Chapter 1: Incandescence

I awake to the smell of thick, harsh smoke. In my current sleep-clouded state of mind, it takes a few moments for me to realize that something must be horribly wrong. As the panic registers, I open my eyes wide, staring in shock at the terrifying scene around me. There are loud, crackling flames licking at the walls, the ceiling. My dark bedroom is lit up by their frightening orange-red colour. I stare – dumbfounded – as the room is quickly becoming engulfed. A multitude of ashes are floating in the air, resembling an eerie snowfall.

I bring a hand up to my mouth and cough violently. The room is sweltering – much hotter than anything I've ever felt before, and I am sweating profusely, causing my clothes to cling uncomfortably to my skin. I feel like I've been placed in a furnace – left for dead. My eyes are burning, my lungs quickly filling up with the heavy, unforgiving smoke.

I feel certain that I am going to die – that this must be the end. I hadn't imagined that my life could be over so soon.

I hold my breath and then pull the soot-covered covers off of me before hurriedly forcing myself out of bed. The floor is hot, and I jump as the unexpected temperature hits my bare feet. I relieved when I see that the relentless flames are not blocking my door. I rush over to it and hesitantly place my hand on the doorknob, which quickly proves to be a mistake. Blistering pain shoots throughout my now-burned hand. I shake it off and then use the bottom of my t-shirt to hold the knob and after a few failed attempts, I am able twist it open.

The sight in the hall before me causes me to drop to my knees in despair. To my right, the hallway is engulfed in raging, angry-red flames. I feel my mouth open in shock and horror as I look through them to my mother's bedroom door. I feel my heart drop. The door is closed–she must still be inside. I need to get to her, but I can't see how that could be possible under the current circumstances. My heart races in panic and fear–hopelessness and desperation.

"Mom?" I yell before coughing as a result of the heavy smoke that I have just inhaled.

I stare at her door helplessly. There is clearly no way to get to it as a result of the merciless flames that are separating us. I can't possibly just leave her, though. It seems as though I am without any reasonable course of action. However, she may not even be in there. She might have gotten up in the night to go sit downstairs. That's not too improbable of a thought because it's something that she does sometimes. I'm not sure how likely it is that that could be the case tonight. Regardless, I need to remain calm and rational because I know that panicking is not going to solve anything.

I crouch down lower–vaguely recalling what one is supposed to do when one is in a fire. I breathe in deeply, my lungs hungry for clean air. I look down the hall to my left and remember Logan, my little brother. Taking one more glance in the direction of my mother's bedroom, I rush forward towards Logan's room next to mine, which is thankfully not blocked by flames. I stand up and swing open his door. His room is steadily filling up with smoke. He is still sleeping on his bed, unaware of the devastation that is occurring around him.

"Logan, wake up," I say as I run over to him. I stop for a second to cough and then pull the covers off of him.

He opens his eyes sleepily. "What?" he asks in a tired voice.

I place my arms underneath him, trying to pick him up. However, it would be a lot easier if he would walk.

"You have to get up now. We have to get out of the house," I try to make my voice sound as calm as possible because I don't want to frighten him, but I can't hide the panic. It is critical that we leave now.

He blinks up at me confused and then coughs a few times. His eyes widen in fear as he notices the smoke.

"What happened?" he asks in a scared voice.

I ignore his question and continue pulling at him and he finally starts to get up.

"We have to go now. Come on," I tell him urgently. I take his hand and pull him towards his bedroom door. We are both barefoot and in our pyjamas, but there's nothing I can do about that right now. I just need to get us to safety. After all, our clothing won't matter if we're dead. I can only pray that the doors downstairs aren't blocked by the fire.

Logan wails as we step into the hallway and he sees the massive flames engulfing our home. He stops walking and begins crying.

"Logan, we have to go!" I try to pull him forward, but he doesn't move.

"Mom! Where's Mom?" he sobs.

I look back over to my mother's room. The door is still closed, the flames raging angrily around it. She can't be in there – she must have made it out already. I have to believe that.

