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Mar 17, 2021

Historical Fiction Fiction Sad

I didn’t know what it was like to have your life stolen.

Until it happened to me.


Two days before


My mom’s phone rang. I looked at it, the ringtone drumming at my brain. I hated that ringtone.

β€œSomeone’s calling.” I said, handing her the phone.

She picked up the phone. β€œHello?”

She listened for a bit, then hung up. β€œPG&E said they might shut down our power. Due to the β€˜high winds.’”

I rolled my eyes.

Pacific Gas and Electric, or better known to locals as PG&E, had been serving Northern California since 1930.

β€œYeah, but we should stop by the store and get some water anyway. We’re on a well, the water won’t pump without electricity.”

β€œOkay.”

β€œAlso, we’ll need soup you can eat cold. We won’t have a microwave.”

β€œOkay, Mom.”


πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„


The summer was hot and sticky as I rode my bike down Skyway. My best friend, Tommy McMarcus, was by my side on his bike.Β 

β€œWanna stop at CVS and get ice cream?” He asked, as we neared the faded white and red sign.Β 

β€œSure, why not?” I said, and we steered our bikes into the parking lot.

The trees were full, but they were slowly turning red and orange from the changing seasons. It was November, after all. The trees were overdue for turning colors.

We walked in and selected our flavors (Drumsticks for both of us) and brought it to our favorite cashier, Garcia.

β€œWhat are y’all up to today?” She asked as she scanned our ice cream.

β€œNot much. How β€˜bout you?”

β€œJust workin’. But I’d rather be in this air conditioned buildin’ than in the valley farmin’.”

β€œTrue.” We were near Redding, not that close, but still, our heat was terrible, making us susceptible to wildfires.

Y’all have a good day.” She said after we had paid and she handed us our bag.

β€œYou too!” I said, and we ran outside and opened our chilly treats. They were a welcome distraction from the heat, even in November.

β€œWhat would you do if Paradise ever burned down?” I asked Tommy.

β€œWhy would I ever think like that, Virgo?”

β€œI don’t know, but the Carr fire was a few months ago, and that was pretty bad. What if it happened to us?”

Tommy shook his head. β€œI try not to think that way.”

β€œOhhhkaaaayyyy.” I said.


πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„


One day before

β€œHalf of Paradise is without power,” Mom said. β€œBut not us, thankfully.”

β€œI bet people are outraged.” I said.

β€œOh, Virgo, they are. I’ve had about twenty people call into the dispatch that their power was off.”

Mom was a 911 dispatcher for Paradise.

β€œI can’t believe people would call 911 for that.”

β€œYou’d be surprised what people call 911 for.”

β€œFair.”


That day after school, me and Tommy did the natural thing: Rode our bikes around, no destination in mind.

β€œIt’s really windy today.” I said.

β€œYeah.” I said. I’d had to tie my hair back, it was whipping around my face.

β€œWe should probably get back.”

β€œYeah.”

And so we went back early. I wish we had stayed out later, that I had spent more time with him. I wish, but wishing doesn’t change the past. Nothing can.


πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„


The day of

I sat in class, looking forward when my phone rang.Β 

The teacher gave me a look. β€œIt’s my mom,” I explained, and she shooed me into the hall.

β€œHello?” I said.

β€œHey, Vir. I’m on my way to pick you up.”

β€œWait- why?”

β€œThere’s a fire, headed towards Paradise. I’m at the house now. Anything special you want me to grab? I’m grabbing you a backpack of clothes.”

β€œUh,” I listed off what I wanted.

β€œGot it. On my way now. Love you.”

β€œLove you. Bye.”

β€œBye.”

I couldn’t believe it. A fire? Headed towards us? No. No no no no.

β€œAll students, please report to the gymnasium. Please remain calm.” A voice crackled across the intercom.

No no no no.

I was not remaining calm.

Students started to file out of classrooms, surrounding me in a tidal wave, pushing me forward. I looked out the window towards the Feather River, and I saw it.

It scared me.

It was close.

The tidal wave of students flooded the gymnasium.Β 

β€œWe are being asked to evacuate. We have called all your parents, but if they do not arrive in a timely manner, they will be notified and you will leave with a staff member.” Mr. Gregorio, the principal said.

No no no no.

My mom was coming, at least.

β€œWe need to move to an outdoor area.” Mr. Gregorio said, even though we all felt what he didn’t say. We need to move to an outdoor area that is less flammable.

I shuffled outside with the tidal wave. Rain floated down from the sky.

