Stories of a Fire Starter

Stories of a Fire Starter

A Story by Cody

A boy recounts the struggle of using fire to calm himself.


Stories of a Firestarter

“So, can you tell me how long you’ve had these urges?”

“Since I can remember, really.”

“Which is how far back?”

“I don’t really know…” I shook my head, “Probably eleven, or twelve.”

“So, late childhood?” My social worker seemed to be checking off a box on her sheet of paper attached to a clipboard. “And what drew you towards it?”

“The way it moved… it was just interesting to me.” I raised my eyebrows, “It’s hard to explain I guess.”

“What about before you were eleven or twelve? How did you feel about it?”

“I wasn’t drawn to it at first; I used to be afraid. Later on I discovered that not only was it capable of destruction; it made me feel, well, warm... for lack of a better term.”

“What made you afraid?”

“I used to have dreams of my house burning down. The smell of smoke scared me. As I grew older, I got used to it I guess... I don’t know how to explain it.”

She wrote something down. My leg bounced up and down against the tiled floor as she asked, “Can you remember the first time that you were no longer afraid of fire?”

“It’s hard to say exactly,” I said before taking a moment to think. “My dad used to smoke. I can remember being thirteen " stealing one of his cigarettes and his lighter.” I closed my eyes and for a moment, I could see myself walking into the kitchen while my dad was in the shower. Because he and I were the only ones home, the only thing I could hear was the sound of shower water beating against the tub, making louder thumps every then and again. The walls in our house were so thin that it wasn’t hard to tell when he was going to be done; if the water started to sound like it was coming down harder"off his body, all at once"that meant he was going to be getting out soon. To me, his shower was a ticking time bomb; I knew I had to act quickly. I walked into the kitchen to steal something that had always made me curious"a cigarette. I wanted to know more about them. They always looked fun, they always calmed my dad, and I had a friend a fifteen-year-old friend who smoked… they didn’t seem to kill him!

My dad always left his Marlboros on the counter; even though my mom always forbade smoking in the house, our kitchen didn’t ever look complete without my dad’s Marlboros sitting on that counter. When I walked into that kitchen, heart racing in all, they were the first thing I reached for. I flipped open the top and looked at the three or four that had been left. For a moment, I debated"would my dad realize if one was missing?

I tipped the box upside down and let each of the cigarettes fall out onto the counter. I quickly inspected each one, trying to find one that looked like the best. Although they practically all looked the same, I grabbed what looked to me like the whitest one.

Once grabbing the perfect cigarette and putting it in my pocket, I packed the last couple back into the box, set it back in approximately the same position I’d found it in, and ran to my parents room, where I grabbed a green lighter out of the back pocket of my dad’s black Wrangler jeans"he always left his lighters in his pants and I knew this because my mom always complained that she had to fish them out before they went in the wash.

Before I knew it, I was on the side of our garage where the driveway met the grass, holding one cigarette in one hand and the lighter in my other hand. I examined the lighter for a moment"I don’t think I knew exactly how it worked. I remember thinking to myself, “I think my dad pulls this thing back…”

After a couple of tries, I was able to release the flame"a spark shot out, and all of a sudden a single, erect flame stood " swaying with the wind; it looked cool. I could feel the hairs on my arms standing up as the flame flickered; something inside felt… different. I couldn’t explain it. Once I took my thumb off the button, I felt my heart race again, as I took the cigarette out of my jeans, and placed it in my mouth, holding it with my teeth. My heart was pounding.

I pressed and pulled back the spark wheel and held down the button, reviving that flame. My hands shook ever so slightly as I cupped right one over the cigarette, as they do in the movies, and put the flame to the end of the cigarette, feeling the calm heat of the flame against my palm, and lighting it.

Within seconds, I felt like my lungs wanted out of my body. I took the cigarette right out of my mouth and threw it on grass, keeping the flame alive in my hand, letting it flicker about as I coughed into my other arm.

I coughed and coughed and coughed, smoke coming out with each breath.

Once my coughing fit was over, I looked at the cigarette on the ground. The lit tip was leaning against a grass blade, turning it from its rich green color to a dead brown color. Because I didn’t want the back yard to be set on fire, I stamped out the cigarette and left it there, feeling my heart beat harder and faster than I’d ever felt it before.

