06
Apr
08

Phoenix Rising (1)

‘Are you ok dear? You look a bit green around the gills’.
As usual my ever observant and sensitive husband didn’t miss a thing.
‘I’m fine’. I replied, and I thought I was. ‘Just a bit of indigestion from all this rich food.

Come on. Time for your speech. Everyone’s waiting.’
 
I’d like to begin by asking you all to remember with me the reason why we are all

assembled here today, and why this day is so special. It has been made all the more

special by you folks joining us here to celebrate. I know that Carrie feels the same, and

I know that like me, her thoughts will have returned to that remarkable day yet again,

but…’
 
I turned to look at his smiling face, crinkled a bit in places, but still bearing the same

warm kindly grin, accompanied by eyes which truly shone with love and sincerity. How

lucky I was to have met him that day, all those years ago. How serendipitous! I say

that, because it could have been any one of a number of other people I bumped into as

I ran from the burning building. There were children fleeing in all directions. Shouts and

screams and panicky chattering made concentrating difficult. Thick amorphous smoke

obscured everything and as I ran, hanky over my nose and mouth, I heard the fire

brigade and teachers trying to marshal about five hundred individuals into a designated

space. With my eyes stinging and an ever deepening sense of disorientation I started

towards the voices of the teachers. In the murkiness and gloom of the smoke and

rubble I tripped and bumped into someone. It was Chris.
 
When I say I met Chris, that isn’t strictly true, because we had known each other since

nursery school and attended the same primary and secondary schools together since

then. We were pupils in the sixth form, although in different classes and studying, for

the most part, different subjects. Admittedly not close, we were more than nodding

acquaintances, but I suppose, with very little common ground between us, there had

been no reason for us to be anything more than that. So, when I say ‘met’ I mean it in

the sense that I could have physically met anyone in the mad exodus, but I didn’t. I

met Chris, and as if for the first time.
 
I had no idea who I had knocked as I stumbled and tried to regain my footing.

Embarrassed, I took the hand that was extended to me and clung on until had I

re-established my balance. Through the whirl of poisonous grey mist, I recognised Chris

and burst into tears.
 
‘Come on. Let’s get out of this before it kills us’!
It was a command and I obeyed, clutching his hand as he gently pulled me along. His

hand grip was comfortingly secure and as we ran, I began to feel less anxious. After a

while we could see more clearly and found our way to the back of the playing field

which seemed to be the collection point for able- bodied evacuees. With my free hand I

rubbed my tearful eyes, which, though inconvenient, had benefited from tears which

had expunged some of the stinging sensation of the smoke. I looked back at the

school. As yet there wasn’t much to see. Every now and then bits of ghostly building

exposed themselves and then disappeared again behind the smog.  I was aware that

half the schools population were still missing. Maybe they were at the other side, on

the road. Worried, I voiced my concerns and promptly started to cry again. Chris looked

down at me, put his arm round my shoulders and squeezed gently. Then sensing my

discomfort, guided my wet face to his shoulder, and I buried my tears and splutters and

gave in to the immense feeling of shock. At one point I remember Chris murmuring

something, and then I thought I felt him kiss the top of my head. Afterwards I thought

I had just imagined it. It must just have been shock doing funny things to my

perception. My senses were all out of kilter.
 
Gradually the group became larger as more children joined it. Most of them were calm,

but one or two were clearly in shock. Some of them were ticked off the lists that the

teachers were checking and then taken to waiting ambulances. Others clung to each

other in small clusters, chattering, crying, and endlessly fidgeting, trying to come to

terms with this horrific interruption to the school day.
 
I don’t know how long we stood there. Chris told me later that the teachers had rung

our parents, but got no replies. When we were told we could leave, Chris was still

holding me and he continued to do so as we began to walk off the field.
 
‘I’ll walk you home. I think perhaps you should have gone to the hospital. Are you

feeling any better?’
‘I’m heaps better thanks. You’ve been great’, was all I could manage. I couldn’t quite

muster the words to tell him how great he’d been, but as I looked up at him, I saw the

concern in his face slowly diminish and I thought perhaps he had  an inkling. I looked

back at the school, one last time. To my amazement, I saw a pattern forming in the

smoke.
‘Chris! Look!’
Chris turned and we watched as the smoked whirled upwards into the shape of a bird,

and then hovered for some thirty seconds over the school.
‘My God’, Chris gasped. ‘It’s a Phoenix’.
Numbed, I tentatively asked him if he thought this was a good sign.
‘I reckon. Not sure I believe in it, but we both just saw it, didn’t we?’
He looked down at me for confirmation. Then we looked back at the smoke, and any

bird shape we’d seen in the smoke had dissipated, leaving random swirls and wisps

caught by the heat and the wind. We walked home.
 
When we arrived at my house, my father was just turning into the drive. When he saw

us, he was immediately concerned. Not surprisingly, we were covered in the debris from

the fire, carried by the smoke. Tiny ashes, perhaps books and papers from the library

and our desks were now flecking our uniforms and bodies, and our faces must have told

the story succinctly. My father, a GP immediately took control, herding us into the

house and ringing Chris’ family and my mother. Then he gave us sweet warm drinks…to

this day I have no idea what…and questioned Chris and then me as to our state of

health, mental and physical. Satisfied that we were both ok, although mildly shocked,

he sat us down on the sofa and made us talk. Talking, he said, would help. I wasn’t

sure how, and by now I was feeling so tired I just wanted to sleep. Shortly afterwards,

Chris’ mother arrived, followed by his father and my mother. Chris and I answered the

barrage of questions, as best we could, and then the adults decided to switch on the

radio and the television, in the hopes of acquiring a little more information. I think I

fell asleep at this point.
 
Neither Chris nor I had told our parents about the Phoenix. I think we felt sure we’d be

considered daft, over imaginative, or just reacting to the shock of the situation. We

talked about it once or twice, but soon forgot in the business of our everyday lives.

There were more important things to consider. Secretly I took comfort from the vision.

After all, it was meant to symbolise re-birth, and rebirth suggested a future.
 

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