"Help is coming."
The voice battled sirens shrieking toward the burning building.
Zoë gave in to coughing and feeling miserable. Her arms and legs trembled from dragging Adam out of the building. As he lay beside her in the grass, she didn't think she could do it again.
Dozens of people gathered in the park across the street from the evacuated restaurants, wide-eyed, making their way toward Adam and Zoë.
"You okay?" a woman asked.
Zoë propped herself up and the full scope of the fire roared in front of her. Black smoke billowed from the building, opaque through the windows.
"I've never been in a fire before," Zoë whispered, and doubled into another coughing fit.
"Did you get burned?" the woman asked, taking quick stock of Zoë's arms and legs.
Zoë shook her head, unable to speak.
Adam grabbed her hand. He was on his feet and wide-eyed. She hadn't even seen him get up.
"We have to go," he said.
"The ambulance is down the street," someone said. "Wait and get checked out."
"She's here." He pulled Zoë to her feet. "We gotta run."
"We should talk to the police," Zoë said. "You have to go to the hospital."
Without another word, he yanked her down the street. Once they'd run a few residential streets, he stopped behind a tree and checked if they were being followed. Blood tracked his face and neck, soaking his shirt.
"Let's go," he whispered, and they ran again toward Victor's house.
Once inside, Adam busied himself at the windows, drawing the shades, leaving bloody prints behind. To save the rest of the decor and Adam's waning energy, Zoë pulled the rest of the window treatments.
He followed her to the living room and lost his balance, swaying into the wall, and slumped to the floor. He sat with his head in his hands, blood mixing with sweat.
"There's so much!" He tried to wipe the blood from his forehead, wiping his shaking hands on his jeans, but it poured down his face.
Zoë stared at him in terror. "This is stupid. We need help."
"Don't call 911. They'll lead her straight here."
Someone pounded on the door.
Adam gasped. "Don't answer that! It's her."
But the door opened anyway and a woman called, "Hello?"
Adam squeezed Zoë's hand, restraining her from getting up. He squeezed his eyes shut.
Instead of Ashlee, or any of Adam's projected delusions, the woman was Heather, dressed in her EMR uniform, carrying a first aid box. Her face fell when she saw them.
"Christ," she said. "What's the matter with you?" She grabbed the sofa pillows and arranged them on the floor. "Lay down."
Adam lay back against the pillows, wincing. "Heather?"
"Get me a damp towel," she said to Zoë.
Zoë scrambled to the bathroom in the hall and pulled a hand towel from the linen cabinet, wet it in the sink. She hurried back and handed it to Heather.
"Can you tell me what happened?" Heather asked Adam. "Thanks," she took the towel from Zoë and dabbed the blood.
"Um," he started, but coughed.
YOU ARE READING
Recent expat Zoë Benton stumbles upon a manuscript that takes her to a whole new world. Literally. After a marathon reading session and a wave of dizziness, she finds herself under a pile of boxes in a record store basement in 1986 - 30 years in the...