YET ANOTHER SMOKY TALE.

Everyone would love this..
For the first time ever, it was way more than the smoke.
There was the pitch-darkness, the squishy bed, the chilly effect of the standing fan close by and of course, the all important final examinations. Unlike other affirmed, avowed and aspiring scholars, Slacker was never one for the academic vigils- the overnights. Not on that night, at least. Whatever was going to be was simply going to be. Destiny had never been one to be held back by roadblocks.
Roadblocks.
On the astral plane, the night was even darker. Quieter. His grip on the steering wheel seemed to tighten as did his feet on the accelerator. To make matters better…sweeter, he was driving blind. No, he was not blindfolded in any way. His eyes were shut. And so he drove, so he sped, so he cruised. Until, of course, he ran into a roadblock. As furious as fate and destiny would have it, the roadblock on the astral plane was merely a distant ominous explosion that Slacker could not have ruled out as a dream or hallucination.
It must be the nearby transformer, he thought. It has happened again.
Slacker did not get up from the driver’s seat. He stayed put, waiting for the breeze of the standing fan to wind down until he could confirm his best fears. As destiny would have it, ironically, his actual worst fears would be made manifest in no time. But for the mean time, he would stay put in the driver’s seat and revel in the thrill of his car crash because really, sleep enhanced learning ability. He could not go and kill himself. At the end of it all, he would be alright, even as the mystery of What could have possibly gone boom? continued to run riot in his head. As though the devil were being spoken of, his roommate ran into the bed area from the nether section.
“Guy, wake up sharps.”
The agitation of Teaser, his roommate did just enough to pull Slacker from his wrecked car. Until he heard “The house beside us is burning”, Slacker never considered the possibility of himself ever going bonkers.
With the fog over his sensibilities clearing, Slacker lunged for the nearest available window, which offered a direct view of the house on fire. As he discovered on pulling aside the curtains, the fateful house was simply…dark. No smoke, no flames, no voices. For the second time in less than a minute, Slacker considered craze.
Instantly, he turned on his friend. “Guy, I swear I can change it for you. What the hell?”
“What are you talking about? A house across the street is burning. Chastity’s apartment is there.”
A house across the street…the house beside us…
At that moment, Slacker knew for certain that he heard double the first time. But what he did not know was how he would deal with the untimely death of his infamous cousin-by fire. Ultimately, if he was going to save a life or more from the smoky horrors, he would have to derail from what his name stood for. Slacker was ready to do it.
On exiting the apartment, the duo discovered that the pitch-darkness had was now starkly contrasted, amongst numerous homes’ lights, by the flames ravaging House Number Eleven. Ignoring the burgeoning crowd, a woman’s theory of a gas explosion and calls for the acclaimed power holders to do what they should have done much earlier, Slacker and Teaser undertook the race of their lives. Teaser strongly doubted his half-full twenty-five-litre jerry can. Slacker, on the other hand, questioned the sufficiency of his detergent and the negligible amount of sand in his nylon bag. Neither the fire service nor the police had arrived. Evidently, the people around were more interested in watching the fire run riot than actually helping the victims.
Teaser was suddenly dazzled by multiple flashes of white light, such that he almost fell. He was tempted to drop his jerrycan in order to pummel the life out of his dissociative assailants. But he knew he and Slacker had a bigger fight. A portentous one.
“What are these two trying to-”
“Ah!”
“Someone should go and hold them o! These ones want to die!”
The Yoruba was all too decipherable for Teaser, but he was not sure about Slacker. Even at that, he was sure Slacker got the message. On their arrival at the gate, a band of neighbours closed in on them from seemingly nowhere with a view to hold them back. For the third time that fateful morning, Slacker knew he would lose his marbles.
Only that Teaser beat him to it.
“Get off me, you bastard!” He rang out, elbowing his primary assailant square in the face. “You won’t lend a hand and at the same time, you won’t let anyone else do so? Let me die my die!”
