A few notes: This story roughly takes place in my hometown of Calgary Canada, however as is typical in my writing, I abuse geography and reality in general to suite my needs. So while the story is set in a real city, the university/college mentioned isn't real and neither are the events or people real. In short, this story is a work of fiction that has been loosely set in some actual places and nothing more.
the only person I've ever known who lived every hour like it were a lifetime,
who loved with the fiercest dedication imaginable,
and who was more alive than probably any other person I've ever met.
It was 11:30pm on Sunday December 18th 2004. All across the city people were turning in for the night, lights where going out and there was silence. Except at the college. The music was still pounding and lights were still blazing from almost all the residence units across campus. Inside block 14 Travis was sitting down at his desk with his laptop computer and a cup of tea. It had been almost 2 weeks since he'd had e-mail from Jebb, and almost a month since his last phone call. Travis was hoping that tonight would be his lucky night.
Outside, in the cold December air, a darkly dressed figure carrying a wine bottle plugged with a rag stumbled toward the unit. The figure with the bottle sat down on the front steps of one of the rooms in the unit and pretended to drink from it as a young couple walked past. Once they were out of sight he looked around to make sure he wasn't being watched. He walked around the unit trying to stay out of the light; finally he found a large darkened window.
Travis heard a window break in the room adjacent to his. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair wondering what was going on in res tonight. Travis's computer had booted by this point and his inbox was showing one new message. As he was waiting for his message to load he took a sip of tea and smiled seeing it was from Jebb.
As Travis read his e-mail, voices could now be heard outside. But due to the nature of the letter Travis had received, and also who it was from, he was hardly even aware of the room around him let alone some hurried voices outside.
Travis, I have no idea how to start this e-mail, how to tell you what I feel in my heart right now...
Travis read in silence for a minute, the expression gradually changing on his face. After a minute he set his cup down on the desk and stared unblinking at the screen with his mouth open and he felt his heart beating in his throat. Suddenly there was a knocking at his door.
"Travis! Travis open the door!"
There was no response from Travis, he was hoping the voice would go away.
"Travis! It's Milo, I know you're in there! You NEED to open the door!"
"Not now Milo!" Travis shouted from his desk.
"No Travis you have got to open the door damn it! OPEN THE DOOR!" Milo was shouting outside so desperately and so loud that Travis decided to get up and unlocked the door. Milo pushed past him into the room. "Grab everything you can we have to go! We have to get out of here now!"
"Milo, what the hell's going on?"
"The room next door is on fire."
"What?" Travis frowned at the panicked look on Milo's face. He ran past Milo to the open door and looked across at the neighboring door and saw flickering light at the window, he looked up to see smoke pouring from the upstairs window. Already people were shouting, he could hear someone shouting "fire!" in the distance.
"Shit" He said as he ducked back inside and ran up the stairs to his small bedroom. Near the top of the stairs however, the dense smoke that was filling the upper floor stopped him. Later on, a fire fighter would tell him that the fire had moved from unit to unit through the attic. He was too late to save anything in his room; things in there were already burning. Quickly Travis clambered down the stairs and into the living area,
"Grab stuff, throw it outside!" he shouted at Milo who grabbed the laundry basket Travis had left by the door and threw it outside, then he grabbed all the clothes in the closet. Milo grabbed Travis' backpack full of books and notes and threw it outside as well. Travis pulled on his coat. Opening the door to the outside had changed the pressure in the whole unit and the air flow changed, bringing smoke that drifted down the stairs and was now thick enough in the living area that it made Travis cough.
"We've got to get out." Milo urged.
Travis grabbed his laptop from the desk and ran out the door with Milo in front of him. Outside there were already at least 50 other residents standing in awe as flames spread across the roof of block 14 and from the windows in the upper floors.
"Is everyone out!?!" Someone shouted. There was no response. Suddenly Travis became aware that he'd forgotten something; his car was parked in front of his living room window, less than a foot away, he had to move it.
"Travis, wait!" Milo tried to stop him but Travis ran to his car, he didn't have the keys. He hesitated for a moment then ran back into the thick smoke of the lower level of his room, he grabbed the key off the peg by the door and ran back out to the car.
"Start...please start!" He begged as he pumped the gas and turned the key. The engine in the old Toyota cranked slowly but it wouldn't start. "Come on...come on" Travis kept cranking... "Start Damn it!" He glanced up and into the window in his room, the smoke had tinted the glass but inside he could see the flicker of firelight. As he kept trying to start the engine he could feel the heat radiating from the burning rooftop above him. The people who were gathered watching the building burn began to step back as the rapidly advancing flames radiated ever more heat and grew feet high licking up into the cold night sky.
The car battery was near dead. "Fuck!" Travis shouted as Milo pulled open his door and grabbed his arm. "Come on Travis, you can't save it, we have to go, the building is gonna collapse, the roof is already falling apart."
"Milo, help me push the car, help me push it Milo!"
"Travis, the lot angles back, it's uphill; we can't do it. Come on. Let's go."
Milo pulled hard on Travis' arm, 150 people were watching the situation unfolding and not one of them joined Milo to help him, they were all too awestruck. Milo and Travis were well matched for strength. Travis turned the key one last time and heard the battery give up. He reluctantly gave into Milo's pull and allowed himself to be dragged from the car. A moment latter the window exploded and flames rushed out and played across the hood of the car.
Milo pulled Travis back a good 10 meters from the unit but even there the heat was becoming too intense to tolerate.
"Why aren't the fire trucks coming?" Someone whispered. Two other boys rushed in and helped Travis up and dragged him back to 20 meters distance from the fire where they set him down on a snowy pile of rocks to watch as flames rushed from every window, played across the whole roof and up the walls of his temporary home. It was all too much; it had to be a dream. The car was now burning; the flames were spreading under it and back toward the gas tank.
Gregg started shouting. "It's gonna explode! Get back! Everyone get back! Get back!" Travis stood up dazed and joined the crowd of people running away from the unit. Panic had set in; people were running around not knowing what to do. Travis and Milo ran further away. Travis blinked his eyes hoping perhaps he'd wake up. Suddenly the gas tank in Travis' old Toyota caught and everyone threw themselves to the ground as a great blast of heat and light radiated in all directions and a giant fireball rose up into the sky and was visible half way across town.
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