Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

A Chapter by Jooolie
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Ash in the Snow

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The moon began to rise as the group walked silently down the snowy sidewalk. Ellizabeth shuffled alongside Lora, afraid to interrupt the high tension. No one had spoken since the press conference, and Ellizabeth had offered to make supper at her apartment after their long walk across Manhattan. She sighed and impatiently kicked her boot against a patch of snow as she waited for someone to speak. 
She knew the speech had bothered Lora and Cresig, and she felt a pang of sympathy for both of them. Ellizabeth hesitantly looked over at the botanist to her side. Lora’s saddened dark eyes stared straight ahead, her shoulders sulked low and her hands were shoved deep in her coat pockets. Ellizabeth struggled to find words to say to her, but sighed as she turned her head away from Lora and peered at the approaching street sign; they were a block away from her building. Ellizabeth felt something land gently on the tip of her nose and she smiled as another snowflake lightly settled itself on her eyelash. She gazed up at the sky, hoping to admire the thousands of other white particles in the air, but stopped suddenly and held out her hand. As a small patch of flakes collected in her palm, she studied them; they were a dark shade of gray. 
Ellizabeth froze, puzzled, as she looked back up at her surroundings. The usual deep blue sky had taken on a strange orange hue. As Aimee passed by her, Ellizabeth caught her by the arm. “Hey,” she said, her eyes remaining stuck on the sky, “what is that?”
Aimee casually stopped walking and followed her friend’s stare. She squinted, pondering the strange sight. “It looks like a fire or something,” she answered slowly. Immediately, the two looked at each other, then back to the glow. Ellizabeth let out a cry, releasing Aimee’s arm from her grasp, then darted around the corner. 
Ellizabeth sprinted down the rest of the block and pulled herself to a halt as she stood gasping for air in front of her apartment. The once pale yellow building was now charred by large flames that surrounded it. The white trim paint on the window frames fell away as the fire burned through from the rooms inside. Over the roar and crackle of the flames, Ellizabeth heard cheering and hollering from behind her. She turned slowly as three hooded men stood at the opening of a nearby alleyway, each occasionally tossing a stone at the building’s windows.
Ellizabeth barely noticed Darwin’s calls for help and Ian’s arm grabbing her around the shoulders. The sight of the fire, the sounds of the yelling arsonists and the screaming tenants blurred together in her head and Ellizabeth staggered numbly across the street to approach the men.
“What the hell is your problem?” she yelled, shoving one of the men after he threw another rock across the road.
“F**k this disease!” one of the men shouted, ignoring Ellizabeth’s fury.
“Yeah!” another added in, his face contorted into a sneer, “this city can go to hell!”
Ellizabeth’s eyes began to fill with tears as she surrendered. Unable to physically fight, she simply stood beside the men as they continued their jeers. “What is wrong with you?” she said quietly.
A third man approached her, patting the side of her face gently as he spoke. “Come on, sweetheart, have some fun,” he cooed, a sly smile crossing his face. “We’re all dead soon anyways. Why dontcha live a little while it lasts?”
The man reached out to grab Ellizabeth by the hand, but his gesture was cut short when Ian dashed across the street and punched him square in the jaw. As the man fell to the ground, Ian lunged at him, throwing punch after punch into his stomach. The man slipped into unconsciousness and Ian caught his breath, then rose to his feet. He threw his fist back and prepared to strike at the other two men. “Well?” he blared, glaring menacingly at the arsonists. “Anyone else wanna try? Beat it!” Ian’s voice barked and echoed down the alley as the two men ran out of sight. He turned to Ellizabeth after they disappeared, but was surprised to find her missing.
In a mixture of rage and panic, Ellizabeth sprinted back across the street and shoved her way through the building’s front door. She ignored Aimee and Darwin’s cries from behind her and focused on her run up the three levels of stairs. She remembered setting her portfolio on her kitchen counter earlier that morning and if she got to her room in time, she could save it. Ellizabeth remembered her camera, still dangling from her side in its case, and she shoved the bag under her arm to protect it. As she ran up the stairwell, she dodged a falling plank and flung herself through the third floor door. 
She bent over for a moment to catch her breath. The smoky air filled her lungs and she coughed loudly, her eyes beginning to burn from the fire. A single flame at the end of the floor blew near her with a gust of wind and Ellizabeth again began running down the hallway. As she approached her room number, she shoved the door open and staggered into her entryway. The fire had charred the top corner of her dining room ceiling and as she peered through her bedroom door, Ellizabeth saw piles of ash and fallen ceiling tiles coating the floor. 
She quickly crept over to her kitchen counter in search of the album. As she successfully placed her hands on both ends of her tabletop, she looked down in terror at the empty space. She scanned from side to side, retracing her steps from earlier that morning. Her heart skipped a beat and her stomach began to churn as she remembered placing the portfolio back in her room while she was making breakfast. 
Ellizabeth took a breath, once again observing the wreck in her bedroom. She closed her eyes, then ran as fast as she could across the apartment and flung herself into the room. She clung to the door frame and her terrified eyes rapidly scanned every surface in the room. Ellizabeth smiled in relief as she spotted the binder sitting on her nightstand, seemingly unharmed despite the falling piles of ash surrounding it. Ellizabeth lunged for the portfolio, but she felt her right leg give way beneath her. As she glanced down, she saw a small hole begin to grow in her floor and she fell to her knees, her leg falling through the crevice. Ellizabeth cried out in pain but in a burst of adrenaline, she pulled herself up from the floor and grabbed the folder in one swift movement. As she held the portfolio tightly to her chest, she dashed out of the room and to her front door. 
As she reached out to grab hold of the doorknob, Ellizabeth’s hand was scorched and she lurched back in panic. She looked for anything to cover her hand; there was nothing. She darted over to her window, hoping to get a breath of fresh air. As she looked down at the street below her, she saw clusters of people- her own house mates- clinging to each other in panic and grief. 
Ellizabeth’s eyes began to close and she felt the room begin to spin around her. As her hands gently let go of the window sill, Ellizabeth fell limply to the floor. She gazed helplessly at her front door and her vision began to fade as she saw a figure heave itself through the door and race over to her. Ellizabeth could not fully focus on her rescuer and as it lifted her up from the ground, she caught sight of her campus postcard, still hanging on her wall, as the corner of it caught fire and deteriorated. 
The last trip from her apartment to the stairs was a blur, and Ellizabeth regained consciousness as she and the figure neared the end of the last flight of stairs. As her eyes started to focus, Ellizabeth felt herself falling and as one of the boards gave way under their steps, the two plummeted down the rest of the stairway. Ellizabeth groaned as she felt a searing pain in her back and she stared up at the burning ceiling. As her eyes gazed blankly above her, Cresig’s face came into view. He looked down at her, his face perfectly outlined by the light of the fire, and through the blaze, Ellizabeth heard his voice telling her to get up. She smiled as she felt herself being pulled up again and with her arm around Cresig’s shoulder, she finished the last steps out of the building. 
Ellizabeth began to feel full strength in her legs again as Cresig let go of her and Aimee’s arms dragged her farther down the sidewalk. As she looked back at what remained of the burning building, Ellizabeth clutched her portfolio tighter in her hand.
“You’re so stupid! Why would you do that?” Ellizabeth heard Darwin’s voice cry out from beside her. Ellizabeth stared blankly back at Darwin and Aimee, unable to find words. Instead, she simply rose the folder to eye level and gazed apologetically at her friends.
Aimee stared back, her green eyes illuminated from the flames, and she shook her head and sighed. “Come on,” she said quietly. “You’ll stay with me.”
“What about Cresig?” Ellizabeth mumbled, numbly turning around in search of the man. On the far side of the street, she spotted him heaving for breath as he looked up at the fire, as if in a daze. Lora was directly in front of him, staring up at him as if trying to calm him. As the blaze continued to burn, Lora lightly touched the scarred side of his face, then leapt to embrace him. 
Another loud crackle pierced through the night and the front entrance to the building gave way under the flames and crashed to the ground. Ellizabeth’s tear-filled eyes gazed up at the remains of her home. At the sound of Aimee’s voice, she turned to her group of friends by her side.
“We should go,” Aimee cooed. She turned to Darwin. “Are you coming?” she asked. Darwin’s face was set in a straight line as he stared from the burned apartment building, then over to Lora and Cresig. “Go ahead,” he answered, his eyes still fixed on the two down the street, “I’ll catch up.”