"She's fine," I say as I struggle to pick up Logan's eight-year-old sobbing form. He's a little heavy now, and I experience difficulties as I attempt to walk with him towards the stairs. He begins coughing fiercely – his crying must have caused him to take in a lot of smoke.

"It's okay," I tell him. "It's going to be okay." I don't necessarily believe that, but I need to calm him down. We need to get out of here as soon as possible, and that would be a lot easier if he were not thrashing in my arms.

I walk down the stairs quickly, but carefully, so as not to drop my brother. I quickly see that the back of the house is raging in fire, but thankfully the front door is clear enough. The fire seems to be moving from the back of the house to the front. I rush towards the door, put Logan down and open it. I grab his hand and pull him out of the house, into the warm summer night. I have no idea what time it is, but it's still pitch dark out. In front of me, everything looks normal: the familiar houses, the tall trees lining our street. Behind me though, my world has just fallen apart.

But one very important question remains: where's Mom?

I move Logan and myself far away from the burning building before frantically pulling him over to our neighbour's house. We're both coughing and Logan is still sobbing heavily. I walk up to the front door and ring the bell an innumerable amount of times. I then bang on it desperately, silently pleading with its occupants to open up, to help us. Finally–after what feels like an eternity – the lights flick on and the door opens. Mr. Thompson, the elderly man who lives to the left of us, is standing there in pyjama pants and a long grey robe. He looks sleepy and confused to see us on his doorstep in the middle of the night. Under normal circumstances I would feel embarrassed to be here like this, but these certainly aren't normal circumstances.

"What happened?" he asks, looking from me to Logan.

"Our house is on fire! We need help, please," I say, my voice shaky with fear. "Our mom–I don't know where she is. She might still be inside," my heart speeds up in fear at that thought. Mom could really be in trouble and I'm just standing here, not doing anything. I have to try to rescue her–she needs help.

"I'll call the police right away. Come in," he tells us.

I guide Logan inside and hear Mrs. Thompson's worried voice as she comes downstairs to see what's wrong.

"I have to go get my mom," I call to them, making the decision quickly. "Logan, stay here. I'll be right back," I tell him.

Mrs. Thompson walks over to Logan and tries to comfort him. "What's going on?" she asks.

"There's been a fire," Mr. Thompson answers, as he holds the phone to his ear. I turn to leave the house. "Noah, no!" he calls to me. "It's too dangerous. Wait for the firefighters to get here."

"That could take too long," I say over my shoulder as I leave their house and run back over to mine. I can't just wait. I have to take charge – I have to do something. When I reach my house, I am hit by the brutal heat, and I feel like a heavy weight is descending over me, consuming me. It looks horrible. The house is covered with crackling red flames, creating an eerie glow that lights up the darkened sky into which plumes of black smoke are billowing up high. I feel a violent sob escape my throat–my body shaking helplessly.

The hungry flames have moved to the front of the house, devouring the front door, blocking the way. I can't get in. I can't do anything but watch and pray that the firefighters will be here soon. Mr. Thompson comes over to me after some time, places his arms on my shoulders, tries to lead me away from the house. I barely feel his touch. I can't hear what he's saying. I am trembling, withering.

Eventually the fire trucks, ambulance and police arrive. The loud sirens blaring down the street–a brief distraction from the sickening sound of the flames in front of me. They rush out of their vehicles and get to work.

"My mom is still in there," I tell them urgently. I need them to listen, need them to save her. Why aren't they doing anything? They look at the house grimly and then pityingly back to me. They take out the fire hose and begin to battle the blaze. I watch as the loud, forceful sprays of water hit the blazing, ruined house.

I am asked many questions by calm voices. I plead with them to save my mother. They tell me that they are doing the best they can and that I have to get into the ambulance now. I say that I won't leave her. They walk Logan over to the ambulance and I'm torn – I don't want him to go alone. I take one last regretful look at the flaming building that has been my home for nearly my entire life. I then go into the ambulance with Logan. I hold his hand and tell him that everything is going to be okay.

My heart is broken, my mind in shock, my body, numb and my life, over.

A/N: Thanks for reading! Please review :) I would love some feedback on this.