Emily by D.I. Jolly
“No, you have to let me in there!”
“Sir, we can’t do that.”
Gabriel turned around in frustration, then back to the man.
“That’s my house!”
“Yes and it’s on fire.”
Suddenly a few of the second-storey windows burst outwards and along with the sound of crackling fire and shattering glass came the scream of a little girl. Without another word or thought, Gabriel took off at full speed through the tape and towards the house, so focused that he couldn’t even hear the firefighters yelling after him. He threw his full weight and speed against the door and it burst open as he hit it. What had for so long been his sanctuary, his little slice of heaven, his home, was now an inferno. With every breath, he could feel the fire in his lungs, and he was sure his hair would go soon. It didn’t stop him though, once he was past the door he took the stairs in leaps and bounds. All he could hear was his daughter screaming, her pain and her terror. It so filled his mind that he wasn’t sure if he could actually hear it or if it was his panicked imagination pushing him forward. Between the heat and adrenaline, he found himself staring at a corridor of identical smouldering doors and failing to find the memory of which one was the right one. His arms and legs began to shake as he stood staring at them, frozen by indecision, feeling every second like an hour. Then through the chaos came the high pitch ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’ of his daughters favourite toy. Guided by the sound he kicked violently at the door and ran into her room.
In that moment he imagined a universe where he’d never been allowed to enter the house and had been restrained by firefighters, maybe even tried and failed to get violent.
At the same time, he also imagined a world where he’d been in time.
In reality, he stared blankly at the burning cot. He could no longer feel the fire in his lungs or the flames on his face. All he could do was stare at the bed with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star melting into his ears. He couldn’t feel the force of the firefighter hitting him from the side and dive with him through the window, the house collapsed behind them. He couldn’t see the inside of the ambulance that rushed him to hospital or the ceiling of the operating room, hear the sound of the nurse telling him everything was going to be all right.
All he could see was the burning cot,
and he whispered,
“Twinkle twinkle, my little star.”