The flames had completely engulfed the neighbor’s house; black smoke was billowing out the windows. But it wasn’t the fire that woke her. Not the burning sound of wood and metal.
“What was that sound?” Lynn blurted out, startled awake.
She listened carefully, but only for a moment before hearing the cries of the parents next door.
She ran down the stairs and out the back door. The crackling and burning was so loud she couldn’t hear her own thoughts. One. Two. Three. Three? THREE? There was one child missing. The youngest, only 4 years old.
Lynn watched the frantic parents whose eyes were searching the yard for their youngest daughter. They were inconsolable. It was the middle of the night, the only light provided by the flames licking their family home. She had been friends with the neighbors since they moved in 5 years ago, before Samantha was born.
Lynn didn’t think. She ran straight into the burning house. Up the stairs without a second though, she covered her nose to shield herself from the smoke, but it did little good. The heat was excruciating. Her eyes burned so badly she had to keep them closed. Now on her hands and knees, she crawled down the hallway, feeling for Samantha’s bedroom door. Before she could reach the room, she was overtaken by the smoke and heat.
Outside, a small voice was whimpering, too quiet to be heard. Samantha, dragging her tattered blanket, pulled herself out from behind the tree where she’d been hiding. “Mommy. Daddy.” No one heard her.
She walked slowly towards her family, eyes groggy and half asleep. Finally spotting Samantha, her parents ran across the yard to scoop their baby up in their arms. Sobbing, they hugged her tightly while her two older siblings screamed.
Looking up through his tears, the father gasped before crumpling to the ground. Memories flooded back as he saw Lynn’s back door wide open and remembered her running selflessly into the burning house to save his youngest child.