21 Feb

 By Felix Vella (age 12)

It was a beautiful scene, but Henry couldn’t relax. The large old tree stretched out with its bright red flowers falling and dancing in the wind. The ends of its branches curved up like fingers waiting to grab something. There were large white swans swimming in the still water, floating like buoys but elegant as angels. The old wooden jetty creaked out into the distance. On the horizon, the island covered with trees lay still. The sunset was like an orange blanket covering most of the sky as the dark night crept in. The sunset reminded Henry of the fire.

“We have to leave now!” frantically yelled Mum as we sprinted to the car. 

“Coco!” Henry yelled, “Come, we need to leave quick! Now!” 

He was terrified; his best friend was nowhere to be found and ignoring him.  

“Mum, I can’t find the dog!”  he spluttered and sniffed. “We need to leave now Henry, this is serious!”

“No!” he screamed, turning in the other direction. The sound of the exploding eucalyptus oil in the dry gum trees boomed through his chest making his heart beat faster and faster. The hot raging wind slapped the back of his legs. 

“Please come back,” he sniffed, but there was no sound of Coco. Henry ran to the back of the property, getting closer and closer to the horrific fire as he looked for his best friend, all the while watching the red-hot flames as they licked the helpless trees. The fire leaped from tree to tree like a tiger pouncing on its prey.  His favourite climbing tree succumbed to the violent onslaught as it watched the neighbouring trees crumble into a pile of ash. 

“Bark, bark, howl!!”

“Coco!” he yelled running to the dog, then waiting for the slobbery licks to drip down his face. 

“Quick we have to get out of here,” he said, not realising the fire was starting to surround them. 

“Which way is out!?” he exclaimed as the dark clouds of smoke started choking and blinding them. 

“Which way can we go?” he cried.

“Bark” barked the dog. 

“You can sniff us out. Go Coco go!” yelled Henry. 

They weaved through the once thriving bushland, past poor wild animals dead on the ash and charcoal filled floor.  This was an experience they would never forget. Sadly, pushing that horror aside, they made their way through the fire until… 

“Help, fire-fighters!” he yelled at them. They heard the stressed call for help and looked around. 

“Over there!” yelled one of them rushing over and treating them. The ash and embers fell like snow covering everything in sight. All their clothes smelled like thick smoke and were stained with the black ash.

“Thank goodness we found you,” cried his mum. “We thought you had died. C’mon let’s leave. We’ll be safer somewhere else.” Her voice trembled with worry.

As the car drove away, Henry looked back at what once had been their peaceful old house, remembering everything that had happened there. The good memories and the bad ones.

Henry shook his head and returned to the present. The lonely bench was still there and the rowboat was moored ready to be used. It was carved out of lovely willow with petals in and around it that had fallen from the flowers of the tree. The water had the slightest ripple and the beautiful sky reflected its colours in it. The fire was long ago but Henry couldn’t forget.

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