It was an all-consuming darkness. Beautiful and powerful like a beast. And she stood there, watching, as the street turned to charcoal on a mid-summers day and flashes of red blurred by. She knew the sirens were blaring, and she could hear them, but it was like a white noise. A white noise on a smoky black street. Like the smoke just drowned out the whirring of the horns. And you would think that all would be bright orange and red and yellow, that it would burn like a campfire and gasoline. But it was dark, and billowing and mesmerizing.
She could see from the window that there was nothing she could do. Nothing but look on and watch. For all the times she’d set something on fire — a book, a letter, a picture — she thought that a house would have turned to ash in an instant just as those objects did. That there would be a red lining, a devilish glow eating away at a memory like a cancer or carnivorous amoeba. But the house was slow and dark, and the air was full of sulfate so much that it breathed through her walls. It slithered in through the plastic windows just enough to fill her lungs and let out a cough.
And she watched. Because there was not much else to do. And the tv antenna was out. And the family was safe. But she couldn’t see the road or her favorite tree in the neighborhood park because the smoke was so dense. For hours the firemen spewed gallons of water onto the house, drowning the smoke. But it only seemed to linger. She wondered if there was time in those slow hours—time to save a moment and lose it all in an instant. She watched as the darkness drifted upward into that blue summer sky.