© Copyright Photograph by Luke Bamber and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Adam stumbled through the oak door to his house, crashing into a small coffee table. He was a complete state. The once smart-looking clothes he wore were scruffy and torn, and his untamed black hair was a mess. Picking himself up, he took out a cigarette and lit it. As the smoke filled his lungs he began to cough, something irritated his throat. Adam continued to cough as he threw down his cigarette onto a high quality rug, reassuringly expensive. Within seconds the rug was up in flames.

Any ordinary night or day would see Adam sensibly stamp out the flames rising in his living room, but this was no ordinary night, for tonight, the whiskey had taken him hostage. That devilishly strong single malt beverage that Adam promised himself he would only drink once in a blue moon. The blue moons these days were coming thick and fast, increasing in occurrence.

Looking onward, Adam fell back slightly. He watched as a torrent of fire rose up. The tongues of the flames licked the ceiling leaving black marks in the Artex, and smoke began to fill the room. Staring deep into the comforting warm glow of the fire he could see an image. Deep, dark eyes formed in the blaze, staring right back at him. The flames roared as they danced around before Adam, and those black eyes continued to stare, until finally the flames began to whisper things. Unholy things that no man wants to hear, and yet they offered a strange sense of security.

“To the ground, Adam, to the ground.” The seductive tone of the voice told him. “I am the one who can save you, and only you. To the ground and fear no more.” The voice rose louder and more aggressive. The seductive quality of the words was lost in what was now a violent concoction of angry voices. The malevolence in the fire made itself apparent to Adam, so much that it scared him. He looked around at the living room to find the whole room was engulfed in flames. The posh leather three-piece suites, the sunset red curtains, the expensive paintings on the walls, all alight. The heat surrounded him with menacing intent. All at once Adam stared, the flames rose, the evil voice grew louder and morphed into desperate sounds of screaming. He looked on through the fire, where a strange image of a woman and a girl had appeared, curled up in a corner crying for help. Adam knew this pair. They were his wife and daughter, at least once upon a time. Adam’s mind was telling him strange things. A horrible sort of realisation dawned on him, as if awaking from a dream. His wife and child were no longer of this world. Their souls had been set free by a fire, a raging inferno much like the one blazing in front of him now. Adam grew madly upset in his intoxicated state, pining over the death of those he held dearest. His distraught state led him to stumble to the floor, tears streaming.
“Do it Adam! You know what you have to do. You know you have to. Do it!” As Adam tried to ignore the malicious words that the fire spat, he heard a small scared voice.

“Daddy?” A little girl spoke. Turning to the entrance, Adam saw his frightened eight year old. “Daddy who are you talking to?” Looking back at the room he could see that there was no more fire, just a small black hole in the rug, caused by the cigarette.
“No-one honey. Go to bed.” He told his daughter.

As the little girl walked off to her room, scared and confused, Adam got a grip of himself, and his mind began asking questions. What had happened? Had he hallucinated the fire? Was his mind creating illusions of death of his partner and beloved daughter? He paced manically before deciding to have another drink. He ran quickly into the black marble kitchen, and took out a bottle of Scotch from the corner cupboard. Settling down into one of the leather sofa’s he opened the bottle and took a few swigs. He stroked the leather and remembered his vision. Lighting up another cigarette, he relaxed a little, sinking his back into the couch. Adam continued to toke as he fiddled with his lighter, sparking it up from time to time. When his eyes caught sight of the flame, he heard a roar in the back of his mind. He closed his eyes and began hearing whispers once more, as a cold, sickening shudder ran down his spine. Manic whispers saying worrying things, bringing up visions of times gone by. His mind’s eye could see an orangey-red flame erupting with anger, with those evil black eyes staring, offering security once more.

“They know too much now. It has to end.” A voice in his head told him. “They saw you come in.” Adam’s thoughts raced in circles. Had his wife or daughter seen him? Did they know about his little trips out in the middle of the night? Had they seen him come and go? Had they smelt the smoke on his clothes in the mornings? The voice continued to whisper convincingly, “End it Adam. End it all.” Adam’s anxiety was rising high and he began panicking. He needed security, he needed comfort. There was only one thing in the world that offered both of those things to him, and that was fire. Lighting a flame and staring into it, the voices grew louder. Adam’s mind was clouded and confused, he didn’t know what was real and what was not. He couldn’t work out whether the image he saw of his wife and daughter were true, or if in fact they were still alive. Were they still in the house? His mind could think of nothing clearly. The only sanctuary he could find was in the flame of the lighter. It spoke to him as clear as crystal.

“To the ground Adam! Burn it to the ground. Burn the memories, the anxieties and all that you love and fear.” The voice was convincing. The voice was reassuring. The voice was real. As the same sentence repeated over and over he found himself whispering those very words.

“Burn it to the ground. Burn the memories, the anxieties and all you love and fear.” That comforting voice gave a strange thrill. A happy buzz appeared in his gut, the buzz that appeared all the other times he lit fires, feeding the monster. It was like a match made in hell, where there was whiskey there needed to be fire, and if there was no fire, then Adam felt uneasy, incomplete. With that thought he decided to listen to his demons, to burn his memories. Slowly and purposefully, he held the lit end of his cigarette to the curtain. Within a minute the curtain had erupted into a towering inferno, a torrent of flames. Adam rose from the couch and strolled into the kitchen. He felt a rush as he removed a bottle of vodka from the cupboard, and emptied the contents along the floor. With another thrill of excitement he turned on the gas of the cooker. That fast hiss of escaping gas was his cue to leave. He threw his fag onto the puddle of vodka and marched quickly out of the house. As he slammed shut the large oak door he felt powerful as the flames inside rose. The sirens of the smoke alarm screamed loudly. He smiled as he felt the warmth of the chaos he had created. As he walked calmly away from the destruction he’d caused, he heard a sound that make him shudder. The innocent screams of his wife and child were loud and clear above the alarm. Adam’s calm state of mind began to creep away. As the screams grew he began to panic again. Adam still could not tell what was real and what was not. There was only one cure for his panic. One more fire should do the trick.

Ignoring the screaming behind him, he ran fast, away from the house, and into the night. One more fire would keep him calm for another night.

By Jambo Stewart

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