Loud shouts and screams arose in the distance, and several people ran with buckets to nearby horse troughs. White-gray smoke seeped from under his office door, and Daniel and Anna raced to the building. Once there, he reached for the knob then jerked his hand away. Padding his palm with his coat, he pushed it open. Heat scorched the air and thick clouds billowed around him as he raced inside. “Seth!”
“Where is he?” Anna followed him. Coughing and squinting, she made out Daniel's hazy shadow slapping at the blaze as he tried to push past the smoke. A table skidded to the side as he shoved it from his path. Papers sitting atop the boxes Seth had brought from the back ignited as sparks spit from the ceiling. Daniel's image vanished into a black roll of soot and smoke. Tears momentarily blinded her. She blinked to see angry flames licking the backroom door.
“Seth!” she cried. Irate flares thrashed through crevices above her. The walls crackled and popped, and she strained to hear her husband's voice.
“Daniel!” A voice shouted from the chaos.
“Seth? Where are you?” he yelled, standing a mere foot from a blazing bookcase. Ashen pages fluttered upward, attacking his head and shoulders.
“In here.” Seth's voice rasped against the roar of the inferno. The solid wood vibrated as something collided against it, yet the bolt held firm. Metal pinged against the hinge to free its hold, but Seth's desperate grunts faded. Frantic coughing and gasping ended as glass shattered.
“Seth!” Anna screamed.
“Anna, get out of here,” Daniel shouted.
He glanced around. An overturned table ignited, and he ran to it. Kicking at the leg, it fell to one side. Minimally equipped, he rammed the broken leg against the secured bolt.
White plumes wafted upward between the floor planks. The small shoots darkened and grew.
“Anna! Leave! Now!”
A fireball bounced from his head to his shoulder, yet he continued to pound the lock.
“Daniel!” Anna shouted. “The ceiling's collapsing!”
It started with a tremble and the roof crumbled in sections. Live towers of heat and flames streaked sideways. The center of the roof exploded as he shoved her toward the door.
“Seth!” She threw herself against Daniel's shoulder.
He pushed her backward, unrelenting until he forced her outside. She stumbled and he fell with her, his weight pinned her to the ground. Over his head, flames screeched the last of their war cry as the walls and the roof crumbled in behind them.