A drop landed in my hand, and I discovered that it wasn’t rain, but ash.

This is the apocalypse.

Finally, the secretary comes and Mr. Gregorio calls students. Their parents are here, he says. He finally calls me.

Mom sees me and runs over. β€œThey let me leave because I had you to pick up. Lets go, quick.”

Once we were on the road towards Chico, Mom swore and yanked the car off the road.

β€œI forgot your father.”

Dad’s ashes were in an urn on the mantle. He died when I was two. Some of him was in the San Francisco bay. Other parts of him were scattered in his favorite places. Some of him was in an urn on the mantle.

β€œIt's fine, Mom, we have to get out of here!”

β€œNo! I won’t leave him.” Mom got back on the road, headed towards central Paradise.

We passed pickups filled to the brim with possessions, RVs, and traffic. Lots of it, thickening by the minute, just like the smoke.

The sky darkened as we headed towards the center of town. Mom hooked a sharp right onto Pearson, and then followed it through its curves. The sky darkened still.

Mom pulled fast into our driveway at the corner of Pearson and Pentz.Β 

Fire had started to appear around us. β€œI’ll be right back!” Mom yelled over the sound of popping propane tanks. They sounded like bombs, so loud and sudden I knew I would feel them for the rest of my life.Β 

Mom rushed in the house as the roof combusted into a tall flame. β€œMom!” I yelled.

I knew it wouldn’t take long for the fire to get to the attic, then spread to the rest of the house through insulation.Β 

I tore off the seatbelt, my fingers like jelly. I threw the door open and rushed to the house.

Mom had just grabbed Dad and was coming to the door. β€œGo, Virgo! Go!”

I rushed out of the burning house. It wasn’t my house anymore. It was the flames’ house. They made that evident.

Mom ran behind me, carrying Dad. We broke free from the house just as it exploded into a fireball.

The sky was as dark as midnight.

β€œGo, Virgo! Go!”

The smoke was so intense I collapsed into the car, coughing.

β€œWe’re okay, baby.” Mom said through coughs.

β€œWe’re not out yet. Go!”

The car shot forward.

Fire closed the road in front of us. β€œNo no no no no.” I mumbled.

Mom stopped the car. β€œWe have to go through it.”

β€œWhat?!”

β€œI am going to drive through that flame. Be ready.”

She put the car in drive and slammed her foot on the gas. The car charged through the wall of fire like it had been manufactured to do so. But it hadn’t. It was just a Camry.

Mom didn’t slow down. She kept her foot hard on the gas, driving at speeds that were fast, but not too extremely so.

The fire was keeping pace with us, though. At one point, it was ten feet behind us.

I didn’t see it coming.

Well I’d been white-knuckled on the door handle and staring straight ahead, the fire had snuck up close on Mom’s side.

A tree fell just as our car went under it. The tree and its flames landed on the Camry.Β 

β€œGah!” Mom said. The car wouldn’t go further. The heat, the pure heat surrounded the car. Propane tanks popped around us. Bombs.

Then, I heard two closer pops. The car sank down on Mom’s side.

The tires had exploded. We were officially screwed.

Luckily, I knew we couldn’t be that far from Clark. From people.

β€œAre you okay? We have to go!” I yelled.

β€œI can’t!” Mom said. β€œMy shoulder- It’s stuck!”

Sure enough, the tree had her shoulder pinned down.

β€œGo!” Mom yelled. β€œDon’t worry about me!”

Tears gathered in my eyes as what she said sunk in. β€œI won’t leave you!”

β€œGet Dad! And our backpacks! Go!” She looked at me. β€œVirgo. I love you, baby.”

β€œI love you, Mom.” Salty tears slid down my ash covered face.

I grabbed Dad and pulled out a t-shirt to put over my nose and mouth so I wasn’t breathing in the smoke.Β 

β€œGoodbye, Mom. I love you!”

β€œI love you too, baby. And never say final goodbyes.”


πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„


I staggered away from the car, looking at it.

It caught on fire.

β€œNO!” I started to run towards it, but it grew unbearably hot and then, it exploded.

β€œMOM!” I sobbed.

I turned. I had to make it to Clark and find a ride. Quick.

I ran across the hot asphalt towards the road. I heard honking and luckily, soon I saw headlights!

I ran to the first car I saw and knocked on the window.

It whirred down. β€œHello?” A man with a button down and fedora appeared in place of the ash covered window.

