If you haven’t read part 1, I recommend reading it before reading this post:
The Grenfell Tower Tragedy: A Tale of Survival.
You ever looked at the face of a person you love, a person you take for granted every day of your life, you ever looked at their face and seen the life; the life you took for granted, slowly seep out as if they were nothing? As if they were a common fly, a moth, a mere speck. As if love could not save them, as if all the years you spent with that person were merely coincidental and that this was their inevitable fate; their purpose. 20 minutes ago this had been Jason’s reality as he cradled his dying mother in his arms, but the asthma pump had done its job. Denise was now propped against the wall, Jason had positioned his fan towards her. She watched as her son paced the room and muttered the odd “shit!” at random intervals. Every fibre within her yearned to carry him through the fire herself, but she had already rushed to save him once and yet both of them were still in danger. She felt as if she had failed him. The only use she could be to him now was to continue to focus on her breathing and regain her strength; twenty minutes had already passed and time was running out.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!” Jason threw his phone at the wall in a fit of rage. “They’re not coming, Mum! They’re not fucking coming.” Jason paced the room hurriedly, his fingers clutched to his hair desperately as the magnitude of the situation sunk in deep.
“Calm… down… Jason,” Denise panted lightly.
“How can I calm down Mum? They told us to stay indoors, now everyone on Twitter is telling me to get out!”
“It… will… all… be fi–”
“–Don’t tell me it’s going to be fine Mum. Don’t you dare.” Jason retreated to his bed, as he lay down he noticed that the smoke had now formed a thick cloud. Time was running out.
“Mum,” Jason looked at his mother with a stern expression,”we’ve got to go.” Her eyes widened at the mere thought. He made note of this as he sat up, his palms rested on his lap as he looked her in the eye. “You might not make it. The smoke in here is getting worse, what’s outside is going to be unthinkable. But if we stay here…” Jason reached out to hold his mother’s hand, he held it tight. “If we stay here, it’s not a matter of ‘might’. We will die. No one is coming to save us.” He had just about managed to get his words out before a coughing fit took hold and forced him to lie down next to her. Before he knew it, his face was on her lap, her hands caressing the face that looked just like hers.
“Okay son. Let’s go.” She didn’t even notice that her breathing had returned to normal, something about her son’s stoical acceptance had reignited her maternal instinct. “You won’t die today, Jason.”
“We won’t die, Mum.”
Reaching the hallway took more strength than the Akumba’s knew they had within them. They had left Jason’s room with scarves tied around their mouths and a pair of his swimming goggles around their eyes. Regardless, the smoke still churned in their lungs and, as well as not being able to see anything, their eyes burned in the darkness. Under these circumstances, Denise Akumba should’ve been dead a long time ago, yet she continued to slog through the unbearable heat; she held her son’s hand in hers all the while. Her fingers rubbed against the grooves, creating a picture in her mind of its shape and construction; she continued to focus on keeping this image alive, somehow it kept her tied to the world. Each floor was as challenging as the last. First they would stumble through the darkness and sweltering heat until they found the staircase, the heat would grow in intensity the further they went. Neither could tell the other how much they loved them, to open your mouth was to invite the end. Each level was reminiscent of Hell, but the irony was not lost on them: Heaven was below.
They had managed their way down to the 17th floor when Denise fell her to her knees. She had faltered several times, each time she had gotten up. Something was different this time.
“Can you hear that Jason?” He shook his head and put his finger to his mouth as a signal to not talk. “Please, Jason, listen!” He knew what she had heard, he didn’t want her to know he did. On each floor they had heard screams for help, screams of fear and agony. On this floor, a child’s cry echoed eerily. Denise knew that her son had heard what she had. Gingerly, she made her way back to her feet and before Jason could continue walking she brought him in close.
All of a sudden, there was nothing. No screams, no smoke, no heat. Just the two of them, in a void of nothing. Their eyes spoke what their mouths could not. This was the end. Jason knew his mother would not make it further than the next couple of levels, and he knew his mother knew it too. It was a miracle she had made it so far. Her love for him had spurred her to rise and fall and rise and fall in spite of her weak limbs and the dead bodies strewn before them. She wanted to live for him, she wanted to see the wonderful man he would become. As she looked into her eyes she realised, she had been granted that wish. She held him tight, one last time.
“Hello? Is anyone there? We’re the firefighters!” Denise’s eyes told him to go, but he refused, He would go with her, he would die with her. A strong hand fell on Jason’s shoulders and struggled to pull him backwards. Sensing the urgency, Denise used both her hands to pry Jason’s hand from hers, the image forged from the grooves shattered as she did.
“Let me go!” The scarf fell from his mouth as his head convulsed ferociously. “My Mum is still back there! MUUUUUUUM!” The firefighter closed his palm on Jason’s mouth to stop him screaming.
“Don’t worry son, if she’s there we’ll find her.” Jason’s mind went haywire, any fragments of sanity were devoted to only one thing.
“Mum…mum…mum…mum…” he muttered lightly. He kept thinking she would appear out of the smoke, he kept his hand open wide so that she could hold it once again. He kept thinking she’d appear…
But she was gone.
-end of part 2.