“Good to meet you, sir. My dad is right over there, trying to start the fire. Excuse me.” He ran to his father’s side, hollering instructions over the music.
Everyone gathered around as the flames took. Kindling and dried leaves crackled and the flames jumped higher. Everyone grabbed sharpened greenwood sticks and started jamming hot dogs and marshmallows into the fire. Brian got some sticks for himself and Jordan. They roasted a couple of cocoanut marshmallows for Heath, who then opted for a root beer.
Brian and Jordan sat on a log close together, trying to stay warm. Although the fire burned brightly, their faces were toasty, but their backs were cold. Brian gazed deeply into the fire, hypnotized by the movement and color. His father had often teased him about being a pyromaniac. He loved to watch flames in the grill, fireplace or candles.
“When I was little, if I got fussy, all my mom had to do was light a candle and set it where I could see it. Strange as it sounds, it calmed me down when nothing else would.”
“With me, it was water. We had this little miniature waterfall that sat on the table. When I got cranky, Mom turned it on and let it splash. I loved it. I still have it. It was the first thing I unpacked when we moved in.”
Jordan snuggled closer, her leg pressing against Brian’s. She shivered, so he put his arm around her shoulders. Her head drifted to his shoulder and her hand to his leg. They sat quietly, watching the flames.
Brian startled. He’d seen something in the fire that didn’t move like the flames. When he focused on it, all he saw was fire. When he let his gaze soften and go slightly out of focus, he saw a face in the burning wood. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, but needing Jordan to see it, he picked up his stick again and put a marshmallow on it. He poked it toward the flames, indicating the face. It leered at him. A flame shot out, igniting his marshmallow. Brian pulled it out, blowing on it.
“Do you see that?” he whispered to Jordan.
“The face. There’s a face in the flames.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s just a fire.”
“It’s not. I promise you. Something’s in there.”
“You’re jazzed on sugar. It’s just a—” She stopped talking abruptly, her eyes wide. “Oh, my God, Brian! It’s like people in the flames!” She spoke sharply, but didn’t raise her voice.
“I told you!”
“We aren’t safe! My dad. Where’s my dad?” She stood suddenly, knocking Brian backwards off the log. “Daddy!” she screamed.
Heath dashed up, taking her arms. “We need to go, Dad. Something bad is going to happen.”
“What are you talking about? Is this another one of your fantasies? I thought we were past that, honey.”
“Water,” Jordan said. “We need water. Brian, get the ice chest.”
Scrambling to his feet, Brian ran across the clearing to the nearest ice chest. By this time, others had noticed the figures in the fire. At first, they thought it was some sort of illusion, until one of the flame creatures stepped out of the fire and started toward Jordan, leaving a trail of embers in its path.
Heath put himself between Jordan and the fire creature, but she pushed him aside, wielding her wooden sticks like daggers. It took a step toward her and she poked it back. The sticks were greenwood, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t eventually catch fire.
Brian grabbed at the cooler, tugging on it. It was full of ice and sodas, so it was really heavy. He yelled at Heath to help him. Jordan’s father crossed the clearing, grabbing the other side of the cooler.
By this time, the others were running as quickly as they could for the house. Chase and his father were the only ones who remained with Brian, Jordan and Heath. Seeing what they were doing, Chase and his father grabbed another cooler, hauling it to the fire.
“Jordan, there’s a hose to your right,” Chase called. “Turn it on, quick!”
Holding her sticks in one hand, Jordan ran to the hose. It was draped over a wooden pole
and attached to a metal pipe that stood about two feet tall. A cracked, rusty faucet topped the pipe. Jordan twisted and turned, but the faucet wouldn’t budge. The fire creature came closer, its hand reaching for her. Jordan swatted at it, but it kept advancing.
“I can’t get this,” she called. “Help!”
© 2016 Dellani Oakes