Arson

They all died in a fire I started. Charred bones scratch at my dreams most  nights. Terror sweats. Indigestion. Gray hairs. My body’s tearing itself apart from the inside.

*   *   *

When I was little, I liked to burn ants with a magnifying glass. When I got older, I realized that those ants were going home to their families. When I got older still, I realized that ants don’t actually have a family unit in the traditional sense. They’re simply workers produced by a queen. It occurs to me now that the only reason people don’t go around stepping on ants is because it’s beneath them.

*    *    *

Have you ever seen a meadow burn? Flowers and leaves wilt like old cabbage. The fire feeds on death like a meth addict. I, too, have a problem. I’m a pyromaniac. I can’t stop building fires. I’d always been careful, tiny fires where I’d dug out around them, surrounded it with rocks. When I tried to stop, cold turkey, I think I went a little insane. I had to stop smoking, too. It was too much temptation. Then it happened. One windy day, walking through the hills, and I find a lighter. That’s all it takes to commit arson–one windy day. The wonderful thing about fire is that any traces I may have left for the police have likely been burned away. Fire burns indiscriminately. It doesn’t care whether you’re person or a flower or an ant.

*   *   *

I can’t help but feel for those who lost their lives as a result of my carelessness. I’ve tried to blame them, tell myself that they should have left their houses sooner, the damn idiots. But it’s my fault. Only me. I drink pepto like water. Ironically, it’s wreaking havoc on my stomach. I don’t care. Not like ants, those people had families, loved ones. Even if they didn’t, it was wrong. I’ve tried to throw away that lighter a thousand times…

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5 Comments

Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

5 responses to “Arson

  1. soulinmyfist

    He drinks pepto like water. That line stood out, effective because most people know why someone would take pepto… and it doesn’t have the most pleasant taste nor texture in one’s mouth… bleh.

    He, a pyromaniac, feels tremendous guilt for killing a family or families after he commits arson. This is stated in the very first line which captures the readers attention to want to know why, how. I like how you hold off the explanation of the actual fire that killed them for the end, and that the story builds up to it by delving back into his childhood of burning ants. The comparison of the ants to people in the last paragraph was effective, as was mentioning how fire is indiscriminate and doesn’t care if you’re a person, flower, or ant, touching back on what was stated in the 2nd paragraph.

    The last line is interesting. “I’ve tried to throw away that lighter a thousand times…” He’s guilty, he’s suffering, he knows it was wrong. Will he turn himself in? That doesn’t come up at all. Will he seek out those people’s families and tell them it was his fault? Does his own family and loved ones know he’s a pyromaniac? Maybe he finds a group called Arsonists Anonymous? Why can’t he throw away the lighter? Maybe he treats it as a symbol of his guilt and he can’t let go of it until he can let go of what he did.

  2. taniappleseed

    Interesting character and good emotional conflict. I like that the character’s stomach reflects this agony. The form you’ve used for this entry is interesting. because you are dealing with a pyromaniac, perhaps you could try experimenting a little bit more about how the sentences lie on the page to make the character’s thoughts seem more fragmented.

  3. Great character study. I like the coherence and detachment with which everything is described, yet it is made clear the character is in turmoil over their past acts. Yet, at the same time not enough to turn themself in, struggling with the knowledge they will do it again.

    I found it interesting that soulinmyfist took this character as a “he.” Perhaps by default, because of the author? I don’t think the gender was ever introduced.

  4. edrensumagaysay

    I like the ants part. I could see him age. For me it worked because I did the same thing and felt the same way. Don’t know if that goes for everyone in the world though.

    It’s funny to me that I can feel for someone who probably killed people. And if other people feel for this guy, too, well, then, you’ve done and gone did some good writing.

    Cheers.

  5. awesomepie

    Edren, I think you pretty much encapsulated what I was going for, which is cool to hear. But I guess that’s writing. Different perspectives make us feel different emotions. Soulinmyfist added some good speculation about the lighter. I kind of added that in at the end. It seemed to fit. Still, I could added it a little more about the lighter within the story to get more meaning behind the ending while remaining ambiguous. Tani suggest playing with the form, which I believe is also a good idea, especially considering someone who is emotionally unstable. I still don’t want the form of the story to suggest he’s just a nutso whackjob, either, but this is something to consider. Thank you all for your comments.

    ~ Seamus K.

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