The Night Caught Fire: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The sun’s first light broke with a yawn and stretch, and I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed… and leaning on my knees.  The sleep had already been chased from my eyes, and the bits of crust no longer caked the corners of my mouth.  To be sure, I was awake.

“Must’ve slept in my clothes,” I said to no one in particular.  “Still got my suspenders and trousers on.”  My dark blue button down shirt said nothing, though I knew it felt the sting of rejection, having not been mentioned.  “Ok… left you on, as well,” I said to it.  “There.  Feel better?”  I have no way of knowing if it did or not (for who truly knows the emotions of clothing?), though I can only assume positively.

“Well then,” I said to the day.  “Shall we off?”  And I stood up upon my feet, and walked toward the coat rack.


It was a bright day, to be sure, all full of hips and hops from the rabbits along the trail – their white tails shone like cotton against the green backdrop of the springtime grass.  Here and there a tulip raised its yellow head and yawned good morning, while the butterflies and humming birds danced about on the clouds.  Wisps of wind brought white dandelion seeds waving past my path, and the little brown stones beneath my feet cracked and (occasionally) broke as if to release fresh life from within a newly lain egg.  And as this all transpired, I breathed in the good, clean air… and was at peace.

The path from my porch was brown (as previously mentioned), and climbed hill-like over a little mound.  Running along either side were bright green blades of grass, and the gentle scurrying of the animals could be heard everywhere.  The air (as I have mentioned before) was clean… and sweet – as if brushed with honey and dusted with cinnamon.  And the very path itself glistened in a pristine glow – as if a granule or two of sugar had fallen unintentionally upon it.  Everywhere I stepped more pure wafts arose, and my olfactory senses giggled with the glee they brought.

And, giggling as I was, I began to tread lightly – almost onto the clouds – with each and every step.  And my footfalls were delicate – precariously delicate – so as not to disturb this tranquil time that nature now allotted me.  For it will all be gone in a moment, I told myself… and shivered.  But for now, let us keep to the stepping…

And so I did – one toe and then the next – until I was no more or less than ascending the little mound of hill that led directly away from my front door.  And upon reaching that slight precipice, I breathed out slowly – my lungs still full of the honey and cinnamon that had laced the little path.

And what did I see?  What lay before my vision, spread out upon that canvas?  Why, horror upon horror!

To begin with, I saw down – always down – into a charred black crater.  The divot was wide and the depth was deep.  And within it – little houses with little people living little lives.  Yet, the color was all wrong, as if only three crayons remained: black, red, and yellow.  But not a bright yellow (not like the one used on the tulips along the path), but a dull gold.  A cat’s eye colored yellow.  One that brought with it trepidation.  And the little lights of the little houses were full of its glow.

These houses were not like my own, but instead stacked in twos and threes – and always up, as if to peer out beyond the crater.  But they never could.  They could never reach high enough to gaze above the lip of the charred, jagged divot that surrounded them.

And it was charred, this lip… charred and jagged – like little teeth that had been set to blaze.  And the more I looked in, the more the crater appeared to be a large, menacing mouth… attempting to swallow these little creatures whole.

“But that mustn’t be their fate,” I said aloud, addressing no one in particular.  “For what have they done – these small ones – to deserve such torment?”  But none existed who dared tell me of their folly.

“Very well then,” I said to the silence.  “Have it your own way.”  And took my last step down… down and off the little brown path.


Make no mistake about it – their world was blackened.  For everywhere I placed my foot brought with it the crunch and crackle of scorched earth.  “This is not to be,” I said, no more than a whisper.  “This is all wrong.”  And as I looked down at my now darkened hands covered in soot and ash from bracing myself down the side of the embankment, the embers of their previous life echoed my sentiments.

I found a rock for sitting jutting out of the now cavernous wall.  It was flat… uncomfortable… but clean once I gave it a few fleeting swipes with my pocket-handkerchief.  “There,” I said of the stone.  “Now you may suffice.”  The rock said nothing, but shifted ever so slightly when I sat.  “Careful…” I remarked to it, “or we both will journey down much more quickly than intended.”  The stone said nothing, but settled in a slumping sort of way (a resignation in its reply), and I was safe once more to witness their little world.

And it was little – no longer just due to the perspective of the height from the hill – and I now saw more clearly the red from before.

I was not at all surprised to find little tongues of fire licking up the charred black buildings.  Here and there (everywhere, it seemed), yet the little ones paid it no mind.  They were, in fact, just going about their days – their concave heads making two little points toward the sky.  “Like two little ears on top,” I said, and quickly remembered the shadows from the evening before.  But though they resembled those dancing figures on the wall…

I fear they dance no more, and sighed.

But where did they come from, these tiny terrors?  From whence were they brought?  Not that they were terrible within themselves (mind you), as if I myself feared them (my stature being much great than theirs) – but only feared for them.  For I saw no reason that they should be anything but terrified!  Yet, nothing in their canter or banter gave me the least hint that these little ones foresaw their inevitable fate.  Nor knew their current quandary.  And this – I was sure – to their doom.

But dooms and booms are inevitable, and it seemed as though a great boom had come to crater the doom that they were now cradled within.  But from where and whence, I did not know.  Only the ashes themselves told the charred story – their secrets singed and scourged.  But the bottom would be gotten to – make no mistake.  And these little ones – though their speech was currently incoherent to my consciousness – would soon be caught up from the crater and saved from its flames.  And though I now held hopes of heroism in my veins, still cowardly they bled.  And I feared these little figures were far from freed.

But freedom is a word sorely used and terribly bought.  And to save these delicate ones from the flames would require (I feared) a soreness and terribleness altogether new to me.  For no amount of either currently stored within myself could bring about their salvation.

“There must be another way,” I whispered as I turned back up the embankment.  “There must be another way….”  And just then my eye fell like a feather on a hollowed hole in the chaff.

A small opening – almost miniscule – with a sprout of… (Was it really?  Why, yes!) …of green!  A single blade of grass, as if life itself grew within the gap – refusing to die.  And as I marveled at this solitary soldier, a crystal bead formed on my cheek… and dripped into the hole.

But this was no ordinary drip, just as this was no ordinary hole, and my thoughts began to wander.  Turn, actually, as if they were never truly mine – somehow manipulated by a force beyond myself.  These thoughts, they must have belonged to another much greater than I.  For my mind fell on things deep within the delve that I had not witnessed.  Nor (I believe) no mortal could know.

Peculiar they were… yet safe – like the dreams of a child.  And the more I thought on these tiny wonders, the more I emulated their stature.  And as I diminished, still I smiled, for no fear came from within the green places. And soon – by and by – I was just small enough (or big enough – depending on your perspective) to sneak within the first of these wonderful worlds.

Dave Burns

About Dave Burns

"Writing is dreaming with your eyes open." - Dave Burns Available Books and Works: The Movement: A Children's Story for Grown-ups The Movement: Revisited Edem's Flight The Movement: Concluded - The Completed Anthology Pieces of Me a million little gods: the clearwater chronicles UnApologetic Uncarved: The Literature and Arts Magazine Volume 1 Uncarved: The Literature and Arts Magazine Volume 2 Uncarved: The Literature and Arts Magazine Volume 3 For a complete list of books and works, visit the author @ or
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