My thumb was still on the lighter’s button. I looked at the flame for only a moment. Time seemed to slow down for a moment and for some reason… I just felt calmer than before. I could still feel my heart’s palpitations, but my anxiety was gone. I remember it feeling strange at first"I figured it was just a post-adrenaline reaction. 

I moved my thumb to kill the flame once more. Whatever.  


 “So these urges that you have… do you get them often?”

“When I’m stressed, yes… I suppose you could say that I’m stressed often.”

“You only feel these urges when you’re stressed?”

“Well…” I smirked, “Sometimes it’s for fun.” I thought back to when I was fifteen. It was near the end of November"the time when it’s so bitter cold outside, there are no leaves on the trees, and the snow, no matter how cold it is, has yet to fall. I was riding shotgun in my friend Jenna’s car as she drove and Dylan sat in the back seat. With bas pounding through each of the car’s mirrors, we pulled up to a campsite, which had been closed for the season. We thought no one would bother us here… especially at 10:30 at night.

Jenna shut the car off, immediately putting a stop to the music. She left her car’s headlights on so that we could see what we were doing. In front of us was a small fire pit made out of cement, which looked as though it’d been charred on the inside from many years of use. We were going to have a small fire.   

We burned some old school papers and some twigs from the woods. I lit the fire with a red lighter that I had once again stolen from my father’s glovebox. Once I had the fire going, Jenna threw a paper on top with a giant, circled F on it as she said, “I hate that b***h, Mrs. Woolworth.”

Once we had a decent sized fire going, Jenna shut off her car’s headlights and the only thing that allowed us to see each other was the dimming moonlight behind the clouds and the fire. The fire crackled every so often, releasing little sparks into the sky. I remember sitting so close to it that I could practically feel the fire on my knees. My nose was running and I kept sniffling to fight back the snot. I kind of wished that I’d been on fire.

The three of us sat and talked for about half an hour until the fire began to die down.

“That’s it?” Dylan cooed.

“I guess we didn’t grab enough twigs,” I said back, with disappointment in my voice as I began to feel a cold chill coming on my shoulders.

“Maybe we should start heading back into town,” Jenna suggested.

The night was dying faster than this flame. I didn’t want the night to end so prematurely… I wanted to stay out with my friends until 3AM"I wanted to do some awesome stuff. I needed something to keep the night going"and then it hit me. Without thinking, I just said, “I have an idea.” Both of my friends looked at me for a minute, and I looked specifically at Jenna as I said, “Do you have any deodorant in your car?”

“Yeah,” She stood up as if she was going to head back to the car. “I was gonna use some of it to get this smell of campfire off of me. Why, do you need some?”

“Is it a spray can?”

“Oh jesus,” Dylan rolled his eyes, “I see where he’s going with this…”

“Yeah, it is.” Jenna said, raising one eyebrow. “What are you going to do?”

“Where is it?” I said, standing up, feeling my warmed jeans against my legs. I ran towards Jenna’s car and put my hand on the passenger-side handle.  

“It’s in the back seat.” I took two steps backward and opened the backseat door of Jenna’s car, immediately spotting a feminine-looking bottle of deodorant on the floor. I picked it up, and quickly shut the door to Jenna’s car. Dylan was now standing up as I walked towards the fire.

“Dude, what are you doing?” Dylan questioned.

“You’ll see… this is gonna be awesome!”

“Don’t waste all my spray,” Jenna said, “I told you I don’t want to smell like campfire.”

“You’re gonna be good!” I said, walking towards the fire, feeling that the bottle was nearly full. “Watch this.” I passed Jenna, and turned around and nodding my head toward the flame, telling her to come closer with my hand. She folded her arms and walked towards the dying fire.

Dylan was already standing next to me when he said, “dude, you’re f****n’ crazy.” 

I looked at him, feeling my dad’s lighter in my hoodie pocket with one hand and pointing the spray bottle at the fire with the other. With a little smirk on my face, I said, “I know.”

I sprayed deodorant at the fire and watched the flame grow and spread outward in several different directions. The flame caught up with the deodorant and began to push at all of the concrete sides of the fire pit with extreme force, turning different shades of orange, yellow, blue, and red. I lifted the can up towards the sky as the flame came with it"shooting out like a flamethrower.

“Holy f**k!” Jenna shouted.

I let go of the aerosol cap and the fire ceased. “What?” I said.

“Dude that was f****n’ awesome!” Dylan said.

