Fire, one learns once one really sees it in action, lives and dies by its own sordid rules. It hypnotizes; so small, then multiplying faster than one realizes. Its flickers don’t appear real, but it heats the cheeks and the bridge of the nose, sitting crouched before a pile of leaves, a pack of matches in one’s grubby hands filched from the gas station. It mesmerizes, erases the rational mind. It’s primal and it’s powerful. It dances and it eats, and grows and looks for more.
And it’s everywhere and the boy is afraid he started it; he must have started it. You see, he falls into these trances and he just can’t help himself. He licks his lips and lights the matches and he hardly knows what he’s doing. He lights the dried leaves like insect crusts and he stares at the cute little flames licking up their sides and folding over and upwards and when he has a chance to stop things from getting out of control--to stomp out the flames under the rubber soles of his Keds--he just watches and feels the tingling heat on his face and hands. It’s just, he’s not in control of himself; he feels good in these moments; it feels only natural to let go of himself and bask in the hunger of the flames. Let it burn, he sometimes thinks, as he inhales the acrid smoke billows, going soft inside with this smug self-satisfied feeling.
Then everything is burning. In the forest grove the branches of the trees above enshroud the scene in lowly crackling flame; the bushes below sputter and crunch like the carcasses of dead animals, brittle bones snapping one then another; the underbrush sizzles, smoke rising from the tender green foliage going gray, loosing color. The boy looks up and out between the burning branches and the horizon is black and he can see his school and the playground is burning--the monkey bars melted and sagging--and the buildings are charred behemoths.
The voice is right over his shoulder, but he doesn’t want to turn; he can feel the cool spray of breath on the back of his neck.
“But it’s more than that. It shows us what life is really about, don’t you think? It eats and eats for as long as it can, as much as it can, and then dies and only the charred remnants of its destruction are left behind.”
The boy shudders. “I...” he begins, “I want to wake up now. I’m scared.”
The voice inhales like water droplets hitting a fry pan. “Of course, but don’t worry. All you have to do is remember; you must not forget: you can change the world and I can help you.”
“Now now. You can go. It’s okay.”
The boy begins to turn. Oh god. He doesn’t want to turn. He can feel his heart pounding at his ribcage. He can feel his hands sweaty and trembling. If he turns he’ll see that face; he doesn’t want to see that face. But he can’t help it. This is what happens at the end of the dream; this is what always happens.
But the face is already fading back into the flaming foliage. The boy only catches a glimpse--a face like melting grease, flesh running and pooling about a wide grin of shark’s teeth; pointed ears bent, striated with pulsing veins; eyes looking out through the shifting miasma bright and mischievous. And the boy tries to look away, to force himself to awaken from the nightmare like pulling himself from the warm pool he’s drowning in. He struggles, but his body will not move.
“Someday,” the voice, high and crisp, says, already fading, muffled as if speaking from the other side of a window, “you’ll have to follow me and see what happens. I can show you things. Pretty things. Oh, such wonderful pretty things.”
The boy gapes. He can feel himself shaking all over. He is terrified; his heart beats frantically at his chest like a cornered animal in a violent panic.
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
The face continues to fade backwards, then bulges, inflating from one side so that one eye expands--the quivering glare of a runny egg--and there is a gleeful tittering like a cruel cartoon or fun-house clown taking pleasure in repulsing its young audience.
Wake up! Please! Wake up!
Someone is shaking him and when he opens his eyes, his friend Jesse is looming over him.
“Wake up. Come on. Recess is over, Jake. It’s time for Social Studies.”
“What the hell, Jake? Falling asleep in the soccer field? You’re a weirdo.”
Jake smiles ruefully, his dream already a distant memory. “Yeah, that’s what my dad says.”
There are a few issues, I will admit, with this dream sequence. I know there are several shifts in tense and voice and I thought it might be interesting this way, but I'm not sure if it really works.
That's all for now. Cheers!