by

Cannabis Farm (Part 2)

He was on the toilet when the call came in.

A cannabis farm, was it? How bad could that be, he though to himself.

After all, it doesn’t really burn well does it? Mostly just a lot of smoke, right? But then again, it’s the smoke that kills you.

Stanley finished his business with haste and dashed to the place where his gear was stashed.

His firefighting gear, to make that clear. He ran through all the steps and procedures just as he had trained so many times.

It was rote.

He knew what to do without thinking about it. Buckling things, checking other things. Firefighter stuff.

It all went like clockwork, and he found that the routine calmed him. He knew what he was doing, he was ready for this. He was an expert.

He could smell the distinctive odour of cannabis long before they even arrived at the scene.

It hung low in the air in the surrounding area, blanketing the countryside.

When they arrived, he could see another truck was already pulled in next to the large brick building.

It was not what he thought a farm would look like, but he supposed they used hydroponics and lamps.

Suddenly a massive explosion shattered the air.

He felt the concussive blast punch against his chest and press his heavy firefighter jumpsuit against his body. Tiny sharp shards stung his exposed hands and he blinked his eyes reflexively. Glass from the windows.

His calm was instantly gone, and he reached up to feel his face, his eyes… and they bumped into his helmet’s visor. Thank god he’d remembered that to lower it before they arrived!

The other crew were scattered on the ground, moving weakly. They’d been much closer to the blast.

He heard voices yelling, the squawk of the radio. He saw someone emerge from the entrance through clouds of lazy white smoke.

It was a firefighter and they were carrying a limp figure slung over their back. Stanley stood up from where he’d been crouching next to his truck and ran over to help.

Together they carried the person to a safer spot shielded behind one of the trucks. The other firefighter was breathing too heavily to be able to speak more than one word at a time.

Tears streamed down his face making clear tracks in the dust.

“More, gasp inside! gasp Hurry! gasp Back-of gasp third-floor!”

Stanley nodded and clapped the man on the back. He turned towards the building and attempted to jog towards it.

His legs felt weak, shaky, even though he told himself he wasn’t scared. He wasn’t sure he could feel the tips of his fingers properly.

Stanley nodded and clapped the man on the back. He turned towards the building and attempted to jog towards it.

His legs felt weak, shaky, even though he told himself he wasn’t scared. He wasn’t sure he could feel the tips of his fingers properly.

He saw the staircase as soon as he entered the building, the emergency lights on the walls lighting everything and leaving strange shadows.

He was relieved to have found the stairs immediately and began to climb them, trying to remember to relax and check his surroundings.

He could taste the smoke now and it stung his eyes. He wondered if the smoke was already affecting him.

The way up was blocked after second floor by a twisted tangle of rebar and concrete rubble.

It was beautiful, thought Stanley. He could see light from the firetruck’s sirens flashing through a hole in the wall. It cast shadows past the overlapping and bent steel bars in the rubble. They moved sideways through the smoke as the lights on the truck rotated, back and forth and back and forth again…

Stanley shook himself. How long had he been standing there?! He turned his head and gazed down the hallway ahead of him, focusing his eyes, his attention. He walked forwards. He knew there had to be another staircase. They tended to be in the corners of buildings. He just had to make it to the other side.

The skin on his face felt warm and tingled, but there was no fire or source of heat nearby. Suddenly he was at the end of the hallway.

The end of the building.

It was a symmetrical layout, he realized, and the other staircase was there in front of him.

He tilted his head back and looked upwards. No debris. He smiled.

The climb up to the third floor seemed to take forever. He watched his feet move. One step. Another. Another.

He was coughing now and the realization came upon him that he was very, very high. High off of the ground (the third floor!) And also high on cannabis.

Very, very high.

Small lights fluttered at the edges of his vision. He tried to look at them and they skittered away. As he sought the lights, his eyes settled on a doorknob. Suddenly his mind was clear. Calm.

