Chapter 1:

Made of Fire

School For The Mediums

I couldn’t breathe. There was thick smoke stuffed like cotton down my throat.Bookmark here

BANG! BANG! BANG!Bookmark here

I could hear loud and powerful thumps, repeatedly pounding against the door. Bookmark here

“Hadiza!” Shrieking screams vibrated through my ear drums. “Hadiza, do you hear me?” Bookmark here

Heat. There was blistering heat all around me. It felt like I was cooking in an oven. There was a pool of sweat down puddled around my back, my skin sizzling. I tried to measure my uneven strained breaths, but it made it even harder. Bookmark here

I coughed hard, my lungs feeling like glass and rocks were going in instead of air. Everything around me was a hazy black, pitch tar black. All I could see was the wood of my door, and the smoke seeping through it. Bookmark here

“Hadiza!” The screams and banging were getting louder and desperate. “Hadiza!” Bookmark here

My dry eyes were stinging as if someone threw acid into them, and my nostrils were burning like I was inhaling fire. Bookmark here

“Hadiza!” Bookmark here

It was hard to form words between painful coughs and gags. “…I’m here!” I shouted back with such intensity that my throat vibrated---ready to tear. Bookmark here

“Hadiza! Listen to me now, you need to get out of there! The fire is spreading, and I can’t pull the door open from my end. You need to pull it from your end.” Bookmark here

My head was throbbing, and my vision was blurred, but somehow, I stumbled to my feet. Bookmark here

Gulping thick air, on newborn feet, I fumbled to the door. Every step on the floor felt like I stepping on burning sands. Bookmark here

“Hadiza? Are you still there?” Bookmark here

“I’m…here!” I wheezed, my heart thundering. Bookmark here

“Listen the fire is spreading! You need to get out now!” Bookmark here

“Okay!” Disoriented, dizzy, and confused, I placed my hand on the door handle, and then the scream came naturally. The metal burned a deep gorging line into my skin. Bookmark here

“Hadiza!” Bookmark here

“The door handle burned me!” I cried; tears streaming down my face. It was cool on my aching hot skin. But it couldn’t distract me from the stinging burn branded on my palm. Bookmark here

“Hey, hey! I know it’s hot, but the door is budged. I need you to pull it from your end now, Hadiza! Do you hear me?” Bookmark here

My hands trembled as I looked at the bluish-black skin. The agonizing pain was so commanding I felt my legs losing strength, and my knees ready to buckle. Bookmark here

“Hadiza! I’m not going anywhere until you get out! Get out, now!” Bookmark here

Sobbing and hyperventilating, I shakily put my hand on the handle, the heat searing it forced another shout from me. “It burns!” Bookmark here

“You can do it! Just open the door!” Bookmark here

Through screams and giving the last of my energy, I pried the doors open. Bookmark here

The moment I did, all I could see was the fire everywhere. The house was burning, and so was she. Bookmark here

“Hadiza.” On her feet, her legs, on her hands, on her hair. She looked like she was made of flames. Bookmark here

“Hadiza.” She reached for me, and when our hands touched, the fire crawled onto me. “Now, we’ll go together Hadiza---.” Bookmark here

I opened my eyes.Bookmark here

Sleeping is a lot like death when you think about it. And I think about it a lot, sleeping is a lot like being dead. When you close your eyes and fall from consciousness, for a couple of hours straight, you are ‘dead to the world’. You can’t move. You can’t think. You can’t do anything. You just stay there, eyes flickering around, breathing slowed, paralyzed. A prisoner to your own body, and comatose, basically. Bookmark here

Maybe the only real difference between sleeping and death is that death is permanent, an eternal sleep. You don’t wake from that like we can wake from a dream. Bookmark here

Tap! Tap!Bookmark here

I heard footsteps coming from above me. Bookmark here

Exhaling shallow breaths, I curled my toes and moved my feet around under the blanket. The warmth was nice, but my body was still weary. Bookmark here

In a mixture of exhaustion and newfound energy, I stretched out my legs and gave my head a little crack. Bookmark here

With a yawn, I tried to wake up my sleepy mind. But after a few blinks, my vision was still blurry and the world was sideways. Not to mention my back. I slept on the floor laying on my side like Mom said not to.Bookmark here

Yawning again, I slowly sat upright, the fuzzy blanket I slept with falling off me. I felt the goosebumps start on my skin, the light tank top and shorts I was wearing no help to cool the conditioned temperature. Bookmark here

Haah.” Another yawn automatically came while I rubbed my eyes and wiped the morning tears. With that, my drowsy sight was back to normal. Something which the bright rays of sunlight took advantage of. Bookmark here

“…Ugh.” I groaned with a squint. Bookmark here

I thought I had the blinders closed before I fell asleep watching TV last night. Bookmark here

