Although it is only mid-day I feel that I have spent a lifetime in the airport, since I left the safety of the plane. I don’t notice at first when the light starts to fail. With no power we are dependant on natural light and as it begins to disappear the twilight of the airport became dingy.
We have reached the door that will take us out into the public area of the airport. I don’t know where we are but I am trusting the guys and they seem to know what they are doing. Either that or they are just too confident.
Max has his hand on the door. “This ought to lead into the lobby.”
Colin nods. It’s enough for me. As with all the other doors we have come across Max crouches and pushes the door a little. The light that trickles in is much duller than it had been. The bright blue day must have clouded over.
Max puts his eyes to the crack. He then eases it open a little more before freezing. I’m not worried, this is the routine. There is no noise from the lobby. He pushes it open completely and slips out, closing the door behind him. We wait.
Finally it is opened and Max stands in front of us. “Clear.”
We walk out of the gloom and into the lobby with its wall of windows. What hits me first is the smell of burning.
“Can you smell that?” I ask, but the guys ignore me. They have moved right up to the windows and are looking out.
I join them and then just look. “What?”
I can’t understand what I’m seeing. The clouds aren’t clouds. The sky isn’t overcast. Instead most of Surrey seems to be burning.
The smoke is grey and thick and coming from about five locations. It is hitting the sky and blanketing the area. The sun has disappeared behind the acrid smoke.
“Surrey…” I say. I can’t finish. I have a friend who lives out there. I don’t know her exact location but she can hear the planes overhead. Whenever we Skype we laugh as the roar of the engines blocking out our conversation. I am always shocked she has bought the house, but her husband is a plane enthusiast. His favourite hobby is to stand in the back garden and document the flybys.
“You get used to it,” Mel would say.
“I never would.”
“Earplugs help,” she had laughed. At the time I thought that a soundproof bedroom still wouldn’t cut it. I said nothing though, just smiled and agreed. Now, I just hope she is alive.
“I have a friend,” I start.
“Where?” asks Max.
“Sunbury on Thames,” I say.
Colin surprises me by encircling my shoulders with an arm. Max points. One of the columns of smoke is coming from there. I feel tears leak from my eyes.
“They might not be in,” Colin suggests.
“Maybe,” I say but I don’t really believe it.
“We have got to get out of here,” Max says.
I agree. The fires will reach here and I want to be able to run if they do. Being trapped inside this steel and glass monstrosity is not an option.
Max points to a door. It’s an exit and it is slightly open. “That’s where the smell is coming from.”
We are contemplating the possibility of using it when somewhere to our left a door bangs open. As one we crouch but we are out in the open.
Quickly we head towards the door, but it is a good fifty meters away. “Run,” Colin whispers. Max nods and I take Colin’s hand.