067 - save
The fire had begun in the kitchen. It was a small grease fire, nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that should have spread as rapidly as it did. Ethel knew she should have been attending to her cooking, but she had so many things to attend to. It was quite rare for the entire family to get together under one roof, much less under hers.
Not much could stir this old woman's heart to excitement these days. That wasn't to say that she was a cold or boring person. She had simply found contentment in her twilight years. But Ethel had to admit to herself that when she had gotten up this morning, she was excited. Easter dinner, at her house, with all the generations of her children present.
Perhaps she had bitten off more than she could handle when she refused any help from anyone else in the family. "No, no, let your dear old mother prepare things the way she likes to," she had told her children as they called to offer to assist her. Ethel had grand plans to impress her family.
No one could blame her, then, for letting the kitchen go unwatched for a minute or two as she worked to prepare the dining room table. Perhaps it had been more than a minute, but Ethel was certain it hadn't been that long. With her age, she had difficulty moving around quickly, and she was still having difficulty accepting that tasks which had previously been accomplished quickly now needed much more time.
She was aware something was amiss as soon as she smelled smoke coming from the kitchen. It was only a short distance from the dining room to the kitchen, but no matter how much effort she seemed to exert, her legs seemed to move at a glacial pace. Even with the assistance of her cane, by the time she had hobbled slowly back to the kitchen, the fire was out of hand.
It had spread to the cabinets and the curtains, quickly consuming anything that would burn easily. It had such intensity that it was also moving to the items that would be slower to burn, but still combustible. After all the hard work Ethel had put into getting to the kitchen, she had to quickly redouble her efforts to get away as quickly as possible.
The fire began ripping through her apartment. Her limited mobility meant the flames quickly outpaced her. The only path to the door was being lit aflame faster than she could move. By now, the smoke detectors had gone off. Ethel hoped that someone would come and save her.
A few more moments ticked on, but they each felt like forever. Ethel realized that no one was coming to help her, or if they were, they would be too late. The air was quickly filling with heavy, hot, black smoke. These days, she had difficulty breathing even at the best of times. Ethel would have to try and save herself.
In a bid to get away from the fire and also to find fresher air, she slid open the window and peered outside. She took a few gasps of the cold air outside and for a moment, felt relief. Then she looked back into her apartment, and realized there was no going back. The fire was pushing out toward the window.
So Ethel turned back to the window and looked down. As a person with limited mobility, she had questioned the logic of buying an apartment on the twenty-second floor of a building before, but never more than today.
The black smoke billowed out above her snow white curly hair in the window frame as she spent a few more precious seconds considering the inevitable.