I looked at the scene that was unfolding in front of me. Across the field from where I stood there was a fire and, all I could do was watch. Intrigued.
“We better get out of here, Tessa,” My best friend Caroline said walking up beside me. “I just got a call from my dad. He knew we were here today and apparently this is one of the biggest bush fires to date.”
I nodded my head, still engrossed at the scene before me.
“It’s sad isn’t it. They say this was the work of The Fire Starter. Again.” Caroline sighed, letting me know she was generally sad about what was happening.
I nodded my head. It was sad, but yet, interesting. He had been nicknamed The Fire Starter. He was responsible for setting about eighty fires in Gisbourne where we lived. No one had seen his face, just the back of him. The people that had seen him said, he moved like no one they had ever seen. It was as if he glided rather than ran. They also said that he had a long black robe, which billowed out behind him.
I wanted to be a physciatrist and I longed to meet The Fire Starter. I would have loved to pick his brains for a few minutes, if not only to see what went on in his mind. I knew this was wishful thinking on my part though. However, dreams were free.
“Come on then, Tessa. That fire may spread soon and I for one do not want to get caught in that.”
Caroline stalked off towards the car park where she had parked her mothers blue minivan. She had just gotten her restricted licence and was allowed to drive by herself on the conditions that she didn’t speed and that the only passenger she took was me. Technically, she wasn’t meant to take passengers with her at all but her dad was one of the local police men so she got away with it. Caroline’s parents really liked me, they claimed I was a good influence on her. Oh, how wrong they were.
Caroline and I had been best friends since age six, primary school, and every time we got in trouble over the eleven years we had been friends, it was almost always due to something I had wanted to do. Caroline never ditched me though, she was a good friend. The best.
I climbed in the passenger side of Caroline’s car and buckled my seat belt. I couldn’t help but look back over at the bush fire.
“What are you thinking, Tessa?” Caroline asked me curiously. She could always tell when I was thinking hard. She claimed that she could hear the cogs in my brain rotating.
“I would love to meet him,” I murmured.
“Meet who?” Caroline asked, confused.
“The Fire Starter.”
Caroline shot me a look of alarm and then proceeded to give me a full length lecture on how dangerous The Fire Starter was and why I really did not want to meet him. I switched off after about two minutes, like I usually did during one of her lectures. She wouldn’t know though, she never did. She loved the sound of her own voice.
Caroline put the car into drive and I tuned back in, assuming she was finished speaking.
“…And you don’t know what sort of person he is! He’s clearly mental!” Caroline ranted. Nope, I was wrong. She wasn’t finished.
I held up my hands in defeat. “Okay, Caroline, I get the point. I won’t go and meet him. Not like I could anyway. I only told you because you asked what I was thinking.”
Caroline gave me a stern look and I rolled my eyes. Caroline and her mother were both very protective of me. Sometimes I felt as if I had three mothers, including my own.
I turned the radio in Caroline’s car to The Rock and then turned it up loud, to let Caroline know that I didn’t feel like talking on the way home. I often got in this mood and Caroline was well equipped with knowing when to talk and when not to talk around me now. She never complained though, always putting up with me. She really was a good friend.
I decided to go straight home rather than go back to Caroline’s like we had planned. Caroline didn’t question me, just took me home as instructed. I waved good bye to Caroline once she had dropped me off and I was out of the car and headed up my garden path, into my house.
I heard my older brother, Jared’s music in his room and decided it was best not to disturb him. In all honesty, he was probably asleep. He often went to sleep with his music echoing through the house, though I don’t know how. It drove our parents mad.
I entered my room to find my bedroom window was wide open. That was odd, I had shut that this morning before going out with Caroline. My parents hadn’t been home all day either. I wondered if perhaps Jared had been in my room, I don’t know why he would open the window like that though. I made a mental note to ask him later.
I hurriedly changed into some track pants and a t-shirt. Caroline called this my casual look and she hated it, claiming that I looked like I was homeless. I knew she was just over reacting, considering she wore dresses and skirts 24/7. I didn’t see what was so wrong with my casual look. I was at home, why couldn’t I dress for comfort?
I put my own music on, flicking the dial on the radio to The Rock. My stereo was very ancient, so every time I turned it off it would lose all stations and I would have to retune it again. I had given my parents a list of things I might like for my birthday next month and a new stereo was right at the top of the list.
I fist pumped the air when my favourite Imagine Dragons song came on – Demons. I loved everything about this song, from the beat, to the lyrics, to the way it made me feel when I listened to it. I could listen to this song on repeat every day and never get sick of it.
