Note: Here is a little something new for the blog. I have been pretty bummed lately not being able to work on some original fiction that is truly my passion. I thought in order to help myself actually finish one of the many works I have been starting over the years, why don't I try it through the blog? Who knows maybe some of you will hold me accountable, forcing me to keep going. This is one of my ideas that I have been most serious about. I hopeful YA novel. I am planning to contribute this original content once a month. Let me know how you feel about it. If you guys like the idea, we'll keep it going. If you don't, we'll scrap it. Let me know your thoughts. I now present to you Afterburn.
Sarah Meyers had a problem with fire. No, she wasn't afraid of it nor did she tote around matches to satisfy any psychological pyromaniac desires, regardless what her therapist thinks. Sadly, her problem was much crazier than her poor therapist could comprehend. Sometimes, if she was angry or scared enough, things around her tended to catch on fire. Sometimes it just happened to be a small trashcan, but other times it could end up being an entire barn. Outside of the possibility of being delusional, which Sarah doesn't buy, she isn't the typical teenage girl. The barn fire forced her father to move the family to his hometown of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, hoping the family name and history would be strong enough to dampen the actions of his delinquent daughter. Now, Sarah has to start the game all over again. New school, more people to avoid, and try desperately to keep herself from setting anymore fires. Sarah soon finds out that some of the kids are not quite like the rest of the others, either. No, there is an old secret in this town that may provide Sarah with answers, but what she may find could be more terrifying than high school, and that's pretty scary.
Flames licked at the rafters of the old barn, gaining more life as it breathed the oxygen seeping through the star lit holes in the roof. I sat in awe over the beauty from the growing fire as I held tight to the tattered remains of my blouse. Fire never hurt me. It always enveloped me with comfort and warmth like a mother’s hug after a long day of playing in the wintery snow. At this moment I needed that comfort, comfort I could never find through anything else, not even my own parents. Most of all, I needed protection. The fire sparked from that need as it always had before, but this time the fire didn’t just separate me from my fear, it swallowed me and began to slowly consume everything around me.
I was snapped out of my daze, when I heard a frightened yell from my far left. I could see him through the breaks in the flames. The boy tried in vain to hold his now scorched and melting letterman jacket up to block the approaching fire that had backed him against the far left wall of the barn underneath the closest window.
I thank god for that window now. If the boy hadn’t reigned in his senses long enough to climb the hay bales and jump through it, he probably would have fell victim to the fire just as the hay bales he leapt from did moments after his feet left them.
That fire was born of my fear and anger, two emotions that have never been so violently felt as one. It needed to burn away the existence of everything from that night, and I let it. I wasn’t going to be satisfied until that barn had been left charred and in ashes. How many other girls have been brought to this barn? How many more had yet to be?
The football star, the pride of Andersonville, didn’t even try to get me out, nor did he call the fire department. It had taken four hours for that old decrepit barn to take its final bow, a testament to its survival for what looked like the past eighty years. A far off neighbor had seen the remnant smoke billowing up towards the slowly, brightening morning sky and put out a call to the fire department. When the trucks finally made their way to charred sight, they found a broken, but unharmed girl clutching the remains of her blouse as I had been since the first spark found life.
The only logical explanation was that I, a clearly troubled teenager, started the fire, despite my protests and confessions of what truly happened. I was immediately charged with reckless arson of private property, though no substantial evidence was found outside of my very presence. Why should they believe that the gem of the Andersonville High School football team ask the troubled and antisocial Sarah Meyers out for a date, let alone try to force himself upon me. This was the stone clad confession that he gave the authorities that was fully supported by his parents. Being the son of the mayor, it was hard not to believe his story over the girl who has a delinquent record where fire and arson was concerned. I just appeared to be upping my game.
The only reason I haven’t been shoved into a juvenile detention center is because of my father. My father happens to be one of the best defense lawyers in New England. For Peter Meyers, life is perfection. He strictly does high profile and divorce cases, which flows in the money. Most would call my father’s profession leaching, because morality is not one of his high points. A win is a win for him, no matter who he has to financially ruin. His high intelligence is only matched by his charisma in a courtroom. He could smooth talk a convict out of his last meal before execution, that’s how good my father is.
His charmed life is rounded out by his trophy wife, my mother, the keeper of his estate. In other words, my mother has the difficult task of keeping his mansion richly decorated, including my father and herself. Always with proper taste, of course. My mother always keeps both of their social lives busy, because keeping up appearances is key in this kind of life. The only blemish in Pete Meyers’s life is me, his daughter.
The first memory that I have of fire was when I was three years-old. I was sitting in the backyard playing with a plastic bucket as a large black snake slithered through the blades of grass. All would have probably been fine, if I hadn’t have interrupted its path with the rock I had just thrown in boisterous glee. As oblivious as I had been, I became fully aware as it reared up bearing its fangs. Whether the snake was poisonous was not the concern of my three year-old self. I had been terrified, which is why a line of fire emerged between me and the snake. A normal three year-old child would have been very scared, but I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t qualify as such. The fire gave off the same comfort and warmth I’ve come to know. I knew that I was safe. My mother had chosen that moment to emerge from the house and of course freaked out. She convinced herself that she must have left a lighter somewhere within my reach. Funny how she never found that lighter.
