“Happy birthday Grandma!” I exclaimed joyfully. Laughter filled the air in the seafood restaurant. The aroma of chilli crab filled my nostrils as I broke its shell. It was my grandmother’s 70th birthday party.
I took the lion’s share of the crab and gobbled it up like a starving wolf. My grandmother grinned as a joke was cracked by my father. Suddenly I jumped, startled, as I heard a loud booming sound. The restaurant was immediately silenced. Many whispers were soon heard, most of them asked, “What was that?”. I smelt something burning from the kitchen. My blood froze, my legs turned to jelly and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the kitchen area. I opened my mouth, lips quivering, but no sound came out. The whole area around the kitchen had just burst into flames. The fire spread to the dinning hall as fast as lightning. Screams broke the silence.
An arm jerked me as I came to my senses. I realised my father was pulling me towards the entrance. The flames grew bigger and bigger every second. A stampede of frightened people scrambled through the door but I was caught between two burly men. One of them pulled me back to the floor and crashed against the other people. I tried to call my father but choked on the thick black smoke. The intense heat was making me sweat profusely. Everything around me was in flames. “What in the world happened in that kitchen?” I thought as I got up worried and frightened. I heard more and more screams all around me.
The smoke was suffocating. I coughed badly. A burning pain soared through my body as my shirt caught fire. I rolled on the ground crying in pain and fear trying to stop my shirt from burning. It stopped burning and I got up wasting no time. I covered my nose and mouth and ran to the entrance . At least I thought it was. I realised it was not as I slammed straight into a brick wall. The day was getting bad faster than a dead fish out in the sun. I coughed and choked uncontollably. I slammed my fist into the wall angry at myself. How could I have lost the way out?
Helplessly, I ran under a table curled up into a ball crying. I shrieked in pain as the burning table fell on top of me. I crawled out from underneath it. Just then, someone bumped into me and ran off.
“Wait! help me!” I screamed.
“Hey a survivor! Hey you, follow me! The exit is this way. Just run through the flames. Hurry the buildings gonna’ fall apart!” a rough bellowing voice shouted back.
Of course I could not see him but I followed his voice to an open area where the heat was overwhelming. The moment I stepped forward, the fire scorched my leg and I stepped back quickly. The fire was raging intensely here. The exit was right across. I had to escape then or never. I thought of the pain and burns I would experience if I ran across. I was too chickenhearted to run through the fire. Then, I realised if I did not escape now, I would die. I gathered my courage, and ran through, taking the bull by the horns. I did not feel the pain after a while but I knew I was just numb. I crashed through a broken door, coughing out fumes, and dropped to the ground and fainted.
When I came to, I was in the hospital. My parents told me that the fire was caused by a careless chef who had left the gas running near a naked flame. My body was badly burnt but I was lucky to have survived.
I spun my head from side to side. It was like a burning furnace in the toilet. After putting my grandmother on the floor to rest, I began stuffing wet toilet papers underneath the door. The smell of carbon filled the air, choking the rest of the stranded and unlucky diners of the El Salvadore Restaurant. I started blocking the gaps underneath the door while a tall, skinny man, who appeared to be a doctor, helped to pat my grandmother’s head with cold water.
It all started when we were celebrating grandmother’s seventy-fifth birthday.
“Happy Birthday to you!” We all shouted as my grandmother blew out the candles. With smiles on our faces, we started giving presents, red packets and some snacks that our grandmother liked to her. Her face lit up as she saw the amount of cookies and tarts we passed to her.
“How’s the food? I see you’ve moved on to the cake cutting!” The restaurant’s head chef asked. His eyes twinkled as he awaited for Grandma Ellie’s answer.
“Ka-blam!” Something in the kitchen door exploded. I crept towards it silently. I noticed that there was smoke seeping out of the gap above the door.
“Stop” I shouted, as the chef was about to open the door.
To my dismay, the chef swung open the door. Flames began to crawl out of the kitchen, engulfing the poor chef in flames. I shuddered as I watched the scene unfold before my eyes. It was like an “M18 horror-thriller movie” in the cinema. In a few seconds, the chef dropped to the ground, half conscious. Although he looked as dead as a fish out of water, I knew he was alive as I could see his fingers twitch.