I noticed a slip of paper sticking out from under my pillow. I hadn’t put it there, Mum must have left me a note before she went out. That was an odd place to put it though.
I pulled the note out from under my pillow and gasped as I read it.
I saw you at Salt Lake Creek today. I saw you watching my work of art. You looked intrigued.
I also saw you keep glancing back as you walked towards your friends car. If you had of looked slightly more to the left, you would have seen me. I’m glad you didn’t.
I did some digging around and found out some interesting stuff about you, Tessa.
For example, you want to be a psychiatrist and you would love to pick my brain.
Well, you’re in luck. I am granting you one interview with me, since you’re a nice person, on one condition. Don’t bring Caroline.
It was from him. The Fire Starter. My immediate reaction was one of fear. Who was this guy? How did he know my name? My career ambitions? Where I lived? I wondered if perhaps it was someone I knew for the fact that he knew Caroline’s name too.
Did I want to go and meet this guy? What if Caroline was right and he was some sort of a creep? I didn’t necessarily think he was mental like Caroline did but the way he had gone about leaving me a note had creeped me out. I couldn’t guarantee that I would be safe if I did go and meet him. On the other hand though, interviewing this guy could really give me some much needed experience for the psychiatrist course I was planning to attend in February.
I was stuck between my pros and my cons. I needed a second opinion. I couldn’t talk to Caroline, I already knew how she felt about it. I couldn’t even talk to my best guy friend, Frankie. He hadn’t been around at all lately He hadn’t been in school and had avoided all of my attempts to visit him. I wondered if there was something going on with him, I felt like such a bad friend for not knowing but he wouldn’t talk to me and I didn’t know what to do.
I couldn’t ask Jared because I knew he would nark to our parents who would be oh so thrilled that their daughter had run off to Salt Lake Creek to meet a guy she didn’t know, let alone a guy that started fires for fun.
I decided on my back up option. When in doubt and out of ideas for what to do I always used my magic 8 ball to decide for me. I was surprised that it still worked. I had gotten it on my seventh birthday and it was still faithful to me ten years later.
“Should I go and meet The Fire Starter?” I asked the magic 8 ball. I gave it a hard shake and waited for the result to appear on the screen. ‘If you wish’ was the reply.
“That doesn’t really help,” I muttered, giving it another hard shake and waiting on the results to appear. ‘But of course’ was my response this time.
That was that then. The magic 8 ball had spoken. I had to go and meet The Fire Starter. I smiled to myself, wouldn’t my parents and Caroline be so proud of me? Putting my safety in the hands of a magic 8 ball.
I changed back into jeans and picked up my bag, putting some paper and a pen in it. I also took my mobile phone. Not only for safety precautions but in case I needed to use the recorder on it.
I headed down the hallway, stopping at Jared’s room. I knocked on the door and heard a grunt. That was Jared speak for ‘come in’.
“What?” He asked me. He was lying on his bed playing what looked like Need for Speed on his Play Station 3.
“Hello to you too,” I said snarkily.
“Hello, Tess. What do you want?”
I rolled my eyes, knowing this was about the politest greeting I would be able to get out of my brother.
“I’m going out.”
“Where you going?” Jared asked in a bored tone.
“Salt Lake Creek,” I didn’t think it was a stupid idea to tell him. If anything did happen to me and I didn’t come home, then Jared would know where to look for me.
“Haven’t you just gotten home from there?” Jared sat up and looked at me suspiciously.
I gulped. “Yeah. Um, I left my camera there and I need to go back and get it before it ends up getting stolen.” I was the worst liar ever, so I was very surprised when he lay back down and grunted ‘see ya’ in a bored tone. If only he knew where I was really going.
I grabbed an energy drink from the fridge on my way out. Nos was my favourite energy drink and even though Mum didn’t like me drinking them she always brought me one on grocery day. I still had one left over from yesterday.
I climbed into Mum’s Honda Accord. She had two cars so I was allowed to borrow this one whenever I needed it.
It took me ten minutes to drive back to Salt Lake Creek and I was getting more and more nervous as the minutes went by. What if Caroline was right and this guy really was a mental creep? What if I was setting my self up to be killed or something worse? I pulled into the Salt Lake Creek car park, found a park and took a deep breath. It was too late now, I was already here and had to go through with it.
I climbed out of the drivers seat, locking the car, and looked around. The Fire Starter hadn’t said where to meet him but I got the suspicion that I was being watched.
