Fire

Smoke crept under the door, its grey, curling fingers snaking along the worn carpet. Cassie awoke to the shrieking of an alarm and an acrid smell in her nostrils. She rubbed her eyes and sat up, blinking and shaking her head. Her hand reached out and grasped her Caroline, exactly where she had left it the previous night. The stick was light in her grip, and she used Caroline to push herself up. Cassie winced and glanced down at her legs, which were misshapen and discoloured. Leaning heavily on Caroline, the woman shuffled to the window and stared out into the night. The skyline seemed empty tonight. Where window lights usually twinkled like stars, there was only blackness, and save for an intense crackling sound, silence hung over the city like a guillotine. Where was the hum of cars, the brawling of drunks, the thud of music? And more importantly, the wail of fire engines? It felt as though her city had slipped into a coma. Cassie hoped it would awaken soon.

Screams could be heard in the floor below. Cassie knew she was supposed to wait for help from the fire department, but it seemed like they were absent tonight. With a sigh, she turned and slowly made her way towards her apartment door. There was no point in panicking. She could not rush or run, only keep at her calm, steady pace. If she were to die now, it would be the Lord’s will. Still, Cassie briefly clutched at the gold crucifix around her neck and prayed that she would pass the test He had set out for her.

The heat was near unbearable in the corridor, and Cassie shrank away from it when she opened her door, fear momentarily clutched at her, holding her in place. A stench of burning meat wafted in her face, and she choked, desperately wanting to retreat to her room and wait. Cassie knew if she turned back now, she would die.  Taking a deep breath, Cassie hobbled forward into the corridor. Cool spray splashed onto her cheeks, and she looked up to see the sprinklers had come on. The fire seemed to draw back slightly, though it felt as if it was merely waiting for her to make a mistake so it could devour her whole. Putting the thought out of her mind, Cassie continued to shuffle down the corridor, soaked from the falling water.

Charred bodies littered the ground. At first Cassie assumed they were merely poor fire victims, but then she noticed something else. Some of them looked…looked like their heads had been split open. What had happened here?

She had reached the stairs. Cassie stared at them, her legs already aching from their brief walk, and tapped Caroline on the first step. It was a long way down to the ground floor, and if her legs gave way, she’d burn to death. Safety had informed her someone would always collect her if there was a fire, and never to use the elevator. Well, she hadn’t been collected, and the screams were starting to die down. Cassie edged forward and tried to lower herself down to the first step. Pain shot through her legs, and she had to clutch at the banister, sobbing, to stop herself falling. Caroline hung from the strap on her wrist, swinging and clunking into the railings. It echoed loudly and made her feel strangely uncomfortable.

No. She would have to use the elevator. There was no other choice. Perhaps this was God’s will. Cassie made a quick prayer to Him to help her safely on her way, and then set off towards the elevator.

Stepping over the countless bodies — bodies which, she noted, were not burnt — she finally reached her destination. It took a while for the lift to arrive, but when it did, she felt her stomach heave. Inside was a man, his midriff torn open, intestines strewn about carelessly. His eyes were wide open with shock, his mouth slack. Blood had trickled out between his lips, and there were flecks of red on his face where his innards had landed.

She couldn’t move. This was…her stomach churned, and Cassie had to bite her lip and cling to Caroline to stop herself vomiting. Who would do this?

The crackling down the corridor was getting louder. She could stay here and burn, or she could take her chances and hope the killer wasn’t waiting for her on the ground floor. Shaking slightly, Cassie limped into the elevator and hit the button. The doors shut with a click, and it began to move.

You’ll be out soon, safe soon, she thought desperately in her head. Just count to twenty. Twenty seconds and you’ll be free. 20. 19. 18. 17. 16–

There was a sound like scraping metal, and the elevator juddered to a halt. Cassie fell forward and landed in a heap on the floor, crying out in agony. Her legs felt like they had been stuck into the fire that was tearing the building apart. The lights went out.

No, no. This can’t be happening. No!

She scrambled around for Caroline, her eyes adjusting to the dark. Her wet clothes clung to her. She shivered. The man was still there. It almost felt like he was watching her now. Had his head moved since she’d first walked in? No, stop. It wasn’t good to think about things like that. Things like that didn’t happen in reality.

A noise in the corner made her freeze. Cassie stared at the body. Was his hand always in that position? Oh God, oh God, oh God, please let me get out of here, please…

Cassie jumped as the elevator suddenly banged. With a groan, the lights came back on and it began to move again. She stared up at the light, tears streaming from her face. “Thank you, God. Oh thank you.”

So focused in her relief, Cassie failed to notice the man until his hand touched her leg. She screamed, watching with wide-eyed horror as his organs slopped out of the hole in his gut all over her bare feet. Cassie grasped for Caroline and tried hitting at him, but he didn’t seem to notice the stick bouncing off his shoulders and the side of his head. Instead, he lunged down and sunk his teeth into her flesh.

Cassie screamed harder, a new kind of agony searing through her. She hit at him with all her might, while the man ignored her, ripping chunks out of every part of her he could reach. Eventually, her weak arms tired, and she dropped the cane, unable to fight him off any longer, her head now cloudy with pain. Everything was spinning, growing dark. She shut her eyes.

With a ping, the elevator reached the ground floor.

Elevator, lord, test

A/N: Credit to my friend, Mel, who wrote a story about a disabled girl in a fire. In her story, the girl received no help, so went to the elevator to escape. That is where I got the idea from, and Mel gave me permission to use it. However, Mel’s has a happier outcome than mine. XD