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Passages (Seven Short Stories)

For Chris. I couldn't have done it without you.

Chapter One

Smoke choked her lungs and made her eyes water. The heat burned against her skin. She ran down the steps, tears streaming down her cheeks. Someone grabbed her from behind, strong arms wrapping around her torso.

She woke up gasping and coughing. Her surroundings came into focus. Salmon-colored walls. A hard bed. She was in a hospital room, not in the fire. She had escaped. Her heart pounding, she looked down at herself. She wore a hospital gown, and her arms and stomach stung with pain, though covered with clean bandages.

What had happened? Swallowing, she tried to think over the day, but all she had were blurry images that didn’t make sense. The fire was vivid in her mind, but she didn’t know how she escaped. She remembered riding in a car and bleeding from her stomach. She tried to recall how she’d started bleeding, but she faced the same maddening wall of blankness. She swore and clenched her teeth.

Her hands shook as she pushed aside the rail on the side of the bed. She needed to get out of here. She wasn’t sure why, but she had the feeling something bad was going to happen if she stayed here. Her legs were weak when she put weight on them, and she steadied herself against the bed.

She needed to find her parents. She tried to picture them in her mind, tried to recall their names, but there was a gap where they should have been. Instead, a crushing weight pressed down on her chest. She pushed aside her panic. It didn’t matter; she’d find them. It was just the shock.

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