Trial by Fire
A little fic I had to write for Creative Writing but ended up loving. Best of luck to those of you at Writer's United using this as their example!
I stood hunched over my work, carefully prying and picking at the poor creature struggling in my grasp. Despite doing very well in my school years, I never took a day of medical school. That was mostly because medical schools hardly taught you anything medical at all. I was all alone in this operation, with my daughter struggling for life beneath me.
One of the neighboring villages had just attacked. Many of my friends had been killed, and now my daughter was on the brink of death. Yes, the Revolution was an ugly one indeed. I didn't know who to trust, who to care for. But through it all, I was fairly certain that the only reason I was still alive was that I was needed for medical procedures.
"Momma!" my three-year-old daughter wailed as she swung her bloodied arms up toward me. She could already speak perfectly fluent French. She was beautiful too, looked just like her father. Oh, how I loved her.
"Calm down, sweetheart," I said as I threaded her knife wound up with my rusted utensils. As much as I wanted them, it was impossible to get cleaner instruments because of the Revolution. I was careful to keep little Emilie's skin away from the rusted parts of the knife. The light in her eyes was fading fast, and it looked like she was struggling to keep them open. It took all my will not to break down in tears. I couldn't, I wouldn't! I had to save her from being a victim of the horrifying war. Like her father was.
"I'm scared," she slurred as her arm dropped down.
"I know, I know," I answered as I ran a cloth down her soiled skin, soaking up the blood. "You'll be fine, just hold on," I whispered hurriedly. "Hold on, please hold on. I love you."
"I love you, too," she coughed as her eyes began to flutter. Blood spattered out of her mouth as she retched. With horror, I realized how thorough the attack had been on her. The knife must have caught the gentle part of her throat that allowed her to breathe. I gasped as I watched her throw up another mouthful of blood.
"Why not me?" I whispered under my breath as I worked. "Why?" As I tied her neck wound, I heard a commotion in the village. I made sure to set a few herbs on her forehead before I left, so that they may soak into her skin as a way of pain relief. She'd stop throwing up, and I thought I'd done a fairly good job at suturing the wound. She would live, I knew it, my daughter had always been very strong. I gave her one last securing look before rushing out of the makeshift building to see what had happened. I recognized the people attacking immediately. They were my family.
I'd left my native village many years ago, to get away from my family. I guess that couldn't stop them from rampaging on my new village. They rushed by as though they didn't see me, screaming at the top of their lungs as they barreled into person after person.
The world suddenly went into slow motion as I watched them draw wicked-looking knives from their belts and drive them home. I wanted to yell out, to stop the attack, but I couldn't do a thing. I was frozen to my place, unable to believe my eyes. I'd always thought my family's village, however crazed, had been on the same side of the Revolution as my own.
They carried brightly lit torches with them, burning away the pure darkness of night. The light was wicked and harsh, much wilder than the soft candle I'd been using to perform my surgery. They wielded the sickly things with a passion, throwing them this way and that. One of them rushed by me suddenly, and I felt a rush of adrenaline run into my body. A man, my uncle, had gone into my medical house with a torch in hand. Moving on instinct, I dashed into the house, suddenly a part of the danger I tried so hard to avoid.
His eyes were huge and filled with rage as I watched him standing in front of my sleeping daughter. He raised his torch high up as a terrible grin covered his face. This wasn't my uncle, it couldn't be! I charged him as soon as I saw him lift the torch. He's going to burn down the house!, my adrenaline fueled mind screeched. Stop him! He'll kill your daughter!
"No!" I yelled as I leaped and struck him in the chest with a solid kick. He grunted, but didn't move an inch. I struck out with punch after punch, trying to get the torch away from him. He dodged to the side, making me miss nearly every hit I threw. I faked to one side then threw him a kick where it hurts. My hit landed, and he crumpled instantly, like a piece of paper. The torch fell to the ground, still fiercely lit.
There was no way I could have known that my uncle had already coated the room with oil; even the smell had been smothered by my single-tracked mind. The moment the torch hit the ground, a great burst of flame from Hades itself lurched from the ground, blinding me. I screamed in pain as I thrust myself away from the fire. In seconds, the fire was everywhere. Emelie…Emelie…Hers was the only name I could think of as I forced myself through the spreading fire.
The room was swirling with the dangerous colors of fire. I tried to hold my breath to keep the smoke out of my mouth as I jumped over my downed uncle to get closer to Emilie. I could hear her raspy yells above the roar of the flame; she'd woken up. What a harsh reality to awake to.
I stumbled across the fiery ground, dizzy from the lack of air. When I couldn't take it anymore, I dropped to my hands and knees and dug my mouth into my shirt to take a breath. I crawled determinedly through the fire, not caring about the flames lapping at my skin. Finally, I saw her. The world changed to slow motion again as I watched her struggle, screaming for help as she tried to get herself off the bed. She was too weak to get up, too weak to escape. The fire surrounded her and formed a beautiful halo, turning her to a princess of evil.
