“I can’t see anything in here,” complained fourteen-year-old Cliff, peering around the shadowy interior of the boarded-up house, his best friend Ed standing passively by his side.
“You will in a minute!” laughed his six-year-old brother, running out of the house with his pal Sparks, slamming the door and locking it behind him.
“Hey! What’s the idea, Blaze?” shouted Cliff, yanking violently on the door to get out. “You’re going to be in big trouble when Dad hears that you locked me in here!”
“Uhhh… do you smell smoke?” asked Ed, sniffing the air.
All at once, a bright yellow-and-orange flame ran up the wall, illuminating the wooden structure’s dirty interior. For a moment, the two teens stood frozen, paralyzed with disbelief and fear.
“You’re always telling on me ’cause I like to play with fire. Bet you can’t do it when you’re locked inside a burning house!” howled Blaze, standing before the fiery edifice, wielding a flaming torch. Running his free hand excitedly through his tousled red hair, the boy with the round, cherubic face cried, “Run around the back, Sparks. Set the house on fire there, too!”
“Okay,” sang out his diminutive friend, scurrying away with a blazing torch.
“Blaze has gone nuts,” exclaimed Cliff, looking desperately around for a means of escape. “The windows are all boarded up. There’s only one way to go, Ed. Up!”
Cliff led the way through the billowing smoke with Ed following close behind, holding his shoulders. Hacking, coughing, they made their way to the rickety stairs. Running their hands along the hot, wooden wall for support, they ascended the shaky steps to the first landing, stopping briefly to look down at the flaring conflagration below. Suddenly, the landing collapsed, dropping Ed screaming onto the fiery main floor. Cliff, narrowly escaping, ran up the remaining stairs to the roof
Gazing over the projecting ledge of the flat roof, Cliff looked down at Blaze and Sparks. Waving their torches triumphantly, the boys were jumping up and down, cheering and singing, “No more tattletales! No more trouble!”
Suddenly, an immense, dark shadow filled the sky. A rumbling voice shouted, “That’s enough!”
Then a cascade of water tumbled through the air, extinguishing the burning structure.
“Wait till Dad hears that you’ve been playing with matches again,” said the teen towering over the two boys sitting in the sandbox next to the charred Popsicle-stick house.
Cliff dropped the water bowl from his hand, then took off for the house. Meanwhile, Blaze dug the half-melted boy toy out of the rubble of Popsicle sticks and grabbed the singed boy toy leaning against the ledge of the Popsicle stick roof. Waving goodbye to Sparks, he ran up the driveway past the parked, bright-red emergency vehicle to the open door of the house. Running inside, he went down the hall filled with framed firefighter awards to the living room where his Dad sat, Cliff standing next to him, holding a pack of soggy matches.
“Blaze was starting fires again, Dad,” his brother said smugly.
“Not again,” growled the balding, middle-aged fire chief, his angry eyes glowing like smoldering embers. “I risk my life putting out fires, Emmy,” he complained to his slim, attractive wife seated next to him, “and he spends his time starting them.”
Emmy sighed and ran her long fingers affectionately through the angelic-looking boy’s wild red hair. She was convinced that she and she alone understood this young, innocent little boy. Still, she felt an unwelcome sense of dread when she saw his hand pressing surreptitiously against a cigarette lighter in his pant pocket that he’d found.
Blaze scowled and cast a long, malevolent glare at his brother while he gently turned the lighter’s flint wheel between his fingers. Just wait, he thought triumphantly. Just you wait…
Thomas Koperwas is a retired teacher living in Windsor, Ontario, Canada who writes short stories of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in:Anotherealm; Jakob’s Horror Box; Literally Stories; The Literary Hatchet; Literary Veganism; Bombfire; Pulp Modern Flash; Savage Planets; Dark Fire Fiction; The Sirens Call; Blood Moon Rising Magazine; Corner Bar Magazine; Free Bundle Magazine; The Chamber Magazine.