Courage and Cowardice under Fire

'Thud. Screech-thud. Screech-thud. Thud…' was what she woke up to.

She reached over and turned the light on. Flick. The bulb had blown. In the half-second during which light had appeared, she saw the source of the noise – a mouse, with its foot caught in a trap, dragging the trap clumsily along the creaky wooden floorboards.

She was too afraid to get up and do something about the suffering mouse, because without any light she might step on it.

There was no real moonlight to speak of, because the sky was enveloped by dark foreboding clouds. The leaden night sky dropped its bundle and rained heavily. She opened the threadbare curtains a peep to see the rain.

For a brief moment she contemplated climbing out the window to get a torch from the shed, but decided against this option, after seeing how heavy the rain was. She heard an outraged rumble of thunder, and then saw a lurid flash of lightning. Then another rumble, and this time as the lightning flashed she used its startling glow to see inside.

The distraught mouse had moved about one metre across the floor; this time blocking the passageway. For this reason, she was glad she hadn't tried to walk past the mouse earlier.

Her world was disjointed- this time around, the scene looked different. She didn't see a tortured mouse caught in a trap, but rather a man dragging a crucifix. He was in a dreadful state – ghostly, sunken eyes, deep oozing wounds, ribs protruding from undernourishment, cuts and scars everywhere. Hadn't had a haircut or beard trim in years, and what was he wearing? An unwashed toga?

She wondered how she could form such a clear image of him from a single lightning bolt. Another thing she found inexplicable was that the scale of the image was out of proportion, as if he was the size of a man, occupying the space of a mouse.

The words: 'Help! Save me from this torture!' radiated from an indistinct source, as if the air itself formed the words. This convinced her that she had to do something about the situation. Her weighty sense of guilt at prolonging the creature's suffering outweighed her sense of fear, and she resolved to try to save this creature – whatever it was.

She pressed her back up against the crumbly wall, and worked her way across the room on tip-toe, imagining herself to be a ballet dancer consigned by the CIA fought her special physical talents. She slipped through the door stealthily and made her way to the kitchen. She tried to turn a light on, but apparently the power had gone out.

She searched through the drawers frantically for what would have felt like a torch or candle, but to no avail. She found a matchbox with three matches inside, a candle with no wick, and a torch with flat batteries.

It took four rampaging lightning strikes, her memory of the house layout, and her acute sense of touch and smell to figure this out. She regretfully remembered having forgotten to buy batteries when she was at the shops on Thursday.

She took the matchbox from the drawer, then thought to herself that maybe the problem was just a fuse that had blown. She walked to the fuse box, stubbing her toe on a chair that was out of its usual place.

Shr opened the door to the fuse box, lit a match, holding it up to the box to see, then realised she knew absolutely nothing about fuse boxes, and wouldn't know whether the fuse needed changing, let alone how to go about changing it.

Distracted by this thought, she forgot to blow the match out, and burnt her hand. This caused her to drop the match, which then landed on her bare foot, scorching the hairs on top of her toes. 'Ouch!' she howled in out, understandably.

She tried to think of a way to create a wick for the candle. She managed to find a ball of string and a pair of scissors in the kitchen drawers, 'but how do I get the wick inside the candle without melting the wax?' she said out loud, after which she felt embarrassed for having talked to herself.

She cut a piece of string from the ball, then cut the candle in half lengthways by painstakingly shaving the candle with the scissors. She put the string between the two pieces of candle, then tried to melt the two pieces together again with the second match, reserving the last match to ignite the candle.

Her plan vaguely worked, in a crude sort of way. She made her way back to the bedroom, and set the candle up just in front of the doorway. She didn't want to have to walk too far inside before lighting the candle.

She took the last match out of the box with great trepidation. She knelt down, and reached her hand out to feel where the candle was. She held the box close to the candle and carefully struck the match against the candle – so carefully that it didn't light.

'S**t!' she tried again, this time a bit faster, but again her candle lighting failed. She tried a third time, striking the match with great force. The match broke.


She picked up the head half of the match and struck it against the box, and hurrah, the match was lit! The match burnt her finger again and she dropped it on the candle, but at least managed to light the candle in the process of doing so.


Frustratingly, she still couldn't see the creature, the candle was too far away, the creature had moved under the dresser.

She picked up the candle and edged forward. The candle started to split and she dropped it. This lit the scene completely. The wick was still alight, and set alight a piece of paper that was on the floor. The piece of paper set the curtains alight, which set the dresser alight.

Light, light, everywhere! Be careful what you wish for!

By the time she ran out of the room and bumped into the kitchen table, the whole room was illuminated in furious flames.

She put a wet towel over her head, and filled a bucket with water, running back into the bedroom. She poured the bucket over the dresser and tried to reach inside to save the creature. Her efforts were of no use. It was too late. She had to give up and leave the house.

She ran out the front door with the towel over her head, which was buried in shame. Her neighbour was outside, and had already notified the fire department.

A fire engine arrived within five minutes and managed to save the rest of the house. The contents of the bedroom were all burnt beyond recognition, except for a single item that the fire fighters held up to her…'We found this,' they said as they held it up.

It was a wind up toy doll, that normally walks, but had a broken leg that dragged along the floor.

'Thud. Screech-thud. Screech-thud. Thud…'