‘Midnight Inferno’ by Suzanne Johnston

The last time I struck a match, I lit the sky on fire. Up, up, up galloped the pillows of smoke, stacked on top of each other like scorched marshmallows. The flames slithered up the barn walls and nicked the rafters. Embers rained down like shooting stars, feeding the fire that ripened as it borrowed oxygen from the crisp midnight air.

I opened the milk house door to get a closer view of the inferno in the barn’s belly. Two mice scampered out like adulterers, clutching their fur against their naked bodies, choosing the cold rather than risk perishing in this firestorm I’d ignited.

My pores began to unbutton from the heat. I stood back, watching the blaze from the bend in the driveway. I shoved my hands in my fleece-lined pockets, felt my heart chop in two as flames etched yellow streaks into the cracked windows that heaved like winded lungs.

I hadn’t wanted to burn the barn. But it was coming down, with or without my help. Over the years, strong winds had blown boards and shingles across the yard in a mystifying and deadly swirl of debris. I worried a fire in the summer, with the grass daring to light just from the sun’s heat, would eventually toast the barn and take the homestead with it. So, I picked the coldest night in January and doused my childhood barn in kerosene.

A giant ball of flame erupted through the roof, pummeling the night with its fist. The gas cans I’d sculpted into a funeral pyre had triggered the blast. One last big bang ripped through the barn’s innards and flung them out its empty window frames. Its crippled walls kneeled to the earth like captured fathers at war.

Close to dawn, the barn drew its last breath and folded inward.

A smoldering heap reduced to charred limbs.

The heavy, grey clouds snowed ash that morning while I dug through the rubble with my shovel, pounding down glowing embers peeking out from their funeral shrouds of white.

 


SUZANNE JOHNSTON is a writer and marketing professional from Calgary, Alberta. She writes risk-taking short and novel-length fiction for adults, drawing inspiration from her prairie roots. She is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Broken Pencil and FreeFall.

Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Johnston. All rights reserved.