Jenna’s eyes were wide, “Oh my god Aaryn, I thought you were gonna set the tree on fire.” I looked up to see just a bunch of branches, very high up, looming over us. There was no way the fire would have touched those branches.

“Nah, we would have been fine.” I said.

“Dude, let me f*****g try!” Dylan said.

I passed him the lighter and the can of deodorant as Jenna said, “Oh my god, you two are f*****g idiots.” Turning away from us and taking a few steps back toward her car.

“Okay, so how do I do this?” He asked.

I stood in front of him as he held the can of deodorant outward. “You just spray outward,” I said, positioning his hands, “And then flick the lighter and hold it up.”

Unexpectedly, Dylan sprayed the deodorant out towards me and lit the flame. The fire roared at me like an angry lion, shooting me at full force. I quickly backed up, putting my arm over my face, feeling the heat burn at my skin. The next thing I heard was “Oh s**t!” followed by a cease of the flame.

“F**k dude, are you okay?” Dylan shouted.

“Oh my f*****g God!” Jenna jumped in, grabbing me to see if I’d been lit on fire.

I was fine"it didn’t burn at all. It was just really hot.

I put my arm down, away from my face, laughing. “Holy s**t dude!” I said hysterically. “That was f*****g awesome!” I quickly grabbed the lighter from Dylan and flicked it to life to look at my arm. “Dude! All my f*****g arm hair is gone!” I kept laughing.


“Were you having fun when the accident happened? Or were you stressed?”

“I guess you could say that I saw an opportunity.”

“So what you did… you did it on purpose?”

“Look lady, I didn’t know those people were in that building. I seriously had no f*****g clue... they were just two idiots who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“But why were you in that building?”

“I was stressed. I needed a breather from the SATs, choosing colleges… deciding my future.” I shrugged, “I felt like I was going f*****g insane. This s**t--fire--it calms me.” I shook my head. “When do I get to call my parents? Don’t I get that one free phone call?”

“They haven’t arrested you yet.” My social worker shook her head. “You can call them after the D.A. makes that decision.”

“Look lady, I already confessed. You all know I did it… you all know I burned two people alive. Can we just stop with the f*****g games and get it over with already?”

“Look, Aaryn, I’m just here to collect your story, okay? I’m your friend in all of this. I don’t work with the police. I’m just collecting the story.”

I sat back in the chair and crossed my arms. “Well what else do you need to know?”

“Tell me all about that night. What happened? Why were you in there?” As she put her pen to her notepad, I closed my eyes and exhaled harshly.

It was two nights ago, so I had a pretty vivid image of what happened. It was around 8:34 and I was doing my college chemistry homework in my bedroom. I had a very tiny headache, and I didn’t understand anything on that stupid worksheet that Mr. Fletcher handed out, which was due tomorrow. I kept trying to match up the information in the textbook to the questions on the worksheet but to be bluntly honest… it just made no f*****g sense.

I took a deep breath and threw my pencil on my binder, letting it tap and roll off, behind the desk. I pouted, grabbed my head, and whispered, “I can’t do this s**t. I can’t do this f*****g s**t.” I squeezed my eyes tight as I leaned over the worksheet"my elbows now on the desk. “I’m going to fail this f*****g class.” In my mind, I kept picturing a rejection letter from my top school saying that I wasn’t going to be accepted because I failed this class. I just tried to fight back the tears.

I opened my eyes, took a deep breath, and then stood up. I stretched for a moment, feeling my blood pump through my head, then walked over to my nightstand by my bed, creaked open the drawer, and pulled out a zippo lighter that I’d stolen from a local sex shop when visiting with my friends. I lit it, made sure it worked, and then put it out and into my hoodie pocket. On my way out of my room, I grabbed a can of deodorant.

I didn’t say anything to my parents. I just got in the car and went"I’d been 18 for four months now… I was practically an adult now anyways.

When dealing with stress, I’d always turned to fire. It was warm, I liked looking at it, and it just made me happy. Over the last few years, I found that just seeing fire made me feel this great sense of euphoria that smoking weed or stealing my dad’s liquor didn’t give me. Fire, by its self, was its own high. And yes, I knew that this wasn’t a “normal” way of coping with stress. Since that night with Dylan and Jenna at the campsite, I hadn’t really said or done much in the way of “fire-related” activities with my friends. I was on my own. This was my secret.

