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Authors: Amy Morrel

A Hero's Reward

BOOK: A Hero's Reward
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Hero's Reward

Text copyright © 2013, Amy

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of Contents

1 - A Day Off

Greg was looking forward to the explosions, the gunfire, and the
hero rescuing the girl. His movie was just getting to the best part.
He spent the majority of his days off watching this or that movie,
mostly action adventure. He didn't have much else to do any more
since his wife had divorced him and taken the kids. His construction
job had him working four or five long days each week, so he liked to
take a load off of his feet and relax when he had the opportunity.

Wow, this one's really getting to me, I'd swear I smell smoke
was the last thought to pass through his mind before his life changed
dramatically. A loud explosion drowned out the noise from the
television, assaulting his eardrums and rocking his house. A quick
glance out the window showed that the house across the street was
engulfed in raging flames. Noting that the car was present in their
driveway, he raced outside to see if the people who lived there had
made it out. Traffic was stopped in the street, the drivers staring
at the flames. His neighbors were coming out of their houses all up
and down the street to gawk as well.

A high pitched scream demanded his
attention. Glancing across the street he noticed a small hand waving
from the upstairs windows farthest from the flames. Looking around he
saw that there were no emergency vehicles anywhere nearby yet.

Hell, it's been less than a minute since the explosion; there
won't be any response for another five minutes at the very least, and
by then the whole place will be up in flames
through his mind in a flash. He was already moving by the time the
thought had finished. He'd just gotten done cleaning the gutters the
day before and the ladder was lying next to the garage. He took off
at a sprint towards it.

Greg grabbed his ladder and charged
across the street. The stopped traffic worked to his advantage now,
leaving a clear path straight across. Glancing up he saw that the
flames were ten feet closer to the open window that was his target.
Only thirty more feet and that section would be ablaze as well.

He slammed his ladder against the wall,
jumping on the bottom rung to drive the supports into the soft turf.
He yelled as loud as he could:

“Come on down kid! There's a
ladder right here!”

But the roar of the flames was loud
enough that he could barely hear himself.

Shaking his head, he launched
himself up the ladder as quickly as he could. He estimated that there
was less than minute to go before the rest of the house was a fiery
inferno. Halfway up the ladder he realized that he was barefoot, his
shoes lying on the floor beside his couch.
No much I can do
about that now
he thought and
continued his frenzied upwards rush. As soon as he could, he grabbed
the hand that was still waving through the window and tried to pull.
The hand pulled back and he could barely hear a young voice:

“My Mom! She's...”

The roar of the flames drowned out the
rest of the statement.

Greg raced up the last few steps of the
ladder, looking in through the window. A young boy stood right in
front of him, his face streaked with tears. The boy saw Greg in the
window and turned back into the house pointing. Greg followed his
finger and saw a second person, just inside of the door to the room.
She was coughing, retching, and seemed unable to move.

Sliding himself through the window Greg
yelled to the kid from a foot away:

“Go! Get out of here! I'll get

He helped the boy onto the
windowsill, then charged across the room. Smoke filled the air near
ceiling so he was bent
nearly double as he moved, trying to avoid inhaling too much of it.
He got to the woman and saw that she had been stuffing the cracks
around the door with the blankets from the nearby bed. He guessed
that she had gotten a lungful of smoke, causing her to cough and
retch. He could hear the flames on the other side of the door and the
heat radiating off of it told him he didn't have much time.

Scooping her up, he put her in a
fireman's carry to get her across the room. When he reached the
window he had to stop, leaning her half in and half out of the window
so he could quickly crawl over her to get to the top of the ladder.
He hoped he didn't hurt her in the process but the heat was
increasing and the smoke in the room was still getting thicker,
pouring from an air vent in the far wall. He grabbed her arms and was
in the process of pulling her out to put her back into a fireman's
carry when the door blew out.

The shock wave threw the woman the rest
of the way through the window. Greg fought to stay on the ladder, one
hand clinging to the top rung, the second holding on to the woman's
arm. He lost his grip on the rest of her but held that one arm with
all of his might. The momentum of the woman's body caused the ladder
to rise up off of the wall. Like an upside-down pendulum the ladder
described a slow arc, the woman's momentum carrying the top of the
ladder, and Greg, past vertical and following the arc into a fall on
the other side.

Greg pulled the woman into an embrace,
clutching her tightly to him with one arm. He'd gotten this far but
was at a loss. A twelve foot fall wasn't going to kill him, he'd had
worse at work, but she was already in bad condition. Thrusting the
ladder as hard as he could to one side took it out of the equation,
now it was falling away from them as well as down, but they were
going straight down and there was nothing he could do but suck it up
and take it like a man.

He tried to position himself so he
would cushion the woman's landing and at the last moment he thrust
her up and away from him in an attempt to lessen her impact. It
worked, but he had forgotten that it was going to make his own impact
that much harder. The turf was pretty soft but he hit it hard enough
to lose his wind and black out for a minute.

Greg woke to a neighbor's face staring
down at him.

