneath; the lights washed out, unlit, the switch not working. I sat in a great armchair, dust flew up and I could smell the owners and stood. A shadow moved passed the window, there was someone in the road, someone had heard my calls and was ambling down the street in awe of the fire.
Rushing out of the front door, I saw a young, twenty something brunette, my eyebrows rising. Things were looking up. Her clothes were a little ragged, jeans had some dark mark across the front and her top was ripped open, a white bra exposed. I could see her full cups. Things were looking up. She hadn’t noticed me yet, her eyes staring to the fire, her feet rising slow one after the other heading towards where my friend had died.
“You okay?” I said from the doorway and she turned to meet me. Above her eyes was a great bruise, blood had dried as it had rolled down from the injury. Her eyes latched onto mine. She was pale and seemed a little dazed. She’d been in a car accident, that was clear and I looked down the road for the car, but saw nothing. I ran inside, pulled a coat from the hook and rushed back over, offering out the warmth. She couldn’t take her eyes off me. Things were looking up, but first I needed to get her to the hospital.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One