i stuff my suitcase full of clothes and hygiene products into the back of our car, the brilliant white chassis of the vehicle a bleak contrast against an orange tinted world.
i take a moment and step to the street in front of my house, and stare at the not so distant smoke.
i can see flames there, shooting violent into the sky as i spot a fire department water bomber making its runs. it's all in vain, of course. they won't stop it today.
they won't stop it for another year and a half. but none of us knew that. that smoke would begin the scarring of my mind that would eventually tear into an open wound.
i'm in the car now. we've been on the road for several hours, deadlocked multiple times in traffic.
the entire city is under mandatory evacuation orders as the fire draws near, roaring into the sky as planes and helicopters drown it constantly in an attempt to hold the line.
i stare once more out the window in the back seat, and i see a glimpse of the sun through the smoke. hellish red.
as if the devil himself had risen and begun to scorch the earth and sky, consuming all life in his glorious and burning hate.
several more hours. my parents in the front argue, as i sit in the back. the sky has long darkened and we've been on the road for what feels like an eternity.
80,000 people, divided north and south as they flee. we go north. the stress has gotten to my mother and step father. and to me.
i cry quiet in the back seat, having only just been able to relieve my bladder after hours with no break. my back aches upon the leather seat. we've only gone about one hundred kilometres.
a week later, i find myself on a flight to edmonton. southward from a crowded work camp we had taken refuge in. as the flight passes by the oil giant of the province, i see it.
the smoke towering into the sky, our home burning to ash and back again, hell on earth a reality. i feel hollow, but i don't cry. i've already cried enough in a week to last a lifetime.
we have bounced now, all over the province. first, edmonton, where i remained with an uncle and aunt for several weeks.
then we found our self a brief stop in calgary, and then to canmore in the rocky mountains.
a lodge of admitted partial luxury, where at least we lay in a comfortable bed and sofa as our city continues to burn many miles away. i can't stop thinking about it.
the ash, the masks the authorities wore as they directed traffic. by now, the fire has claimed two lives indirectly in a highway accident, the only casualties it would see.
a god given miracle it was only two.
many arguments between our parents have happened now. stress consumes them as it does me, but they are not the ones with young teenage minds.
more fragile, as it cracks like porcelain under the strain.
and then, calgary again. the united states is embroiled in a risque, controversial election by this point.
a madman in orange is set to obtain a candidacy, as is a woman in blue who we will pray unanswered to. but even that is not enough to remove my headspace from the flames that embroil our home.
more time passes.
we are returning home now, but to a home with a flooded basement. the beginning of a months-long renovation to turn our house to a new form of glory.
as we approach city limits, i see the devestation. trees charred, uprooted. roads damaged by sheer heat.
several structures, and entire neighbourhoods burned to the ground in a black mix of mangled metal and wood.
as we pull to the drive through after moving through downtown, i step outside our car once it stops. i stare at this house.