The Fire

Jacob watched as the spark grew slowly into a flame. The carefully placed tinder caught fire quickly, and the firestarters began to glow brightly as he stepped away.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the wood around the tinder began to warm up and take to the flame. He heard the distinct popping sound of wood expanding from the heat. The fire slowly rose in height and temperature.

Jacob looked down at the picture album in his hands. Pictures of a time when his life was full of happiness. He idly flipped past the pages showing him as a child and made his way towards the end of the book.

By the firelight, he gazed at the pictures of his wedding. His fingers idly brushed the picture of Helena in her beautiful white dress. Pictures of the reception, tough to make out in the contrasting light, showed a smiling bride and groom.

The next pictures were brighter. Photos of their honeymoon in Hawaii. Helena laughing in a raft. Jacob turned the book so the firelight would bring out the details better. Her bright smile almost leapt off of the picture.

Jacob turned the page as he idly kept an eye on the fire. Pictures of their firstborn, James, still in his hospital blanket. Helena smiled back at Jacob through the photo, her hair matted with sweat.

Pictures of James’s first steps, his first birthday. Jacob brushed his fingers against the pictures, taking the memories into the forefront of his mind.

Jacob turned the page to pictures of Karen, their second child. Another picture of her still in her hospital blanket, her dark hair against her red newborn skin.

Jacob blinked the smoke from his eyes. There were no pictures of Karen walking; she was still only a few months old.

He closed the book and gazed at the growing fire. It had grown in size and strength, eagerly consuming all of the fuel available to it.

The book belonged to a different time. A time before the sickness had begun to spread.

The fever had come with the flood. No one knew how it started or what caused it, but it was spreading rampantly through the city. Floods they had dealt with, but the water-born fever caught everyone off-guard.

Jacob closed his eyes and held the picture album close one last time, hugging it as he had hugged his wife so many times throughout the years. After a few moments, he reluctantly pulled it away from his chest.

With one lingering glance, he threw it into the fire and walked away.

After he had made it to a safe distance, he turned around to look once more at the fire. It had consumed the entire first floor of his house, and was tearing into the second floor with an insatiable hunger. Jacob heard the muffled screams come from the upper floor as the fire entered the bedrooms.

With all of the fire alarms disabled, neither Helena nor James nor Karen had much of a chance to make it to safety. Jacob had made sure of that.

The sickness had struck his house with a passion. Helena had been complaining loudly about how Jacob had kept the windows open in the winter, never mind that the house was uncomfortably hot. James had begun avoiding Jacob like he had something horrible to hide, and would make excuses not to leave his room. Karen cried constantly whenever Jacob held her, screaming and fighting to get away.

No more. The fire would take care of the sickness that had consumed his family. He could hear the screams cut off, one at a time. Jacob closed his eyes and mourned their passing quietly, then walked away slowly. He would come back tomorrow to grieve properly, but for now, their funeral pyre should be left in solemn quiet.

Jacob took a few steps away then stopped himself. He had forgotten his jacket in the house. After a few moments he shrugged. It wasn’t that cold this winter anyway, ice or no.

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