Immobile Danger E2

Firefighter with water hose
Publish Novellas 14 February 2024


Amid intense heat from rising flames, Simon is trapped in his own phobia. Can anyone coax him to safety?

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Death Below


Police officers blocking access to the building cannot hear Audrey’s shouts above the screams of others. With overcrowded fire escape platforms, some people are leaping from their windows. A few land on the jumping mattresses below.

“Stand back lady. Clear the area!” an officer shouts from behind the yellow tape.

“My friend is trapped on the eighth floor!” Audrey keeps repeating.

Finally, it registers in the officer’s ears what she is saying. As he turns behind him and looks up, he sees a white sheet hanging from a window on the eighth floor.

“Is that sheet where your friend is?” he asks.

“Yes, that should be him! Rescue Simon!”

The officer notifies rescue workers who swing an extension ladder to the window. Now the seventh floor is nearly consumed. With a visual of Simon huddled on the floor, the rescue worker shouts. “Hurry, come to the window!”

He hears coughing and keeps urging, “Can you walk? Don’t be afraid, hurry!” without response.

The determined firefighter enters the window and lifts Simon, against his will, over his shoulder. This is the last person they save on that floor before fire consumes it. All available fire trucks and drones continue dowsing the apartment with water to extinguish the flames. Gradually, the black smoke turns white.

Active Recovery

Back on the ground, an ambulance rushes Simon to the hospital. Audrey follows behind and remains in the emergency department waiting room for an opportunity to visit.

Several hours pass without a word. There’s just an influx of gurneys ripping through a crowded waiting room. When nurses remove the respirator, Audrey can view him with bandaged arms and hands. But she manages to cheer him up.

“I’m so glad you made it out alive,” she exclaims.

With a raspy voice, he replies, “Thanks.”

“You can’t talk much. But I want you to know that I’m here for you.”

He nods to acknowledge appreciation. She holds a straw to his lips as he sips water. Then an overworked doctor enters to check on the patient.

“Are you related to the patient?” Doctor Marx asks her.

“Yes, can he come home?” she replies as Simon raises his eyebrows.

“Simon has first-degree burns on his arms and smoke inhalation manifesting as coughing and raspy voice. We would like to keep him under observation for a little longer, but we’re short of hospital beds. As I understand, his apartment was destroyed in the fire. Do you have another place for him to stay if we release him?”

“Yes, I can take care of him. Just tell me what to look for and we can free up this bed for other patients.”

“Okay, the nurse will prepare the discharge papers and go over the instructions with you.”

Audrey should provide plenty of fluids, apply clean gauze daily, administer pain relievers as needed, and make certain he finishes his course of antibiotics. If redness at the burn sites enlarges or deepens, return to the hospital. With these directives, she takes charge and reclines the passenger seat in her car to make Simon comfortable.

On the drive to her apartment she says, “It looks like I’m gonna be your live-in nurse for a while.”

Three days later Audrey offers him a fresh bagel with lox and cream cheese from her favorite deli. “I can warm up tomato soup, but I thought you might appreciate some solid food. Do you prefer coffee or orange juice with it?”

The patient, feeling well enough to speak, replies, “Thanks. I’m ravenous. This bagel is perfect, with juice, for now. How does one repay someone for their very life? I would have died without you.”

“I’m happy that you didn’t—and that you responded to my text message! Your voice sounds much stronger now. Where were you these past six weeks? I waited for you every Wednesday.”

“About that, this was my second tragic event since then. The four leashed dogs I was walking were run over in a crosswalk.”

“That’s terrible! Are they alright?”

“Three died. I suffered minor injuries. The ordeal made me afraid to leave my apartment. So I was immobilized during the fire.”

“But you dared to hang the sheet out of the window. That’s twice you’ve escaped death.” Audrey sits beside him on the bed and strokes his hair. “Apparently your life is too valuable to discard. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me any time you need anything.”

“Thanks. I can’t express how much that means to me.”

“We have a lot to learn about each other. If you’re willing to venture beyond these walls, you can get up and shower. Then Madeline and I would like to begin our new journey together with a walk in the park. Afterward, we can get you some new clothes.”

“My life seems to have value. With you by my side, that walk sounds like something I would like very much.”

The End

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