Playing With FireDon’t play with fire. Silly woman, you don’t play with fire, fire plays with you. It knows when you respect it, when you are afraid or unworthy.
That day, fire played with my whole family. It played with my parents, my sister, but not me. It left me alone. I had given it life; I had respected it; I was not afraid. I was worthy.
Fire left me alone, but the firemen didn’t. They stripped my new friend away from me. They slaughtered the comrade I had so recently created. I heard my friend seething, unable to fight back. Death was around me, sizzling and steaming, the killers trying to sooth me. I cried, wanting nothing to do with them.
After that frightful day of death, I was brought to my grandparents’ house. Although I was only four at the time, vivid memories still float around me. The only thing keeping my ailing grandmother alive was my stumbling grandfather. When the cold season enveloped their small apartment, my friend paid a heart-warming visit every night, yet I was unable to converse with her. She was confined to an undignified brick cell, guarded by a light fence. Some days, coaxing her with matches, I convinced her to jump out of her cage, but our encounters were always cut short by my meddling grandmother.
During the summer, my friend was hidden from me. I would sometimes catch glimpses of her on the lifeless box that was my grandparents’ television, but it was unable to capture the beauty that was my companion, showing her graceful flowing body as a mass of grey and black. The images projected by the box, always those of death, the firefighters always slaying her splendor with their cold hatred, threw a switch in my mind; I was unable to control my fury.
Powerless in the face of my rage, my grandparents sent me to an old, fat psychiatrist in a stiff leather chair, who asked me questions. He inquired about my friends. I told him that I had one. He asked me if my friend was a boy or a girl.
“A girl,” I responded flatly.
He smirked. I didn’t find anything funny at all. He asked me about my parents. I answered that my friend had played with them; he noted my responses with curious glances.
After these tedious exchanges, my grandparents visited the psychiatrist’s office. I was left alone. The old man had told me that I was entering a stage of my life called adolescence which meant I would to grow a lot, allowing me to reach previously unattainable objects. I reached out to the lighter on top of the bookshelves, calling to my friend, wishing for her to reappear. It didn’t take me long to get her out of the small containment vessel.
I dropped the lighter and watched as my companion sprung forth, taking in her new surroundings, growing ever larger until she reached the ceiling. She made her way, roaring, to the door behind which my grandparents and psychiatrist were hiding. She blew it open with a flick of her glowing fingers. I could hear my grandparents’ screams, becoming louder and more high-pitched until they were silenced by the overwhelming body of my friend.
The door behind me burst open, signaling the arrival of the fire-killers. Seeing the devils’ eyes reflecting my glare, I bellowed and rushed towards them. The closest killer opened his arms, seemingly awaiting my embrace. I continued running at them until the top of my skull hit the man square in the chest. He barreled over, shouting. I planted my foot in his blazing visor, feeling it crush under my boot. The other men stared at me, unsure what to do. After an eternity, one jumped on top of me and dragged me outside into the blinding sunlight. I watched from the corner of my eye as other demons in heavy red coats made quick work of my friend. I shouted indistinctly at them. I was laid on a stark white stretcher and restrained by orange straps. I struggled to get free, but to no avail.
Over the noise, I heard approaching footsteps. A young face suddenly appeared in my field of vision. “This may pinch,” the face said with a smile. It did pinch, and slowly black ink covered my eyes.
I awoke briskly in a blazing white hell, noise everywhere. I jolted upright, feeling fingers prodding and probing my body. I jumped off my stretcher to the shouts and cries of the white-clad devils and ran down the hallway, bumping into more demons. Breaking into what looked like a waiting-room, I rushed towards gleaming double doors. Stepping into the light, I collided with an advancing uniformed chest.
“Leaving so soon?” the cop asked with a grin. “Why, I was just coming to get you. Let’s go.”
I kicked him in the kneecap and fled. Out of nowhere, another officer grabbed my arm and wrenched me back to where the detective lay. I kicked him again. He groaned and I was yanked out of reach.
In the back of the cruiser, I stared at the fading blue leather seats in front of me.
The piles of fertilizer around my gnarled feet stare back at me. The years since I have last seen my darling have passed so slowly, yet they seem so empty. I find the valuable book of matches under a pair of gardening gloves. I leaf through the matches, looking for the perfect one. I pluck it, strike it. In utter silence, the match drops, igniting the fertilizer, giving birth to my love.
I feel a slap across my face. I reach up to touch the raw skin, but she takes advantage of me and trips me up. I lie there, cringing, moaning, in agony. She bellows, letting her anger explode after so many years of being ignored.
Her furious cries are the last things I hear.
[TABLE OF CONTENTS, LHS CLASS OF 2009 EDITION]
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2002-2007 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.