Rebecca had grown up hearing her parents’ justifications for homesteading at the lake, instead of consolidating in the tiny township with the rest of the colonists.  Running down the rock-strewn path, hoping the fire would not catch up to her, all those reasons seemed incredibly selfish.

“I’ve always dreamed of living in a cabin near a lake. This is our dream home!” said her mother.

“The whole reason we decided to emigrate was so that we could get away from other people… be truly on our own.” said her father.

Her grandfathers, both of whom traveled to the new world with them, were even more adamant. “We’re much better on our own. The only reason to go to town is to buy the supplies and things that we don’t produce ourselves…” said one.

“…and we can produce almost everything we really need!” added the other grandfather adamantly.

Rebecca tripped over a picturesque rock and cursed her ancestors for deciding that the path to town should remain natural and unblemished by…well…civilization. It twisted and climbed, making for a lovely scenic hike, but taking twice as long as it would have been if they’d cleared a direct path.

If we survive this, a direct path might be already cleared for us.

The thought made her feel guilty, not for having sensibilities that differed from her elders, but in anticipation of having to apologize to the town for the disaster they’d caused. It all started with a pissing contest between her two grandfathers. Shooting at targets had soon bored them, and they had moved on to shooting at…well, what they were shooting at wasn’t exactly clear, and Rebecca really didn’t think a stray blaster shot to a tree could start a fire, but something had.

So the house was fireproof. Yeah. Eleven people, holed up together with the horses, dogs, and as many cats as made it inside before the shields went up. But communications were down. They had probably been down for days, and no one had noticed. Meanwhile, the fire raged outside, unable to be contained by the feeble abilities of the family.

It was Rebecca, the athlete, who was elected to literally run to town and attempt to warn their neighbors about the disaster that was quickly spreading. Better to risk the life of one expendable High School Freshman than one of her mother’s skittish pet horses.

Eight kilometers. She’d run it so many times, but never because she had to.

It felt different.

Her heart raced from the urgency of her exertions.

Her heart raced with the anticipation of the plea and apology she’d have to deliver to the kind and innocent townsfolk.

Her heart raced with the worry that the house’s fire suppression would fail, killing everyone she loved.

Darwinism at work.

She collapsed into the gathered crowd at the edge of town. All eyes watched the fireship zoom off in the direction she’d come.

And then all eyes were on her.

This story was written in response to a Write On Edge prompt where the writer picks numbers from 1-10 and refers to the list of words. I decided to use my favorite number, eight, for every aspect. This gave me the following list: A High School Freshman, A Lake, The Middle of a Fire, and a Family Emergency. Those last two went together nicely! Getting the story down to 500 words was difficult, but I did it.

Oh, and for those who wonder… no, there’s no more to this story. It’s not related at all to any others I’ve written. I had to add that little SciFi touch, though!

The shortlink for this post is