A Challenge

Monday, February 24, 2020

 

"Help! Help! Someone get my daughter out now!" A woman with a veil of ebony hair shadowing her pale face screamed hysterically, waving her arms in the air wildly. Screams of fear reverberated in the air as hordes of people hastily escaped the building that was engulfed in fire. Gazing at the fierce blaze around me, I felt that the fire hose in my hands had become limp and useless. I had to do something more!

 

Just moments ago, I had arrived at Newton Street, together with my fellow teammates. A shophouse selling charcoal and gas cylinders had suddenly caught fire. The flames soon grew into a raging inferno that threatened to devour the entire stretch of shophouses. 

 

“My daughter! She's still in there!" the woman shrieked again, her face pallid as death. Hearing that, I threw down the fire hose from my hand and sprinted towards the shophouse. "No, Tony! You'll kill yourself!" my fellow fireman, Steve, shouted after me. 

 

At the thought of a girl with the same raven-black hair perishing in the flames, nothing else mattered

to me anymore. I was determined to brave the fire to save her. 

 

Mustering every ounce of courage in me, I used my axe to smash the stubborn grilles of the shophouse open. Reflexively, I ducked, braving a sudden blast of hot air. After a mere second, I dashed into the shophouse where more demonic flames surrounded me mercilessly. 

 

The searing heat caused me to perspire profusely. Helpless, I felt my heart palpitate madly as the monstrous flames continued to hiss maliciously. Where was the girl? It was only a matter of time before the fire would swallow every inch of this shophouse. Would I perish in this nightmarish scene? 

 

"Help…” I heard a weak cry coming from a closet at the end of the room. My knees trembled as I stared at the closet in horror — it was surrounded by a menacing ring of fire! Perspiration, not from the heat but from my fear, formed on my forehead. We were both as good as dead! At that moment, I heard another whimper of fright coming from the closet. Again, I pictured the little girl’s mother wailing in anguish. I could take it no more. Summoning all the valour in me and bracing myself for the worst, I took a deep breath before lunging towards the heart of the fire itself. 

 

Bursting through the flames, I screeched in agony as a part of my gear was seared by the flames. I flung open the closet door, scooped the little girl up into my arms and covered her with a blanket before running through the pursuing flames. I could feel the inferno chasing after me relentlessly, furious that I was escaping alive. My heart, my soul, and my body could feel the intense pressure of the heat pressing against me.

 

Just as I thought the worst was over, a sudden boom from the kitchen sent us flying out of the room. The gas cylinders from the kitchen had exploded, sending debris flying around the girl and me as we landed heavily on the ground with a thud. 

 

"Mom! Dad!" The girl cried as she spotted her parents just a few metres ahead of her. Holding the little girl gingerly in my arms, I hobbled towards them. I managed a feeble smile as I passed the girl into her mother's arms wordlessly. Tears rolled out of my eyes in sheer euphoria as I watched the mother embracing her child tightly.

 

"Thank you… you saved my daughter's life... I do not know how I can repay you! The risk you took to save my daughter is far more than I could ever expect,” she thanked me wholeheartedly. Heart swelling with relief, I stumbled back to the fire engine where I was greeted by wild cheers from my fellow firemen. Despite Steve’s initial doubts about my capabilities, I managed to rise from the challenge and save a life. Even Steve had joined in to praise me for my outstanding courage. 

 

This experience had taught me that courage is about overcoming your fear in order to save a life. I had once been afraid of the fire monster as a cadet but had graduated with valour.

 

 

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