Heat by Rachel Handley

What’s a little arson between friends? I only meant to melt a few things of my own. Maybe, ok, maybe melt a little bit of Bob’s flat too. He lives above me and is a right noisy bastard. Setting his stuff alight feels fine though, moral even. I’m serving justice here. Plus, I smashed the glass on the fire alarm when the fire leaped to the curtains. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to hit the glass. Apparently, there’s a little hammer to crack the glass with, but who can be bothered with that? There’s a fire for god’s sake. I guess I should have been quicker, but have you ever seen melting plastic? Heat transforms it into bubbles which float on the air like bad snowflakes. Beautiful. And sure, I watched the curtains burn for a while. The couch too; but, after that, I did the right thing. Smashed the glass with my own hand. I’m basically a hero.

Our fire alarm goes off so often that people have learned to respond to it with mild annoyance rather than fear. But the heat got people moving. Especially once the flames had moved up and around the floor. Hugging the ceiling in smoke, the flames licked, then cracked, into the flats above. It was wonderful. A real thing of beauty. I heard Bob shout at me to leave the corridor. We need to go. There’s a fire. Nothing gets past Bob. He didn’t know I had started anything, or that I’d saved everyone. He ran past me and tried to grab my arm as he went downstairs. Come on! It’s dangerous. I pulled my arm away before he could catch me. The stairs swallowed him up. Hot gnashing teeth pulled him under the floor. Justice. He didn’t even make a sound. Only the creak of the stairs gave away where he was. The smoke was thick, it stuffed itself into my lungs. I knew I was meant to go on the floor and crawl by the walls, less smoke inhalation, less danger. But I had made the danger, it belonged to me. I stood in the corridor until the floor cracked beneath me, and my world flew from my eyes.

Rachel Handley is an academic, fiction writer, and poet based in Dublin, Ireland. Their poetry has recently been published in Dreich Magazine, The Liminal Review, and The Madrigal Press. A short story of theirs will be featured by Full House Literary in January 2022. Their debut short story collection ‘Possible Worlds and Other Stories’ will be published by Ellipsis Imprints in September 2022. Twitter: @_RachelHandley Website: rachelhandleywriting.wordpress.com/

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