Fire!!!!! (or a collective delusion?)
I was reading something on my bed at around two am and had started to doze off.
I was suddenly awakened by a terrible ringing noise and for one fraction of a second, I thought it was my radio alarm that had gone off. But the rational part of me rallied and explained to the confused parts in my brain that no radio alarm could possibly be so loud.
It was 3.15 am. I opened my door to discover pandemonium. My flatmates were running about; one of them going purposefully towards the toilet.
“What’s happening?”, I ask.
“I don’t know”, he responds with a shrug.
I open the flat door to find other people from the other flats in my block along the stairs. I begin to worry. But no one’s saying anything. So, I return to my flat for some more decent clothing and a jacket for the cold weather outside. As I prepare to go out again, my Vietnamese flatmate rushes in and shouts,
“Take your laptop!”
I ask him what’s happening and he replies, “Fire in the building”.
So, I take a bag and stuff my laptop in it as well as my camera. The rest could be retrieved later if need be. At this point, still groggy from the little sleep I’d just barely managed to get, my mind wasn’t working properly. I was, as it were, on automatic mode.
I came out through the entrance to find myself amidst the other inhabitants of the other flats. They were all looking upwards. I struggle to do the same but cannot see anything, really.
“Where’s the fire?”, I ask, playing with the handle of my bag.
No one says anything though and I start looking foolish standing there with a bag while no one else (to the exception of the Viet flatmate) has taken his/her belongings.
We talk a bit outside, while the alarm keeps on ringing shrilly. Others from the other neighbouring blocks have also come out and are watching with great interest: What?
No one knows.
A Uni security van approaches and the officer, a modern sheriff-looking individual steps out. I can’t resist a sarcasm so early in the morning:
“Our hero”, I state emphatically to my other flatmates, who giggle.
The (for want of a better title) Sheriff casually and superfluously mentions to the gathered assembly that there’s another alarm that has been set off in another block on our compound. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with our own screaming alarm, we had to worry about another one! Maybe he wants to be applauded. And I, barely standing on me poor sandalled feet…
So, he goes in and a few minutes later, the alarm stops. Then, we all go in. End of story.
One woman (the word “girl” somehow fails to be attached when I saw her face) comments as we go through the entrance of our block that the last time she too brought out her laptop, her tone hinting that it was a highly stupid thing to do.
“Ah”, sayeth I, “there was a last time, too?”
Why didn’t she stay in then? Why did she bother coming out? Why does she look so superior about this? Can one feel superior at having had to live through a fire alarm?
These were the thoughts on my mind s KI regained my room.
I looked around: so many books, so much inflammable material!
What would you take out of a burning fire, if you only had very limited time to think***? What are your priorities in such cases? Can you stop to consider your priorities? As much as they love them, my books are replaceable; my laptop not easily so. Clothes were never that important in the first place, so they could be left behind. What I’d need first would be my important papers, like my passport and student ID.
(*** Someone once smartly said that he’d take the fire out of the burning building rather than anything else.)
Anyway, back to sleep or at least some reading. My head is not working properly…accumulated hours of sleep-deprivation are exacting their toll on my consciousness. I wonder (vaguely) how I will look like in a few hours when my alarm really rings. Do I go and switch it off now, thus ensuring myself some more hours of well-deserved sleep in the arms of Morpheus?