Fire, Fire, Never Touch

The winter streets were abandoned. Who would want to fill them when they could be home in the comfort of their living room, staring at the fire. I sat by mine lighting another magazine and watching little orange specks fly up the chimney, they looked like fireflies, whizzing and floating around. The crackle of the fire made me feel warm and safe, it drew me in. My phone vibrated and the half, the tiles making it louder, pulling me out of my trance.

"U cozy?"

I instantly knew how to reply, "Yes."

I had had the fireplace installed only a day ago. I hadn't left the fire since. For the first time in years I only had to wear one layer. My phone vibrated loudly again before blaring;

"Hi there! The weather man here! New York is looking fine today but the cold is still moving in. We don't know if it will ever lift but we're looking at some seriously deep snow coming in."

More snow. It had never not snowed. Snow was the only forecast we'd ever had, and ever would have. I sat in front of the the fire still staring in to the orange and yellow tongues. My phone vibrated;

"Morning Alex." Jess said,

"Morning? It's 3 in the afternoon!" I said.

"It's 8 in the morning." She said, "you've been in front of that fire for days now! Come outside!"

Days. I hadn't slept, drank, moved in days. It must be an addiction.

"I can't." I said,

"Why not? Why can't you leave the fire and come and play?" She said,

"Get a fire and find out." I put the phone down I took a sock off and threw it in, watching it smoulder and burst into flames.

My phone vibrated; "I get a fire tomorrow." Said the text.

I reached behind myself and grabbed a blanket, not looking away from the fire.

There was noise coming the next apartment. Jess'. I didn't know what was going on but I guessed she was fine. There was a knock on the door. "It's open!" I yelled. I heard footsteps behind me.

"Nice place!" She laughed on her play of words. She stopped and went silent for a bit. "Why won't you look at me?" I could sense sadness in her voice.

"I need to look at the fire! If I look away I might miss something! Or freeze! Or someone might steal it!"

All I heard was silence and the cracking of the fire. Finally she said "No ones gonna steal your fire Alex."

Then a thought crossed my mind, "You're going to steal my fire!" I said

"NO!" She yelled so loud. "Stop it! Stop it! Just look at me!"

I tried to turn my head but I couldn't look away. "Can't." I said.

"Come on I'm taking you to a doctor!" She said, touching my shoulder.

"NO! IT'S MINE! YOU CAN'T TAKES IT FROM ME! NOOOOOO!"

I'm not surprised she left after that. The voice that had started screaming was not mine. It wasn't even human anymore.

The phone rang. I didn't pick up. Jess' voice came through the answer machine.

"Look outside," she started crying. "I can't do it either, I'm stuck playing with the fire because I can't stop. You've been in front of that thing for a month. How are you still alive? I feel so alone. All I can see out the window is smoke, so there has to be people right?" She took a deep shaky breath. "Can you remember what your front door looks like? Or what I look like? Or your couch? I can't. I need the fire."

The line went dead.

I didn't know what time of day it was. What day it was. I couldn't remember what a dog looked like. Or what the sun felt like. Just the fire. The phone started ringing.

"I need the fire. I want it. There's not enough. I'm gonna knock on the wall."

I heard the knock.

"Knock back if you're still in there, alive I mean."

Slowly, stiffly I reached out and tapped the wall.

"I can hear you. So we're not all alone. We have each other."

There was a long pause.

"I wonder what would happen if I got closer..."

All I heard next was screaming and thumping. I wanted to help, I wanted to scream and to save her, but all I could do was sit in front of my fire, staring into it. I cried silent tears as I saw the the flickering and smoke enter my living room. I waited for my fate. I waited to die.

"The good news is sun folks coming in from all around! The snow is melting! Get outside! In other news the fire in central manhattan was controlled and contained but the death of Jess Dawson was reported."

I woke up to hear that. I could feel the sun on me. I knew I was free. I opened my eyes to find myself in a cave made of rubble. I could hardly see anything because the sunlight seemed to be flickering. Rolled over and saw the fireplace. The only surviving thing in the room. I wanted to scream for help, but I became mesmerised by the fire. Heard the rhyme relating in my head over and over again.

"Fire, fire, never touch,
It could hurt you very much."

But this fire wouldn't hurt me, it was MY fire.