My brain was talking to me as when my alarm cut it off, but I don’t remember what it was saying. Something about, “They’re going to burn.” I stretched and yawned, thinking, That’s weird.
I was about to muster up the will to drag myself out of bed, when my door burst open. I jumped to cover myself, but my blanket was already up to my armpits.
“Dude, did they call you?” It was my roommate, Luke, a serious look on his face.
“Huh? What are you doing in here?”
“Sorry- It’s crazy, the school is on fire!”
“What? Really?” I thought about what my mind was talking about just a few seconds ago. Had to be coincidence.
“Yeah, they called me a minute ago. They said they would let us know more later. I’m not sure what happened.”
“Well, at least we don’t have to go to work,” I joked, then felt a little guilty. “Is anyone hurt?”
“I don’t know. Do you think anyone was there?”
“The foreign staff gets in pretty early. Like seven or something?” It was eight now.
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“Well, why don’t we check it out?” The school was right down the street. When we had come to this country they had set us up in crappy free housing within walking distance.
“I doubt they’ll let us anywhere near it, but I gotta see. Meet you downstairs?”
“Yeah, I’ll be down in a minute.”
As we were walking down the street in the humid spring air, we could taste the ashes and see the smoke billowing up like a black funnel cloud down the road.
“You know what’s weird?” Luke said carefully.
“Do you remember yesterday? When you were all pissed off?”
I remembered going in Luke’s room after work and complaining, but I was just venting. We had lost a couple students to another school and they had blamed it on me. A flash went through my head of me saying, “I’m gonna burn that whole place to the ground!” and the both of us laughing.
I laughed again now, and said, “Come on, man. I was just joking. It is really weird though.”
He laughed too. “Maybe you burned it down with your mind , yo.”
We rounded the corner and saw the school, all three stories still caught in the blaze. I didn’t feel like laughing anymore. Fire trucks were surrounding it, shooting up jets of water, but making little progress.
“Damn,” Luke said. I responded with a nod.
We got as close as we could before men stopped us, speaking in their foreign tongue, but we got what they were saying. I looked around and spotted Ms. Amy, our director, looking like she was on a movie set, sitting with a blanket over her shoulders, soot smudges covering her face and clothes, and breathing through an oxygen mask with tears running along the sides. I felt pity. She was a crazy lady, but she had never been anything but nice to me.
“Poor Amy,” I said.
“You think we can talk to her?”
I shrugged and walked over.
“Are you okay?” Luke asked.
She removed the mask and responded through sobs in broken English. “I am okay. But other teacher…”
“Who?” I asked, my face becoming numb with faint pins and needles as it flashed cold.
“Ms. Kelly, Ms. Cindy. They is gone. I so…” she was cut off by her sobs, wracking her body. A man came over to put the mask back on her and say something to us that had the vibe of, “Go away.”
“I’m sorry, man,” Luke said, putting a hand on my shoulder. We had often talked about the huge crush I had on Cindy. He had always joked that it took me forever to make my move. Now she was gone.
But I couldn’t even process that thought right now. I wandered over and stared at the flames. The heat pressed on my face and chest as I gazed into the burning school and didn’t think about anything, until an odd sensation washed over me. It was like deja vu. I could swear I had been standing in this spot before, staring at these flames. But that was impossible. And so horribly disturbing. Sleepwalking, sure, but sleep-burning-a-building-down? No way.
I remembered the words my mind had been saying once more, “They’re going to burn.” Shut up!
I started to cry.
Luke came and struggled for something to say to me, “It’s okay, man. I mean, it sucks, and we’ll all miss her, but it’ll be alright.”