The bloody thing blew up! Fried like a pea in a vat of boiling oil! And it ponged. The remnants began to make sounds like kids blowing wet raspberries as they unstuck from the ceiling and descended to splatter on the floor with wet plops. Thousands of bits of black and purple and blacker clumps and bits of white ash – how was it even possible?

The wreck of the pressure cooker – where was the lid? – lay scattered throughout the smoke-filled room. Two pieces, the base maybe, and part of one side, lay smoking and sinking into the lino – flame!

Candy tiptoed gingerly over the steaming goo and gunk to the sink, filled a cup with water and splashed it onto the small flames.

Whoosh! Flames now shot to the roof, took in all the floaties and gooies and exploded them, too. She dropped down with her hands wrapped over her head. She had to get out. Now. Flames rippled like curtains up the walls, spread black smoke and choking gas in swirls and lashes that burned her throat and stung her eyes.

Don’t stand up – she remembered that, at least, as she bellied out over the remnants of what was once going to be her first attempt at Greg’s favourite soup. If she got out, if she survived, she’d never try it again. Never cook again. If she got out of here, it’d be take-away. Maybe forever.

First she had to get out. The front door was blocked by the horizontal wind of red and yellow and white and blue flame that roared towards the small gap between the door and the main wall. The one window she always left open to get a cross-breeze, to blow out the kitchen smells. Now it fed the fire.

The back door was locked. It was always locked when she was home on her own. The news was always advising people to lock their doors, even while they were at home. Her hand reached up – skin blistered and fizzed and flames before it got halfway to the small catch. The security frame of the upper part of the door melted and fell, part of it on her hair.

The acrid smell, the choking sensation in her throat, a searing panic that told her to get up, to run, to hide, to get out, out, out – Candy rolled into a ball, tucked the burned hand inside the curl, and rolled all her weight into the door.

Nothing happened. She peeked out. The door was still melting – only one of the three hinges remained. She had one option. One. The only one. The belly crawl was slow, too slow, but she moved away, curled up again, and aimed herself. Burled and hurled and threw her whole weight against the door.

The crash was horrendous. The cold air burned more than the flames. The noise of screeching and screaming – it was her. The roar of the flames deadened all other sound until the roof collapsed.

Candy realised she was still on her belly, still crawling, trying to get away. The house caved in with a whoosh and crash that blew dust and ash and flames into the surrounding trees, into the pool – the pool! – she dragged and slid and pulled her body into the pool. Looked up. At the black smoke against the blue sky. Opened her mouth to breath. Chlorine stung her throat worse than the smoke. Tears poured down her face like acid.

The hand she raised from the water wasn’t red, wasn’t blistered. It was a stump of black that looked just like the ham-hock that blew the lid off the pressure cooker. Her stomach coiled as she recognised it as part of herself. Looked further down her body. The clothes she’d been wearing were gone. Only black soot, raw skin, goo and bloody trickles in the water.

Vomit burst from her throat as the burly arms reached for her, but she couldn’t lift her own, couldn’t lift herself to move towards him. His face was drawn, his eyes puckered, his pity clear and loud. It must be bad if a fire-y can’t stand to look at it.

Her mother always said cooking was a dangerous pastime.

Copyright Cage Dunn 2017



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