Driving home from practice, Donatas rolled down the driver’s seat window of his expensive SUV. With the mild winter air blowing across his face, he thought that Houston wasn’t too different from his native Lithuania. Perhaps a bit more spread out, but the Texas winter was not far removed from a Lithuanian spring or autumn.
Suddenly, from behind him, came the sound of a fire engine’s sirens. Pulling over to the side of the road, he struggled to hold back the memories that wanted to desperately enter his mind. As he tried to busy himself with thoughts of hot women, upcoming games, or complicated math problems, brief bursts of flame flashed into his mind’s eye.
Unable to help himself, he looked around the flat landscape surrounding the freeway, searching for a telltale column of smoke rising from a burning building. He knew that, in America, fire engines often responded to non-fires, so he was surprised to see a quickly-expanding billow of smoke floating above a nearby neighborhood.
A panic was setting in. “I have to save those orphans,” he thought to himself, even though it had been several years since he had unknowingly incinerated a whole orphanage of Lithuanian children, killing them all. “I have to get back to my orphanage!”
He pulled back on to the road, took the nearest exit, and sped through a residential subdivision, following the sound of the sirens until he came upon a street blocked off by police. In the middle of the block was a house completely engulfed in a searing conflagration. But Donatas did not see a house; instead, he saw the timber-frame orphanage that had been entrusted to his care. And in his ears, he did not hear the firefighter’s yelled commands to each other; instead, he heard the screams of the dying children, the children who so much wanted to warm themselves by the fireplace while Donatas had left for just a few minutes to buy them some bread, honey, and milk. Their favorite snack.
“Turiu išsaugoti našlaičius!” Donatas bellowed, leaping out of his car and running past the barricade. As officers sternly warned him to stay back, Donatas ran through an adjacent yard and to the backyard of the burning home. The back door had been chopped through with an axe; Donatas forced his way inside, looking desparately for any orphans that he might be able to rescue from the raging, yet somehow beautiful, inferno.
He soon ran into a firefighter spraying a water hose at the flames. “Please help me save the children!” he sobbed, tears falling from his eyes only to be evaporated instantly by the intense heat. “The children! The children! Vaikai! Vaikai!” He grabbed onto the flame-retardant suit that the firefighter wore, trying to convince him of the seriousness of the situation.
“Sir, you have to get out of here right now! There could be a flareup at any second!” said the firefighter, urgently motioning for Donatas to leave.
But Donatas had already sprinted up the stairs to a bedroom. Inside, there was a crib, but no baby; the entire family had already made it out safely. Donatas, not knowing this, looked all over the room for a sign of the infant, and, not finding one, let out a wail. “No! It is all my fault. I…I killed all these children!”
As the fire burned all around him, Donatas clutched the baby’s blanket to his face and wept.