by Peter C. Conrad
It was about twenty years ago when the Fire Inspector looked at me as if I was something, someone that he wasn’t sure how to approach. He glanced down at his forms spread out on the small table in the hotel room my wife and one year old daughter were now in.
“I have never sat across from someone who walked out of a fire like this untouched. The possibility of survival is only a few percent,” he said.
I had been woken up that morning, after finishing a night shift, by the rocking created by the natural gas exploding just under my bedroom. I put my bare feet on the hot floor and rushed to the door. Smoke slid across the ceiling like a grey-brown liquid.
I pulled a large towel around myself and ran to the door and out to the frigid Canadian November day. Clouds of smoke followed me.
The grey-brown soot and ash was everywhere as I walked through the house to my small office in the basement where I wrote. Paintings were destroyed as well as many books, but in the small inset desk where I had laid out the nearly complete manuscript of Beyond Time had not burned. I picked it up shaking the ashes from the stained pages. I wondered for a moment if it would ever be published.