Reflections on the Arson of the Supposedly Abandoned House Near 18th & Francis Street, September 17, 1995

I wonder when the flames awoke her
Was it the heat inching closer to her dormant body?
The aroma of ash and blackened plastic?
Indeed, was it the flames themselves,
lapping at her unsuspecting flesh,
causing her to bolt upright from her sleep
and scream out the searing pain
Eclipsing eyes focusing on the fire
that grinned hungrily as it prepared to consume her
She had just settled in for the day
in the comfort of the cool, dark room
the clook beside her flashing 5:40 A.M.
She had but seconds to act
hastily collecting the proof of her existence
tossing them into a dusty travel bag
that she placed over one shoulder
It was then that the flames caught her hair
burning the skin on her neck
disintegrating the strands on its climb towards her scalp
Instincts then took over
she burst through the wall
into the conflagration itself
hissing, scanning with an animal's perception
moving before the images register in her mind
leaping over a burning chair towards the hallway
dodging falling plaster
breaking doors from their hinges
rather than waste time with the latches
finding but another fire here
before the door to the morning
Fires to the left in the library
and to the right, in the family room
Desperation dissipating into claustrophobia,
her clothing beginning to smolder
flames rising from the hardwood floors
to kiss the denim around her ankles
igniting her flesh
and that last of her her instincts to survive
Limbs moving with preternatural speed
through the wall
towards the windows not yet burning
ignoring the slicing of her face and hands
as the glass shatters
She falls two stories, a brilliant comet
smashing bones upon impact
rolling frantically despite her broken body
extinguishing the flames that had progressed
to her knees and shoulders
pulling herself to her feet
racing to find some kind of shelter
before the sun rises in minutes
Escaping the trap laid for her
by one who chose gasoline and a Zippo
over a stake and blade
disappearing down Francis Street
as the wail of fire sirens
reach the inferno that was her home

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