I wrote this in 2004--never posted on WdC Is Posted now, though.
Screams prayers and tears silent fall
The screams were shrill and erupting all around the darkness of the room. A man's panicked voice announced everyone's doom with the words, "I smell smoke."
I too could smell the harsh vapors and I imagined the tendrils of poisonous fumes entwining into each nostril. Yet, I sat frozen in my chair. People jostled and bumped all around me. I smelled the musk of fear as it soaked the rich formal gowns and dark suits. Something hard and bony struck the side of my head. I smelled the scent of rose wift passed and then a cologne reminiscent of English Leather.
My mind dwelt on the oddest things and all I could clearly think was 'Oh God! Men still wear that particular scent?'
The crashing of furniture quieted down, but the sounds of panic and whimpering fear could still be heard. The smoke was thicker too and I choked. It was the coughing which finally unfroze me from my chair. The darkness was still impenetrable but I felt along the table top and found the cloth napkin against the plate still filled with my forgotten meal. I held my breath as best as I could, controlling my urgent need to choke. My hands searched in front of me for the tall glass of water I knew was there before darkness and panic engulfed my quiet private celebrtation.
'Should I panic and add to the hysteria of the room? Don't be absurd,' I think to myself, 'panicking won't make the situation any better.' So I grasped the glass of water and the napkin and slid with measured control from my chair to the floor. I took a tentative drink from the water soothing the harsh raspiness of my irritated throat. Then I placed a corner of the napkin into the glass mindful of not pushing the water over the rim. It didn't want to absorb the liquid at first, so I proceeded quite slow.
When I had succeeded in soaking about half the napkin I heard an official voice in the crowd now some distance from where I sheltered under my dining table. People were still crying and carrying on so I decided to remove the napkin and fold the wet half against the dry and use this cloth as a filter to breath through. The smoke burned my eyes so that I could no longer keep them open. I drank the rest of the water from the glass, which now tasted like the napkin. I placed the wet cloth over my face and felt some relief as I breathed through the wetness.
Then someone flashed a light in my face. I turned their way but still couldn't open my eyes, they were tearing up so badly.
"Here's one over here. She's conscious."
The voice had a muffled echo quality to it and I assumed it must be from those masks firemen wear inside burning buildings. I tried to open my eyes again when two pair of hands grabbed my upper arms and pulled me from under my table.
"Don't worry Miss, we will have you into fresh air again in no time."
I was carried between the two men and as promised, in no time at all the cold night air caressed me. Through my closed eyes a brightness and darkness ocillated. Many voices surrounded me now as I was set down on a curb. Voices strained to answer questions and firm matter of fact commands for name and health status buzzed over head. There were moans and I heard someone yelling for a splint. Someone had a broken arm from being crushed in the rush to get out of the restaurant.
"Here is another one. I think she's the last one inside."
"Okay. Miss, Miss..."
A hand rests firmly upon my shoulder and I turn my head up and toward the woman's voice addressing me.
"Miss, can you tell me your name?"
"Yes, certainly I can tell you my name."
A silence lasts for a short moment. "And, what is your name, Miss?" A warm cloth wipes across my face around my eyes.
"Oh, I'm sorry, my name is Debora, Debora Ludwig. Is the fire serious?"
"The fire is under control now, but you will need to go to the hospital. You took in a lot of smoke."
A firm grip upon my upper arm indicated I should stand. My knees were weak but I managed to support my weight. "I seem to be a bit unsteady."
"That is okay, sit up on the stretcher, that's right lay down. We are going to take you to the hospital. Do you have someone here or family that need to be notified?"
"Do you think it is necessary to go in the ambulance?"
A blanket is placed over me. Background voices penetrate my hearing and I realize they are reciting blood pressure and respiratory rates and points of cognitive coherency.
"Yes, Miss. You took in a lot of smoke, though not as much as some."
I lay upon the stretcher and feel the straps snugged tight over several points of my body. "Okay, then. If I must."
I manage to squinch my eyes open a crack and smile at the attendent who wiped my face. "Thank you for wiping my eyes. They were burning pretty badly from the smoke."
The woman nodded then lifted and pushed the stretcher into the vehicle in unison with another person on the other side. She closed the door and I was attended by another medic inside the ambulance. He checked my eyes with a small light, took my pulse and blood pressure all the time talking to someone I couldn't see who was writing everything down.
"We need some information, do you feel up to it?"
"Debora Ludwig. D-e-b-o-r-a no h"
"Okay. Date of birth?"
"August twenty-two, nineteen fifty-four."
"Montana. Victor, Montana."
"Ah you're a ways from home."
"Yes, just a little ways."
"Debora, do you have insurance."
"You kidding, Bush is President, of course I don't have insurance. I'm lucky to have a job!"
"I hear a chuckle as the person checks no insurance. At least, I hope it was just a check off, and they didn't write down my insolent remark. Not that I'd take it back, but who needs the aggravation if one of the attendings at the hospital happens to be a republican.