When You’re on Fire

by Grá Linnaea

I started to smoke in the middle of Olsen’s pep talk. There’s no smoking allowed in the office, and the bastard will use anything to assert his dominance. I held my hand up to my nose. Tendrils of smoke wafted from my cuff and twisted along my middle finger before dissipating.

Back in the day, before our jobs swallowed us, we theorized extreme worst-case scenarios. Add beer and we’d occupy ourselves for an entire night.

Which was worse, interrupting my boss by leaving or causing a scene by not?

“Hungry, horny, lonely, tired, and sad, while lying in a sleeping bag in the rain.”

“Lonely is the same as sad.”

“Nah, there’s a subtle difference.”

“You can’t be lonely and not sad.”

Before our jobs, this was our small talk, our point of connection. I excused myself, citing a bloody nose. I skulked through the halls, past the secretarial desks. Fortunately no one saw me rush into the bathroom. I barely made it in when my suit lit.

My clothes burned away. The entire bathroom flared with the light from my body. The ceiling blackened from my heat.

Some scenarios trumped others. Covered in vomit cancels horny pretty quick. Probably cancels hungry too.

“Just cause you got puke down your shirt, don’t suddenly make you more awake.”

Now on fire: that’s the Ace of Spades; you tend to lose focus on your other problems once on fire is brought into the mix. On fire might actually make a decent Band-Aid for many short-term problems, although the side effects are severe.

“Dude, you can’t focus on anything else when you’re on fire. You just can’t.”

When you’re on fire, you don’t tend to reflect on details. Being on fire gives you absolute focus, although admittedly it is a particularly single focus.

Being on fire will take your mind off of just about anything, like the fact that I was in the women’s bathroom. I could choose to be embarrassed right now; I could choose to shrink and whimper.

I threw my naked body against the door, exploding it outward. Screaming with joy, I ran through the office.


I was a naked comet of fire, igniting the cubicles I passed. People dove out of my path.

I ran screaming into Olsen’s office, setting fire to his tasteful imported rug. I circled the office to ignite his desk and pseudo-Impressionistic paintings. I took a moment to survey the damage and breathe in everyone’s horrified faces. I saluted the people looking at me, and grabbed my flaming crotch.

I ran at the window and threw myself at it. The impact-proof glass couldn’t resist my power. I dove out into the blazing sunlight, executing a perfect swan dive.

I bounced off the blacktop like a ball of rubber bands and flew up, up, up. A jet of fire trailed behind me as I soared into the sky. I left the flaming parking lot far below. Soon I was above the clouds. I passed the stratosphere, out into space. The vacuum should have extinguished me, but I only burned brighter. Heading toward Andromeda, I never looked back.

Bio: More can be found at the author’s Web site.

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