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A New Day

A New Day
Joe Pickles


The fire engine is already here. The ambulance is on its way.

I’m watching the last few strips of charred wallpaper drift back down to earth. They are settling around us, glowing briefly as they take one last breath, before expiring. Just like Mum. So this is it then, just me and Jeremy. Or Jeremy and I? Whatever. It doesn’t matter, because now it’s just the two of us. It’s a strange feeling when you watch someone die, isn’t it? Knowing what’s going to happen, but hoping it doesn’t. Or maybe you don’t know. You probably haven’t seen what I’ve just witnessed.

Tomorrow, we’ll be in the local papers: “House Fire, One Dead”. People will read all about it for a few days and then we’ll be forgotten, passed on to foster parents while our future is decided. I sense that Jeremy realises this too. In the space of one night, he’s been transformed from my worst nightmare to my last hope and I cling to him. My little brother’s face is blackened by the smoke but the tears have left their mark.

I’m shivering. I’m not sure if it’s because of the cold or the shock. A kind neighbour has placed blankets around our shoulders and is doing her best to comfort us. But she can’t do the one thing that matters. It feels as if part of me has been erased by a giant rubber. What remains has been left without hope, and I cannot draw the missing part back in.

We’re lucky to be alive, or so they say. But it’s hard to see it that way. This house is no longer our home. The front door is missing, and the gaping hole into the hallway is like a silent “O”. I hear the crunch of glass and look down at the family photo I’ve just stepped on. It once took pride of place in the hall. I pick it up and wish I could leap back into that picture and be a part of that smiling family again, eternally preserved on a piece of paper. But I’m stuck here, stuck amongst the sorrow.

The blanket taps an irregular rhythm around my ankles as the breeze flicks at it. I look back to the house and picture myself walking from room to room, everything busy and colourful as it was only yesterday. And then I remember myself as a five year old with my best friend Jack, both of us Knights of Camelot, fearless, immortal. But our castle has burned down, we are not immortal and I now know what real fear is. The living room, now dead, is stripped of its bookcase and all the stories Mum used to read to us. The books have turned to ash and their words have been whipped away by the night air.

I look up as the approaching sun begins to paint the grey sky pink. A new day dawns, but I want the old one back.


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