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Moment For Moment
I woke up and could barely breathe. There was dust all around me and I could barely see in front of me. I wondered what had happened and the memories slowly started coming back. There was a fire in the building and the walls were starting to crumble. We all tried to get out of the factory, but the exits became blocked by parts of the fallen ceiling. I was trying to move stuff out of the way so there would be a way out when I got hit by the ceiling. Obviously I was knocked out by that.
I tried to move and found that my body was pinned to the ground by a large beam on top of my chest. I tried to move it off, but to no avail. I knew that if I screamed out for help that no one would hear me. There was no civilization for at least a mile. Any of the workers would probably not hear me. They were probably trapped, unconscious, or dead. I shuddered at the thought. Some of my friends worked here. Sure there were long grueling hours, little pay, and little food, but we still stayed strong. I didn't want my friends to be dead.
I listened for sounds of other fallen workers. All I heard were the birds chirping. Everything else was quiet. I feared the worst. Was I the only one that was still alive? Then I heard a moan. Unmistakably from a person. “Hey!” I yelled “You okay?” The only response I got was another moan. “Can you tell me your name?” I was surprised that I could talk. “Jacob.” I heard him mumble. Jacob. My closest friend. I could not let him die.
I tried to move the beam on top of me again. This time, I succeeded in moving the heavy thing an inch lower on my chest. I could breathe a little easier, but I need to get this off and help Jacob. I pushed and pushed and tried so hard to move the beam. I got it as far as my knees before my arms gave up. Determined to get out, I tried to wiggle my legs out from under. I was almost out when the beam decided to fall solely on my left foot. An incredible amount of weight crushed my foot. I was so close to being free that I would not give up. I would not let this defeat me. I used what strength I could muster in my arms and heaved the beam off me. I was finally free.
“Jacob,” I called. “Jacob. Where are you?” I heard some debris move and I crawled toward the sound. A few seconds later I found Jacob. His face was red and bloody. There were parts of walls on top of him, no doubt crushing him. "Hang on Jacob," I told him as I tried to remove the debris. I was lucky the rubble wasn't as heavy as the beam, but it was heavy enough to tire me in a few minutes. He must have been near me when the building was collapsing. I guess we were one of the lucky few that were "spared." I looked at what remained of the factory. Nothing but a mound of rubble. I thought of all the kids that got trapped in the accident. A salty tear dripped into a wound on my face. I hadn't even realized that I was bleeding. But I couldn't cry right now. I had to be strong for Jacob.
I lifted a few more pieces off of him. I caught a glimpse of his blood soaked clothing. The blood was fresh and it was spreading. I knew he was hemorrhaging. I heard his breathing became shallow. "Jacob. Stay with me." He was unconscious and looking death straight in the eyes. "Jacob!" I cried. "You cannot quit on me! You are supposed to be the mature one. The strong one. The better one. Not me!" I could faintly hear his breathing and see a slight rise and fall of his chest. Then it just collapsed. Never to rise again. I bent my head down, crying for my lost friend. I cursed myself for not getting the stuff off him faster, but it wouldn't have made a difference.
After a while I stopped crying and picked my head up. I looked for the sun, which was slowly making its descent to the horizon. I had to get to some kind of shelter, probably my home. It was one of the closest homes to the factory. Walking there was going to be a nightmare. I looked at my foot; there was a pool of blood surrounding it and dried blood on my clothing. If I were to even walk on it, I would need to bandage it. I ripped the bottom of my shirt off. Luckily for me the strip I tore was long enough to tie around my ankle. The blood easily soaked through the rag, but it applied some pressure. I knew that it wouldn’t suffice but I had no other tools.
I looked around for a pole I could use as a walking stick. My eyes land on a metal pole on the other side of Jacob. I reached over my friend to get the pole. I felt so terrible that I lived and he didn’t. But I couldn’t do anything. I started making my way off the building and toward my house. I started heading east toward my home. Each step was excruciatingly painful. I screamed in pain several times, but it meant nothing at all. At one point, I fell down exhausted. I let myself rest for a few minutes then got up again. What was so bad about taking a small break? I had to get home, but what harm would a few more minutes do.
By the time I reached my house the air had gotten colder and the sun had got lower. It was late and father would be home any minute now. I didn’t want to chance getting caught coming home so late, so I climbed in my window. It was still open, just like I left it this morning. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had gone to the factory on my day off, but I knew that we needed the cash. We were barely scraping by as it was. I was actually surprised that no one had noticed or even cared how long I was gone. Although, Christine had caught me as I was about to sneak out. So I had to let her know what I was doing and swore her to secrecy. She can be nosy at times, but I trusted her to keep this secret.