Since getting my driver’s license after turning 16, I’d found an abandoned hospital off route 76"in the middle of the country. It was down a road that my parents hadn’t ever taken me, and it was far enough that nobody could smell anything suspicious. I’d often heard stories about this old hospital building"typical hauntings and weird s**t around every corner. I, a more logical person, don’t believe in all of that supernatural s**t. Because of the rumors though, people would come late at night to hunt for ghosts. As a frequent visitor of this hospital, I learned when people were most likely to break into the building and look for s**t; I learned that when a car was parked in the lot that I shouldn’t even bother going.

On that evening though, there wasn’t a car in the lot.  

I pulled into the hospital’s parking lot at about 9:10. It was dark outside and the only light was that of my car, which was gone as soon as I cut the engine. I got out of the car, locked it, and went into the hospital with the lighter and can of deodorant in my hoodie pocket. 

I walked around to the back of the building, through some tall, brown grass, to a window that I knew had been unlocked. I pushed the window upwards and put one foot in first, ducked my head under the pane, and pulled myself through--in I was. I closed the window behind me… just in case. The first room of the hospital was the kitchen. The floor was tiled in a checkered format and looked very stereotypical. I walked through the kitchen, stepping on some broken glass, letting it crinkle under my shoe, and proceeded through the former dining hall, and out into a dark hallway.

I turned on my phone’s flashlight to reveal green walls and broken pictures. It was as if the hospital was in use one day and all of a sudden, everyone just evacuated"it always seemed very eerie. I walked down the hallway, by a bunch of old rooms where the patients probably used to sleep, to the set of stairs, which was behind a jammed door. Every time I wanted to go up these steps, I had to push the door was hard as I could until it forced open. Once I am able to force the door open, it sounds like a loud gunshot, echoing through the entire hospital. Behind me, I hear what sounds like glass breaking. I turn around, look around, and decide to ignore it.

Upon entering the stairwell, the door shuts behind me. I walked upstairs about three flights and into one of the rooms. The walls had holes in them and pink insolation seemed to be pouring out. The room had a very musty smell to it, which reminded me of my grandfather’s old house, before he passed away. 

I took a quick peek out of the window, peeling back the curtains. I could see nothing but darkness for miles and miles. I set down my phone and knelt on the ground, pulling out my bottle of deodorant and my lighter. I took a deep breath, and then sprayed some of it on the white-tiled floor. Using my zippo-lighter, I lit up the deodorant. The smell was horrible, but the appearance was gorgeous"the flame was blue against the tiles and red as it fought its way up. The white walls in the room, or what was left of them, reflected the red light from the fire. I sighed and then smiled, letting the fire die out on its own.

I stood up and sprayed some of the deodorant on the wall, near the window. I again used my lighter and lit it. The fire was majestic as it pushed itself upward, just barely licking the ceiling. The thing is, I thought for sure that I had this flame under control. I wasn’t feeling panicked at all. I was feeling completely calm. Like an artist in a gallery, I watched the flame burn. My hand was on jugular and it almost seemed like my pulse was settling to a calming state.

I was so amazed by this flame’s dance that I hadn’t realized that it was rubbing up against the curtains hanging from the window. It wasn’t until I sprayed at the flame like I had at the campsite that the flame jumped at me. It made that same roaring sound that it did when Dylan shot me in the face. The flames were growing much larger now.

How had I planned to put it out if the fire got too big? I was just going to hit it until it went out. Little did I know… that method doesn’t always work.

When I noticed that the curtains were actually on fire, I stuffed my hand into my sleeve and began to hit at the curtain in a failed attempt at putting it out. It seemed like the fire was getting bigger each time I hit it. I backed up, for the first time realizing that what I was doing. The curtains were lighting up quickly. My heart began to race.

“F**k!” I shouted, dropping the can of deodorant and the zippo. I tried hitting at the flame again. The curtains were now fully engulfed and the flame was now licking at the insulation. The smoke from this fire began to burn my eyes. I couldn’t help but cough.

I backed up and looked at it once more. For the first time, I felt actual terror as the insulation in the walls lit up. My eyes widened as I realized that I’d fucked up.  

I ran out of the room and down the stairs where the smoke was beginning to creep. I tried to use my cell phone’s flashlight to guide me out of the building, but when I turned it on, I could only see smoke, even on the second floor.

