The air was humid and I could barely see in the smoke that occupied the room. I clenched my eyes shut and kicked down the door to the next room; my partner and I barged in, looking around for signs of life. I moved a cupboard and that’s when I saw her, covered in soot and clutching something close to her chest. She trembled all over and looked at me anxiously with her deep dark eyes and as I looked into them everything muted, I could sense the commotion behind me, my mates shoving me away and taking the bundle from her. She looked down that instance and fear struck her eyes; fear that wasn’t there before, she shook her head vigorously, muttering something.
I went close to her in order to hear her, ‘my baby, my baby’, she whispered as my friend tucked the blue baby under his arms and ran outside.
I looked at her shivering there in the hot room, with fire all around us, urgently draped a safety blanket around her and told her the baby was going to be fine. Maybe it was the confidence in my voice that I was trained to keep, or she really did believe me because her eyes sparkled for a moment and a faint smile touched her lips, ‘thank you’ she said. And then her eyes lolled back into her head.
I returned her out and we resumed extinguishing the fire, usually I was too occupied to think of anything, but today, I couldn’t let go the expression in her eyes. It was not fear, she had been sitting in the stuffy cupboard in a burning house for God knows how long, and yet there was no fear in her eyes. No fear for herself passing over to the other side. But it was something I knew too well; she had seen death, felt it, almost been swallowed up by it. And yet, escaped it. I knew it, been there and I had never met anyone who had seen death up close like myself. Never found someone I could relate to, talk to. My life was purposeless and I’d taken this job where one was faced with death risks every now or then.
I looked for her after work and got around to the hospital where she had ended up. On inquiring I was directed to a doctor who told me she was no more, the baby had survived, she was too weak though. Too close to death itself.