“Are you OK? Are you OK?”
The question is screaming again and again, but I don’t hear an answer. The ear-shattering noise is still screeching through my head. The stench of burning flesh and blood makes me want to throw up. There is smoke everywhere. I stare at my gunner on the floor. Blood is everywhere—pouring from his face, splattered down the turret. I see the terror on his face as he looks at me, tries to talk to me, and all that comes out is a blood-gurgling moan.
The smoke is getting thicker, my breaths are coming in great shuddering gasps, while my heart is hammering inside my chest. I try to make everything slow to something my brain and body can cope with. I taste blood in my mouth…metallic rust. I crawl towards him, but I slip on my sweaty palms, I drag myself forward, but he’s gone, eyes vacant, no gurgle, gone, too far away… blackness… creeping blackness… I’m crouching on the floor… what… where… Jiyu is standing not far off, white as a sheet, tears streaking down her ashen face. But how the hell is she here. I don’t understand. She’s home. Safe. I know. I left her there.
“Please. Its just the smoke alarm. Please.”
Slowly her words penetrate my fog and I snap back to reality. I stumble to the corner of the room focusing on getting my breathing under control again. She knows better than to touch me and crumples down opposite, watching, waiting.
The kitchen is a mess. The sprinklers have kicked in. She sits there watching the soot flow into tiny black rivulets. We can fix the kitchen.
What I don’t know is if we can fix us.