The Things We Lost

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When I was in middle school, or the Compound's equivalent, we took a field trip to the livestock fields. We did this once a year to see the new animals being born in the spring and help out with the shearing, milking, and tagging of the large animals. The compound raised its own sheep, cows, and chickens. I always liked the sheep, because they reminded me of clouds.

I would learn on this particular trip that sheep have a pack mentality. They go everywhere together in a huddle. They eat in a huddle, sleep in a huddle, run in a huddle. We hardly ever found sheep that had left their flock. If we found one, it was probably lame or injured, and it would  be killed early in its life.

These trips would sometimes last late into the night, because there were so many animals and so few students. This night, I had been sent to get a certain sheep for shearing. It was past nightfall; the sheep were huddled up to sleep. When the alarm sounded, I froze. The alarm meant that there was a horde coming towards the compound, and we were all supposed to get indoors.

The sound woke the sheep up. From where I stood, motionless, I watched the sheep lift their heads, looking around in confusion. Then, they all started running. The sound was louder than the alarm. I watched in shock and awe. I had never seen such perfect harmony, and at the time, I thought I never would again.

As I am staring in shock today, that awesome feeling comes back. I watch, again motionless, as everyone erupts into movement, grabbing their things and running towards the back. There's a door back there, I know, because Isaac's been helping build a new one.

"Isaac, let's go," I say, grabbing him by the jacket sleeve and pulling him towards our stuff. Isaac grabs our backpacks, and I throw one sleeping bag over each shoulder. The crowd of people moves towards the backdoor, and so we follow, becoming one with the flock.

"Stop! Stop!"

Someone ahead of us is yelling, and the rest of the group is echoing. I stand up on my tip toes, looking over the crowd.

Tall flames stretch from floor to ceiling, kissing the newly remodeled door frame. The wood is kindle for the red destruction. Isaac pulls me in the other direction, back towards the front.

As we watch, two men throw lit matches at the front door, the gasoline they have poured coming to life in less than a second.

Already, the smoke is suffocating. It is rising towards the ceiling in thick billows, coming now from our left and right.

That's when the flock loses control. Around me, I hear crying, screaming, confusion and stampeding. The fire has started to climb the walls, sending its arms up towards the freedom of the sky.

"Isaac, let's go!" I shout, pulling my shirt up and over my mouth. Isaac just nods, and we jog away from the flaming front door.

"Jaelyn! Isaac!"

I follow the voice to the looming shape of Stephen, carrying what looks like a sack of potatoes on his shoulder.

"This way!"

He is running now, the shape of the sack on his back jostling. As we jog to catch up, I notice it's Jackson, red faced with his eyes closed. Stephen leads us through the store, dodging bits of the ceiling that have began to rain on us. He gradually slows down, panting and coughing.

In front of him, I see a large, jagged hole in a part of  the wall that has been patched. It looks man made, like Stephen might have just ran into the wall to make it. He ducks through it, disappearing into the light.

I shove Isaac ahead of me, and he runs into the fresh air outside.

I, on the other hand, turn around and run the other direction. My brain is moving quickly, for once, thinking ahead. If we are going to be outside, we are going to need food, first aid supplies, shelter. I didn't see anyone grabbing more than they needed to.

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