I'd never imagined that this one, simple act could ever have gotten so much positive attention.
Who would’ve thought it?
I mean, I didn’t do anything that no one else would’ve done, given the circumstances. Who would stand there and do nothing? Not one soul.
My fame though shall be short-lived, as it is not I who is owing this award of bravery. I am honoured you picked up my story, but I must make it clear, it is not a tale that is my own, but that of someone who cannot speak for themselves.
I was asleep when I first heard the squealing. The sound pierced my ears like a hot poker; sharp, sudden and deeply disturbing. I’ve never heard such a pitch. I panicked when I realised where the sound was coming from. It took me a few moments to be alert enough to comprehend what was happening.
It was a night I wish I could forget, but that would be impossible.
Oh, the raging flames. Up and up they towered, beyond the darkest part of the skies. The lingering clouds from the day became shrouded in thick, billowing smoke. The oaks and chestnuts, so prized, I could no longer see.
The barn was enveloped in a heaving mass of searing blazes, squeezing each wooden panel, like a boa constrictor, tighter and tighter until there was barely breath within it remaining. The building wheezed its last outcry in protest, but the inferno engulfed it so quickly, there was no time for its last words.
From the seeming safety of my upstairs window, my eyelashes became singed and scorched from the intensity of the heat raging on the scene before me. I knew I needed to move, react, take action; do something! But my body had become a millstone, sinking to the bottom of the ocean; dropping, dropping heavier and heavier with my ankles tied with weighty iron chains, falling faster and faster to the depths below. I could not move for the burden. My arms, fixed to my torso as if nailed to it, unable to shift.
The commotion increased; yelping, crying, panic-stricken shrieks. Galloping, zigzagging, chaotic alarm. Splashing every direction with rapid streaks of colour; speckled browns, glossy blacks, flawless whites and pigmented greys dotted with muddied pinks and iridescent blues. Gaggles of geese, whining, the flapping of wings and eager getaways.
The granite cape encompassing me still would not allow me to budge, despite the alarm, despite my intention.
Creaking and groaning as trees of great heights fell, collapsing upon the frenzy below them, unaware of their damage, their strength, their inescapable power. Bashing, violent blows by each stomping beast; a destroyer, a relentless enemy. It stopped for no one, nothing.
The fences I’d so diligently painted, all smashed into a million pieces, scattered amongst the tornado of feathers, ash and fire. The dried hay from the summer’s heat, a perfect ignition for the thirsty, fearsome ogre.
As the smog rose, fear strangled me from within, rendering me unable to breath, to speak, to utter even the faintest of terms. Who would I cry out to? Who would have heard me? I could not distinguish even my own terrifying thoughts.
The weight to which I was tied seemed to get lighter, as if being lifted up by the ascending palls of smoke. It rose higher and higher until I was able to break free from its restraints and unclasp its handcuffs. Free, at last, to run out.
A familiar sound got my attention and I spun on my heels; my beloved canine companion; his dishevelled, mottled fur and bloodied hindquarters with his rusted, jangling collar bounding towards me, a welcomed friendly giant. Never have I been so relieved to see his face.
I was not alone.
The smoke consumed every pocket of air around me, making it tiresome to draw a breath. What was my dear old boy doing up here? Why was he not running away to safety? Never have I been so cross and thankful, all at once.
The wooden floorboards below me were bending and quivering like an unsteady drawbridge. The air felt thick, my chest tight, my muscles aching. As my champion navigated himself through the burning masses of arches and doorways, veering here, dodging there, the stark blackness of the night contrasting with the fiery brightness of the flames engulfing us. His fleecy tail became my guide; his barks, distant and muffled directions lost amongst the deafening hissing. The route, it seemed to never end; crawling, ducking, shuffling, weary pauses and mighty exertion.
It seemed forever until the exit appeared into view, an array of fireworks to greet us at our arrival. Such was the effectiveness of the adrenaline, I hadn’t even noticed the gashes, burns and battered protrusions over my body.
I was lucky to be alive.
I must have passed out on the grass outside. I woke to a bright light shining into my eyes and voices echoing above me. My name, I heard my name. I caught glimmers of what used to be my home, a mushroom of dark smoke and loud groans. Rejuvenating rain splashed over me, a welcomed revival to my exhausted body. As I came around, I was perplexed and confused by the reception of those assisting me; clapping, nods of goodwill and embraces from people whom I didn’t know as I was rushed to safety with breathing apparatus and reassuring smiles. For what was I being congratulated? For surviving?
As medics swiftly attended to my wounds, only from the ensuing stillness as the catastrophe quietened, did I realise for what I was being thanked.
Further afield, I just about made out a gathering of creatures within the enclosure once kept for chickens; creatures both great and small, recovering from their ordeal; in shock, but alive. An enclosure of safety, to which they had all been herded heroically by my faithful old boy. He had risked his life to save not just one, but 17 lives.
This is for him.
To whom the credit belongs.