Joe stood, shoulders slumped, looking forlornly at the dingy nightclub where he had made his living for the past 2 years, as the fire began to lick at the edges of the grimy windows. It wasn't unusual for a fight to break out amongst the patrons, as they drank their whiskey and argued over card games and women, whilst the band beat out a dense rhythm on-stage. What marked out that evening's brawl was that tonight an oil lamp had been sent flying by a wayward swing of a fist, and the fire had spread quickly through the old and rotten timber.
In the commotion of the fight and the stampede away from the blaze he had lost sight of her, and could do nothing to stop himself from being swept outside with the crowds. He couldn't just stand and idly watch whilst she perished inside – they had been through so much together.
The danger to himself never even crossed his mind as he wrapped his shirt around his face and plunged through the smouldering doorway. Smoke filled the dark and airless room, stinging his eyes through the thin fabric of his shirt as he frantically swept the room looking for her. The heat was almost unbearable, and he could hear a symphony of cracks and pops as the bottles of cheap liquor behind the bar succumbed to the heat one by one. The beams holding up the low ceiling were groaning under the strain, as the old building slowly disintegrated around him. The flames were getting stronger, and the room brighter, as the fire spread and spread. The smoke rolled around the room in waves, as the blaze sucked in oxygen from outside to feed an insatiable appetite for anything that would burn.
Suddenly, through the smoke he saw her lying in a heap on the stage, already covered in thick soot, looking trampled and broken in the hellish light. He scooped her up into his arms, afraid to hold her too tight in case he made worse her already fragile state.
The noise and smoke had distracted him, and only now he realised that the door through which he had recklessly plunged only minutes before was now impassable, a chunk of ceiling having collapsed before it, blocking his means of escape.
Once more he pulled his shirt tight around his face, and with a strength and clarity of purpose that comes only to a mind and body coursing with adrenaline, he leapt through the grimy window and into the street beyond. The weakened frame gave way easily with an explosion of glass, and he was back out into the open air, gasping for breath, coughing and spluttering as his body fought for oxygen, and his lungs screamed of the heat and smoke he had endured to save her.
The street was still full of the bar's occupants, most of whom had stayed to watch the death of their favourite back-street watering hole, and they now crowded round him, yelling and shouting.
“Man, you must be fucking crazy! You any idea how stupid that was? You ran into a burning building for a trumpet?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish