“Up in Flames” Short Story

This one, I feel like I genuinely wrote forever ago. I mean, this was from the time before I called myself a writer, so you know it’s old. Really, it’s not great. It was sometime midway through high school, so forever ago, pulled from my files and cleaned up a bit, but it’s essentially the same as I wrote it then. As I feel is necessary with all works of fiction, take from this what you will. If art can’t be open to interpretation, what is? I included a trigger warning, but I expect many people will read it with a different perspective. I also apologize for the slightly morbid feel of the story. I’d say high school was a dark and scary place, but really I just think I’m such a sucker for symbolism that I got inspired by the smallest thing and rolled with it.

Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have another DC related post up. I’ve been trying, but with the amount of work expected of us, it’s hard to maintain a weekly blog. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short.

Trigger Warning for Suicide, kind of sort of in a way. But I’d rather be safe than sorry, right?


He had kept everything. At the time, there had been no reason in being rid of it. Now he’d found his reason: if he didn’t get rid of it, he would never be able to escape the ties. In order to have anything new, anything different, he had to destroy the old. Things had changed now.

With his spare hand, he twisted the knob, and the door of the shed opened with a creak. The hinges were rusted, a sign of the time they had endured. Everything was here. Not a single item was out of place. The light cast from outside caused shadows to spring in horror from their hiding places; their stretching forms made everything seem larger than life. Hesitantly, he stepped into the room. Shelves lined the walls, a cabinet stood in the corner, and the there was not an inch of empty space between them. In the center of the room, was a small, simple table that stood as high as his waist. On it sat a bronzed key, weathered by time, just as the hinges had been.

First, he lay the flower down next to the key. It was small and white and tied with several ribbons. He set it down gently, as if the soft petals could shatter like glass or a broken heart. Next, he placed the candle upright on the table and used the third item, a box of matches, to light it. As the tiny flame danced, the shadows joined in the jubilation, dancing to celebrate the symbolism of his actions.

For the memory of it, he took a short stroll around the room. There were items everywhere: small books full of words, little trinkets that represented something or another. They were moments. Each and every one of them stood for a precious moment. The cabinet was nearly overflowing with papers, each one documented and categorized conversations on a cornucopia of topics. Behind every item, barely visible on the wall, were scribbled thoughts and quotes in no logical order. The black ink had faded since they had been written, but he scanned them still:

“It can’t be easy.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“I know and it makes all the difference.”

“No matter what happens.”

Everything in this room was a part of him. Memories and moments that spanned the time he’d lost so that now the mere sight of them was only painful. It would be tragic to see them go, but he knew they had to. This room was full of the past. And the past ought to stay in the past. There were new things to discover now: new people, new places, new things. New moments and memories.

He turned his back to the piles of papers, the seemingly random objects that had run out of relevance, and the writing on the wall. Then he lifted the flower again, trying to ignore the key at the edge of his vision. He would miss that key – seeing it, being part of it. Begrudgingly, he tore his eyes away, knowing this had to be quick and clean, like a band-aid over an old wound. If not now, it would be never. With one final glance around the little shed, he tipped the candle over.

THE END


Once outside, he knelt down with his back to the shed. With his bare hands, he scraped the dirt up in front of him. Handfuls of the soil cleared away to make a small hole. He ceremoniously placed the little white flower inside and pushed the dirt back around it. Heat began to warm his back as he stared at its fragile petals. The flower had no roots, and so no hope of growing, yet he placed it there anyway. What life it had left would ebb away into the soil in a few days, but by then he wouldn’t be around to see it.

When he was satisfied with his work, he pushed himself to his feet and wiped his soiled hands on his faded jeans. A crackling nose had started behind him and he could feel the warmth. He was tempted to look over his shoulder, to watch his old things going up in smoke. He knew he shouldn’t, but he did. And he was doomed by that glance.

Flames devoured the wooden walls with a ravenous red hunger. They licked up the sides with destruction and rage, swallowing the shed whole. Fire was killing his past – killing it. His mind went straight to the key. What would he do without that little key? Nevermind that. How would he remember the quotes, the stories, or all the precious moments without the objects in that room?

He looked down at the flower, then back up to see his treasures burning. This was his fault. He had started the destruction of his own most prized possessions. Again he looked down and it clicked. Something snapped into place in his mind. Why was he willing to let everything burn for the sake of something that wouldn’t live to see tomorrow? Where were his priorities? What was more important?

It was impulse, really, that caused him to act. It was impulse, but a moment of truth nonetheless. Perhaps he would have regretted it, or acted differently if given a second chance. As it was, he couldn’t take it back.

He jumped into the flames to join his past.

And he burned.

THE REAL (but slightly more morbid) END

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