Impressed by his friend and struck by his nuggets of wisdom, Slacker suddenly mustered the strength to take down his own bandit. Teaser, on the other hand, found another use for his jerry can with his secondary assailant. Slacker felt the urge to smile and yell in admiration, but for the fact that Chastity’s fate was still up in the air like the flames were. Taking a quick glance at the shell-shocked, photo-taking spectators that threatened to send more bandits his way, he kicked open the gate and delved in, with Teaser following suit. Their sprint was boistered by the reality that the flames did not extend to the ground floor. Their sprint did not take long, as well.
All thanks to their intimidated halt.
The screams anticipated by Slacker and Teaser were all but audible. An uneducated guess of flames drowning out human screams flashed in Teaser’s mind, but he knew better. He uncovered his jerrycan and began strategic sprinkles, outpours. Slacker, however, was more sporadic with his detergent and sand. He remembered the asthmatic tendencies in Chastity’s immediate family and he instantly resolved not to take further chances. He made for her room without even waiting for Teaser and broke open the consuming door. Having fallen flat, the remaining contents of his detergent and sand spilled enough to quiet the flickers of fire on the floor. In great pain, he gingerly crawled towards her presumably warmed bed.
Slacker gripped the edge of the bed and levered himself up to behold his cousin. Sleeping soundly. Covered by thick layers of a towel and some wrappers. With her headset plugged in in both ears. As he discovered, a song was still playing. Small Doctor’s Penalty. He yanked the earplugs off in sudden rage. On turning back to the door, holding her, he saw a weakened Teaser in the midst of the flames. Teaser on his part trudged past Slacker and flicked Off, what turned out to be something dangerous.
“On other nights,” he began as he went for Chastity’s legs, “I wouldn’t mind setting the AC at the highest while covering-”
Nearby, there was an explosion. Both Slacker and Teaser edged back. After seconds of hesitating, they both heard what Slacker concluded to be much-needed rain. Only that it wasn’t.
Slacker slipped Chastity’s iPhone 7 into his sidepocket, together with her headset. “Now that the damage has been done, they are just arriving. Typical.”
As quickly as they could, they carted out their companion who had still not returned from her own astral plane. To their advantage, the building had two gates on both extremes. Seeing that one was already occupied by members of the fire service, they took the initiative. Slacker knew the final exam would still go down. But he was not prepared to be deterred from crashing from exhaustion on getting home.
********
The planet’s golden star, much like Slacker and Chastity, was slowly making its shimmering way back from its astral plane. A seated, fully-clothed Slacker looking up into the sky knew it was simply a matter of rotation, of shifts. He envied the sun’s routine, which had never been broken since the beginning of time. The more artificial power source in his locale had been out since the intervention of the police and the fire service.
He knew it would not be back for a long time.
Slacker’s eyes soon found Teaser’s adorned reading jotter, accompanied by his rumpled examination docket. The fact that Chastity had still not woken rendered Teaser motionless. But for a sudden slight movement, Teaser would have totally facepalmed in despair.
“Took way longer than I expected.” Teaser gasped, sinking to the bed.
“In case you’ve forgotten,” a more confident Slacker began, “this is Chastity.”
A knowing look passed from Teaser to Slacker before they both turned back to Chastity. Opening her unsuspecting eyes, she sat up in a bed that seemed to have turned squishier over night. Over her, her ceiling fan was no longer there. And for the first time in a while, she had company. Familiar company.
Chastity squinted her eyes, more amazed than drowsy. “You two? How did..how did I get here? Why am I in your apartment, on the day of your final exams?” Having increased in vocal intensity, she got off the bed and went straight for the window, like an accustomed homing pigeon. Contrary to the thoughts of Slacker and Teaser, Chastity did not look back in record time.
“Our exam has started already.” Teaser managed, resignedly. “And before you ignore that and ask about your iPhone, we saved your life.”
 
Inspired by true events.
Clinton.
 

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