Whenever I was really scared, the fire seemed to always come to my aid. I made the mistake of trying to ask my mother about my little problem when I was seven after setting fire to part of our fence when a stray Rottweiler found its way into the neighbors’ backyard. I was reading on the other side of that fence, when the animal crashed into it barking and growling. I jumped up immediately turning to find the wooden fence bucking and straining from what was either a sick or hungry dog. The book flew from my hands as I turned, quickly igniting when it landed at the fence’s base. My mom gave me such a strained look when I posed the question of my fear induced blazes. When she recovered with an awkward and fake smile after which exclaiming about what an imagination I had. She told me that the fence had clearly caught on fire due to faulty landscape lighting that the dog surly must have disturbed. This was also the moment that I stopped making friends. If my mother couldn’t handle my problem, how could a complete stranger cope with it?
My parents were able to enjoy a somewhat normal child save for several small dismissed and explainable fires that peppered my childhood. When I turned thirteen, I hit puberty, and with my puberty came anger. Anger always has a taste for fire. My decision against being a social butterfly was upsetting for my parents as they tried to engage me with several children of my father’s clients and colleagues. What they didn’t understand most of all was that my decision was harder on me than them. I was an only child and was always lonely.
One night, my father asked if I wanted to invite friends over for a sleepover, because that’s what girls my age did. He became upset with me when I tentatively explained that I had none. This was one of the few times that my father expressed his emotions when it came to his little girl. My parents may be negligent in most things where a child is concerned, but I always knew that they truly loved me. At least I did then. The barn fire may have changed their feelings.
A little over a year later, I ran from a particularly bad argument with my mother over embracing my social responsibilities as a member of our family. I ran to my room as furious, boiling tears slid down my face, slamming my door behind me as I escaped to my room. I remember crying on my bed and getting angrier. There was anger for denying myself of these simple wants and needs and disappointing my parents, who deserved a normal child. Just as I was about to break into another string of tears, my wastebasket erupted. There was no growth with the fire. It was instantly a four foot blaze and gave off a menacing edge. It scared the hell out of me, which in turn made the fire bigger. It quickly moved to the nightstand next to the wastebasket, and shortly became in reach of my comforter, which it easily licked at. It became clear that the aggression I felt from the fire was not towards me, but rather as an imposing force of defense. A weapon, created by my anger.
I was so entranced by the growing fire before me that I never heard my parents scream as they burst into my room. My father immediately ripped a curtain from the near window and tried smothering the flames around me. He screamed at me to move out of the way, but my concentration lay in the task of willing some control over the flames. I was commanding and praying to it in my mind to stop and go out, worried that my parents would be hurt or worse, killed.
My mother had apparently ran for the extinguisher and suddenly appeared in a white bursting cloud as she sprayed the remaining fire down. That was the biggest lesson I learned of how my ability was anchored through my emotions, especially one. It fed off my anger like an addiction, but I also learned, though difficult, that I could control and put out the fire myself.
If my parents ever asked themselves how any of us got out of that mess without the fire spreading out any further, as large as it was, or how any of us escaped without so much as a tan, they never brought it up to me. What they did do was move me to another suburb, Andersonville, blame the fire on faulty wiring, and immediately enroll me in sessions with a psychiatrist, or therapist as I was told to call her, because it would be less judgmental of my situation to call her that. They put my numerous “sparks” over the years together with the last incident and came to the conclusion that I may be a little unstable, mentally.
In the introductory meeting that included my parents, the therapist explained that I seemed to focus my frustrations and fears through pyromania, fixating on the belief that when the fire was extinguished so would these fears and frustrations. I was not thrilled about the psychiatrist thing, being that I am totally sane. I usually just spent the session agreeing and telling the therapist whatever she want to hear. However unhappy I was about them, I was not being committed, which is a good thing. Plus, the sessions were giving my parents some peace of mind that they were actively helping me by sending me to the therapist and I was getting better.
Of course I had a few more incidents over the years. I’m a teenager with raging hormones. It was inevitable, but they were getting tamer due to my understanding of how to control them. Unfortunately, a couple of those incidents were more inconvenient as opposed to dangerous since they involved public areas and police officers, nothing my father couldn’t talk my way out of, but my indiscretions were beginning to put a strain on his professional profile. This was due to him having to publicize in court my troubled disposition to get the charges dropped. Not that I particularly had a social life before the move, now my fellow students, teachers, and even neighbors had a good idea of my disturbing behavior. Small communities usually had a hard time keeping secrets but no inability in spreading them. I had been upgraded from antisocial to town freak. They left me alone for the most part because my parents had become such upstanding citizens in their community, but it didn’t stop the gossip.
The night of the barn fire not only spread gossip but actual fear, so much, that my father had to pack us up and move far enough away that word of my problems couldn’t follow. We moved to the coastal town of Sanctuary, Rhode Island, which was apparently far enough away from Maryland. The only physical evidence my parents had of my problems as we drove into the town, was the heavy medication I had been prescribed and a referral letter to a new psychiatrist.