“Holy Shit! He's alive!”
rang out.

Greg just blinked several times, trying
to get his bearings. He coughed a couple of times, his back coming up
off the ground as he did so.

“Shit!” he cursed, through
gritted teeth.

His back was a throbbing mass, sending
knives of pain through his body when he began to cough. His neighbor
tried to help him up but Greg's vicious growl when his back started
to move again aborted the effort.

“Maybe you just better lie there,
I think there are paramedics on the way.”

“Where's the boy, and his mom?
Are they okay?”

“The boy's in better shape than
you. His mom is unconscious but coughing and retching. It's probably
from smoke inhalation. But she's alive. She sure as hell wouldn't be
if it weren't for you. Jesus man, what the hell were you thinking?
Rushing up a ladder into a burning building with no shoes on? You're
fucking insane!”

“I saw the kid's hand out the
window and heard him yelling. I just thought I was getting the kid
out but he wouldn't go without his mom so I had to go in for her.”

“Greg, I wouldn't believe that
shit if I hadn't seen it. At least three people had phones with
cameras and got video. Because of that, everyone is going to see it.
Damn man, you're going to be famous. Just lie there, I'm sure the
medics will be here soon.”

Greg just tried to relax but his mind
was racing, his thoughts finally boiling down to a simple:

Fuck me! I didn't need this shit on my day off.

2 – Overnight for Observation

Sirens filled the air and a minute
later there was a paramedic kneeling next to Greg.

“Are you injured sir?”

“It's my back, it hurts when I
move it.”

“How did it happen?”

Greg thought for a moment, decided
there was no way he could explain, and pointed to his neighbor:

“Ask him, he saw the whole thing.
He said someone got video, you can watch that. Basically though,
stressing it out while under adrenaline and a fall from the top of a
ladder using my body to keep someone else from impacting the ground
as hard as they would've otherwise.”

The paramedic turned to Greg's neighbor
and started asking questions. Evidently the medic didn't believe the
answers so the neighbor called someone over who had video of the
whole thing. Once the paramedic had watched the video his attitude
changed abruptly. Calling for a backboard he knelt next to Greg

“Don't try to move please sir,
that was one nasty fall. We're going to brace your back and take you
to the hospital for some tests.”

“How's the woman, did I get her
out in time? The boy's fine too, yes?”

“The boy is fine, he's staying
attached to his mother's side like glue. She's unconscious from, at a
guess, smoke inhalation. We'll be taking her to the hospital also. I
suppose the boy as well since there's nowhere else for him to go.
We're going to give you some painkillers now so things might get a
little fuzzy.”

The painkiller took a few minutes to
take effect but once it did Greg began to relax. He was about to try
to get up when the medic showed up again.

“Don't move sir, we're going to
get you on the backboard now and put you in the ambulance.”

Whatever, I'll just lie here and watch the pretty colors
Greg thought.

Greg watched everything shimmer around
him as they carried him to the ambulance. When he was set down on the
bench seat, his head lolled to the side. Filling his frame of vision
was the face of an angel. This angel had been worked over and lines
creased her face, suggestive of sorrow. Her frown lines were
highlighted by thick black soot in the creases with lighter amounts
scattered over the rest of the face. The parts of the face not
covered by soot had a slight bluish tint to them. Even so, it was
still the face of an angel. He fancied he could see luminescence
radiating from the angel's face. Greg carried the sight of the angel
into the blackness which claimed him.

Greg's eyes flickered open to a white
room and a bright white light. When he tried to move, he found
himself strapped down. He could only move his head and when he did
so, he determined that he was in a hospital room. His memories of the
past few hours were none too clear at this point but the pain in his
back reminded him of why he was here.

It was only a few minutes before a
doctor came to speak with him.

“That was a fairly spectacular
fall you took. We're going to need some X-rays to make sure you
didn't seriously damage your back. We already did a little testing
and determined that there is no paralysis but we want to be careful
and check for any other types of damage.”

“Fall... I remember something
about a ladder and a fire.”

“Don't worry, you'll remember it
all eventually. The painkiller that they used on you will keep you
from focusing on anything for a bit. Once it wears off you should
remember everything. In the meantime, would you like to watch
yourself? You're quite the celebrity, two different videos have hit
Youtube already. I'm pretty sure they'll have at least one of them on
the evening news as well.”

“Doc, don't take this wrong, but
what the hell did I do?”

“You don't remember anything but
the ladder and fire? Can you remember anything about a young boy and
his mother? You rescued them from a burning house.”

“The angel, the angel in the
ambulance with me. Was that her?”

“Maybe, I'm not quite sure what
you're talking about.”

“I saw the face of an angel,
soot-stained and sad. When I was in the ambulance, she was being
taken here also.”

“Yes, then that was her. I don't
know that I'd call her an angel but I do know the painkiller they
gave you can cause hallucinations sometimes. Now if you don't want to
watch yourself, shall we get you X-rayed?”

BOOK: A Hero's Reward
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