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House On Fire : A True Story Part I (1 Viewer)

Hi all,

I'm still thinking I'm crazy for doing this, especially since this will be my first piece on the forum. Its going to be exactly a year since this happened and I wanted to commemorate the anniversary by sharing my story and hoping it would make a small difference in someone else's lives.

It was really hard for me to read this over and over again for edits. I only managed 4 revisions before I broke apart. So forgive me if the flow is disrupted significantly and some parts seem really frazzled. But do feel free to make comments on the writing if you feel it necessary.

Once again, thank you for your time.


House On Fire : A True Story by Hypergraphian

It’s funny how life gives you dreams, visions and epiphanies but you choose to ignore them, thinking dreams are for dreamers and visions are just figments of one’s imagination. After all, statements like “saving the world” and “keeping world peace” are only said by superheroes and pageant winners. I cannot say that I speak for all, but for most, the act of harboring such unattainable and wishful thoughts only leads to waste of one’s time, pain and suffering, especially when you fail to obtain what you aspire to achieve. This constant fear of trying brands a lot of us as failures and it was this very fear that governed most of my life, placing me in a cage and preventing me from setting my own soul free. But, like life and its comical moments, it chose to redeem me in a way that I never imagined possible and it was because of that fateful day that I found the light, my soul and my dreams once more.

It was Tuesday, August 8th and a hot sunny one at that. I still remember that I was in a particularly happy mood and had on a pink baby-T and light blue jeans to emphasize my perky spirits. However, being a constantly depressed individual these two colors were something I rarely wore. You see, I was, or rather still am, a completely average Jane with a normal career; just a rat in a sea of stiff white collars. I was stuck with a desk job that I didn’t particularly hate, but it wasn’t something I was enthused about either since after I gave up my music and singing passion, nothing else seemed to matter to me anymore. Hence, maintaining a job was an obligation I bowed to only for the simple purpose of living. Being usually uninspired and unmotivated always showed in my choice of daily attire, which was derived mainly from the darker palette of my wardrobe.

But for some odd reason, today was exceptionally different. Thinking back, perhaps it was because I was glad to that my reports were finished, my desk had been cleaned out and my in-tray was empty and ready for new assignments. It could also have been because after 3 years of working life, I had saved a nice sum of money for that MBA I always wanted. I remember staring at my computer screen, reading some online news and it was at this moment, a rare thought crossed my mind, *My life is starting to take a turn for the better, maybe I could learn to be satisfied and live just like this* and my lips twitched in a small satisfied smile.

Suddenly remembering plans to have lunch with my parents and realizing that I had forgotten to inform them earlier, I started rummaging my knapsack for my phone.

*Better make that call to ask if they are free for lunch, in case they are out running any errands.* I thought, and dialed the familiar number on my cell for ‘Home’. I received an odd tone. *Funny,* I decided to dial my dad’s cell phone number instead. He answered.

“Hey dad, I don’t really have much to do today, oh about that thing you asked for, I have it printed.” I said cheerfully, proudly announcing the completed mission like a teacher’s pet.

“Oh..err… yeah.. thanks.” He answered, his voice held no emotion, but I brushed it off as nothing unusual since my dad was always serious and strict. I suppose working for over 35 years and making sure your entire family was well supported does that to you.

“Oh by the way, I was thinking of coming back for lunch. So, you guys doing anything?”

“Erm … dear… the house… no more. Your room, everything…. Gone.” My dad managed to finally spill out.

“What do you mean the house is no more?” I chuckled but stopped to realize the silence.

“The house is on fire, your room… no more.” He stuttered and it was at that moment I felt the world around me shatter into a thousand pieces. My mind went completely blank. All I could see was a white space as clean and fresh as a new whiteboard. Everything disappeared into complete nothingness, no emotion, no colleagues and no office around me. The only thing I could feel were my heart beats, slowly rising and thumping harder and harder. Then, realization dawned and everything around me started moving again. I still shiver at the cold memory of my surreal state. I can remember watching myself as I stared at my colleague walking past to grab sheets of printed documents and then turning my head to look at my boss as he sat on his chair in his office. I felt my palms turning sweaty and my hand clenched onto the phone tightly. Somewhere in me a person screamed, forcing me to react. I then swallowed and spoke as calmly as I could manage.