When I heaved myself back into my room I collapsed onto my floor. I had left the pole outside, not thinking I would need it once I got in here. I stood up and used my bed as support. I hobbled out of my room and across the hall to the bathroom. I needed a new dressing and knew we always kept some under the sink in case of emergency. I washed out the wound and put a fresh dressing on it. I was surprised to find that the water was actually warm. I knew it was summer, but we never had warm water. Even stranger was the fact that my foot was barely bleeding anymore. It made me feel bad again. It seemed like I was doing so well, and Jacob had died. He didn’t deserve to die.
A tear slipped out and I wiped it away. I had to act normal, or as normal as I possibly could. First thing I had to do was get out of these clothes. They were made for work, and they were covered in dust from the factory. I went back into my room and threw on something clean. It felt nice having clean clothes on. The next step was to make sure that I found were everyone was. Surely Christine had kept everyone occupied. I knew that they liked to play in my room, why I don’t know. You know what, it doesn’t matter, just find Christine. I walked to the living room in our house. It only consisted of a couch and a small table, but there was plenty of floor, something Christine always loved. I found her and the rest of my siblings on the floor playing a game that was probably created by Christine. The twins Devan and Sarah sat right next to each other, Marc who was two years younger than me, and Wendell who was only three years old.
They all looked like they were having fun. I couldn’t even remember the last time I sat down and had fun with my family. Ever since I was eligible to work father pushed me to go and get a job. I wanted to help my family, but I was so scared. Then I met Jacob at the factory and learned that he had started working when he was my age. And now, I had no job and no Jacob. Just push it out of your mind I thought to myself. You did what you could. I focused back on the kids on the floor. I tried to figure out what they were playing. I gave up after a couple of minutes. I never could figure out Christine’s games.
I was starting to wonder where father was. He was normally home before the sky became red. I guess he was also trying to earn some extra money. Then I heard the front door open. Devan and Sarah ran right up to our father, hugging his legs. The other three followed and welcomed our father home. I just stood by our couch, not wanting to move my legs. “Hi father,” I said casually. He ignored me and paid direct attention to my siblings. He then passed me and sat on the couch, no longer being mobbed by children. “Father, can I talk to you?” I asked him, raising my voice a little. He still ignored me. “Christine, I need your help with something.” She didn’t respond to me either. “Alright very funny you guys. Just ignore the big brother.” I was starting to feel weird. Why were they ignoring me? I had never known them to be such great actors.
“Why don’t we turn on some radio? I am dying to know what is going in other countries.” Father always turned on the radio when he got home. We never got to leave the country. The furthest anyone in this house traveled was to work. Father and I each had to walk a mile or two to work, but never further than that. Mother walked to the market whenever we needed food. The other kids never got further than market; they were practically strangers to the world.
Father turned the radio on and tried to find a channel that wasn’t staticy. Suddenly something became clear. In recent news, there have been fires and building collapses across Austria. The most recent damage was the fire and destruction of Schnelber factory. Many kids were known to work there and so far, there have been no reported survivors. Father turned the radio off. “Where is Peter?” he asked, a worried expression on his face. “Father I am right here.” He didn’t seem to notice; he just stared at my siblings. “Shouldn’t he be in his room?” Devan said. “Actually. . .” Christine started, turning her head in shame.
“What do you know Christine?” Father was really worried. Couldn’t he see me right here? “Peter went out to the factory to earn some more money.” Her voice got quieter as she continued talking. “But it was his day off. Why would he. . .” “Because he loves us father. He wanted to help get money so we could have more food. I never thought that anything would happen to him.”
“I am right here!” I shouted at all of them. “I am fine! Stop acting! It is not funny anymore!” Father started weeping, thinking I was dead. Christine hung her head in shame. Her blond hair covered her face, although I could hear her crying. Now I was really starting to panic. I wasn’t dead. I had hobbled home with a metal pole from the factory, redressed my foot, changed my clothing. I was still alive. I went to my room to try and get some evidence that I was at the factory. I looked out my window for the pole. It had disappeared from the ground. I looked on my floor for the work clothes I threw off. They were nowhere. I looked at myself and I was still wearing the work clothes. I looked for the clothes I was supposed to be wearing and found them neatly folded. What was happening? I went over to my father. “Father! Father!” I waved my hand in front of his face. He was crying, mourning losing me. It couldn’t be true. I wasn’t dead! I reached out to touch my father and my hand went right through him. I pulled my hand back out. I looked at my hand. It had gone through him. I was a ghost. I was dead.
Bossier City, Louisiana
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