Trapped in 1867

Chap­ter 9: Fire

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - WRIT­TEN AND IL­LUS­TRATED BY CHRIS FRAN­CIS

Gauri and Ben cel­e­brate Do­min­ion Day at Par­lia­ment Hill, how­ever late that night as the cel­e­bra­tions con­tinue, a fiery ex­plo­sion shakes the McGre­gor house.

To do list:

1. Stop 2. Drop 3. Roll

July 2nd, 1867 Mid­dle of the Night

The heat from the flames is now creep­ing into the at­tic. The floor is hot.

I run to the win­dow to see what is hap­pen­ing only to be thrown back by an­other ex­plo­sion. The glass shat­ters and sprays my face with tiny shards.

“Help!” I scream, blast­ing my vo­cal chords as loud as I can. My head spins. “Help!” I shout again.

I check the door to the stair­well, only to find the han­dle is red-hot. Smoke pushes out from around the frame.

“Gauri!” a voice calls out to me. I know it’s Ben—he must still be in the other room. I scramble around look­ing for some­thing to cover my­self with in the hopes of block­ing the flames from burning me when I step out into the hall­way. I fig­ure if I can get to him, we can nav­i­gate down the stairs and get out of the house be­fore it burns down.

“Gauri, get out of there!” Ben’s voice is far­ther away now. Where is he? Has he left me? “I’m trapped!” I shout back. I kick the door, think­ing I might be able to bust it down and race through the fire, but then I re­mem­ber it would just make the fire worse. Right? Too much oxy­gen would feed it—I think.

Oh, I don’t know. I’m los­ing my mind.

It’s hard to breathe now too. I cough a few times and cover my face with the pil­low from the bed.

The door black­ens as flames slice through the old wood on the other side. I have no choice but to es­cape through the win­dow, but I’m about twenty feet up—maybe more.

I hus­tle over and look out­side, step­ping on the shat­tered glass along the floor. There are more flashes of light be­low me—the grow­ing blaze creeps up the ex­te­rior pan­els to­ward the win­dow. Faint screams echo into the night, drowned out ev­ery now and then from the fire­works on the other side of the hill.

“Help me!” I shout again. My throat tight­ens—beads of sweat trickle down my fore­head and into my eyes.

Is this re­ally hap­pen­ing? Am I go­ing to die here, trapped in 1867? “Gauri!” Ben screams out again. I’m tempted to jump, fig­ur­ing I might break a leg or two, but at least I would be alive.

“How do I get down?” I re­ply, try­ing to lean out the scorched win­dow frame.

“I’ll catch you,” Ben replies. “Just get out of there. Trust me, I’ll catch you.”

My heart pounds through my chest, push­ing the blood around my body. I clench my fists and swal­low, feel­ing the adren­a­line kick in. It’s now or never, I need to get out of here. There is no way I came all the way back to 1867 to have the most in­cred­i­ble day of my life be sud­denly taken away from me be­cause of some stupid fire.

“Okay!” I say, hop­ing he can hear me through the crack­ling in­ferno and splin­ter­ing wood. “I’ll jump. I’ll jump. Can you hear me Ben?” “I can hear you,” he replies. “Will you catch me?” I holler back. “I’ll try,” he says. “You’ll try?” I feel my in­sides turn up­side down. “Whad­dya mean you’ll try? You need to catch me no mat­ter what. There’s no try­ing here. You need to be one hundred per­cent sure you’re gonna catch me.”

I take a deep breath and close my eyes for a sec­ond. I wait. And wait. “I’ll try,” Ben says again. I can’t be­lieve it. This kid just doesn’t get it. My life is in his hands, and all he can say is, ‘I’ll try.’

I step back, and col­lect my thoughts. There’s gotta be an­other way. And that’s when I see it. The rug. The rug with the pattern of a bird on it.

The Odawa girl’s face ap­pears in my mind. Her words, softly whis­per to me. Pin-di-gayo.

Why am I hear­ing her words again?

I look at the bracelet on my hand. The sym­bol is the ex­act same—the birds are identical. I don’t un­der­stand, but for some rea­son I feel a pull to­ward the rug on the floor. Pin-di-gayo. I move it aside and find a frame of wood pan­els fas­tened to some hinges and a small loop-like-han­dle. I reach down and pull on it, and dis­cover a nar­row flight of stairs. Pin-di-gayo. Con­fused, scared, and deliri­ous, I shuf­fle down the tiny steps and burst through an open­ing in the side of the house. I’m free. I’m alive. Be­fore I can catch my breath some­one’s arms wist­fully wrap around me.

I catch my breath—the heat from the fire still fiercely in­tense.

“Are you okay?” Ben asks, fi­nally let­ting go of me.

“Yeah, I’m good.” I smile at him, and ad­just the bracelet on my wrist.

“What hap­pened? I thought you were gonna jump?”

Mrs. McGre­gor races around the other side of the house. She hus­tles over and hugs me as well. “Are you al­right deary?” She brushes the hair out of my face.

I nod and step back into the gar­den. Neigh­bours from across the path scurry over to help, but there is noth­ing any­one can do. The house is com­pletely en­gulfed. It will only be a mat­ter of min­utes be­fore it crum­bles to the ground.

Ben taps me on the shoul­der again as the roof caves in be­hind us—his face glows in the orange light. “How did you get out of there?”

I look at the de­sign on my bracelet again and shrug. “That Odawa girl saved my life.”

To be con­tin­ued Wed­nes­day. Next Time: Home

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