“Evacuate NOW! ” the announcer screams. The fires are almost at our doorstep. Mom and Dad run through the house, grabbing treasures we can take in the car. I run to the woods. I can’t just leave without saying good-bye.

The forest is still green and moist, even though the sky is a nightmarish crimson. I throw myself down on a soft bed of moss, burying my head in its welcoming cushion. “I am so sorry,” I sob. I reach blindly toward the banks of ferns still dancing in the slight breeze as if they had decades to live, instead of minutes. I can’t bear the thought of the flames, the charred remains of my sanctuary. Every thought is a lethal blow. I force my mind to go blank, allowing only fragrance, touch, sound, sight. I focus on green, moving into ferns, moss, fallen logs, the comforting forest floor. Everything smells earthy, fresh, eternal. But there is no eternal, is there? Stop! Don’t think!

I run my fingers through the moss. It feels so gentle, so forgiving. Does it know what is coming? Enough! Turn off that thought! The little creek – surely it will be safe. Water can’t burn. But it can boil, it can evaporate. Stop, stop, stop!!! Everywhere I turn is a horrible image, an unbearable question. I stumble toward the creek, its joyous rhythm containing undertones of a child singing. I can’t just let all this disappear. Perhaps the Fire God would take a sixteen-year-old girl and leave this paradise untouched. I’d gladly give my life that this blameless forest might live.

“Take me! Take me!” I shout, as Dad crashes through the underbrush, a cloth over his mouth. I see flames licking the ground behind him. I close my eyes and prepare to die. Dad lifts me in his arms, as I were still a little girl, and tenderly carries me to the car where Mom sits staring blankly at nothing, her eyes empty and dead. He carefully coasts past the ankle-high flames, then starts the engine. Everything that ever mattered disappears in the rear-view mirror.

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Voice-Team
Voice-Team(@voice-team)
Admin
1 year ago

The “world on fire” comes home. A poignant story of terrifying loss.  Personification adds to the feel of the story.The creek’s “undertones of a child singing” is an especially touching line.

Paul Lewthwaite
Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
1 year ago

Julie, this definitely lands a punch and at the same time is so poignant. Loved the descriptions that took me to woodland and made the imagery of what was about to befall it, even more powerful. Your protagonist is clearly attuned to nature and as a result, the reader is… Read more »

Susan Dawson
Susan Dawson(@susan-dawson)
1 year ago

Very powerful, Julie.

Zinna Lin
Zinna Lin(@zinna-lin)
1 year ago

Very powerful imagery Julie. You transported me into that moment with your words. Especially relevant today, with the raging bushfires that destroy our beautiful forests.

Alan Kemister
Alan Kemister(@alan-kemister)
1 year ago

The image of people having to drive away from ‘everything that ever mattered’ is a very powerful one. Right some good story as they would say in my neck of the (still moist) woods.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago

I love the forest. I feel inner peace and freedom when I’m in the forest, and I appreciate the forest even more because of how you described it, Julie. On the other hand, you increased my English vocabulary, Julie, because it is my first time to encounter the word, nightmarish.… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Julie Harris
1 year ago

Yes, thank you again for that one, Julie.

Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
1 year ago

Your story makes me feel emotional and slightly sad.

Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
Reply to  Julie Harris
1 year ago

You’re welcome.

Greene M Wills
Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
1 year ago

How we forget that plants and trees are alive too! I felt the young girl’s heartbreak and the sadness of her goodbye to something beautiful, familiar and so precious…

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
1 year ago

A very powerful and emotional story, Julie, especially as your protagonist is a young girl who really loves and cares for nature. The fact that she offers herself as a sacrifice in order to let her beloved nature live, makes her a hero of old, classical proportions.

Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
1 year ago

Julie, this was very captivating. It felt like I was right there with your protagonist, watching everything unfold. Your love for nature is evident in your stories. This was beautifully written.

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