I glanced at the wide slider patio doors. The vertical blinders were pushed to the side, and sunlight continued to shine brightly through the glass. Bookmark here

If I was sleepy before, now I was fully awake, and absolutely not prepared to take on the day.Bookmark here

Wincing, I turned my head from the yellow glow that flooded our living room. “Geez….” I sighed. The sting from the light was worse than having Mom pull the blankets off to wake up me for school. Bookmark here

“Hadiza.” A woman’s voice echoed a little distance behind me.Bookmark here

Just when you speak of the devil.Bookmark here

Moving slowly, I craned my head to the source. Bookmark here

Mom had one foot on the border in the kitchen and the other in the living room. She was dressed in her usual morning wear. Short shiny black hair pulled up into a tight ponytail, blue sleeping pajamas covered by a big oversized apron, and of course, can’t forget the spaceman astronaut slippers. She never forgets to wear the spaceman astronaut slippers. Bookmark here

“Did you fall asleep in the living room, again?” she asked me, placing her hands on her hips. Bookmark here

I pressed my lips together, taking a gander at my surroundings. Bookmark here

My blanket was on the floor, and the Komatsu futons were on the floor into a makeshift bed of pillows, and then there was the TV. Not so surprisingly, it was still on. Colorful images and pretty actors were moving on the screen, but there was no sound. Bookmark here

That’s when I noticed the TV remote peeking out from underneath my blanket. Obviously, during shifting positions in my sleep, I must have hit the mute button. Bookmark here

To anyone coming downstairs and making their way down the hall into our tiny connected kitchen and living room, yeah, it would look like I slept in the living room. But if you ask me? Bookmark here

“Not really,” I replied, rubbing a stiff neck. Bookmark here

“You didn’t sleep in the living room?” Mom asked again, giving me a questioning stare. Bookmark here

“Not really.” I shrugged and bent down to pick up my blanket. Bookmark here

With a sigh, Mom went to the kitchen and started to wash her hands. “If you keep sleeping on the floor like that you’re going to end up with a bad back. Besides, we didn’t move into this brand-new house with brand new beds, for it not to be used,” she said, in between taking things out from the fridge. Bookmark here

“Yeah, I hear you.” I stretched up a little on my toes.Bookmark here

She glanced back at me. “If you hear me don’t sleep on the floor again. Please, Hadiza,” she pleaded, saying the last bit with a singing emphasis. Bookmark here

“Said I hear you.” I walked down the hallway, tossing my blanket over my shoulder. Bookmark here

“You getting ready for school?” Her voice traveled to me. Bookmark here

“What time is it?” I slowly stepped up the stairs. Bookmark here

“Time for you to get ready for school, AND, enough time for you to eat the delicious breakfast I’m making!”Bookmark here

“Okay.”Bookmark here

“But you have to hurry up!” Bookmark here

I was already at the top of the stairs, but Mom’s voice still carried. “Okay.” Bookmark here

“You don’t want to be late! Or, miss my breakfast!” she quickly added. Bookmark here

“I won’t.” With a sigh, I made my way to my room. But I had to stop just short of my door. Bookmark here

I couldn’t control my eyes. They moved slowly to the room next to mine. Bookmark here

There were only 3 bedrooms in the house. One for Mom and Dad, one for me….and? We had an empty room now. Dad said 2 bedrooms would have been fine. But Mom insisted. Bookmark here

‘We’ll just have a guest room’, she said. ‘It’ll be fine. Everything will be fine.’Bookmark here

The designated guest room door was cracked. Bookmark here

Staring into the crack, I could see a glimpse of the inside. The room was still pretty empty. A few boxes here and there, and the bed and the dresser set. It was a normal room. The walls were white, the floors were wooden. Bookmark here

The only good selling point about the small was the window. It was the biggest window in the house. And, at night you could see the stars as if that’s that was ---a dark blue landscape with the brightest twinkling whites glittering in the sky. Bookmark here

I took a step closer to the room. Bookmark here

For some reason, I always think about it. How right here---my hands softly landed on the door handle. Right here, this room would have been Aoko’s. Bookmark here

She would have been the first one to call claim to it. Bookmark here

Probably cheat me for it, too.Bookmark here

The shaking was starting in my hands, and my legs were starting to grow weak. Bookmark here

Did Mom know Aoko would have wanted this room? She did, didn’t she? Bookmark here

My mouth was drying up, my tongue like sandpaper as I swallowed. Bookmark here

Thud. Thud. Thud. Bookmark here

I closed my eyes, feeling the pounding of my heart. Bookmark here

Of course, Mom knew she would have wanted this room. Aoko would’ve liked to see the stars from the window. Bookmark here

She would have. Bookmark here

Clenching the doorknob, I pulled the guest door shut with a slam. Bookmark here

Bookmark here

She really would have. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.