When I reached that jammed door again on the first floor, I noticed that the smoke wasn’t as strong... at least not yet. I pulled as hard as I could to try to get the door open. It was as if someone on the other side wasn’t letting me pull it open"the door was much easier to push open.

I shoved my phone in my hoodie pocket and put both of my hands on the handle, trying to pull it open. The smoke was now coming down the stairs towards me. I turned around and could see light from the top of the stairwell.

In what seemed like a miracle, I was finally able to force the door open, making that same gunshot-like sound throughout the hospital. I dashed out of the stairwell and pulled the door shut behind me to prevent the smoke from chasing me.

As I ran down the hallway, I saw white light coming from one of the rooms. I stopped running, and turned to look behind me. I couldn’t see any flames or any signs of smoke. I looked ahead of me and walked by the room. I saw a boy and a girl together"they both looked like they were in their twenties. The boy had his left around the girl’s shoulders and his right hand held a huge flashlight.

“This is too creepy, Johnny.” The girl said.

I took a deep breath. I wanted to tell them what was happening, but for some reason, I just couldn’t say anything. Something, deep in my gut, told me that I should run. That I shouldn’t get caught with this. That I should run. Just get the f**k out of there.

So that’s what I did. I took off running. I think the couple heard my footsteps, but I don’t think they cared. I don’t know. I didn’t look back.

I ran to the kitchen. This time, I couldn’t get the window to open. I tried pulling it up as hard as I could, but the damn thing just wouldn’t open. I took a deep breath, covered my hand in my sleeve once again, and punched out the glass, feeling a stinging sensation on my hand. I dived through the window and through the weeds for my car.

The parking lot was lit up in a hue of red. As I ran towards my car, I turned around and saw the flames pouring out of one of the windows. “F**k!” I shouted.

I tugged on my car’s door handle and remembered that I had locked it. I frantically pulled the keys out of my pocket and put them in the keyhole"turning the keys left to right, left to right, just trying to remember how to unlock my car. I eventually got it, and ripped the keys from the keyhole. I started the engine and sped out of there as quickly as I could.

I kept looking back in my rearview mirror to see the flames burning until I couldn’t see them any longer. I took a deep breath as I drove back into town. My anxiety level was at a new high"was I going to get caught? Did the couple see me? Are they okay? F**k. Why didn’t I warn them? Should I turn around now? Damn it!

I punched the steering wheel.

When I pulled in the driveway at my house, I realized that I reeked of burnt deodorant and smoke. I shut the car off, and reached in my backseat for my can of deodorant. My eyes widened as I realized"I left it in the hospital. I slapped at my hoodie pocket.

The lighter too.


“I just wish you guys didn’t arrest me at school.” I told the social worker. “That was so embarrassing. I can’t ever go back… f**k; will I ever be able to go back?”

“I’m not sure.” My social worker told me, “I can’t say for sure… and you haven’t been arrested yet. They just brought you down to the station for questioning.”

“Well, you saw the news report. That couple died. They f*****g died. I murdered them! I am a murderer! I’m at least going to go to juvie or something.” I rolled my eyes, realizing that I was now an 18-year-old adult. “Prison,” I mumbled, “The death penalty.”

I sat there, thinking to myself. Part of me never wanted to see another flame in my life, while part of me wanted to burn something right now to make it feel better. F**k it. Just f**k it.

I never set out to kill anybody.

I just needed help.

© 2015 Cody

Author's Note

I wrote this story for my college creative writing class and I'm posting it for opinions on the following:
-Does the conflict of the characters seem apparent for you? I need to have two characters in conflict in this piece. Which characters do you see in conflict, and what conflict do you see?
-Does the boy in the story seem to be well rounded? Should I make him more of a round character? How can I do so?
-Does the story seem to follow Freytag's Pyramid to you (rising action, climax, falling action, denouement)?

If you can't answer those questions for me, or just don't feel like it, I would love to here what you guys thought about the psychology behind the boy, or just the plot in general! Any feedback you can give me at all is WELL appreciated!

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Shelved in 1 Library
Added on October 26, 2015
Last Updated on December 8, 2015
Tags: Boy, YA, Short Short, Story, Short Story, Teen, Fire, Pyro, YA Fiction




Hi! I'm Cody, I'm 20, and I'm from New York! I hope to be an English teacher one day, as well as a famous author. This page is just a sample of my work! more..

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