I looked over towards the bushes where the fire had been and gasped, the fire had been well and truly put out and all that remained there was black where the bush had been green but standing slightly to the left of where I was looking was, who I could only assume to be, The Fire Starter. He wore a black robe, which billowed out behind him in the slight breeze. He had his back to me and his right arm outstretched behind him. He lifted two fingers and beckoned me forwards, he must have seen me to be so sure that it was me now, before stepping sideways into the shadows.
I took another deep breath and hurried forward. I found it ironic that I was hurrying into what could potentially be my death.
I stood in front of the singed bushes and looked into the shadows but I could not see him.
“Come in, Tessa,” A gruff deep voice boomed. It sounded vaguely familiar and I shuddered. Did I know this guy? Was it someone from my school?
I did as The Fire Starter asked of me, glancing back behind me before stepping into the shadows.
I could see him slightly clearer now, though he still had his back to me.
“Glad you could make it, Tessa.” That voice was definitely familiar to me.
“Who are you?” I asked, not wanting to beat around the bush.
“I am The Fire Starter,” he told me with a slight laugh. I wasn’t sure why but it really got on my nerves that he found our meeting funny.
“No. Who is The Fire Starter?”
“Me,” This time he completely cracked up laughing. He obviously thought he was a funny guy. I rolled my eyes. I was going to get no where at this rate.
“Ha ha you’re hilarious. I’m asking because your voice, it sounds familiar to me.”
I heard him sigh. “If I show you my face will you promise not to run?”
Well this was a promising turn of events. “Okay.”
The Fire Starter slowly turned to face me and I blinked, trying to get a good view of him. I couldn’t see him clearly though, he was engulfed in shadow.
He seemed to realise what the problem was and took a step towards me. I could see his face clearer now and I gasped in shock. “F-Frankie?”
I blinked furiously, convinced that my eyes must be playing tricks on me. Frankie couldn’t be The Fire Starter, no, that wasn’t right. It did explain how he knew my name though, my career ambitions, where I lived and about Caroline. I also knew I wasn’t going to come to any harm now.
“You- You’re The Fire Starter?”
“I am The Fire Starter,” The words rolled off his tongue so easily, as if it wasn’t a big deal.
“I, I just feel so frustrated, Tessa!” He threw his hands in the air. “Lighting fires helps me to calm down and just feel better,” Frankie admitted.
“You can’t do that though, Frankie! Some one could get hurt!”
“No they won’t. I’m careful where I light fires. I make sure there is no one in harms way before I light a fire.”
“What made you start doing this, Frankie? What has been going on with you? Why have you been avoiding me?”
“Felicity has cancer.”
My mouth dropped open. “What?” Felicity was Frankie’s thirteen year old sister. She couldn’t have cancer. She was far too young.
“She has cancer, Tessa. There’s nothing I can do about it. I have no way to help her and I feel so angry that this has happened to her. She’s so young and she’s a good person. She doesn’t deserve this.”
“No one deserves cancer, Frankie.” I said quietly.
Frankie shook his head. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just..”
I nodded. I knew what he meant.
“I’m really sorry, Frankie. Is that why you have been avoiding me?”
Frankie nodded. “I’m sorry, Tess. It’s not your fault but I don’t know how to deal with it. I haven’t talked to any one about it and I didn’t know how to talk about it with you.”
It made me sad. That Frankie hadn’t felt like he could talk to me. At least now I understood what had been going on with him and why he was avoiding me though.
“I’m just so frustrated and upset and angry about it though, you know? The doctors have given Flick four months to live and I can’t help her. Lighting fires calms me down. It helps me to forget, just for a little while.”
I wiped a tear away from my eye. Four months to live? I couldn’t imagine a world without Felicity. She was one of those people that when you met her, your day was instantly better. I felt so sorry for Frankie and his family and what Frankie had been doing to make himself feel better also made me sad. I suddenly knew how he was feeling, I didn’t know how to help him either.
“You can’t keep up with the fires though, Frankie. You’re going to be in a lot of trouble if you get caught.”
“I’m not going to get caught if you don’t tell, Tess. I only got you to come today because I felt like it was time to reach out to you and let you in. Let you know that it’s not your fault I’ve been avoiding you. When I saw you standing there today, I knew I had to tell you.”
I nodded. I wasn’t sure what to say to that.
“Please, Tessa. You can’t tell anyone, okay? Not even Caroline.”
I gulped. Although I knew why Frankie had been lighting fires, I knew what he was doing was wrong. He was my best friend though and he had asked me not to tell on him and I knew, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t.