Fred was walking on the pavement that ran along a deserted street, mumbling to himself. A large, far off, crashing sound had just startled him, further aggravating his already throbbing head. It was two whole hours before the end of school but to him, enough was enough. He had woken up that morning with a terrible headache, had gulped down some pills his mother had given him, and then proceeded on to school in the hopes that his headache would dissipate. It did not. It was during lunchtime when he decided to just report sick and head home.
The afternoon sun burned above and Fred was cursing himself under his breath. Which idiot would choose to walk home with a headache under the hot sun? Apparently idiots like him.
The route he walked was the one he took everyday, just off the main road near his school and into a small smearing of houses, the furthest one, though not that far, being his own haven. It was a roughly one-kilometer walk that he really did not mind though today he wondered why his parents did not choose a house right beside the school. Realizing what he had just thought of, he shuddered. Imagine living right beside the school. Teachers would be driving past everyday.
He was just turning around the corner when a man suddenly ran up to him. Fred took one look at him before recoiling back in horror. The man looked like he had just walked through a burning house. His short hair was matted with blood and half of it seemed to have been singed off, his hands were bloodied and his clothes were ripped in some places and singed in others. Otherwise, he looked like he was just barely out of college.
"Please!" the man reached out, panting and coughing, drawing long, ragged breaths.
"Car crash," he gasped, pointing towards the way he had been running from. "Down Sunny Street. Help me-" he was interrupted by a bout of coughing.
Fred froze for a minute. Sunny Street did not have any houses, just some abandoned cars and junk piled up in one corner. Chances are, not many people are around to help. Acting quickly, he dialed 911 on his cell phone, informed the operator what happened, and followed the man who was pulling him along.
"Please, you've got to help, my sister's still inside!"
There was no mistaking the frantic desperation in the man's voice and Fred broke into a run when he saw smoke in the air, rising from point beyond some houses. The man tried to keep up but he collapsed, causing Fred to stop and run back, only to be shouted at vehemently.
"GO! I'll be ok!"
"Go! Please!" the man pleaded, before slowly pulling himself up.
Thinking that the man would be just fine, Fred ran as fast as he could towards Sunny Street. He rounded the corner and immediately spotted the blue Corvette that was rammed up against a teetering lamppost, its engine burning and copious amounts of smoke coming out of the front windows that were shattered. Fred stopped but started when he realized someone was screaming at the back of the car and that loud thumping noises were being made as if someone was trying to force the car door open from the inside.
"I'm coming, I'm coming…shit," Fred cursed as he ran to the door, his mind replaying images of cars going up in fantastic explosions over and over again. "Shit."
He grasped the door, only to curse loudly again as he jumped back, his hand burned by hot metal.
He could hear a girl's voice, probably younger than him, screaming for help and this time, he took off the jacket he was wearing and, using it to protect his hands, tried to force open the door. It did not budge. Not even an inch.
Suddenly a foot appeared, smashing its way out of the already cracked window and Fred jumped back, thinking the car had exploded. It took a split second for him to notice that smoke was now pouring out of a new hole at the side of the car and hands were reaching out, clawing away jagged remains of glass and plastic, trying to secure an escape.
Smart girl, he thought, as he dashed forward and attempted to help. Sirens could already be heard approaching from behind him and just as he managed to pull out the upper half of the girl's body, two men in uniform were already beside him in a flash, extracting her carefully from the vehicle and out of his hands to an ambulance that has just arrived.
"Get back! Get back!"
The officer pushed Fred away from the vehicle and just as he was satisfied that everything was alright, a shout came from another man who checking the smoking vehicle.
"Shit, there's another one! Jim! Get the axe! The door is jammed!"
The officer that was pushing Fred away bolted towards the car along with another man that was carrying a big, red axe.
A few minutes later two paramedics ran towards them with a stretcher, bringing back a still body.
Far off, Fred noted that the girl he had helped to save was currently screaming, screaming for her brother but Fred did not turn towards her. His blood had turned cold when the paramedics had passed him, giving him a full view of the body. Though it was now more covered in soot and had more burn marks, to Fred it was unmistakable. It was the man who he had into. It was the same face, the same shirt torn in the same places. A chill went up Fred's spine despite the heat of the sun and the sweat dripping down his forehead. His stomach had tuned to ice. He knew, he knew, that if he was to turn around to look for a gasping, young man who had escaped a burning car to get help for his sister, that he would find no one. He also knew, with a pang in his heart, what was being said to the sobbing girl seated in the ambulance.
"No! No, Patrick! Wake up, Patrick! WAKE UP! PATRICK!"
He loves you too, thought Fred, his thoughts numb.
His headache was conspicuously gone.