The Day Started Out Innocently Enough - A Short Flash Fiction Story
The Fires are Raging
Raging, raging the veld fires are flaming. Trees, bushes, houses - all are engulfed in flames; a gale force wind whips the flames across smaller spaces catching the next set of growth, trees, veld, buildings; it's burning, spreading fast as lighting. Only large open spaces are refuge for those who flee from the bright burning fires.
All Starts Out Innocent
Ronny has saved up enough money to buy a magnifying glass; one Saturday morning he and his friend Carter walk off into the veld with it to look at leaves and plants and maybe try start a small fire using the magnifier and the sun's heat, because they'd heard that it is possible to do this. This will be an experiment to test it out.
At a grassy area with shrubs they stop to examine plant life and insects with the magnifying glass - it's a hot, windy day.
"This Is Fun"
“Wow this is fun” says Ronny, “let's try make a fire with it then put it out.”
“Sure, looking at bugs and leaves is great but let's do that!” Carter replies.
Experimenting with the Magnifying Glass
They gather some dry grass in the area and put it into a little pile, Ronny puts some newspaper that he brought with beneath the grass. He focuses the magnifier to create a small point of light on the newspaper. Birds and bees fly about, nearby pine trees stand thick and green in the heat. There's shade there where the boys can go and rest later.
After a while a little smoke rises from the dry grass-pile, soon a flame shoots up and in no time it's burning. Delighted they watch as the flames spread to some nearby shrubs; not too concerned they stomp on it to put it out but the wind blows the flames and a larger area of shrubs catches alight.
Panic Sets In
With panic in their eyes the boys grab branches and attempt to put out the fire – no way, it spreads to the pine trees. Frantically they thrash at trees and shrubs with the branches but the fire just moves further into the trees and starts moving up the hillside.
“There's nothing we can do about it!” shouts Ronny to his friend.
“Let's get out of here!” Carter shouts back.
They run through an open space, making their way to the road in the direction of home. They're safe but many cars are making an exit away from the raging fires. Someone from the area they know stops to give them a lift to where they live. It's not very far – the wind is blowing in the opposite direction so the fires shouldn't reach their homes.
They don't go home immediately; from a distance they watch the fires raging and spreading into the distance.
He Wants To Tell All
“I want to tell all” says Ronny - a mixture of shame and guilt on his face.
“No we can't” replies Carter, “We'll get into big trouble, maybe even be sent to reformatory school.“
“Well I'm going home then.”
“Me too, see you later, but don't tell anyone!”
“I won't, but I feel like a criminal,” says Ronny as he makes his way home slowly.
He Hides the Magnifying Glass
When Ronny gets home he finds his parents are out, he hides the magnifying glass in his cupboard under some clothing. He doesn't know what to do with himself and wishes he were dead.
His parents arrive home on foot, they're overjoyed to see Ronny is home and alive and well.
“Where were you son, we're so glad to see you!” his father asks.
“I was just out walking dad.”
“We thought you might have been caught in the blaze.”
“No, I didn't go as far as that.”
“Good, let's get inside, the smoke is awful!”
Ronny will keep his dark secret between himself and Carter for the rest of his life. Maybe, just maybe he'll tell his parents someday. In the meantime he hides his guilt; it was a mistake but somewhat of a big one, he spends more time alone in his room, dreadful thoughts going around and around in his head...
Fires spread further, in the direction that the wind is blowing, vast areas of veld have burnt, houses have been raised to the ground, buildings and some shops gutted; the firemen and emergency services are on the scene and hard at work.
"How Did the Fires Start?" many ask.
Everyone hopes and prays for rain and for the wind to die down. What a disaster. “How did the fires start?” many ask. There'll be an investigation into the cause, that's for sure.
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© 2017 David Edward Lynch