So my son took out some matches the other day and I grabbed them away, admonishing him to NEVER play with matches. He shrugged his shoulders and said okay, but then looked over at his older brother who said, “Right. Only grown-ups are allowed to play with matches.” I had the requisite fire-safety-discussion, but couldn’t get the idea of adults playing with fire out of my mind.

So here’s what happened with that. Enjoy! 🙂 

The taxi stopped across the street and I froze.  I swallowed hard and gripped the back of the driver’s headrest hoping that maybe he would ignore my request to stop and somehow, magically, move onward.  Instead, he grumbled the fare and held out his hand not even looking back at the terror  written on my face.  I fumbled for change, paid him, and got out onto the curb.

It looked the same as it had twenty years ago.  The bricks seemed angrier, though.  As if they had been sulking all this time, waiting for my return.  The trees were bare but then I had never remembered the foliage brightening the surroundings very much.  For me, it was always darkness, hopelessness.  Why had I come back to this place?  What compelled me?  I had long ago vowed never to return and yet a part of me needed to walk through that rounded door once more – to put to sleep demons that had haunted me all those years.  The sleepless nights, the dark images, every nightmare – they all stemmed from this place.

I glanced up and down the street.  No cars.  Not a soul.  Of course not.  I had never heard anything but silence all those years.  From the tiny window on the second floor I would strain my eyes for something – a bird, a child, just another human being.  But in all those years not one other soul – not a noise save for my own heart beating quickly.

I crossed the street to the front door.  Amazing that no one had torn this place down.  It was the oldest monstrosity on the block.  I didn’t remember the other houses either.  I only remembered the solitude. I brushed the cobwebs from the grating on the door.  I needed to find one thing in this place of death.  It beckoned me, whispering my name.

I broke the knob.

Air escaped through the crack like a geyser, spitting debris and dust into my face.  I pulled back sputtering and coughing.  It didn’t want me to come in. I gripped the doorknob again and slowly pulled it towards me.  Light spilled onto the dusty floor illuminating the shelves and wooden furniture.  The books lay untouched all these years on their shelves, begging for a reader.  I fingered their leather bindings – all the classics, all the romances.  How could such beauty reside in such evil?  It was a paradox I couldn’t reconcile in my mind.

Looming in the center of the room was the chair.  That chair he would sit in for hours at a time – not reading, barely breathing – just staring blankly into space.

I closed my eyes trembling.

I needed to destroy it.  I needed to rid myself of this nightmare – kill him once and for all – purge myself of this pain I’ve carried for years.  I frantically pulled the container out of my bag, clumsily spilling its contents on my hands.  I poured it on the floor. The chair, the beautiful books. I ran around the room, a lab rat trying to escape.

I paused at the staircase – unable to go up, unable to walk that route again.  I spilled the kerosene on the banister and stairs and ran before they could capture me again.

I looked around breathing heavily.  I dropped the container bouncing it loudly on the hardwood floor.  Backing up towards the door, my eyes darting back and forth, I reached into my pocket.

My hands were shaking violently as I lifted the match from its book.  It lit quickly despite my trembling and I held it momentarily, glancing one last time at the room.

“I am in control now,” I thought.  “It’s over.  You can’t have my life anymore.”

I dropped the match watching the flames explode on the floor.  They licked the banister, blackened the wood chair.  The kerosene container melted into a disfigured molten mass.  I laughed.  Quietly at first, but then riotously –  I was in control.  I was the strong one now.

I bolted for the door and watched the house burn.  Smoke poured from the windows.  I was in awe.  I had harnessed the power of God himself.  This place of death, now alive in flame.  It was over.  I walked away. Drained.

I picked up the newspaper the next day at the bus station.  The town was abuzz with the story of the blaze.  “What a tragedy,” they were saying.  How ironic.  I quickly found the article.  There was a picture of a family holding each other by the gutted black debris.  My breath caught in my throat.  The house -–it looked different.  Those people, who were they?  That window – was it always there? Arsonist?  Serial Arsonist?  No they don’t understand.  They can’t understand.

I boarded the bus.  It was time to move on.  To find the next house, the right house this time- and destroy it finally.

The taxi pulled up in front of the house and the fear in my stomach was palpable.  There it was.  The one from my nightmares.  For twenty years it I needed to return and now I finally found it.  Its wooden slats lay warped and dirty.  The windows unusually cheerful, masking their dark secrets.

The matches were in my pocket. It was time to purge my soul again.  Time to conquer.  Time to kill the demons.  I exited the taxi and approached the wooden door.

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