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Nothing could have prepared me for the sight that greeted me when I entered my neighborhood. Houses on both sides were like giant brick fireplaces lying in ruin. Many of the homes that were still standing were either burning from the inside or had gaping holes in their roofing and walls. Chunks of shingles and wood were littered about the place. Balls of smoke contrasted with the sky giving the impression that they were clouds that had fallen from the atmosphere.
I willed myself to drive on until I found out once and for all whether my home had been spared. The seconds ticked by and I felt my limbs turn to jelly with every beat of my thumping heart. No one spoke. The only human sounds were the screams of people trapped in their burning homes which would become their tomb. The strong smell of smoke was beginning to fill the trucks interior.
"Those poor people," Stacey moaned. She was staring down at her feet averting her eyes from the scene visible through the windows. I gasped when the dark insect like shapes of the helicopters materialized out of the smoke to the east. They broke formation some going straight ahead others turning course to the south west and north. A sickening thought invaded my mind. They were going to burn this town to the ground before they moved on to the next, and with the militia helicopters out of the way they had a good chance of doing it.
The closer I got to my house the worst things got. People were on the sidewalks watching in horror as their homes burned to the ground, or simply stumbling around like zombies. Some were sobbing over dead friends or family members. I shed a tear at the sight of a couple on their knees crying out in sorrow over a tiny burned body of a child that could have been no older than three.
Walls of fire erupted from every direction. I shielded my eyes with my forearm from the blinding glow of the furnace. "Air strike," Andrew said in a voice so low it was almost a whisper. When the blinding flames subsided I lowered my forearm away from my face. Snake like smoke clouds were being coughed up from the bombed sites. It was like watching funnel clouds become tornadoes in reverse.
I nearly fainted when my house came into view. For a second It seemed like a dream none of this could have possibly happened. It could have been just a hallucination induced by breathing in so much smoke. Still, I knew in my heart that it was real.
My house stood as beautifully as it always did. Its walls were as pure white as the moon. The windows were as clear as ice giving a clear view of the blue curtains hiding the interior of the house. The lawn was as neatly trimmed as ever. I could almost smell the sweet scent of the garden filled with flowers of every color of the rainbow.
But, then the ugly reality blotted out my happy thoughts. If my house weren't still sound I never would have been able to find it among the unrecognizable rubble of my neighbors homes. They weren't burning like many other structures but they were almost completely demolished. I parked on the side of my house and killed the engine.
"Come on into the house. I promise I will drive you home when it’s safe," I said unbuckling my seatbelt. Stacey and Andrew did the same. The acrid stench of smoke was as thick in the air as life giving oxygen. I coughed uncontrollably as I strolled to the front door of my house with the key in hand. I did my best to ignore the charring of wood and human sounds that made me shiver from my very bones.
"There's so much smoke," Stacey choked out. She leaned on the porch railing and coughed. I shoved the key in the lock and flung the door open admitting everybody in and shutting and relocking the door before slamming it shut. The crash of the door on the wood frame was so great a bomb could have been dropped and nobody would have noticed.
"We should check for any news coverage. Maybe they will know when all of this is over and we can get back home," Andrew suggested as I lead them toward the living room.
I doubted that electricty was still being pumped through the veins of our hometown. Stacey walked along beside looking as sulken as if she were walking beside the casket of a dead family member during a funeral service.