Archive for June, 2011
Unnatural, Unhealthy Interest in Fires
It was an older part of the city. The hill rose sharply from the end of the main street and twisted and turned to the historic lookout, which overlooked the city and harbour. The roads were lined by turn of the century wooden villa’s, mostly now occupied by the affluent young who flocked to the city to make their reputations, and hopefully, fortunes. The streets were narrow but the local council allowed on street parking which made them virtually un-navigatible. A perfect place for a fire.
Jason strolled through the mall looking at the human detritus sprawled against the surrounding walls. Filth. The word echoed through his head and seemed to reverberate throughout the mall. Mother had yelled that word. “You and your father are nothing but filth. He’s gone, thank God! Get out of my sight, you foul boy. Go.” She usually did this when she was deep in her cups, which was more often than not these days. He had long given up the pretence of either school or job. She seldom asked anymore where he was going or had been. He pretty much had the run of the house. He could be home at 7pm or 4am and she was usually unconscious. Either in her bed and if she hadn’t made that an armchair, a floor, the bath. She was a menace driving and Jason took her for her weekly trips to the liquor store, doctor, and supermarket.
A bulky youth jostled Jason and then glared at him. “What you looking at white boy?” Jason averted his eyes but the youth persisted. “Speak up – you little white shit.” Jason could hear the rising noise as people anticipated a fight. He muttered something but that would not satisfy his tormentor. Next minute Jason was lying on the ground, blood streaming from his mouth. Then the dull pain of a boot in his stomach and groin. He rolled himself into a ball and the attack stopped. The crowd moved onto the next trouble spot of the evening.
Jason next felt a hand helping him to his feet.
“You all right son?” He looked into the eyes of a very red-faced policeman. Jason momentarily forgot his discomfort as an unreasonable fear seized him.
“Iiiimmmm a-aa-all-l-l-r-ig.” Jason stuttered out.
“I saw the commotion from up the mall but I couldn’t get here in time. I know the chap and I’ll catch up with him later on. Do you want to press charges”
Jason couldn’t wait to get away but the policeman seemed to want to make sure that he was all right before he let him go.
Later that night. Jason, bloody mouth caked dry, approaches the large cream villa by way of the alley shaded from the streetlight by a large spreading pohutakawa tree. He takes off his haversack and removes the tool. Using his
screwdriver he forces the sidedoor and enters the laundry. Here tenants have not only their laundry but also discarded boxes, wrapping paper, old sacks, fuel for lawnmowers. Jason listens for any sounds of above him as he quickly sets his device.
He lights the mantle, which is already impregnated with candle oil. He had tried kerosene but the smell clung to his hands and clothing. This will burn slowly and allow him to get away from the scene. The mantle leads to a Beehive, Handypack ‘New Thicker, Longer Match-Contents 250 Matches’ matchbox which contains the crumbled heads of a dozen or so matches and two Lucifer firelighters. This will flare and set alight the rubbish that Jason has stacked over the device. Within a few minutes the laundry will be a blazing ball of fire. Quickly this will set alight the cladding and within a few more minutes the whole building will be alight. Once the fire gets to the lawnmower petrol there will be no stopping it. Jason manages to get across the block, up the grass bank and then into the next row of houses before he can hear the smoke alarms screaming. Far away, the first sirens from the fire engines can be heard but Jason knows by the time they get here it will be too late. There will be no stopping it.
Jason scrambles out of the building, over the road and up a flight of stairs to the adjoining street and enters another building. As he draws the door closed behind him he hears the sounds of the approaching engines, and his mounting excitement has turned his careful planning into an action replay of the mall scene. He fumbles, drops his matches and then the incidenary device falls out of his grip and the mantle comes out of the second matchbox. When he opens it, it is upside down and the broken up matchheads and parts of firelighter spill out. He scurries out of the basement and joins the watching crowd.
It is said that arsonists derive something akin to sexual pleasure from watching the results of their handiwork. For Jason the pleasure is hearing the voices fill his head, then fade. As they go he is filled with a sense of peace. A peace where mother only smiles benignly and holds out her hands to her son, a proud smile on her face. “My boy. I am so proud. Look at what you do. You make your old mother so proud.” This is Jason’s twelfth fire in as many months.
It had first come to him when he was listening to a Beatles song. ‘Fixing a hole where the rain gets in to stop my mind from wandering.’ It just triggered something in Jason. He had read that about Charlie Manson. ‘Helter Skelter’ it had been. The devils music his mother said. She favoured Sinatra and that preposterous Dean Martin with his drinking schtick. So he thought the lyrics through and they just translated into ‘make fires’.
The first one had been clumsy, but he kept getting better and better. There was still the occasional mistake. Mostly when he got very nervous. Like the second one tonight. That, in itself, was a little unusual because he generally became very calm. Almost cold. Icy calm.
After the fire Jason makes his way back to the car which he had carefully parked, legally, outside the fire station. The fire station was next to the supermarket and a major theatre and hotel, so cars came and went. One could be very anonymous. Jason slowly drove away, heading for the city lookout, high on the top of Mt Overview.
Minutes later he was looking out over the city. The spread of light, the neon signs flashing their hypnotic images, the streams of cars departing the city, and there, to the right, the scene of his latest triumph. Jason happily drove down the winding path from the lookout. Rounding the first curve he swerved to avoid an upcoming car. Somehow the right front wheel of his care left the road. He slammed on the brakes before realising his mistake and the car bumped into something, jumped into the air, and then came to a rest, half way over the bank. In fact it was like a cartoon. Here he was in a car, balanced on the edge of a cliff that dropped fifty feet to a gully. And to make matters worse Jason could smell petrol. Petrol, not kerosene, of which he had a plentiful supply of in his car boot. A flash in the rear vision mirror made Jason look up and to his horror he saw flames licking the very same boot. The car that he had swerved to avoid had stopped and the driver was running towards Jason, yelling for him to stay put.
Jason struggled out of his seat harness and put all his weight into the driver’s door. As he did the car slid further toward the edge of the drop. The other driver increased his yelling and now his arms were waving. Jason scrambled out of the car and managed to get his feet onto the bonnet. If he could now get himself upright he could leap onto solid ground. Behind him he could hear the roar as the flames took hold of what was stored in the boot. The other driver was yelling at him to jump and Jason nearly made it. As he took the final step that would get him to freedom, he hesitated. As he hesitated the car slid and Jason, car, and pyrotechnics slid with it in a fireball that exploded half way down the cliff.