She awoke with intense pain, in her head, her back. Dense smoke filled the air and flames leapt along the wall across from where she lay. Ghostly figures moved around her. Were they shouting? She only heard whispers above the ringing in her ears. Warm blood ran down her face. It was hard to breath. The stench of melted plastic was intolerable.

The last thing she remembered was sitting across from that dreadful young executive. She could not comprehend that despite her seventy years of life and five decades in the city, her company was still considered a risk. “Since when is a four-generation, family business a bad investment?” she’d asked.  He’d opened his mouth and the room exploded.

No one came to assist her. She struggled to her feet and looked past the broken wall to what had once been a warren of cubicles and glass offices. Burning confetti clouded her vision, but she saw light on the far side of the destruction. She wiped her face on the sleeve of her favorite wool jacket and realized she was looking through a gray snow storm into a brilliant blue New York sky.

“Out” she said and coughed. Grit clogged her throat. “We must get out.”   Her host was beyond taking or giving advice now.  She said a short prayer for him and climbed over the shattered beverage cart, and into the hall that ended in bright sunlight. Was it wrong to regret the loss of the water pitcher more than the man?  She smacked dry lips and decided not to think about that now.

She would have to do for herself. She made it to the shattered windows and looked down on the city she loved.  Directly below, the distant street was lost in a black billowing cloud. Heat from the dark cloud, warmed her face and hands. At once, she accepted her circumstance.  

“The world is not what it used to be,” she said and stepped into the sky.

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