The scuffed black shoes were walking steadily across the dry, cobbled streets. It was the dead of night, an owl perched on a nearby street lamp and rats scurried between bins. The tall figure stopped and peered around the corner. He heard shouting in the distance. A dog was barking. The city was awakening to panic. His eyes crept slowly round the corner focusing on the house at the end of the street. Someone raced past him carrying a bucket, unaware of the figure he'd almost bumped into. Slowly the man in the shadows walked forward so he was yards away from the door. His skin began to blister in the heat. The whole house was ablaze with fire. The small man had thrown the bucket of water into one of the windows with little effect. He was wasting his time. He ran away back down the street to get help.
The large man stood watching. Nobody could save this house. The black wooden beams were being ravaged by smoke and the white walls were being stripped by the heat. The dazzling vivid light reflected into his eyes. There was a stir behind him; a wooden stall had fallen over, pushed by two men in a scrap heap. They were clawing at each other whilst two women pleaded for them to stop. The man by the fire liked this. It was a good distraction. He imagined this chaos to be spreading all across the city. What would be left of it was anyone's guess. He walked further towards the door and took a last big gulp of clean air before he entered the burning building. He didn't have much time; the beams weren't holding the weight of the top floor. He would have to be quick.
He found himself in the kitchen and pulled a towel across his face. The smoke was already clutching at his throat and eyes. He coughed. He was chocking. His mouth was so dry. He searched around with his hands, feeling his way across the walls towards the stairs. He couldn't see further than his elbows. He walked up the stairs, the floorboards creaking beneath his feet. He really didn't have much time. He reached the landing and heard a small cry from the room to the right, he needed to get this correct. He tried the door, wrenching his hand away when it burnt him, but the touch was enough to tell him that it was locked. The flames were wrapping around the door frame but he needed to enter. He lashed out with one foot and surprisingly the door came away freely and hit the floor sending up a spray of amber fragments. The figure guarded his face with his hands and moved into the room, the creaking all around him getting louder. His lungs were crying out for oxygen, the black fumes pummelled the inside of his chest. His eyes were so full of scattered ashes that he almost missed the small, crouching figure in the corner of the room.
A young, frightened girl lay whimpering, frozen to the spot. The man quickly moved over and knelt down reaching out a hand to her. For a second she didn't move, but then coughed and extended he arm. The man took off his coat and took hold of the little, hot arm. He wrapped the coat around the child and took off carrying her quickly down the stairs. He left the building hearing something collapse, whilst seeing a gather of people running down the street towards him. Coughing and spluttering he moved into the shadows of the neighbouring house. The people were so preoccupied with the job at hand that they didn't see the tall man and a small girl wrapped up come out of the house. Nor did they hear the sound of them gasping for air over the roar of the flames. He took a while to recuperate then turned and walked away from the house, now crumpling inwards by its own mass: now nothing more than a heap of broken wood, destroyed furniture, smashed cutlery and lost memories. The man looked downwards at the frail load he was clutching. The young girl's eyes were closed. She was unconscious and barely breathing, her body was in spasms clutching at shallow breaths. But she was alive. She would recover in time. That was most important. She was alive.