Flash Friday 20: “After School Special” by Christopher David DiCicco
About the Author
Christopher David DiCicco is a fiction writer currently finishing his M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Arcadia University. He resides in Yardley, Pennsylvania and hopes you enjoy his submission(s).
After School Special
by Christopher David DiCicco
It’s weird. The girl on TV described it as feeling like a pistol being shot next to your ear. She said she couldn’t hear a thing as she ran through, and that the entire place went silent a long time after. The girl on TV said she was dirt spit out a hot airless vacuum and that when she emerged you wouldn’t recognize her. She told the viewers that everyone’s mouth looked like evil puppetry and that her grandma was probably screaming “no,” but she couldn’t be sure. She could only deduce what had been said from the fact that the eighty-year-old woman had tried to stop her from going back in a second time.
And what was there to say? There were no cameras. Not even a cat.
The girl on TV said that it was the most liberating and exhilarating sensation to ever wash over her body. She described it as if it were the ocean’s last wave before the tide changes. She said that it was something on the verge of something else and that it was the most wonderful she had ever felt.
I wanted wonderful.
I wanted something else.
And after four years of nothing, I wanted to be asked what it felt like to be alive.
The girl on TV said she’d do it again, too, if given the chance.
That’s probably why she’s still allowed to talk about it all these years later. It’s probably why she’s on TV and I’m not.
Me, I would never do it again, not like that. I’d been so ignorant, taking for granted that I’d make it through the dark and out into the backyard where the sun would be shining on and on.
I’m terrified now just to pass through doorways. My dreams are filled with black smoke and I constantly take wrong turns in houses that I’ve never been in. I’m always ending up in the bathroom or the kid’s room or the kitchen. In my dreams, I never find the back door. Those kind of turns haunt me whenever they can. Those are the dreams waiting for me when I come home from school now. I’m afraid to take naps in the afternoon. I’m afraid for grandparents and their cats.
Her story was a little different. Her’s was a freak electrical fire on the other side of town. Her’s was to save the day and her grandma’s Russian Blue named Dostoy. The girl on TV was crazy for going back inside, but she ended up better for it. The girl on TV realized her mistake somewhere between the family room and the kitchen. Not every kid walks home past their grandma’s house. Not every kid ends up on TV for charging through a single home engulfed in flames only to emerge out the other side.
Some kids realize their mistakes halfway.
I heard everything when I ran through the house. I was on the other side of town though, far from where the girl on TV lived with her Grandma. Maybe that is the difference between the burnings, the other side. After starting the fire, I walked back up the street a bit so it had time to breathe. It wasn’t her grandmother’s house or mine. I hope it wasn’t any family’s at all. But from what I understand from the officials, the house belonged to no one. That’s probably why I chose it. That’s probably why I didn’t end up like the girl on TV. I dropped my book-bag onto the cement then. I walked up calm and collected to the burning front door. Before running through, I took a deep breath and listened for the ocean and waited for the tide to change.
A burning home, to confused bystanders, who don’t see or hear a cat inside, sounds like a crazy whoosh of hot air and sirens. To me, it sounded more like television static than like a pistol exploding beside your ear, somewhere close to your temple, far from the other side of the house or from the girl on TV, just a loud static going on and on and on.