“Quite by Accident” Chapter 20

The Paperback Edition…

My eyes flew open and I could hear Fred talking to me.  What did he mean?  The room wasn’t even smoky and there was no alarm…

      BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP 

Oh…there it was…my sleep-fogged brain was slow to function.  Gosh that’s loud, I thought.

I’m always shocked how loud the fire alarm is…we must have at least 2 false alarms a month…some people never learn how to cook…

But…now there was a smokey smell in my room!  No false alarm this time.

I shrugged on my slippers as I walked after Fred who was floating down my hallway and I followed him out the door into the apartment hall.  It was super smoky.  I’d never seen anything like this before…it was scary…

No one else was out there…just Fred wafting down the hall…almost blending into the smoke.

“This way,” said Fred.  He was leading me toward a foggy light at the end of the hallway.  WTF!…had I really died?  Was this the “light” that everyone keeps talking about when they die?  Was everything that had happened tonight just a ruse?

No, no of course not, I told myself.  It’s just the apartment emergency light.  WAKE UP TOBEY!!! I shouted to myself and shook my head and blinked my eyes.  There was a lot more smoke now.

Then I stopped short…

“Wait!  Where is Emma?  Do you have her?”  I hollered ahead to Fred.  Now I couldn’t see him very well.  He was hard to see with all the smoke.  But then I sensed he was right  beside me…seemingly touching my elbow.

The alarm was so much louder in the hallway…I could hardly hear my own voice…but Fred’s voice was unmistakable in my ear…

“She’ll be fine, Tobey.  You have to leave now!”  His presence was more insistent but he wasn’t actually grabbing me.

“No! Wait!  I can’t leave Emma.  I’m going back Fred!”

I turned away and felt his touch on my arm disappear.

I quickly made my way back down the now smoke-filled hallway until the dim glow  from the EXIT sign showed I was at my door.  It hadn’t locked when I had closed it.

“Thanks God!!” I said out loud.

I pushed the door open and then quickly closed it, making sure that Emma did not run out into the apartment hall.

I knew exactly where that little squirt would be…under my bed…where she always went when that damn alarm went off.

The smoke was creeping into my apartment and getting thicker.  I ran into my room coughing loudly.  I shut the door in case Emma tried to slip out.

I clapped for my light to go on.  It did.  But then all the lights went out!