Fire races through thick beige carpet still streaked from vacuuming. It dances up the sides of a white couch leaping from cushion to cushion. The coffee table burns with its lone candle centerpiece. The wax boils and spits splattering the carpet with red shortly before it is consumed and blackened. Chairs on either side of the coffee table had been turned ever so slightly to create an inviting atmosphere. They matched the couch when it was still white, now they match it in black.
Flames lick the wall around the fireplace as they begin to climb the wall to reach the ornately-framed pictures hanging above the mantle which burn from either side. On the left, a faded photo of a dark-haired girl and a photo of a light-haired boy both burn. On the right a photo of a wife looking out blankly next to her husband and a blue-eyed teenager burns. On the left a photo of a well-dressed dark-haired woman kissing a light-haired man in a suit under an arch burns. On the right a photo of an unhappy pimple-faced teenager with long black hair and blue eyes burns. On the left a photo of two babies lying next to each other, identical except for their eyes, one with blue the other with green, burns. In the middle a photo of husband and wife standing in front of a house with their two identical boys, one with eyes of green the other with eyes of blue, burns. Out a window on the neighboring wall the countryside can be seen ablaze, but the fire darkens the glass and fills the home with smoke.
Fire spreads down the hall and turns right into the first door-way. The carpet here is stained and filthy but the fire does not mind. It flows up a dresser, its drawers open and mostly empty. More pictures bubble and burn on the dresser top. They are all pictures of the green-eyed boy, always young and always happy. Dark posters with sinister imagery melt off the walls and the ceiling. Lacquer on a desk begins to boil and pop. A stack of homework papers catches flame, as each paper blackens and curls it reveals a fresh white paper underneath, like a flipbook. Most pages of the flipbook have red marks that stand out; circled D’s and F’s with a few C’s. The un-made and un-kempt bottom mattress of a bunk-bed burns quickly leaving behind bound together metal springs and a small bag with little white pills, the letters “OC” marked on them. The top bunk is neatly made and awaiting occupancy, but it burns just the same.
The walls of the garage catch fire. Fire crawls up cardboard boxes on metal racking. One box marked Christmas burns. Two boxes marked camping burn. One box marked Halloween burns. One box marked life preservers burns. One of the life preservers is stained with blood, but it burns just the same. On the opposite wall, a half-filled gas can erupts, spewing flame onto a tarp-covered boat. The blue tarp turns to black and melts into the dusty boat. The weathered and worn wooden bench seats burn but the aluminum of the boat just chars. Nylon ropes and fishing nets catch flame. There is a pool of dried blood at the back of the boat, but it burns just the same. Oil and grease on the boat’s motor burns allowing the fire to creep down toward the lower unit. The prop on the little motor is bent. The fuel tank in the boat explodes throwing the boat motor onto the floor.
Fire moves into another room, beige carpet once again immaculate. Another dresser with open drawers, though these drawers are half full. A neatly-made bed burns with an open and unpacked suitcase lying on top. Two nightstands, both simple with one lamp on each burns. Above one night stand a picture of a dark-haired woman hanging on the wall burns. Above the other nightstand is a rectangular outline and a single nail protruding out of the wall where a picture once was. It burns just the same.
The fire tries to follow the floor into a new room but is held back by wet white tiling. The fire turns up the walls. A wooden cabinet housing the sink begins to burn. In the sink lies a large metal mallet, clean and shiny with the purchasing label still present, but it burns just the same. As the fire moves up further it finds a medicine cabinet. The heat shatters the mirrors and sends shards skittering across the wet tile. Pills begin to burn; aspirin, cold medicine, stomach settlers, cough syrup, pain killers, stale Flintstone vitamins, allergy medication, cough drops, gummy vitamins, expired antibiotics, blood pressure medication, vitamin C supplements, lithium tablets, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and expired birth control medication. It all burns just the same.
Flames lick at the bathtub from the walls but are repelled by overflowing water. The tongues of the fire dance at the edge of the water. The fire bides its time, waiting to get into the last bastion for the things that occupy this home. Eventually, the water stops, the fire having broken some mechanism somewhere down the line, and soon the fire races across the bathroom’s tile floor with new vigor as boards can be heard to snap and give way in other portions of the house. The flames kiss the bottom of the porcelain bathtub. The water within begins to boil cooking its contents. The porcelain cracks just as the garage caves in. The crack begins to widen as the tub splits and extinguishes the bathroom.
The fire subsides but only for a moment. The water sizzles and pops making way for the fire to explore once again. This time past the water and past the porcelain scraps it discovers what the bathtub was hiding; the body of the dark-haired man in the photographs, the husband, the father. He has a large gash on his head and his body is pink from the heat, but the fire consumes him just the same.