He was a pilot of his body, not one with it. He caused his hand to move towards the door knob. Slow, but deliberate. He had to save the people trapped here. The doorknob was hot to the touch and he felt the pain of the burn on his palm. Stupid. It hurt but the pain didn’t touch him.

He finally put on his gloves and touched the doorknob again. He twisted and pushed, and it opened a couple inches before hitting an object and grating to a halt.

“Hello? Is somebody there? Help!,” he heard a woman’s voice exclaim.

“The door’s stuck! Something’s blocking it,” Stanley yelled through the crack.

“It’s the shelving! It fell after the explosion!” answered the woman. “I tried to move it but it’s too heavy.”

She sounded totally panicked.

Stanley leaned against the door at a sharp angle, braced his boots against the floor and pushed upwards and inwards on the doorknob.

He felt strangely powerful. He pushed, harder and harder, and the door began to move.

There was a tremendous screech as something slid on the ground on the other side of the door.

When he could fit through the gap he stopped. He noticed he wasn’t breathing heavily from the exertion, although his hand and the bones in his arms and back ached from the pressure. The steel door had a deep imprint where he had pushed on it.

He squeezed through the gap and saw the woman’s face. Here eyes were wide in shock, fear, amazement. There was very little smoke in the room.

He walked over to her and said,

“I need to inform you that I am very high right now.”

It sounded official. Professional. The kind of thing a firefighter rescuing a woman should say. It took a few moments for the absurdity of what he said to sink in, but when he did he began to snicker.

The woman’s look changed from fear for her safety to doubt about her rescuer. She glanced towards the gap in the door and said,

“We need to get out of here. Come on, let’s go.”

She squeezed through the door and looked back at him.

“Let’s GO!” She beckoned him impatiently when she saw he was just standing there.

He was following the woman down the stairs when the second explosion happened. They both tumbled the rest of the way down to the next landing and the building groaned and shifted. The sounds of enormous cracking and rumbling were muffled by the effect of the explosion on their ears and a high pitched ringing filled Stanley’s head.

He could see flames now, flickering orange down the dimly lit hallway he had come from on his way in. He looked down towards the first floor and saw the fire was even more intense in that direction. The only way out was back up.

He stood up and pulled the woman with him. She was saying something but he couldn’t hear it. He pulled her along with him and they staggered back up the stairs to the broken doorway. Stanley noticed a hatch to the roof at the corner of the stairwell.

A heavy lock held it latched shut. He put a hand on the wall to support himself as he looked, and suddenly felt a shift in his consciousness. When he touched the wall he felt a connection. The boundary between his hand and the wall disappeared in his mind and he knew the wall. He felt its implacable patience. It’s every molecule suddenly vivid in his mind, in intricate perfect detail.

He was no longer just Stanley. He did not end where his skin did, and his consciousness suffused the wall, the floor he stood on, and up to the ceiling. The metal felt harder. Colder. More dense. The tumblers inside, delicate but important. He was the tumblers, and he gently drew himself into alignment.

The lock popped open.

Stanley let go of the wall and was just Stanley again. A distant part of him marveled at the impossibility of what had just happened. Marveled and gibbered in fear. But it was a very distant part, and muted by a deep sense of calm that permeated him.

He grasped the woman’s hand tighter, they rose towards the hatch in the ceiling. As they approached he reached out with his other hand and it swung open. The sudden light didn’t make him squint. Somehow they both fit through the small opening with ease, and they continued to rise into the smoke-filled air.

The sound of sirens was apparent from the other end of the building, and Stanley’s heavy coat flapped in the open air as they floated over the roof towards the firetrucks.

They descended hand in hand on the lawn some distance behind the trucks and Stanley sank to the grass. His heart beat very slowly now. He closed his eyes, back towards the ground. He didn’t breath, and he knew that his face was very, very pale. He knew because he looked down at his empty body. The woman looked up at him as he drifted away, somehow seeing, somehow knowing…

“…Thank you,” she whispered.