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The Unknown Fire

by Ben Shelley 6 months ago in Family
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An open apology to my Mum

The Unknown Fire
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Dear Mum,

This is a confession from your son.

Twenty years later I feel the need to get this off of my chest and it is not simply due to the fact that these words if chosen, can offer me a monetary sum in return. It is time to talk about this as it is something that you do not know about (as far as I am aware).

Think back twenty-three years ago to the point in which we were living in the flat. You remember, the flat with the neighbours upstairs who would take drugs, get drunk and play music until the early hours of the morning, those neighbours.

Being woken up by such a disruptive influence causes you to grow up quicker than you would like and this is why I started making fires. Not to the point where I ever did so with malicious intent, but out of curiosity.

I would wait until you were out of the house, find the matches and grab some paper. Now, I believe that in my room there was carpet and other than a small piece of cardboard that I would add under the items, there was no protection. If anything had ever gotten out of control then it would have spread quicker than Donald Trump's lies.

The fires would start small and be instantly put out but the adrenaline was something that I could not get out of my mind. It was fun and a way to rebel, taking control of the housing situation that we found ourselves in. It was of course stupid and I could have very easily raised our accommodation and that of every around us to the ground.

People could have been injured or worse, killed as we did live above an elderly couple and when I think about all of this now I am mortified. Not for the consideration that I offered malicious intent but for what could have happened.

This phase only went on for a few weeks and was extinguished as quickly as it began. This was due to one fire that got out of control. I remember it clearly now...letting it burn for a few more seconds than normal before attempting to extinguish it.

As you may imagine, seconds mean years when it comes to flames. I could not put it out...the flames rose and I was terrified. Images of the block of flats being burnt to the ground were running through my mind as the smoke alarms went off. I was frozen solid, with fear gripping my soul, yet somehow, I snapped out of it. Running into the kitchen, grabbing a huge jug of water and throwing it into the growing inferno, it was exstinguished.

Stopping for a few seconds to lean against the bed I was overcome with fear and opened the window, put all the elements for the fire in a bowl of water to ensure it was out and took a breath.

My clothes stank and so I quickly got changed, grabbed the air freshener and prayed that my Mum was not going to open the door any second. I was petrified but after half an hour and having everything taken down/extinguished I felt better. The situation was saved and the evidence was hidden under my bed.

You returned an hour or so later and asked no questions, so all I can assume is that the smell of burning had dissipated and you simply assume that I'd cleaned my room. You were none the wiser and my lesson was a lesson. I never went back to starting small fires and in a way, I thank God that the lesson was offered with no casualties, apart from the need to sneak to the bins after dark to hide the evidence.

I remember climbing out of my window and down the drain pipe at 1 am to ensure that no one was awake.

That night all I could do was lay in bed worrying, listening to all the sounds outside and inside to make sure everyone was asleep, as God knows what I would have said if anyone had stopped me. I think that mostly I would have screamed and ran away, which would not have got me back in the house as I did not have a key and did not want to risk waking you up.

With all of this in mind, I believe that I got away with it, yet the lesson was etched in my mind for all time.

To this day I still have a real fear of fire in terms of how quickly it can get out of control. I am scared and this is due to what happened that afternoon.

  • All I think about whenever this memory appears in my mind is 'what could have happened?'
  • What if that fire had continued and I had to call the fire brigade, would we have been able to get everyone out and where would some of those living in that estate have gone?
  • Would the council have placed them in temporary accommodation?

We would have had to live with Nan and Grandad, and God knows how our relationship would have changed.

I would have been your only child that set a fire and burned a block of flats down and all I can say is that I am sorry. I learned my lesson and will never, ever go back to that mindset. I will make sure that my children appreciate the risk of fire and whilst no consequences were laid down on me, they probably should have been. It was a stupid choice and at this time I wanted to let you know.

To end this letter, all I can say in conclusion is that it was a different time and I well and truly learned my lesson. I am sorry that I never told you but I was scared. Scared of the consequences and ashamed of what I had done.

Eternal apologies,

Your Son


About the author

Ben Shelley

Someone who has no idea about where their place is in this world, yet for the love of content, must continue writing.

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