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I Am Still A Firefighter

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A month ago I was a friend, an uncle, a coworker, a member of my community.

Now I am none of these.

But I am still a firefighter.

I paid my taxes, shopped for groceries, and bought toys to ship to my nieces and nephews.

Now I do none of these.

But I am still a firefighter.

I took continuing education, trained with my team, passed exams and physicals so I might survive in time of danger.

Now danger is never-ending. 

But I am still a firefighter.

I cleaned and polished equipment, patched and repacked, checked everything I might use thrice over.

Now it all lies back in the station gathering dust.

But I am still a firefighter.

I laughed with my comrades, wept with those who lost, and held back survivors from rescues they could not make.

Now I am alone.

But I am still a firefighter.

I spoke to schoolchildren and housewives and businessmen about fire safety and taught them what to do should disaster strike.

Now there is no one to teach.

But I am still a firefighter.

I responded to orders from phone calls, from radio dispatches, to sirens that told of doom.

Now there are no dispatcher or sirens to tell me where to go.

But I am still a firefighter.

I have no orders but my own, none to answer to but my own conscience, nothing to look to but a worn flag atop a creaking pole, a pledge known since my childhood, and a motto on a plate of tarnished brass on the brick building I was forced to leave behind: "TO HONORABLY SERVE AND GALLANTLY SAVE".

But I am still a firefighter.

 

Now each building that I come upon has fallen ill of late,

But within might be an innocent that I am bound to save,

Someone to finally rescue from a horrifying fate;

And I still stand for the duty that requires I be brave.

There's no one left to give me marks or punch my timeclock late,

Yet I'll do my job unfailingly until I meet me grave -

BECAUSE I AM STILL A FIREFIGHTER!

_____

The dirty-faced figure contemplated the sprawling hospital behind the chain link fence as he leaned on the long ash handle of the sledgehammer. Without lights he could only just make out the vaguest hints of figures moving with slumped, inhuman gaits behind the second-story windows - far too many of them. For all that he'd faced, this was worse than the worst fire which must burn itself out eventually for want of fuel. This black flame burned without end until it was extinguished little bit by little bit. Even putting out the smallest part of it was a challenge for Hercules.

 

Behind him a faint shuffling sound grew louder, suddenly accompanied by a horrid gurgling. He paid it no heed for a moment, then suddenly spun his body around like a top, the weighty metal head of the sledgehammer connecting with the head of the aberration and sending it crumbling into a heap with a mighty crunch and a spray of crimson. 

 

Giving the twitching body no more heed than a man swatting a fly he turned back toward the building and tried to remember its layout. Not all news was bad; while their numbers were easily in the hundreds inside the building, the long tows of olive-drab army cots in front lay deserted and the four tents appeared empty. Dozens of massive wooden crates littered what had been the parking lot. There was medicine and shelter, there was a sturdy fence once he patched the hole. Then He could build a a wooden staircase with a rope hanging off one end - for while the black flame could spread, it could not climb and he could.

 

At length he laid the mighty hammer on the ground, flipping down the plexiglass visor on the helmet he still wore and reaching behind his back to draw a gleaming red axe with "Sanguine" scratched on its blade with the ease of a man long used to carrying a blade. Resolutely he strode toward the parking garages whose doors stood open, imagining a doctor or nurse cowering in some cramped corner hoping for rescue.

 

"That fire won't put itself out,"

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