Silently and without warning the room began to fill with black, poisonous smoke. Clarice and Charles gasped wildly for fresh air; but none was available. They were frightened and lost in an apartment they had known most of their lives. It was almost impossible for either one to speak; but Clarice finally shouted,
"Charles, we've got to get out of here. Here, put this cloth over your mouth." She handed her 10 year old brother a cold, wet cloth adding, "We're going to crawl along the floor until we find the door."
"Then what?" Charles demanded.
"Don't be scared! Just follow me! D'ja hear me?" It was unlike Clarice to be the leader. "Stay close. If we can find the fire door by the stairwell, I think we can get out."
"Sis, I'm scared." Charles choked out the words.
"Don't be scared! We're going to get out! Now, let's go!" She sounded more confident than she felt.
Carefully the two inched their way to the wall and crawled to the doorway. The smoke hung heavily in the hallway, but was not as thick as in the apartment. As they crept down the hallway, in the distance they could hear the sirens.
"Help is on the way, Charles." Clarice shouted.
"I ddddon't thththink I can make it," he answered hoarsely.
"Ya got to! Y a hear me, Charles! Ya got to!" She shouted and reached back and pulled him closer. When she felt her brother collapse, she pulled him onto her back and carried him. The additional weight slowed down Clarice, but she continued to struggle down the hallway.
Reaching the stairway she felt the door and sighed with relief that it wasn't hot. She carefully opened the door and discovered the smoke wasn't very thick. Clarice still battled to carry her brother on her back; she'd stop every few feet to see if Charles was still breathing. His breathing was strained, but he was still alive.
"God, I'm so tired. But I've got to get out of here." To keep herself focused, Clarice set one flight of stairs as her goal. Once she was down one flight of stairs she would rest briefly and check on her brother. The struggle was almost more that she could bare; but she knew she had to keep going.
In the distance Clarice could hear voices. "Help!" she shouted. "Help me!" But her throat was raw and her shouts went unanswered. "Please, someone help me." She shouted again and then collapsed into unconsciousness.
Clarice had no idea how long she and Charles lay in the stairwell, but suddenly she was hearing voices. "Remarkable!" A deep, deep voice said softly.
"I can't believe she did it." Another person uttered. "What a brave, young lady!" Whispered a lady.
Gradually Clarice began to regain consciousness. She slowly turned her head and moaned softly.
"Honey," she heard her mother say. "I love you. You're going to be all right." Clarice felt her mother softly stroking her hair. But try as she might, Clarice couldn't awaken. "Clarice," her mother continued. "There's someone here to see you."
"Sissy, I'm here. Please get well. I miss you. Sissy, I love you." It was Charles. Clarice slowly turned her head toward her brother. "Look, Mom! She heard me." Charles said excitedly.
"Keep talking to her." His mother encouraged.
"Ya know, Sis, you saved my life. When I gave up, you kept going. You carried me down ten flights of stairs. You're really my hero. Please wake up, 'Rice."
Clarice slowly moved her lips. Both Charles and his mother leaned forward to hear her. "I love you." Uttering those few words had completely drained Clarice, but it filled her mother and brother with hope.
Early the next morning Clarice heard the door open and asked. "Who's there?"
"Well! If it isn't the hero!" Charles said teasingly.
"Whaddya talkin' about?" Clarice asked.
"Why, you're front page news, Sis. Didn't ya know that?"
"Yeah, right. Dumb girl rescued from fire." She answered ridiculing herself.
"Nope! Says here, right on the front page, 'Blind Led Sighted from Fire'. Sounds like you're a real hero, Sis. Guess that means you really love me, huh?" Charles joked.
"Yeah, I guess it does. But don't count on any special favors." Clarice teasingly answered.
I live in Central Illinois. Have enjoyed writing for over 20 years. I'm married, one son and daugher-in-law and one grand-dog. No grandchildren.
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