Clara stood by the window, the heat of the billowing flames wrapping themselves round her, yet she felt nothing. The flames leapt and whirled, crackling and seeming to fill the air with wicked cackling laughter as they tore the building down around her. She didn’t know what she would do without the old building. Through the dancing flames, she smiled in spite of herself as she watched the huddled figures of the family flee, coughing and spluttering, into the night. At least she had succeeded for them where her brother had failed for her. But she had hoped…
Overwhelmed by a sudden melancholy, she turned and retreated deeper into the building, gliding effortlessly over buckling and twisting floor boards. In spite of herself, her thoughts drifted back to that fateful day, feeling the intense heat and hearing the crackle of a long quiet fire, oblivious to the waking hell she was in.
Who would have thought a typical trip to her fathers factory would have ended so badly. As she had visited a friend on the top floor, a spark struck from an unattended machine on the floor below, lighting the straw that covered the timber floorboards. By the time it was noticed, the flames had spread and taken hold, whilst Clara had separated from her friend to sit in the large window overlooking the hillside, lost in thought. At the far end of the building, she became isolated as the stairs succumbed to the upwards advance of the stairs, and a collapsing roof beams secured her fate.
Gliding through the deepening smoke, Clara found herself back on that top floor, staring across the open plan communal living area to that fateful window. The factory had sat empty for many years, until ten years previously it had been converted to flats. Clara was relieved to see it used again, the shell had only served to further her loneliness and depression.
As she made her way across the space, Clara became aware of whimpering. Puzzled, she investigated and found a young girl huddled under the window seat. She stared out at Clara, her face simultaneously pale with fright and black with soot. Wide, green eyes brimmed with tears as thin lips trembled with barely contained terror.
Suddenly a single flame leapt from the nearby staircase, and Clara started with urgency. She could not let the young girl meet the same agonising death that remained vivid in her mind. In a desperate rage, she pushed forward to the girl. She felt an overwhelming energy swell in and around her, and as she approached, the glass shattered.
To her left she noticed a well cushioned sofa, with thick, deep seat pillows. As an idea formed into her mind, the cushions and pillows flew from the sofa, over her head, disappearing out of the window in a line. A bean bag adjacent to the sofa shifted and rolled across the floor towards them as her resolved hardened. Following the path of the smoke, flames burst into the room. With a sloping garden behind the window, the girl stood a chance. Instinctively, Clara knew that once set in motion, she would have no control over the girls flight. With a smile, she urged the girl onto the large bean bag, the final hope to soften her landing.
Sarah didn’t know what was more terrifying. The deafening roar of the smoke and flames that were advancing steadily, with such heat emanating from the building around her she was already sweating profusely. Or the transparent figure with an ominous expression. Glass shattered above her as the apparition approached, and Sarah cried out, retreating further into the darkness of the window seat. She watched astounded as a series of sofa cushions flew through the air above her. Whimpering, she closed her eyes, desperate to believe this nightmare would disappear. Despite the raging heat of the flames, she felt a sudden chill and opened her eyes to find the ghostly figure leaning down, smiling encouragingly and beckoning to a bean bag that rocked impatiently on the floor boards.
There was something strangely soothing about the gentle smile crossing the young woman’s transparent face. She seemed to be mouthing the word please, motioning to the bean bag with a degree of urgency.
Cautiously, Sarah nodded, crawling slowly from the safety of the dark recess, and settled herself on the large bean bag. As she settled in place, clinging tightly to the loose folds, she felt it ripple and lift, and she squealed as it sagged under her. Sarah buried her head in the fabric as she flew through the hot air, breaking out into the cool night air.
Her scream cut through the night, carrying through the darkness to where her friends huddled terrified, watching the fire from round the corner. They reacted instantly, running round the end of the building to see her land with a gentle thud on a large pile of cushions. Sarah shakily go to her feet, looking round stunned as they engulphed her in hugs, comments and blankets. Taking a moment to stand back, she glanced back to the window, and to the ghost who she knew had saved her life. The transparent figure was smiling and waving at her as she slowly faded from sight.