YOU'D BE SURPRISED what wind can spread.
Joshua's words repeated again and again in my head as my boss spoke to me. It was three in the morning. I'd guessed something had gone wrong when I'd heard the sirens. I'd gotten that terrible sinking feeling in my gut right from the start, but when her Ford Windstar pulled up in front of the gas station, that's when I'd known it for sure. Something had gone wrong. Very wrong.
I'd watched Gina Kelly get out of her green minivan, pulling her coat tight around her body as she walked towards the shop. The bells chimed as she came through the door, and a breath of icy wind gusted into the room.
"Harper..." she said my name as she came up to the register. Her voice quivered on each syllable. Her eyes were barely able to hold contact with mine, shifting anywhere but my face. Panic rippled through my body. All of my blood drained to my core. My head felt light. My entire body felt light. The room spun.
I could hardly hear what she was saying as she spoke. The world was falling out from under me. Her voice called to me from the end of a tunnel, but she was standing right in front of me.
She placed her hand on my shoulder. I pulled at the fabric of the sleeves of my sweatshirt, covering and uncovering my hands. The clock on the wall ticked louder and louder with each passing second like the heartbeat of a monster, creeping closer and closer. Wind slammed against the building in a slow, menacing rhythm. It screamed dully and distantly, like the sound of ringing in the ears.
The fire had started at one of the abandoned houses on Cornwall Drive.
That's what the fire department had said. The dry wood burned hot and fast, lighting up the night in a red and yellow glow like the sun
No alarms had gone off.
The wind spread it. It fueled it. The abandoned house next door caught, and then it spread to the one next to that, catching quickly and not stopping.
That one hadn't been abandoned.
The fire alarms finally went off, but by that point it was too late. The fire was too hot. It was too strong. The wind was too fierce, and it burned like wildfire—out of control and without care or remorse.
It took them almost an hour to put it out. Thousands of gallons of water, but by the time the flames died down to smoldering, smoking coals, three houses had already been leveled. There was nothing to save.
There was one death.
It happened so fast. That's what the fire department said. They weren't sure if there had been any fuel involved, but based on how quickly and randomly it had started, it was likely.
"It may have been arson." That's what they said. May have been.
Someone may have lit it, doused the first house in gasoline and then let it burn—let the wind take its course and spread the flames from house to house, until the right side of Cornwall Drive was gone, and the left side with the dogwood tree stared at empty lots across the street. Just dirt and rubble.
"By the time they got there, there was nothing they could do," Gina told me, but I couldn't hear her. I watched her lips moving. "I'm so sorry..."
She squeezed my shoulder gently, but I shrugged away. I darted to the exit, knocking over the sunglasses display as I went. It clattered to the floor. She called my name, but I didn't listen. I couldn't listen.
The wind blasted me in the face as I went through the door, but I couldn't feel it. My entire body was already numb. I couldn't even feel the pain shooting through my leg as I ran. I think Gina chased after me, but I didn't look back as I got in my car. My hands shook as I turned the key and started the engine. It roared to life with a dull rumble. The moon burned bright, glaring down as clouds soared past it, the wind spreading them across the sky. I put the car in gear, and then I drove off into the night.
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•• Wattys 2018 Winner •• Wattpad Featured Story •• One day, a wind blew into the town of Millstone and didn't stop. Slowly people moved away. It was like the town was trying to clear itself out, as though it was preparing for something sinister. Whe...