***

“Hey!” Darwin’s voice rang down the sidewalk. A reflection of the fire glowed in his black rimmed glasses as he passed by the burning building and over to the corner where Cresig stood. The man was hunched over gasping for breath while Lora had placed a comforting hand on his back. As Darwin approached the two, Lora shook her head from side to side, as if to warn Darwin from saying anything. “Is he all right?” Darwin asked, craning his neck to get a better view of Cresig’s face. 
“I’ll be fine,” Cresig answered quietly, his head still hanging limply between his shoulders. 
“Ian and I should’ve been in there with you.”
Cresig raised his head and Darwin noticed the gleam of what appeared to be tears in his eyes. Cresig wiped one hand across his face, massaging his right temple as he did so. “Forget it,” he answered simply. “Everyone’s fine now. That’s all that matters.”
Darwin struggled to find words as Cresig and Lora stared back at him. He felt ashamed of himself for being so harsh to that same man earlier in the day. Darwin placed one hand on the back of his neck and hesitantly held the other out to Cresig. “Thank you,” he choked out.
Cresig looked down at the hand and grinned as he shook it. “Go home, Darwin,” he said as he pulled away. Silently, Cresig fastened another button on his pea coat and nodded shortly to Lora and Darwin before turning and quickly walking away from the burning building. 
The two stared after him for a long while until he turned the corner out of sight. “Do you think he’ll be okay?” Darwin asked, his eyes still following Cresig’s path.
“He’ll be fine,” Lora answered. She suddenly shifted her gaze back to the fire and took a deep sigh of relief. “Actually, he’ll be better than fine.”
Darwin turned to her, confused. “How’s that?”
“Because he just did what he failed to do the first time,” Lora answered. Her dark eyes stared up at the apartment building as more ash fluttered down to the ground. She slowly turned to face Darwin, and a hint of a smile began to appear on her face. “He saved someone.”


© 2011 Jooolie


Author's Note

Jooolie
So I know there isn't much dialog in this one. That's because this is me attempting to do strictly action writing. I've never really done it before, so I thought this would be the perfect chapter to practice it. Just fyi :)

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Reviews

Good shot..!!!!

Posted 13 Years Ago


Great write keep it up!

Posted 13 Years Ago


I am generally not a fan of stories that are strictly action writing, but you more than pull it off in this chapter. Your excellent use of description made this an excellent choice of style for this chapter. It is one that you can use in the future to great effect.

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on January 20, 2011
Last Updated on March 18, 2011


Author

Jooolie
Jooolie

The city with the water tower, IA



About
I'm a sophomore in Journalism/Mass Communication and in the process of some sweet novel-writing. I thoroughly enjoy show tunes and I don't care who knows. I really like reading short stories an.. more..

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