I thrive in these late hours of the night.  I'm free to restlessly think as I please without the others throwing me strange glances.  But even though I can let my mind go beyond these concrete walls, I still can't feed my burning obsession, if you'll pardon the pun.  It was my obsession that landed me here, to be honest.  I can't help it, the call of a dry, breezy night, an empty woodworking shack, a jug of kerosene, and the gentle hsss of a lighter was too strong to resist.  I would've cracked if I'd let the opportunity slide.  I almost did, too.  But the promise of satisfaction was too great; "do it," it cooed in my ear.  "You'll be glad you did."

Oh Lord, was I!  I barely had to douse the shack, everything was just so dry and perfect.  The virgin spark of the lighter zipped through the kerosene trail I'd laid for her, leaping with glee onto the wood.  As she grew, she let out satisfied sighs, throwing sparks into the air with breathtaking snaps.  The sight, the sound, the smell, the whole thing just sets me at peace.

Pity no one else appreciated it.

I sit here, loosing my mind for its nightly romp, and my ears catch a sound.  Footsteps, heavy ones.  But they're not Olsen's, thank God.  He's convinced I belong in the loony bin.  No, these are lighter, must be that Small.

At first I think she's just going on her nightly round, but no, she stops about three cells down.  I sigh; she's just come to see Manuel again.  I don't know what she sees in that boy, frankly.  I know the maniac spark when I see it, I've seen it in myself.  Don't go telling me he doesn't have it.  Trust me, he does.  I prick my ears up to listen.  Their conversations are usually so fluffy they make me gag, but you never know when one might say something useful.

Manuel and I were brought in on the same day, you know.  Oh yeah, while we were awaiting block placement he kept muttering all spastic to himself, "I'm not s'posed t'be here, I'm not s'posed t'be here, I didn't do it, it's not my fault..."  He's less verbally spastic now.  Still jumpy, but he doesn't say much, must live by that "speak only when spoken to" nonsense or something.  Every once in a while, I turn those words over in my head, and laugh to myself.  "Hell, then I'm not s'posed t'be here," I think.  "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, so it's not his fault.  I had to feed an obsession,  not my freakin' fault."  And it's true; I didn't go and ask to be a pyromaniac.  It just happened.

I run my hand along the wall mindlessly as I try to hear them, but I'm pressing against it so hard a rough spot grinds against my hand.  I hiss against it; Small and Manuel quit their talking.  They exchange one more breath of words, then Small ambles towards my cell.

"Everything alright in there Ana?" she asks in a whisper.  Nobody calls me Ana, except for her.  They all call me The Maniac in here.  The Pyro.  Pyro-chick, if they're feeling bold.  Manuel will call me Ana, but only when he has to, and when he does he has to resist saying "pyro" first.  I nod in response, but I don't think she's convinced.  She gives me a once-over (I swear, I think she shudders every time she looks at me), shrugs, and strolls back the way she came.

I examine my hand in a tiny sliver of light; no blood, but it still hurts.  Just as I'm about to turn to my corner, I hear Manuel murmuring to himself again.  I don't catch the beginning, but I can hear him say something about "running free, though... that might be another story."

Oh-ho!  So Mr. Innocent's planning to run, is he?  I barely restrain a shout of laughter.  Like hell he is!  Does he really think he can make it?  But a troubling thought crosses my mind: what if he does?

Then I answer myself, a smirk flickering onto my attenuated face: not if I have anything to say about it.

If I have no chance of making it out of this madhouse, I decide, then neither will he.

I'll make sure of that, no matter the price.

The End

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