Your parents always told you not to play with fire. This is why. For Matt.
The girl panted and whimpered, her nails digging into the soggy clay, propelling her backwards away from the predator like a crab in the sand.
"I'm sorry, I will leave, we were just having a laugh, we weren't going to burn anything down, I swear."
Her pitifuls calls sounded hollow and forgotten in the inky blackness that was the woods. No one heard her, if they did, no one came for her. Her friends lay slumped in a pile in the corner, like forgotten laundry left to ferment until someone forced it into the washing machine. For a moment she forgot about her predicament, the terrifying man in front of her. Instead she focused on her anger. Anger at herself. Anger at her stupid friends.
It hadn't even been her idea. She actually had shot it down the first several times. " My parents would be pissed at me, I would be so grounded," she had whined when they first brought it up.
It was a simple, silly, juvenile plan. Get some matches, and light a few torches, maybe tie some gasoline soaked rags around the tops. Get a few pitch forks. Steal a few shots of Sam's dad's whiskey for liquid courage. Go to the weird shack in the woods, the one that housed the crazy old man. The crazy old man that was currently staring at him with eyes the color of death.
They were just going to scare him, run around, bang on his windows, shout that they were there to burn the witch. Stupid kid shit. Of course Miranda had to take it a whole other level and light some tighty whities on fire. She had found his clothes line. That of course excited Sam and Jason, who started lighting random bits of trash in the clearing. She was sure who did it, or how it even happened, but someone lit an old rocker on fire. As it burned, it knocked back into a window breaking it. The old man came stumbling out, screaming like a mad man and hit her friends until they were unconscious with a bat, leaving her to run and hide.
A growl brought her outside of her head and back into the present. Was there any animal? Did the old man have a dog? The growl sounded again, this time deeper and more intense, almost a snarl.
"Look at me, girl." She looked up. The growl had come from him, the old man. His eyes, though they seemed vacant, were staring straight into her and his dry lips were curled into the cruelest of smirks. She looked, cowering, scooting back, perfecting her crab crawl as he continued to advance on her.
" Please, please let me go. You can have them. It was all their idea. They wanted to scare you. I just came along to make sure it didn't get out of control. I will pay for your window and your clothes. Please, please just let me go."
The old man regarded her with a curious look. " You would leave them here if I let you go?" She nodded her head and tried to appear braver than she felt. She would call the police as soon as she got out of here, her friends would be fine. " Yes Sir." The man cackled, much like the witch they had fancied him earlier. "You harass me and set my things on fire, then call me Sir?"
She sat silently and waited. He was going to let her go. He watched her intently then suddenly turned around and walked across the room, picking something up off the floor. Looking at it intently, he crossed back to her, his dirty flannel shirt flapping in the chilly winter breeze flowing in through the broken window.
" Who is DHK?" DHK? She looked closely and saw what he had. Her father's monogrammed lighter. " That's my dad. David Henry Kellerman. I got that for him for Christmas. He smokes cigars. And pipes sometimes." It was a nice lighter, a wood grain bottom and gunmetal top. She had spent $50 dollars on that stupid lighter.
The old man looked at her, his face turning into a violent snarl. "So you had nothing to do with this, it was all your friends, not you. But you brought your father's lighter?"
He was advancing towards her now, faster. She scuttled back, but was suddenly backed against a wall. He reached out and grabbed her leg, jerked her violently towards him. Flicking the lighter, he watched the flame for a moment, then suddenly lit her pant leg on fire.
"Hey, what the hell! She grabbed at the leg, trying to put it out while he laughed. He grabbed her leg and patted out the fire. Almost gently he removed her sock.
"What- what are you doing?" She stuttered as he flicked the lighter slowly, getting closer and closer to her bare foot.
The old man said nothing, but suddenly the flame touched her big toe. Not long enough to damage, but enough to hurt. She cried out and jerked her leg, but he held fast. " Stay still. Be patient. This is going to take a while." He flicked the lighter again, burning her just a a bit longer and laughed when she howled in pain.
"What is going to take so long?" The girl was screaming out her words, letting them come out in desperate pants.
"Your lesson," the old man replied calmly as he now held the flame continously against her foot, his nose twitching slightly at the smell of charred, burning flesh.
The girl could barely speak, her voice come out in shrieks and wails as her body burned slowly, but painfully. "What lesson?" She wailed, just as her eyes closed.
The old man laughed maniacally and threw Sam's forgotten gasoline torch on top of her as he continued to flick the lighter.
"Apparently your parents never taught you how dangerous it is to play with fire."
Two days Sam, Jason, and Miranda came stumbling out of woods with a new found fear and their friends ashes packed neatly into a box. They had been given very simple instructions.
"Give this to your friend's parents, I'm sure they will want it." The old man laughed as he handed the petrified teens their friend's ashes in a neat wooden box. On top was a Smokey the Bear and on the inside, lying on top of her ashes was the lighter and a pamplet:
"Teaching Kids Fire Safety."