Run Like You’re on Fire
by J. Daniel Batt
Wake up. Keep quiet even though you want to scream. Don’t open your mouth. Don’t alert anyone that you’re still alive. Breathe through your nose. Take a long, deep breath, smelling the burning oil across the asphalt and the rolling sting of ash in the air.
Now, don’t rush, just open your eyes. Don’t rub them. Blink if you need to. Figure out where you are. Look at the blue of the sky above you. See the sun on the horizon, its light dropping quickly below the buildings.
Look at the buildings towering south of you, their tops lost in the smoke. Follow the tower of smoke from its obscure peak to its base. Realize the smoke is all around you.
Look at your hands. See the charred skin, the nails gone and blood leaking from your knuckles. Remember that you started this inferno.
Don’t panic. Quell your fear. Rest in the fact that you heal quickly.
Look around now. See the wrinkled frames of the cars scattered about and the blackened corpses spilling out of them. Ignore that surge of guilt. Remember you are still alive and that’s what matters. Tell yourself, “It’s not your fault, because you warned them. Then you ran, and it was they who chased you.”
Hear the sirens far away, growing ever nearer with every possible second, their wailing pitch moving in from every side. Acknowledge the area is clear and there are no survivors. Double-check for movement from the bodies slung about.
Sit up, but do it slowly. Brush your hair from your eyes and then wipe the blood from your lips. Feel the bruise swelling on your forehead, an injury you received at their frightened hands.
Stand, if you can stand. Put your hand on the guardrail next to you and pull yourself up. Brush the dirt and ash from your jeans. Kick your shoes against the melted tire next to you, loosening from your soles the still-wet mud collected from the field you ran through.
Get ready for the hard part. Think about the people chasing you. Think about what they were carrying. Remember the snarling teen boy, a boy that you would have thought was cute had he not been chasing you with a bat. Find the bat that he dropped after the first time you howled back in fear and anger and the ground erupted in flames around you. Find that bat. Find it because you don’t want to start any more fires unless you have to.
Bend down and pull the bat, a cheap Wal-Mart special, from under the smoldering Corolla. Grip it tight. Call up your fifth grade softball practices and remember how to swing correctly, how to swing powerfully. Remember, you can control your swing, but you can’t always control the fires you create.
Don’t get distracted. Listen to the sirens as they race closer. Smile because you won’t be anywhere near here when they arrive.
Find a clear spot in the rubble. See that open patch just beyond the speed sign? Go that way. Go that way now.
Don’t walk. Ignore the pain in your legs. Remember, you heal fast. Run. Run before they get here. Run before they catch you. Run like you’re on fire.
Copyright © 2014 by J. Daniel Batt