Fire is supposed to burn. Burn grass, burn wood, burn flesh and blood. Fire is a thing of wonder, and of fear. Man harnessed it, used it to illuminate the fearful dark. It shatters rock, boils water, destroys forests. But, there she stood, the building falling around her, wooden beams crashing from the high ceiling and showering glowing embers in arcs dozens of feet high. She carried the last of the children in her arms: a five year old who had hidden under his desk instead of running like he had been told.
The firemen thrust the lever up and down wildly, pressurizing the pump, which fed the water to the hose. The horses whinnied, anxious around the cracking pillars of fire. The small pump wagon creaked as the pressure built inside and the hose sprayed a pitifully small stream of water at the roaring fire. Water which rapidly boiled to steam and barely impacted the roaring flames.
She stepped through an arch of fire where the front of the schoolhouse had collapsed. Random flames lapped at her body, but she hardly seemed to notice. In her arms she clutched two things, the first was the crying child, and between him and her bosom was the book of lessons and psalms she had carried to school every day for the last four years. The old woman was the first to scream. Not the screams of desperation that the parents had been crying as they saw the school burn. This was a scream from the darkest fear. It cut through the roar of the flames like a siren.