Dark clouds blanketed the night sky, bringing with them claps of lightning and crashes of thunder. A crisp wind tore its way down the deserted streets, tossing sticks and leaves aside like play toys. Street lamps flickered, swaying in the storm as fences and mailboxes groaned with the weight of the now thunderous gusts.
Emily sat in bed listening to all this take place outside her window as the hands on an old grandfather clock by the door creaked slowly up to 12:25 AM.
She dropped down onto her pillow and closed her eyes, whishing the storm would pass quickly and she would be able to get some rest.
By 3:00, the clouds parted to show a full harvest moon, the winds died down to but a cool breeze, and the thunder and lightning took their leave to find a more stormy sky. But not, of course, before they left their mark upon the tiny town.
Emily woke again that night, but not to the sound of wind ripping through the trees, or lightning crackling across the sky. She awoke to the wail of a fire engine speeding past her house.
She sat bolt upright, her face clammy and cold with sweat. "Michael," she whispered, turning to her husband, "Michael. Wake up! Something's wrong!" And with that, she slid out of bed and began rummaging through her closet, looking for something decent to wear.
Michael sat up groggily in bed, rubbing his eyes and muttering to himself.
"Whyd'ju wake me up? Its 3:00 in the mo-o-o-o-o-orning." He said, stifling a yawn.
"I told you, something's wrong at the neighbors. I just heard a fire truck pull up." Emily said, zipping up her blue jeans and slipping a loose t-shirt over her head. "Get up. Get up!"
A few minutes later, they were in their car, driving towards the direction of the Millington's house.
As the car pulled in to an empty driveway, Emily had to clap her hands to her mouth to prevent herself from crying out.
The house in which her best friends, Lorraine and Jake Millington lived, was now completely engulfed in flames and on it's way down.
Michael put his arm around his sobbing wife as he watched firemen carry the remains of two people out of the blaze and into the folds of waiting body bags.
By the time the fire had died down, and the once two story house was no more than a 2 foot deep pile of ashes, it was 6:00 AM and the whole neighborhood was standing on the curb side, comforting each other and morning the loss of James and Lorraine.
Most stayed only momentarily then went home to clear a day on their calendars for the funeral.
Last to leave though, were Emily and Michael. They had stayed to see if anything could be salvaged to burry with their friends that coming Sunday, or to keep as a reminder of what was lost. A picture, a prized possession, even a hairbrush would be a welcome sight. They doubted they would find anything, but something seemed to hold them there, urging them to continue searching for what they were sure was a hopeless cause.
They were on the verge of heading back to the car and giving up the search, when a sound so human, though they were the only ones around, caught their attention. It was a sort of cooing, whispery, feather soft voice. A humming, if you will, and bouncing voice. And it appeared to be coming from a pile of debris at the corner of the rubble, under a thin layer of ash.
Emily gave Michael a worried glance as she neared the sound. Dropping to her knees, she bent over the dark coals and brushed them quickly away, so as not to burn her self.
She gasped, jumping back into her husband. Her face was as white as snow, still tearstained from earlier.
"I don't believe it!" She whispered, her voice hoarse, "I just… No… It can't be though. How?"
Michael as well seemed to be lost for words and simply opened and closed his mouth, gaping like a fish out of water.
"But how?" He finally managed to say, releasing his wife and watching as she bent again to the chore of sweeping away hot coals.
When she finally stood up again, she was cradling something gently in her arms, her face still pale from shock.
"It is…" she said, moving her hand to reveal what she had unearthed in the layers of ashes.
There, cooing softly and looking bemusedly up at the two people hovering silently above her, was the smallest baby girl, covered in sooty remains of a house but looking as happy and innocent as a baby girl in any other situation should have.