Chapter 4: Mike and the Zippo
Mike had more than a few beers at Rocky's.
In fact, he had more than a few pitchers.
But he wasn't sure.
When he got home, Ellen was already asleep. She had popped an Ambien since she was still getting used to going from third shift to her own gig as a traveling nurse.
Mike didn't need an Ambien. He had at least a gallon and a half of Bud Lite in him. Easily a gallon and a half.
He'd be lucky if he didn't piss himself.
Mike attempted to hang his keys up, missed the rack twice, and shrugged, dropping them to the floor. Then he sat down on the floor to take his boots off. There was no way he was going to be able to find a chair and manage to sit in it on the first try.
No sir, not at all.
Giggling to himself and grinning, Mike managed to take first one boot, and then the other, off. Both of his socks, however, stayed in the boots.
Oh well, he thought.
He rolled from a sitting position onto his hands and knees, and then he slowly got to his feet, reaching out to the wall for support. The last thing he needed was to pass out on the floor. Ellen would wake him up with a kick in the ass and a good chewing out.
Neither of which were appealing. Plus she'd probably--
Mike tumbled to the floor, the thought cut off as he rolled onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. He laughed
and stared up at the ceiling. His stomach rumbled and let out a loud belch, and he laughed again.
Shifting his weight, Mike felt something hard and uncomfortable in his front pocket. Frowning he managed to climb to his feet, leaning against the wall before reaching into the pocket and digging out the offending item.
A moment later he was holding a Zippo lighter. He looked at it for a moment, trying to remember where he had gotten it, and then he smiled.
The dead man's house on Sheridan Street.
That's where he had gotten the lighter.
Holding it in his hand he slowly made his way into the front room, using the furniture as a guide before dropping down heavily into his chair. He turned on the lamp that stood on the side-table and blinked at the light. Once his eyes had adjusted, he took out his box of cigars. From the box, he took a cigar and the snipper, trimming the cigar before closing the box up. Placing the cigar between his lips, he brought the lighter up, flipped open the lid and rolled the flint beneath his thumb.
A bright flame surged into life on the wick, and Mike lit the cigar. He drew on the cigar until it was smoking steadily. Then he closed the lighter--
But the lighter didn't close.
The lid stayed open, and the flame continued to burn brightly.
Frowning, Mike tried again.
He tried flipping the lid closed once more, and still it didn't move. The flame didn't even flicker.
With his free hand, Mike went to close the lid, and couldn't move it. Then he couldn't take his hand off of the lid.
He couldn't take either of his hands off of the lighter. As he looked at it, the flame grew larger, bending towards him with every breath he took. Tendrils of smokeless flame reached out towards him, carefully snaking their way through the air.
Mike tried to shake the lighter out of his hands, but nothing happened. He held it as far away as possible, and still the flames moved closer to him. He spat out the cigar onto the floor, where the small head that had been forming exploded in bright embers onto the rug which Ellen had recently bought to match the furniture.
For a moment, Mike was worried about what she would say, and then he realized the flames were drawing closer. They were two straight lines mere inches from his nose, and he could feel the heat.
A terrible heat.
Mike opened his mouth to call for Ellen, and the flames leaped forward. One of them split again and raced into his nostrils. The other surged into his throat.
The scream that rose up was devoured by the flame, and Mike fell writhing to the floor as the flames sought out his lungs.