I had been constantly afraid of handling flames. Be it in the form of lighters, matches, alcohol lamps, Bunsen burners, you name it, the moment I see that flickering heat come within centimeters from my skin, I could not help but feel nervous. There was, in the back of my head, a perpetual nagging voice reminding me that if I let my clumsiness take over even for an instant, I'd burn into a crisp. It was that voice of reason, which kept me from touching anything more than the average comfortable heat.

So when a group experiment at our school's Chemistry lab presented the proposition of using alcohol lamps, I consulted four of my group mates about my working agenda. It was simple, one that kept my distance from the said equipment. My group mates didn't seem to mind my decision and we all set about to do our assigned tasks. Their work was to bend over a bubbling beaker, stirring its contents over a blazing alcohol lamp while mine was to watch them a safe few feet away, attending to the unwashed glass apparatuses they had used. Even with the intrusive chemical fumes prevalent in the air and the harsh afternoon sunlight spilling through the side windows of the lab, bleaching the already white tiles into a blinding glare, I was quite contented.

Yet, some higher power must have had the idea that my paranoia shouldn't go off unfounded this time. It just had to prove I had every reason to be afraid. No matter how careful you are, when it has to happen, it usually does.

And it did. Too fast. I was standing by the edge of the table, watching a boy from another class lean in to light his alcohol lamp on ours. Scalded by the heat, he had sent his own lamp whirling towards me on reflex. There was a loud crash and I felt something wet on my left hand.

It was denatured alcohol.

I thought it was alright. Denatured alcohol was rather safe compared to those nasty, skin-eating acids. Our teacher taught us that it was a pretty harmless chemical.

Unless it caught fire which mine did.

I find it a bit funny really. I began to fear fire because I was afraid of the pain that comes with it. Then all of a sudden, here I am with my whole left hand burning and I couldn't feel anything. If I hadn't glanced down at my hand and noticed the orange and crimson lights dancing around my fingers I would've continued thinking I was okay.

After a split second that I realized what was happening, the entire Chemistry lab had turned into black and white, chalk and charcoal, leaving me to stare at the living scarlet creature scorching my skin. The people around me appeared to not matter anymore. They were just still and lifeless gray statues, their reactions unintelligible, serving only as a backdrop to what my focus was at the moment. It was the awareness of being alone to face it, which triggered a kind of silent paralyzing panic. Thoughts of losing my left hand and of burning everything weaved through my head, unbidden. And among that web a loose thread of thought unraveled, that of the girl who was exactly like me, wielding the same smoldering hand but with the power to control fire, the strength to control her fear.

When at last I returned to my usual self, I did the most logical thing I could think of at the time. I put out the fires with my skirt and then went straight to the sink to immerse the damaged end of my front limb in tap water, acting as if what had happened was a normal day-to-day occurrence. I gradually returned my attention to my surroundings as the initial shock wore off and found out that my classmates were still pretty stunned by it all. They stood rooted for a while before finally approaching and helping me out with my wound, some following the teacher-in-charge to chastise the boy at fault.

That incident had left me nothing but a scar at the back of my hand and a still existing fear of flames.

However, sometimes when I gaze at the fading mar at my flesh, I can't help but remember the girl with her flaming limb like mine. And I comforted myself in knowing that even for a moment, I was as fearless as she had been.