It’s dark. The air tastes bitter, like burnt toast. And sort of medicinal; tacky and cloying and familiar. Metallic, maybe? Is that it? I’m not sure
It’s so dark I’m still not sure if my eyes are open, but they are stinging and dry and slowly the patterned fabric that’s just a few inches from my face swims into focus. There’s a strange sound, like paper being crumpled somewhere nearby, but apart from that everything is silent. Everything is still.
I turn my head. I can see something glowing green, but I can’t understand what’s wrong with it. I squint and frown and puzzle at it for a good while before realising that _it_ isn’t wrong - I am. The glowing green arrow isn’t pointing downwards, it’s me who’s twisted around into a bizarre position. My neck is bent and painful, my knees are higher than my head, there’s a terrible pain across my abdomen. And there’s that smell again. What was I doing?
It takes me a few moments to figure out which way up is and to decide how to move my legs so that I can make the green arrow point the right way. Eventually, somehow, I manage it and my head swims sickeningly with the effort. The aisle is strewn with spilled rubbish. Apple cores, crisp packets, Coke cans. A child’s shoe and a splayed baby doll, eyes tight shut and blonde curls spread out all around it, like a sleeping angel.
Two of the enormous windows are shattered, but not smashed, the tangled network of cracks spiralling outward into bigger and bigger circles, like a spider web. It’s strangely beautiful and I lift my hand to trace its shape, when I notice the orange, red flickering across the pattern of hairline fractures. Against the deep black of the night sky the contrast is astonishing and I feel in my pocket for my phone to capture it in a photo, but it’s not there.
The realisation doesn’t come quickly, but I feel it approach slowly - I’m aware that something is wrong and that I need to do something, if only I could think what. It’s important, I think. If only it would stay still so I could catch it.
And then it lands. The smell, the pain, the panic. The splintering of glass and the crunch and scream of metal and people. The smoke and the darkness.
I try to stand, but my leg must be broken and I fall to the ground again, my hands hitting the aisle floor, but the panic has washed away that feeling of dazed dreaminess now and I am scrabbling, stumbling, falling, clawing my way across to the opposite windows. They are unbroken and beyond them I can see a small crowd of dazed people. Some of them are bleeding. Some are stretched out across the grass. All of them wear the same numb, shocked expression and none of them look up. To their right a tree is burning.
I lift my fingers to the glass and my scream bounces back at me and hits me in the face. I can feel the flames now, the papery crackle is creeping closer, though I don’t dare turn to look. I can feel the smoke burning my eyes and the tacky, cloying, metallic smell of petrol.
One of the women in the crowd outside looks up and I see her mouth fall open into an O of surprise. She is pointing, she is screaming and they are all looking now. I can see my panic mirrored in their faces and I see the reflection of the flames in their helpless, horrified eyes