I put tulips under all the pillows, and then I set fire to the house. It was a ritual that I had often dreamt of, symbols of the love I once had for this place. But that feeling seems old now, a burnt flower is already where my heart used to be. The happy times are like a movie reel playing through my mind and I no longer feel any connection to them as real events.
Crouched down the street I watch with fascination as the fire takes hold, spreading from room to room, slowly consuming the whole place. I want to watch for as long as possible, to make sure the job is done. If I see this place reduced to ashes perhaps the ashes inside me could finally be cleared away.
A girl is walking along the street and she stops directly in front of my position. She seems to sense something is wrong, and she casts her eyes around searching for whatever her instincts have alerted her to. Why did someone have to come along? Couldn’t I just have a few moments alone to enjoy this?
She continues on her way and I allow myself to exhale and relax. But only for a moment, because she has now stopped in front of the house. She is bound to alert someone. It’s too soon, it could still be saved. I wait for her to run away and scream for help, but she doesn’t. Instead she tilts her head to one side and looks quizzically at the house. What she does next sends panic through me. She begins to walk towards it. Instead of running away in a panic she instead walks with purpose straight towards the front door. Smoke is now beginning to seep through any cracks in the windows or gaps in the roof tiles. I can see the glow of the flames through the drawn curtains, which are also beginning to smoulder. I wanted to destroy this building because this is where the little girl I was vanished, not to see another disappear. Yet, I am sitting here watching as this girl walks to the front door, turns the handle and walks in.
I have often been told that all I do is take. Watching what is happening makes me realise that this can’t be all about me, I can’t let this girl die in the flames. I don’t know what she is thinking and why she is doing this, but I have to do something. I run towards the house, and by the time I get there the flames have really taken hold. As I approach the front door the heat feels as if it is going to sear me like a steak. How is she even in there? I force myself to move forwards, shielding my face from the heat as best as I can. When I manage to open the door I see nothing but the glimmer of heat and the smoke rolling in from the surrounding rooms. There is no sign of the girl, so I continue into the entrance hall to see if I can catch a glimpse of her. But how could she possibly have moved further than this?
As I stand in the centre of the space I look up and around me and see nothing. Then, there is a crash and when I look up and see the beam falling towards me I realise that this house wasn’t finished with me yet. It couldn’t let me win this final round.
Words © Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites