I was sixteen years old and loved my basement bedroom. Its bright, sunshine yellow walls created a vibrant contrast for my tomato red bookshelf that held a new 8-track player and an assortment of tapes. In one corner, underneath a pile of bell-bottom pants and florescent T-shirts, was a refurbished rocking chair wrapped in red fabric and generously sprinkled with large white polka dots. The dullest item in room was my door. It was your typical imitation wood, dressed in drab brown. It separated me from the rest of the basement, which was unfinished and cold. Wood skeleton two-by-fours separated future rooms that were already overflowing with storage boxes.
It was midnight and even the bright yellow walls couldn’t keep my eyes open. Half-asleep, I changed into my pajamas, ran a brush through my hair, propped open my bedroom door, and switched off the light. I walked slowly to my bed and with eyes closed slipped into my cotton sheets, falling asleep as my head hit the pillow.
I was not aware of how long I had been sleeping, but my eyes shot open, instantly waking me up.
With squinted eyes, I looked around the room through beams of moonlight that stretched across the floor. Satisfied with my quick surveillance, I turned over and quickly fell back to sleep. Minutes later, I was awakened again, but this time a small soft voice whispered, “Get out of bed.” I paused to question its origin. “Get out of bed,” it repeated. Confused, I quickly sat upright and noticed the ceiling of my bedroom appeared somewhat hazy. Was it smoke? The voice grew louder, “Get out of bed!” Without hesitation I jumped up and turned on the light.
Smoke! Dark gray smoke was hovering above my head. I darted from my room and discovered a large box on fire at the opposite end of the basement.
Flames carelessly licked the ceiling as it burned inches away from the skeletal wall.
Charging up the stairs, I began pounding on my parent’s bedroom door. “There’s a fire in the basement!” I yelled. My dad barged out of his room, flew down the stairs and instinctively kicked the burning box. Instantly, the flames disappeared leaving a trail of orange embers frantically trying to escape across the concrete floor.
It was the next morning when signs of our unwelcomed, midnight visitor became visible. A scorched ceiling, blisters on my dad’s foot, and the lingering smell of smoke that permeated our house and all its contents. A less visible sign our guest left for me was a question that haunted me for years, “What would have happened if I had not obeyed that small soft voice?”