"I'm coming!" I yelled as the fire suddenly raced across her sleeve. I'd just saved her from that devastating neck injury! She couldn't die now! As I reached my arms toward her, I felt a crushing blow to my side. I was sent flying straight into the burning wall. I slammed into it with my back. I yelled in sudden pain, but my voice was drowned out by the wall's hurtful moan. I could hear creaks and splinters as I ricocheted off the wall, and could feel the fire digging into my body as I skidded across the wooden ground. My back hurt worse than any of the burns, as if something had shattered into a million pieces. I looked up to see my uncle scooping up my daughter in his savage arms. "Emilie!" I called, "Get away from him! Emilie!" I could only barely hear her struggle over the crackle of the fire.
I tried to get up to help her, but I was stuck in place. It wasn't like how I was frozen before while watching my family murder my fellow villagers, I really couldn't move. My arms responded fine, but my legs wouldn't move at all. When I looked back at them, I saw that they were engulfed by flames. 'I can't feel them either!' I realized with horror. "You witch!" I screeched, "You evil b*****d!" I watched him smirk at me as he threw Emilie over his shoulder and began walking out straight through the flames.
I pulled myself hand over hand across the floor as fast as I could go. As I dragged myself, I heard the house let out another painful groan. I could feel the time ticking by, and each second irked me more than the last. My adrenaline must have aided, because I managed to catch up with my uncle before he made it to the front door. With speed I hadn't known I'd been capable of, I swung one of my rusted surgical tools from my pocket and straight into his meaty ankle. He yelped in surprise and snapped his foot away, losing his balance just enough to drop Emilie.
I pushed myself forward in an instant and threw my hands up to catch her. Somehow, I was able to catch her in midair. I pulled her tight to my body as I swung the sharp tool back at my uncle, tripping him before he could stop me. Bits and pieces had begun to fall away from the ceiling, like shooting stars. Larger pieces threatened to fall with every moan of the walls. I rapidly moved forward, unwilling to stay any longer than I needed to, if only for her sake.
That was when the first large, flaming piece of lumber fell. I heard it topple down behind us, and the greedy squish that ensued its landing. "Momma?" Emilie whispered her voice contorted and rough with tears. It was a little throaty from the neck wound, but I could tell it was getting better. She was shaking in my arms, and I knew what she'd seen.
"I've got you," I told her. "Don't look, put your head down." She readily replied, and I soon felt her tears soaking into the back of my burnt shirt. I moved quickly towards the front door as the house got closer and closer to utter collapse. I had to crawl over obstacles now- large pieces of debris and other, dangerous things. I was coughing by then, vigorously. Little Emilie wasn't spared the smoke-filled cough either. It was like I was crawling through the darkest of nights as I punched through the smoke, for I had left the realm of fire and was now pulling my way through thick, black smoke. My eyes blistered and watered as I struggled through. I dug Emilie's head into my shirt to keep her breathing well enough.
Suddenly, the air started to clear and I could hear the soft sounds of crickets ahead. We were out! Carefully, I pulled Emilie away and helped her to her feet in front of me. "Run, Emilie," I said. "I know you can survive this… Just run, and please, please don't come back for me." She looked at me with tears in her eyes. She'd seen so much just in the past few minutes. I felt incredibly sad for her, as though the entire thing was my fault and no one else's. Silently, the tears dropped down and made trails through the soot on her face. The house heaved again; there wasn't much time. "I'll always love you," I whispered to her as I lifted up to kiss her cheek. She closed her eyes then, frozen for a moment. Then she was gone, running away into the dark distance.
It had only been me and her for the time I was talking, but reality refused to let me live in my solitary world. I was thrust back into the midst of danger, but I could see none of it; only my dearest daughter, running away. I heard a terrible wrenching sound from within the house, and it resonated all around, nearly piercing my hearing. I heard the sound of support beams snapping in two, one after the other. The world was suddenly dashed into a mess of falling lumber, but still I watched her fleeting form. I prayed that she wouldn't look back; it was best this way. If the fire didn't kill me swiftly, she would have to watch me die slowly of major burns and a broken back. I choked on tears as I tried to accept my fate, but a strange euphoria seemed to come forth from deep within.
The house fell quickly down, imploding on itself. The fire burst out in all directions, raining fireballs all around me. The wood crunched and broke, spilling debris into the turmoil stricken air. For a very brief moment, I wondered why no one had come to help. I looked away from my daughter only for a moment to find the rest of my village already in burning tatters. I was choked on tears as the pieces of my medical house toppled on top of me.
Before the darkness took me, I heard a few soft words floating on the softest breeze I'd ever felt.
"I love you too, momma."