“Are… you … serious?” *What the fuck am I thinking, it’s my dad, why the fuck would he joke about this?* “... I’m coming home now.” Without waiting for a reply, I hung up. My adrenalin started rushing. I was shaking but I didn’t notice it, didn’t care. I was still dazed and trying hard to understand the words as they repeated in my head. *House on fire, everything no more. All gone. House on fire, everything no more. All gone. House on fire, everything no more. All gone.*

“Boss, erm… my house.. is on fire and I erm.. yeah… I need… I need to go?” I said, half in shock and half forcing the words out of my mouth in a comprehensible sentence. I ended the sentence in a question as my body was reacting on autopilot mode, which meant seeking permission to leave the office whenever I was going somewhere.

“What? Of course. Go!” He said in concern. I merely nodded in reply and like a pre-programmed robot, I packed my laptop, my wallet, grabbed my car keys and looked for my parking ticket, made sure everything was with me in my pockets and set out the office in a fast paced walk.

*House on fire, everything no more. All gone. House on fire, everything no more. All gone. Oh MY GOD!! FUCKING SHUT UP AND JUST DRIVE SAFE HOME!* the person deep within me screamed again. This time the voice was shrill, scarier and more commanding, which triggered the muddled half of me to immediately obey.

With this stronger self I pushed away as many troubled thoughts as I could and ensured that I drove all the way home safely at an average speed. Although my exterior was calm, I couldn’t help but hope thinking, *Maybe it isn’t as bad as it is. Maybe only parts are burnt and not the whole thing*. I tried to bury the dread, my breaths short as I mustered all the restraint I had to avoid flooring the accelerator. I was so anxious to get to my family and the house that the 10 minute drive felt like hours.

I finally exited the highway, *It can’t be that bad*.

I made the final turn, parked my car some distance from the scene and the many people who had flocked there. *Whatever I do, I have to stay calm* and with that thought in mind, I pulled on one of my masks to hide my trembling form and let my stronger self take control before stepping out of the car and slamming the door hard behind me.

Immediately, I went looking for my parents. I was curious but I didn’t care about the house. I just wanted to know if they were alright, to hold them if they were trembling, to be their pillar of strength if they had fallen. Knowing that they had made it out of the house safely, I scanned the crowd of neighbors, reporters and unknown people frantically. *Where the fuck are they?* Finally, my eyes landed on a familiar individual, my uncle and then, my dad. Relief flooded my veins with a pleasant warmth. I started in a light jog towards him and briefly noted the large fire engine parked in front of the house.

“Dad! Where’s mom?”

“She’s okay, she’s sitting inside.” I gave my dad a close look, he seemed to be holding up though his watery eyes and grim expression told me his heart must have been burning along with the house he’d finally finished paying for after 30 long years of hard work. I wanted to give him a hug, but I knew my dad. He was pride filled and hugging him would have killed his ego right there and then, so I went in search of my mother instead.

Although I was standing right in front of the house and could smell its smoldering embers, I didn’t even turn around to look at it. All I cared about was walking straight into the opposite neighbor’s home, where I finally found my mom sitting in their front porch, horrified. Her face was void of emotion as her spirit had left her defeated state. She had a piece of tissue in her hand to dry her tears, but she was no longer shedding them. I could still see the remaining streams on her face, glistening slightly and I don’t know why I only realized then how much she had aged these last few years. *She must have cried till there was nothing left* I thought and my heart sank. I called to her but she didn’t respond. Then I noticed that she was staring past me and at my house.

Curious, anxious and fearful, I finally braved the horror and turned around. Then I saw it, the orange, red and yellow angry flames spilling out over the roof like flowing satin curtains. Its taunting dance against the firemen’s torrent of water set off a deep anger within me. *How dare you!* I shouted to those flames in my head, feeling bitter that their ugly appearance had tainted the brilliant blue sky of that beautiful sunny day. I lowered my gaze and my eyes fell upon the gaping whole, visible through the broken glass windows of my charcoal black room. I glanced towards, my neighbor’s house which was in worse condition, the front portion completely black and burnt. Finally I shifted my eyes towards my parents’ bedroom and I understood why my mother had been staring past me. She was looking at hope found through the thick black clouds in the form of her still unsigned curtains. *If their not burnt, then maybe, just maybe all our important documents could be saved*. With that thought, I joined my mother by her side, said nothing further and placed my hands over hers to hold them reassuringly. We watched on for what seemed like days on end, but slowly, the flames started dying. Unfortunately where relief started setting in, profound pain also weaved its way into my body causing me to wince slightly with the growing constant pang in my heart; made worse with neighbors questioning my mother on how the fire had broken out.

