The Night Caught Fire: Chapter 5

Chapter 5

I reached for the doorknob (in the customary way), but found that somehow it was eluding my grasp.  “Come then,” I said of the doorknob.  “Lie still so I might grasp you.”  But the doorknob would do nothing of the sort.  “Come then,” I said once more, “for you are the most infuriating of knobs!”  But the doorknob (stubborn as it was) remained ungraspable.

To be sure (and perhaps I need only expound on my current predicament), the devil of a doorknob never moved.  Not in the traditional sense, mind you.  For, reach as I would, that elusive doorknob stayed fast still, almost with a chin in the air as if to mock my attempts.  And had it a tongue, I’m certain that I would have seen its most pointed bit protruded at me in a most undignified way.  But no tongue (that I know of), yet its stubbornness remained tenfold, and the grasping was unaccomplished.

And yet, still I reached.  For to exit the house required a turning of the knob.  And though grasp and turn, grasp and turn I tried, nothing became of it.  “Almost as if the doorknob keeps disappearing,” I said to none but the air.  “And yet, there it is.  Right before my waking eyes.”  …And I paused.  For it had occurred to all but me that perhaps my waking had not yet been full realized.  A pinch will do the trick, I said slyly to myself, and proceeded to squeeze, twist, and pull the bit of skin at the back of one arm with the pinchers I had made with the thumb and index finger of the other.  “Ouch!” I cried, and the pain brought the tears to my eyes.  And I fumbled with the findings of my most recent experiment.

After rubbing the pinch away (which took longer than expected), I continued with my quandary.  Perhaps that test doesn’t suffice, I said to myself.  What it wants is more proof.  So I went about my cottage in an excited (yet vain) attempt to prove to myself (and to that tricksy doorknob) that I was indeed fast asleep… and when I awoke, that it would indeed turn.

“The book!” I said at last.  “The book is the pudding!”  And I proceeded to rummage through its rustic pages to find the proof of my current dreamatic incarceration.  Yet, upon the turning of pages, my quest proved faulty, and after more than one paper cut (the kind that bites, and needs a good finger sucking to resolve it), I closed the book up tight and let out a huff of defeat.

“Perhaps…” I said (though hopelessly, I might add), “perhaps I am awake.”  And upon saying this, I heard a slight chuckle from the direction of the door.  I turned with a sneer toward the sound, and just caught a glimpse of the doorknob laughing.  (Please do not ask me to describe to you just how a doorknob laughs, or even how I knew it to be so.  Just take it as fact, if you please.)

“So…” I said to the knob, “so, you would have me trapped in here?”  The doorknob said nothing (as doorknobs are privy to do), and yet I knew it held the key to my release.  “Come then,” I said to the knob.  “Out with it!”  And yet that particular key remained undiscovered.  “You really are the most infuriating of knobs,” I said sulkily.  “I wonder what your mother would think.”  But the doorknob seemed undeterred by my threat.  “Fine,” I said.  “Have it your own way.”  And I proceeded to examine the house for an alternate means of escape.

Upon finding none despite the chimney, which was all over soot and ash and much too small for any normal human being (I do wonder how Santa does it? I asked myself), I gave up my search and returned to the door.  “Enough,” I said.  “That is entirely enough!  You will open – you will allow me passage – or… or…”

“Or what?” the doorknob asked.  “Or you’ll try the chimney again?”

“That’s quite enough from you!” I said to the devilish knob.  “Quite enough indeed!”  And I grabbed once more at the doorknob, but much as before, my hand kept going through it.  “Dark magic!” I said.  “Be gone from this house!”  But the doorknob only sneered a chuckle, and I was back at the proverbial beginning.


I had had my fill of arguing with doorknobs, and gave serious contemplation to burning the house down.  Just a small fire, I had said to myself.  Just enough to make my escape.  But burning down houses (even ones as infuriating as this) should be seen as a last resort.  So I proceeded to peruse the cottage, knowing in the pit of myself that there simply must be a way past that diabolical doorknob.

…And I found it at the bottom of my teakettle.

“Come then,” I said, my attention turned quite inattentively from that wretched knob.  “Let’s have a cup.”  And I proceeded to play out that peculiar scene previously mentioned at the beginning of this tale.

The kettle crackled over the open fire, and the dull black of the iron grew red hot in the heat.  The air (once properly steamed inside) whistled its intent, and I firmly (yet carefully) removed its hold from the hook.

The handle was curled wire – iron, to be sure – with the middle creating a place for grasping.  Mitts were used (and pot holders, besides), and the teacups once again fulfilled the purpose for which they were created.

I poured the contents slowly… so as not to spill and burn.  The first cup – half full.  The second (my own) – to the brim.  “I know you only like half a cup at a time,” I said, and tipped my drink (ever so slightly) to show acknowledgement.  “Cheers,” I stated, then delicately sipped my brew.

But this time, no little shadows appeared and danced on my walls.  No little horns, no little pitchforks.  “For they are not here,” I said aloud.  “They are in the hole.” And though the doorknob heard me and chuckled in reply, still I ignored it.  It will not do, I said only to myself, to go about arguing with doorknobs.  No, I repeated inaudibly, it will not do at all.  So I quietly sipped my tea… and waited for something to happen.


And something did happen, and much sooner than I thought.  For I had no more than drunk half my tea when some undissolved leaves at the bottom of my cup caught my eye.  “Strange,” I said only above a whisper, “for they seem to be swirling.”  And so they were.  But not a violent swirl – there was no hurricane in my cup – but a mild one, as if they were but fallen leaves on a cool autumn day, and not tea leaves that had somehow settled down at the bottom.

And I watched these unabsorbed leaves with great curiosity, for as they danced, they made a ring – a great ring of tea.  And as if that wasn’t peculiar enough, another anomaly occurred: for it seemed that all the color, all the pigmentation from the leaves, was being extracted from the fluid and slowly seeping back into the leaves.  A sort of reverse boiling, if you’ll grant me, yet the reabsorption rate was slow, and the dye from the tea swirled around and around the cup as it returned to the leaves.

I sat mesmerized, looking at the hypnotic movement from within my cup.  And the longer I stared, the more I found my head twirling with the swirling of the water.  But it wasn’t just the water, but the dance of the tea leaves.  And before I knew it (or didn’t), I was somehow inside the cup.  Yet, I knew full well that I was still seated at the table, teacup in hand.  And yet my face would stretch, as if drawn into the very fluidity of the movement.  And the more I fought it, the more I found myself in two places at the same time: both within the cup and without.  So finally, I gave into the lure of the liquid, and found myself fully immersed in the current of the tea… and seated on a little raft.

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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