It was then that I realized my family was signaling for me and my grandmother to escape but a pile of burning wood stood in our way. The flames blazed with “life”. It waved like it was dancing. The bright, warm glow of the flames dimmed and suddenly brightened to a bright, almost whitish glow. It flickered like the lights on an emergency vehicle. The flames spread fast, burning and devouring everything in its path.
By now, I realised that the chef had no chance of survival because the smoke got heavier and billowed heavily. The smoke turned from a clear, blackish gas to a black ash-filled cloud.
I reached for Grandma Ellie and we both hid under a table.
“8.05pm. If I call for the fire brigade now, they would be here by 8.15pm!” I thought as I dialed for 995.
It was five minutes before I plucked up my courage and started to head for a safe place, the toilet. I grabbed a napkin and gave it to my grandmother to cover her nose. We crawled to the toilet as fast as we could.
For a seventy-five year old lady, she sure could crawl! We scuttled left and right before we reached the toilet. My heart raced as I could see flames rushing quickly to me!
Grandma Ellie and I got up and pushed the toilet door. It was stuck! “Thump, Thump, Thump!” My heart pounded as the flames neared us. A flashback appeared before me. My mind ran into a train of thoughts.
Suddenly, my grandmother fainted. I fell into a dark pit. I was drowning in a ‘sea’ of smoke. My eyes burned as the smoke covered my eyes. I gritted my teeth. Fear ran through my mind, stabbing my heart like a double-edged sword. Perspiration ran down my cheeks. I carried my grandmother in my arms and shouted for the toilet door to open. As if God answered my prayer, the door swung open. A tall, skinny man helped me lay my grandmother on the floor.
While I blocked the gaps under the door with toilet paper, the man started patting my grandmother’s head with cold water. I began to feel nauseous and dizzy. It was like my whole world was spinning. My vision blurred. I fainted.
“Owww!!!” I screamed as I got out of the hospital bed. It was moments after that the doctor rushed in and explained to me that I was rescued together with my grandmother by the fire brigade. Although I suffered a few burns, I was alright to be discharged the next day.
I was glad both grandma and I managed to escape unscathed. I was sure God’s angels were with us on that fateful day.
I will be posting the selected compositions in the next few days.
Congratulations to those whose narratives made it to this blog.
For the rest, aspire to be next!
"Happy 80th birthday, granny!" I exclaimed as I dashed forward to give her a hug and a birthday present.
"That’s too kind of you, dear," she replied, tender lines of wrinkles appeared as she smiled. As I was about to take my seat, a sudden explosion was heard. Huge flames erupted from the kitchen. Staff members came bursting out of the kitchen door.
I stood there motionless. A part of me was at a total loss of what to do while the other was just hysterical! I felt that time had slowed down. I watched aimlessly as people were scattered everywhere. I shifted my focus to granny who was horrified by what she saw. Suddenly, she rose and tried to escape, but unfortunately, she was old and feeble. Looking at her made me come back to reality.
I summed up all my courage and helped her get up on her feet. I then took a piece of cloth which was lying on the table, dipped it in iced water the waitress had served earlier, and placed it on our noses to prevent us from suffocating. I could still see other casualties screaming as they rushed frantically towards the exit.
It was not easy, but fortunately I got out in the nick of time. All of a sudden, a scream came from behind me. I turned around and to my horror, there was a little girl stuck under a large, round table. Immediately, my instincts kicked in and I just ran towards her. Whatever I needed to do, I had to do it quick as the walls were caving in on us. I rushed towards her, picked up the fallen table and helped her up. Soon, my body felt weaker and I could hardly breathe. The last thing I saw was the girl escaping the wrath of the ferocious flame and running towards her teary mother.
Then, I saw total darkness. Bits and pieces of my life flashed through my mind. I could see a headline saying, "Boy dies trying to save a girl." After what seemed like eternity, I was awoken by a bright light. I thought I was dead. But thankfully, that was not to be. "Thank goodness you are fine!" my granny heaved a sigh of relief. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she hugged me.
It was not the best birthday celebration granny had but it was certainly the most poignant one.