“Neighbors say there was a short circuit,” she explained and from her tone I knew those words were laced with resentment. Though I sympathize with their loss, my neighbors were an odd bunch of people who dabbled in voodoo practices. Some were skeptical about their explanation for an accidental cause due to their habits of burning paper charms. But whatever the reason was, my mom and I couldn’t care less about the gossiping whispers around us. All we wanted was for the house to be saved, what was left of it anyway.

Finally, the smoke disappeared as well and the firemen began stepping out of the house one by one. My dad headed straight towards them to discuss whether we could step in and salvage whatever remained. I got up from my spot and joined him. As we were talking, I noticed a number of my relatives had come by and amidst the pain, anger and confusion I was relieved that they were there to provide their support and encouragement.

I turned my attention back to the firemen and after hearing him explain about the dangers and rubble, my dad, my uncle and myself went back into the still steaming house along with the fire brigade to retrieve whatever important documents we could find. But I doubt any of us were prepared for what we were about to see when we stepped in. The first thing that hit us was the suffocating smell of soot, which as soon as breathed in, left a rancid bitter aftertaste at the back of our throats. Then, we stepped into the house and I swallowed a lump of tears. The ground floor was completely flooded due to the large volume of water used to douse the fire. The walls were dripping wet with water marks trailing soot. The furniture had all been soaked and ruined and the pictures hanging on the walls looked like someone had dragged a damp wet cloth over them to smudge their colors in fury. The staircase, which was the main centerpiece of the hall, was murdered with roof tiles that had fallen through the collapsed ceiling.

We continued to make our way further in to climb up the staircase. As we were doing so, my eyes fell upon a runny picture of my fatter self, posing proudly in my graduation gown. My eyes widened at the damage, but quickly reminded myself that there was no time for me to be sentimental. We weren’t sure how much damage the fire had caused and we had to hurriedly retrieve whatever we could from the dangerous debris. I remember being frightened as I watched several roof tiles dangle overhead carelessly, but I brushed those fears aside. Once on the top floor, my dad made his way to the master bedroom whilst my uncle and I headed for my room. Stepping on top of roof tiles and making sure I wouldn’t cut myself, we finally reached the doorway to what was once my safe haven. The only thing I wanted from there was my university certificate, the piece of paper that held the key to my future. I didn’t have time to think of anything else I wanted to retrieve as the firemen advised that we shouldn’t stay too long for fear that the structure was unstable. I attempted to climb into my room, which had a huge fully burnt beam blocking its entrance. But my uncle stopped me, saying that it was too dangerous. I hung my head in disappointment, but instead of turning around, he asked me where I had put those documents and I gladly pointed to my desk drawer, which was still intact despite its thoroughly blackened surface.

He walked over to it and by some miracle, pulled it open easily with all my certificates still whole and unscathed. My heart leapt with joy and I grabbed the documents from him, cradling them preciously against my chest. My father soon emerged from his room with his own set of important envelopes and we both headed down the stairs. As we made our way out, I suddenly realized, the roof was completely gone. I took note of the sun’s powerful rays flooding the upper floor of the house but somehow, even with the surrounding brightness, everything seemed dark and gloomy, as if the uncertainty that lay ahead for all of us was projecting through my father and me. I bit my lips in frustration with that thought and continued to move quietly.



Senior Member
moving, to say the least!... and, to me, bringing back not so fond memories, as my home and virtually all in it was lost to fire many years ago... the good news is that i could just as easily have lost two of my children and their pets, but didn't... i'd gone just a few blocks away to pick up my oldest from the hair dresser's and arrived just as the front door was being opened by the brave but foolhardy newsboy, letting in the oxygen the fire needed to blast its way through the rest of the 4,500 square foot house... my two who were home at the time [the 12 and 2 yr olds] were standing safely in the driveway, so i felt more relief at first, than horror... that came soon enough... my poor younger ones were on the school bus heading home when they saw the smoke and were hearing the other kids' joke about someone's house being on fire, when they realized it was theirs...

so, i can empathize with you completely, hyper...

the piece is written pretty well, but i suggest you give it a good thorough proofread and do some editing where needed... aside from that, you may want to dump those asterisks... they're not really needed for us to tell when you're thinking and they annoy the heck out of me, for one... i may be alone in this, however...

love and hugs, maia