β€œHi.” I said, my throat breathy. β€œCan I please have a ride? My mom….”

The fedora man looked sad. β€œI’m sorry, sweetie, but I’m full.”

I wanted to cry harder. β€œOh, ok, thank you.”

I went to the next car. A middle aged woman with curly bronze hair rolled down the window. She reminded me of Mom so much I started to cry.

β€œWhoa, honey. Are you okay?” She asked, a look of concern on her face.

β€œNo.” I said. β€œBut are any of us?”

β€œTrue. What's wrong?”

β€œMy mom...tree...car...d-d-dead….ride?”

She seemed to understand, and nodded. β€œIt’ll be a tight squeeze, but you can fit your belongings in the back.”

β€œOhmygodthankyouthankyouthankyou.”

I opened the door and climbed in the tall 4-Runner. I held Dad close to my chest.Β 

We made it we made it we made it.


πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„πŸŒ„


One month after


Dear Virgo,

How are you? How’s Redding? How are you holding up? I heard about your mom, and I’m so sorry.

Sorry for such a short letter. I just needed to reach out.

-Tommy


Dear Tommy,

Thank you for writing. It was such a joy to find your letter in the mail.

I’m doing pretty well. It’s been difficult to adjust, not just from moving but also from making the town transition at the same time as I enter high school.

Reddings nice, at least it's not a pile of ashes, so it's got Paradise on that, I guess.

I’m holding up nicely, but I think about her everyday. It’s hard not to.

I also can’t stop thinking about the last thing she said to me. β€œNever say final goodbyes.” That was real wisdom. And I think about it every day.

Thanks for reaching out,

Virgo

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22 comments

A/N: This story is historical fiction. Virgo, nor Tommy, nor any other characters actually existed. Well, some may have been based on real people, but thats it. That being said, I did not experience the Camp Fire firsthand. Heck, I didn’t even get the smoke that bad. But the Camp Fire was a tragedy nonetheless. California is a place I have a love hate relationship with. I love our scenery, our weather (when it's not 102 degrees), our beaches, our mountains. However, being a Californian comes with a con: be ready to pack your life up every su...

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STOP KILLING UR CHARACTERS- its sad :( but anyways it was good and thanks for following meee. :)

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I'm trying to write a mythology story right now, so no promises ;) Thank you and no problem!

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Elle Orthan
16:12 Mar 18, 2021

wowowpwowpwowowoowowowowowowowo stop killing your characters it’s sad but wowwwwwwww good job

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Elle Orthan
16:53 Mar 18, 2021

ofc!!!!

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23:36 Mar 17, 2021

CAROLINA WHY R U KILLING ALL YOUR CHARACTERS SDISBCQNIADSPBVWOP;DIB

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Idkkkkk I've been in a tragic mood lately lol dcmsmdcgmnsmc

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02:58 Mar 18, 2021

Ahhahaha

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Ellie Yu
17:34 Mar 17, 2021

I really like this story because, like another commenter pointed out, you pay a lot of attention to detail. It feels very accurate, raw, and authentic. My family and I also live in this area, and a few years ago, we had to evacuate our neighborhood because a fire got pretty close. The first night away we were panicking because we got an alert that it was burning near the town library, and we live just a couple miles away. Fortunately our street wasn't damaged, but I know several people that lost their houses. Anyway, sorry about that ramble...

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Thank you! Yes, where I live we have tons of little fires but we never know when the next Camp will be. The thing about my town is that we have the same growth, same topography, all the same factors that led Paradise to its downfall. It hits hard around here because it could have been us. I'm really sorry that happened to you. It sucks to evacuate. To have to think you're saying goodbye to everything for the last time. I'm glad your street wasn't affected. Huzzah for the day we have all underground power! Thank you for reading!

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One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Ok, can you read my story now. Jk Awesome job! The story was raw and emotional. I had family who were affected by the wildfires and you did a good job fictionalizing the events. For real though, I'd love if you read and critiqued my newest story, "Falling Ashes." Thanks

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hahahahah thank you so much! i'm sorry they had to go through that, wildfires suck. totally!

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02:01 Mar 18, 2021

AJSHSOPSBCO Did not realize the story was going in that direction-

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Ooh, this was pretty interesting! I love the attention to detail but um... MINOR ERROR!!! β€œSure, why not.” ... ??????????????????? Oh... that comment. I feel so bad. That’s terrible. Do you still live there?

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Whoops! I'll fix that. I never lived in Paradise, but I do remember going there a year after, and they had already done so much. :)

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