I went to see Jacky the next day. As usual, we smoked and reasoned things together. Suddenly, we started hearing people shouting outside. We both ran out to see what was happening. It was a Storey building on fire down the street.
We both joined the team of people running to see what’s going on. The place was in total frenzy as people ran out of the house, some outsiders tried using water and detergent to put out the fire while others were either shouting or watching.
Jacky and I tried to help in our own little way but the fire got even worse. A lady ran out from the back of the building screaming, “please help! Please help! My sister’s baby is inside.” This increased the wailing of the people.
Few courageous youths including I and Jacky volunteered to go in. We ran to the back of the house and walked up the stairs. The heat from the fire sent some back remaining four guys, I and Jacky inclusive. We struggled to push into the house but the ceiling was seriously puffing fire and the heat was unbearable. One of the guys yelled at the top of his voice, “let’s go back! the baby can’t survive this heat!”
He and the other guy withdrew. I was about joining them when Jacky held my hand and said, “man! Let’s do something good for once even if it costs us our lives. Perhaps God will forgive us of all our atrocities. Think about it.” I later realized it was the weed speaking. Although I wasn’t motivated by his speech but I was inspired by his spirit. So, I nodded in approval and we went in.
Thick black smoke was everywhere. We had to use our clothes to cover our nose. When we were inside the house, the fire was less intense as it was at the stairs, but smoke was everywhere still. Jacky took some water in a bucket from the bathroom and soaked a towel in it. He handed it to me. Then he soaked another and tied around his nose. We then poured the remaining water on our bodies and moved into each room looking for the baby.
We heard a cry from one of the rooms. The fire had already started burning the ceiling but the heat wasn’t so much so we pushed through. We searched round the rooms, under the bed, then opened the wardrobe and saw a two year old baby girl crying. Jacky carried her and wrapped her with the bed sheet.
We got to the stairs but the heat chased us back. The fire had already intensified and was covering the sitting room. I ran to the side of the kitchen to see if we can come down through the kitchen balcony but it was taken by the fire as well. What was left was the bathroom which was gradually hitting up and the room we were in.
“what do we do now?” I said in panic.
“don’t worry, don’t worry, I’ll think of something,” Jacky said, confidently looking around the room.
The fire from the ceiling was now growing and smoke pervaded the room. The heat felt like fire itself. I had to cover myself up with another bed sheet while Jacky was busy looking for an escape route for us.
“the kitchen!” he said, handing the child to me.
“are you mad? It’s an oven out there,” I said in surprise.
“it’s going to be here soon,” he said, gathering all the clothes in the room.
We tried to go through the door but the heat drew us back. It was a dead end. We pulled the window protector but it was well cemented. The room was becoming too hot, fire angrily poured from the ceiling. We had no choice but to retreat into the wardrobe and shut the door.
“this is the end ” I said, shaking my head in regret.
Jacky said nothing. He just held on to the crying child, covering her with the bed sheet.
We covered our noses with the towel and used the clothes in the wardrobe to wrap our bodies from the heat. The ceiling suddenly gave way and some fire infested woods fell on the bed. The bed immediately caught fire. I peeped through the tiny hole on the door and saw it. I quickly wrapped my exposed body with clothes and opened the wardrobe door. The heat almost pushed me backwards but I quickly closed the door, ran to the bed, pushed the wood away and returned to the wardrobe.
The child didn’t stop crying. She screamed on top of her voice and Jacky battled with little success to calm her down while struggling with the heat burning him up.
The heat became unbearable and I started saying my last prayers but Jacky remained calm. I never knew I was going to die this way. I have always dreaded death in a fire and right then it seemed more realistic, dying with my junky friend whose weed possessed brain led us to this in the first place.
The smoke flooded the wardrobe and the heat started burning us gradually. I could hear Jacky silently accepting the pain while covering the baby with everything he could lay his hand on.
“this is the end man,” I said.
Jacky looked at me and said nothing. He just frowned in pain, cuddling the child.
Suddenly, the smoke got intense where we were. It penetrated through every hole and the splashing sound of water was heard as well. I pressed the towel on my nose but it wasn’t enough. Jacky who held on to the baby started coughing but still made sure the baby was well covered. He suddenly started falling asleep. I shook him and tied his nose up with a sleeve shirt. He struggled to stay awake while I continued nudging him. I discovered that the fire was going out hence the reason for the intensified smoke.
Suddenly, the smoke started giving way, same with the heat. I peeped through a hole and saw water everywhere in the room. I pushed the door open to discover that water flooded the floor and dripped from the roof. I stepped out with my nose covered, poured some water from the floor on my body that was half roasted and closed the door of the room to prevent smoke from entering through other parts of the house to us.
Jacky soaked his towel with water and pressed it on his nose. Water suddenly pushed through the window from the fire fighters hose with much pressure. Jacky and I rushed into it while the it revived us. We remained in the room battling with the limited smoke and available water which made it fair for us. We were so grateful for the fire fighters that believably responded pronto. About thirty minutes later, water flooded the whole house and we were able to walk out, covering our faces. Jacky held on to the child with so much carefulness.
Outside, people shouted as they saw us coming. They jumped happily, cheering. Some immediately started pouring water on our body. Jacky still held on to the baby until a woman ran to us claiming to be the mother before Jacky could let go.
My clothes were ruined. I was darker and my skin hurt so much. The people kept pouring water on us while we sat on the floor. The two guys who left last came to shake hands with us. It was a joyous day. Many thought we were dead. The child’s mother who almost kissed us couldn’t stop thanking us. It was later we heart she lost her womb after giving birth to the child.
Several news men came and interviewed us. People took pictures of us. We felt like celebrities. From that day, Jacky started having lots of girl friends.
They applied ointment on us and we took medication at the hospital before being asked to go home. I went home and retired straight to my room. Mum was at her shop during the time I came back and my brother was out of the house.
It was already dark and there was no power. I saw missed calls from Sandra, Amaka and Ruth. Ruth’s call surprised me, so I called her back.
“hello Ruth,” I said.
“Mike. I read about your bravery online. You took a great risk. How are you feeling? How is your body responding?” she asked.
“I’m okay,” I answered.
“are you sure?” she asked to confirm.
“yes am fine,” I reassured her.
“I’ll see you in the morning before I go to work. Take care of yourself and goodnight,” she said and hung up.
I sat up in my bed, wondering what motivated her to remember me. Just then Amaka called. I answered it.
“Mike, you are everywhere on the news. Online and even right now on TV. Wow! You are so brave. You risked your life saving a little girl, you are a hero. My hero.” she said. She continued speaking good about me all through our conversation and eventually hung up.
I must have been too important for these ladies to have called. Just then, I heard mum shouting in the sitting room. I also heard Sandra laughing. I rushed to know what was going on.
“Mike! Sandra just told me what happened! You did what?!” mum asked apprehensively.
Sandra came over and hugged me in the presence of my mum. She kissed me on my lips and said, “you are my hero.”
To be continued…