The Matter of a Second

Day 1: Select a book at random in the room.  Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.


In the small clearing overlooking the power lines, the fire in the brush began to burn more strongly, urged by the autumn wind that blew from the west. ~Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot


In the small clearing overlooking the power lines, the fire in the brush began to burn more strongly, urged by the autumn wind that blew from the west. Casey couldn’t take her eyes off the flame, as it flickered to and fro with the wind. Never had she been more mesmerized with fire.

“Fire!” her brother Wes called, pointing at the house as the fire began to spread amongst the bushes.

Casey heard him, but didn’t move. Her body was motionless as the flames danced for her so fluidly, tempting her to dance with them.

She walked closer to the flame, reaching out to entwine her fingers with the beckoning red, orange, and yellow glow. Slowly reaching and slowly approaching, as if she were in a trance, Casey could feel the protruding heat on the pads of her fingers. The feeling of warmth made her smile.

Come closer, Casey,” the flames seemed to beckon, in an all too familiar voice, with every step she took. “Come closer to the flame.

She was almost there, the heat increasing and tingling her nerves. All of a sudden, her fingers were cold and Casey had fallen out of her trance.

“What’re ya doing?!” Wes screamed, furiously throwing the now empty pale to the ground and shaking his sister straight.

Casey shook her head, examining the drop-like beads of water on her hands. “I- . . . I don’t know.”

“What’d ya mean you don’t know?!” Wes screamed again, throwing his hands up so animatedly and dramatically. Casey had never seen her quiet brother burst out like this. “Do ya wanna end up like Mama?!”

Mama. Casey remembered her warm embraces, her gentle touch, and her soothing voice when they read together after dinner. How she missed Mama, even after five years. Casey looked up at her brother, tears swelling in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“And of all days to act out,” Wes continued, his back to his sister, picking up the rejected pale, and heading towards the barn, “You had to pick Mama’s birthday!”

Casey looked at the now burnt brush in front of the house, thinking about Mama and the day she’d died. The old barn had gone up in a great big flame, that day. Mama was in their, trapped, trying to get all of the animals out. She had a kind heart like that, always putting others before herself. She managed to corral all of the livestock outside, but never made it out in time. Had she been a second faster, that blazing beam wouldn’t have fallen on her, leaving her lifeless in the burning heat.

Suddenly, Casey wondered: how did the fire start? It wasn’t particularly hot that fall afternoon, and Casey never lit a cigarette in her life. She didn’t have any loose matches about her, nor was she carrying a magnifying glass. She was set to do her chores on the farm, before she got distracted. It seemed like a second was all it took for that flame to start.

With the gust of the wind, Casey heard a faint laugh as she examined the dead bush. It was Mama’s laugh, but their was something sinister about it, too. It was deep and horrific, not cheerful like the one Casey had remembered.

As much as Casey missed Mama, Mama missed Casey even more.

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One thought on “The Matter of a Second

  1. Pingback: 30 Day Writing Prompt Challenge | Grace Literate

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