Scattered Ashes


CHAPTER ONE



I JERK AWAKE to the sound of coughing, and the thick stench of smoke. A thunderous roar fills my ears as an ocean of black clouds cover the ceiling. Rolling out of bed, I stay low as I head to the silhouetted bedroom door. Warmth exudes from the cracks around the door. Placing the back of my hand along the wood, I feel the heat seep into my skin. Shit! Slamming the door, I bound for the bed and pull Autumn to my chest. I snatch a blanket off a nearby chair, dosing it in the water from my nightstand. Covering her with it, I race us out of the house. My heart constricts as I ignore the faint screams in the distance.

The moment we’re outside I cough and gasp, my lungs burning from the tinged air. The grass is cool beneath my feet as I run us away from the house. I stop at the edge of the property placing Autumn down and pulling the blanket away from her face. “Breathe. Baby, try and breathe.”

She coughs and gasps trying to clear her smoke filled lungs. “My family.” She chokes out.

“Stay here. I’ll get them.” Kissing her forehead, I run back to the house.

Dread fills my chest as the orange and yellow flames grow consuming the house. If I hadn’t heard the screaming from inside earlier, above the roaring flames, I would assume no one was alive. Heat burns my skin, the hair on my arms and chest curling as I reach the stoop. The porch bows under each hurried step I take. The sounds of banging and screaming ring through the fire urging my steps to be faster.

“Nathan! Janet!” I shout running back towards the master bedroom. My feet hurt from blisters, and my lungs burn. My skin feels too tight. It’s almost unbearable to move, but I don’t stop.

“Back here!” They scream in unison.

My gaze searches the living room and kitchen for anything I can use to help them, but I can’t focus. The floor heats beneath me, the ceiling caving in a mere feet in front of me. Their screams fade and choke out. Either from the pain searing in my head or… No, I it’s too early to think like that. Unable to run through the house, I propel myself back through the front door just before the floor collapses. Sounds of splintering wood and shattering glass fill my ears. My feet hit the grass just as the porch crumbles behind me. Silently, I pray that her family made it out the back, or through a window.

Orange and yellow billow out of the doors and windows. My eyes catch Autumn still at the edge of the property, and flashing lights in the distance. Knowing she’s safe, I launch myself toward the back of the house. Time seems to slow. The rapid dancing flames consuming our family’s home in a whirlwind of flashing color. I keep my focus on the hope that our family is still alive. My heart races. I bound around the house with a bit of hope they made it out alive, but come around the corner there’s nothing but emptiness. My gaze combs the backyard, then over the house again.

Suddenly, a hand slaps against an un-shattered window. I sprint towards the window only to get blown back. I have a split second to cover my face, before glass and flames launch toward me. Landing on my back, I jerk back to the flame engulfed home. The only pain I feel fills my chest. There are no screams. No cries. No movement beyond the fire. My mouth drops open as a darkness fills me. All she has left is me. How can I tell her I couldn’t save them?

Sounds of sirens and people gathering float through the air. I hear my name being yelled faintly in the distance. Dashing back around the house, I catch the sight of Autumn flailing her arms until they suddenly fall. Then a man is lifting my her into the ambulance.

Fear surges through me as the doors to the back of the truck begin to close. “Stop!” I shout sprinting in their direction. Firemen run past, trying to stop me and ask me if I’m okay, but I just ignore them and push them out of my way.

A man’s head pops out of the back of the ambulance, he thrusts his palm into my chest to stop me as I grip the handle of the truck. “Sorry sir, family only.”

“Bullshit! Get out of the way.” I snap, slapping his hand away from me.

“Family. Only.” He say’s more firmly, his voice a deep baritone.

Narrowing my gaze, I grit my teeth. “I’m her fiancé. Now get out of my way.”

The man’s gaze slits, the lines of his face are serious as he opens his mouth to say something, then snaps it shut.

“Luke, it’s fine.” A softer, male voice sounds from inside the truck. Luke rolls his eyes and huffs before opening the door, further allowing me to climb in.

Shoving Luke aside, I immediately take the seat next to Autumn. Taking her hand in mine, I kiss her forehead. Her eyes flutter open locking with mine, a tear trickling down her cheek. Leaning down, my lips brushing her ear I whisper. “I’m sorry, baby. I tried…” She sniffles as if sensing where I was going and kisses my knuckles.

“They won’t tell you anything once we get there. Family only.” Luke says with an arrogant tone.

I stare down into her beautiful, dark, green eyes, thankful I got her out in time. Damn this guy keeps pushing. “I’m the only family she has left.”