I started to walk. I felt like a ghost, an unreal observer of everything happening. There was nothing I could do to help. I knew that, the sensible part of me knew that, so I did not run. I walked. I tapped my headset. “Call Alistair.”
The smoke rose up in plumes until an erratic localized wind rushed down the street and sent all that smoke sideways. Onlookers, kept at bay by fire service barriers and a handful of assisting police, recoiled from the sudden choking cloud. Even at a distance, my eyes stung and watered as I listened to my headset ring and ring. No answer.
“Call Pike,” I told it and it started ringing again.
from Incognito: the Vertical Street
Took a couple days away from writing again. I mostly spent them running errands and shopping. Just trivial stuff. It felt good, actually. I guess I needed to get out of the house a bit more. I’m reading a lot of stuff about what I guess qualifies as life hacking. I’m not really sure, which is part of what I’m learning more about. I’m always trying to work out what I’m doing and how I can most effectively and enjoyably do it. I’m always planning and tinkering. I hope to have some cool things happening in the next few months.
About the scene, well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and all that. I’ve written about fire in two other stories, only one of which ever saw the light of day. That’s House of Cats (see links above) and, no spoilers intended, there’s fire. Repeatedly. It’s a thing.
Fire is a thing in my life and it works its way into my writing often. It’s a long story, sometimes even a funny story, but when I was about eight, I spent a couple days trapped on my family’s ranch, where we were surrounded on all sides by a brush fire. There were trucks from two fire departments living with us, making a last stand to save us because we had about twenty horses, eight people, assorted smaller pets, and no way of getting any of them out. I spent those days half out of my mind from all the smoke, barely able to function. (The rancid meat I was accidentally fed [I told you, long story] did not help matters.) The world was ending.
Brush fires remain my personal hell on earth. I am generally a good person to have in most emergencies. I am calm and competent; if I do not have specialized skills to solve a problem, I am at least a help and not a hindrance. Except if it is a fire. If I am in close proximity to it, even if I am far from home, I will become hysterical, sobbing and hyperventilating. If I am home and there is a fire in the general Southern California area, I will watch the news with a focus bordering on madness. It does not matter that half the damn state would have to burn up before it reached me. Part of me is still eight years old and knows that fire will come and eat me.
So. Fire. It’s a thing. It crops up. On the plus side, I really, really know how to write it by now and I love the scenes that use it. Personal demons make the best fiction.