My eyes fluttered open. I lay very still in the cool, silk sheets. A breeze swept across the room, draping my face with a layer of my hair.
I heard it again. Slow, gentle, deliberate footsteps outside of the door. My heart sped up, doubling in pace. Please don’t kill me.
The house creaked and groaned with the wind. My ears worked overtime to tune into the footsteps. I prayed they would fade further down the hall and out of reach.
The handle squealed. I shot up and covered my bare arms with the silk sheets.
The door eased open. I held my breath, my heart thudding in my chest.
“Trace, it’s me,” Johnny whispered.
“Johnny, what the hell are you doing in here?”
I was not amused.
“Just wanted to check in on my beautiful bride.”
I squinted, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. I could make out the outline of his body. He was only sporting pajama pants, no shirt in sight.
“Johnny. This isn’t a good idea,” I breathed.
Despite the darkness, I felt more vulnerable than ever. I wrapped myself tighter in the silk sheets. Suddenly they felt dangerously flimsy.
I felt the end of the bed shift with his weight. He was sitting mere inches from me. My heartbeat sped up and my stomach did a flip. I pressed my hand on my belly button to quiet down my insides.
Johnny reached over and traced a slow circle on my wrist. My arm lit up with goosebumps in response.
“I know baby, but we’re so close,” he cooed.
I held my breath. I didn’t trust myself to speak.
He began tracing lazy lines up and down my arm. I wanted to pull it back to safety but a calling deep inside made me leave it there.
“So close but so far…” I trailed off.
Johnny acted like he didn’t hear me. He continued making his way up my arm. He grazed my collarbone with one swift motion. My body instinctively moved closer, daring for more.
I closed my eyes, resigning myself to what would happen.
“Mmm?” he said, sleepily.
“Do you smell that?”
“It smells almost like a campfire.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he replied, taking the opportunity to snake his hand down the front of my pajama shirt .
A deep burning assaulted my nostrils.
“No, Johnny, really. What is that?”
The darkness turned hazy before my eyes. Johnny pulled his hand away and jumped up.
“Holy crap, Trace somethi-“
He was cut off by a thick wall of flames ripping down the wooden door.
I heard a shriek and realized it had come from me. Johnny grabbed my arm and yanked me out of bed. It was nothing like his gentle touch from only seconds ago.
We were hit by a wall of sticky heat radiating off of the fiery blaze.
I fixed my gaze on Johnny, his side profile illuminated by the orange-yellow glow.
“This way!” he shouted, tugging me away from the roaring flames and towards the bay window.
For a split second, Johnny stared at the window before grabbing the ivory stool from my vanity table and smashing it through the glass. I braced myself for the deafening sound but the crackling flames drowned it out.
Johnny rushed to the window, littered with pieces of broken glass. He stared down, calculating how far the descend would be.
I hovered behind him and squeezed my eyes shut. I could feel the flames heating up my back, inching closer towards us.
I felt arms wrap around my waist. I was lifted into the air and thrown forward. The wind gushed in my ears and my stomach dropped. I am supposed to get married tomorrow. It can’t end like this. I still have to be Johnny’s wife. We have to have children. Our children have to grow old. There is still so much for me to do in life, this can’t be it.
Almost as quickly as it happened, I hit the cold grass. My head banged against the earth and I lay there for a second, waiting for the searing pain to kick in.
But there was no time. Johnny.
I tried to scream but nothing would come out. I forced myself to open my eyes and watch as the house was further engulfed in the glittering flames.
Johnny. Johnny. Johnny.
“Help! Help me! Someone help me!” I screeched.
It was no use. The cackling fire was no match for my parched throat.
Johnny. Someone has to help Johnny.
A dull throbbing slowly took over the left side of my head. I tried to move my legs but they lay limp in the muddy grass.
Johnny. Oh Johnny. Please be safe.
I grabbed my left leg and made a fist. I started hitting my flesh, as if to wake it up. How could my legs fail me now? I need to get up. Need to get back inside. Need to get to Johnny.
I rolled onto my stomach, using my elbows to propel myself forward. I could make out the perfectly manicured bushes swaying in the wind. I used all of my strength to inch myself forward, squinting to see if anyone was nearby.
My mind raced with possibilities but they were quashed by the aching pain that was spreading across my temple. Did the fire get inside my head?
I looked up just in time to see a dark figuring ripping through the air. It landed just on the other side of the house. Desperately, I dug my elbows into the wet earth, inching myself forward. My whole body felt like dead weight, impossible to drag along.
Johnny. Johnny. Johnny.
Bit by bit, the figure was coming closer to view until I was right at the bottom of it. I saw feet blackened to a crisp by the fire.
Johnny. Johnny. Johnny.
I could hardly see, the pain in my temple was ripping across my head. It was as if someone took a metal pot and kept smashing it across my brain.
I reached the top of the figure and saw half of Johnny’s handsome face devoured by charcoal. I forced myself to look at the other half and saw his eye half closed.
“Johnny?” I whispered, half afraid to break the silence.
I grabbed hold of his shoulder, shaking him awake. Wet, salty, slick tears poured down my cheeks.
I heard screaming rip through the air above the roar of the fire.
Someone is finally coming. Someone finally understands the unthinkable that is happening.
The screaming was getting louder and louder.
I squinted my eyes, it was becoming too painful to keep them open. Finally, I gave in and let them droop.
Just as the world went black, I realized I was the one that had been screaming.