The hot air of summer had settled over the valley like a blanket even as the sun dipped below the horizon. Shadows lengthened and disappeared as stars started to dot the inky black sky. A strong wind ruffled the long grass in the paddocks that created a patchwork pattern broken by wooden fences and brick houses. The heavy limbs of the gum trees groaned under the winds pressure. Only the light spilling out of the windows of a red-bricked farmhouse broke the darkness.
“Behave and be safe Josephine,” my mother told me for the hundredth time.
“I will, I will,” I promised pushing her out the door. She turned around at the doorstep and gave my forehead a quick kiss before hurrying after my father and big sister. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face as I heard the door click shut behind my departing family. I was seventeen and this was the first time my family had left me alone in the house for a whole week.
It was the first week of the summer holidays and my parents were going to meet with my sister’s fiancé’s family. They were going to plan the wedding or something. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister and I’m really happy for her but I find party’s really boring, let alone planning them.
I skipped to the couch in pure joy, something I would never have done if others were around. With a content sigh I collapsed back into the couch picking up my latest book. With the air-con keeping the heat of a summer’s night at bay and an ice coffee within arms reach this was my heaven.
I know nerdy, I was seventeen; I should have friends over trashing the house, the music on too loud and partying. But I’ve never been that type of girl and probably never will be. So instead I snuggled down deeper into the soft old maroon couch and took a small sip of my drink. I shivered in delight as the cool liquid flowed down my throat.
I was so absorbed in the book I didn’t notice the faintest smell of smoke in the air. Not until it was too late. When I noticed that something was causing the words to look hazy I lifted my head and screamed. Through the window I saw the neighbouring forest on the horizon illuminated by a deadly orange glow.
I froze in fear, my mind became blank and I started to hyperventilate. Through the haze of pure terror I heard my dad’s voice explaining the fire escape plan. I jumped off the couch turned and sprinted out through the back door.
I ran as fast as I could, already noticing the smokes effects, along the gravel path towards the barn. I reached it in record time and flung the big red, white rimmed, barn doors open. Inside the shrill neighs and terrified whinnies made my blood run cold. I shot towards the first stable, opening the latch and throwing open the door. I had to hurl myself onto the floor to get out of the way of my mums charging bay, Thunder. I continued down the aisle making sure that all the horses were out of their stables before moving on.
The smoke was getting thicker by the second, my throat was burning and my eyes were watering terribly. I coughed and spluttered my way along the darkening aisle, realising horses as I went. I
finally reached the end where my own horse a young cream coloured mare, Coffee, was going nuts. I flung the stable door open, and against my better judgement, walked in. I grabbed hold of Coffee’s
halter and with brute strength, brought her head level with mine.
“Stop, its me,” I said trying to make my hoarse voice firm. She immediately stopped fighting but she was still fidgeting and prancing in a panic. I thanked whatever higher power there was that I’d spent so much time on gaining Coffee’s trust. I led her out of her stall and out of the barn. The minute she caught sight of the fire, she reared and turned to escape the other way, almost tearing my arm off my body doing so.
I decided now or never and with adrenaline filled energy leapt up onto her back. I quickly thanked my mother for allowing me to learn how to ride Coffee bare back. Now that I was on her back she was going to follow my lead. I quickly turned her away from the fire and kicked her into a gallop.
My heart was beating a hundred miles per hour as I raced along the old country road, hopefully, towards safety. My blood suddenly ran cold as I remembered our prized flock of sheep. But it warmed
up again as I realized they were in the back paddock. The largest paddock which also happened to be the furthest away from the fire. I started to breath easier as I heard the sound of fire engines
in the distance, but I didn’t slow.
After a while our panic filled flight for safety slowed as the smoke cleared and the flames were just bright lights on the horizon. Suddenly a small, bright red fox, also fleeing the flames, darted across our path. Coffee’s nerves were already wound tight and at the sight of the fox she lost it. She started plunging and rearing, bucking and pigrooting. I could have possibly held on if it wasn’t nearing midnight and I hadn’t just fled from a huge bushfire. I let myself fly threw the air and crashed back down onto the ground.
But my bad luck streak had yet to finish, my temple just had to come in contact with the only large boulder within ten metres of otherwise plain grass. I felt a sudden sharp pain before everything went black.
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