I wake up screaming.
The pounding in my head is almost as painful as the scratch marks I inflicted in my sleep. Fire flickers before my eyes, but I blink it away. Get dressed; pack bag: food, jumper, pills, lighter. When I walk downstairs, mam’s waiting with breakfast.
‘Where are you going?’ she asks. But she sees the answer in my eyes; she tries to block the door with her body but I twist my way through, pressed against the doorframe.
They turn up a block away from the house; the three surround me with greetings, talking like it wasn’t only a week since I last saw them. When we reach the gate, we race the length of the neglected garden where the grass reaches our hips.
The house itself was newly built but abandoned when money was scarce. It was our place, the only place we would meet up. Never outside. I ask what’s been happening.
A standard reply. The day is wasted with pointless games. Until the sun is setting on the hill behind the house.
By tradition, we go to get the sticks, shouting instructions to each other across the garden. A passerby looks at my friends, who are in hysterics behind me. The stranger’s eyes scan as her brow knits with worry before moving on.
They put the sticks down and I light the fire. My hands brush the pills but it didn’t feel right to take them whilst they were around, so I didn’t. My hands itch to make flames so I do. They flicker in the fire light glowing and then are gone.
Forcefully, the fire is spreading. The walls are licked with golden light. I laugh alone at the irony. It’s the second time this building burnt. The second time my friends were gone. I feel their ash as if they died today. It’s not real. It’s a memory. I see the glisten of my heavy, metal fire lighter. The flames dance and I scream; it’s swallowed by the night and I am swallowed by light.