The house was packed with kids of various ages. Teenagers continuously swarmed through the front door all night long, piling like sardines into the cramped living room. It eventually came to a point where no one could tell who was coming and who was going. The place reeked of alcohol, sweat, and an array of illegal drugs. Eighteen year old Drake Wood sat on a large sofa, accompanied by two girls of whom he did not know the names of quite yet. They weren’t talking to him, however. They were surveying the other guests at the party, who were parading by with red cups and cigarettes between their lips. Drake watched the different teenagers as they downed bottles of whiskey and danced wildly to the loud music blaring from somewhere in the house. He sighed and stood up. Sauntering over to the refreshment table, he grabbed a red cup and poured himself some whiskey from an unattended bottle sitting amidst the chips and dirtied plates. Somewhere at the back of his mind, he knew this would be his sixth cup tonight. His vision began to blur at the edges, but he didn’t care. He wanted to get drunk this evening. It was the first night of summer vacation and he planned to enjoy it, hoping it would be the best one yet.
Drake felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned and saw a blurry silhouette of his good friend, Reed Black.
“Hey man,” Reed slurred. He was probably just as drunk as Drake, and smelled of booze and vomit. Drake smiled at his buddy.
“What’s up, man?” He slapped his friends back jokingly, “Meet any hot girls tonight?”
Reed shook his head, “Nah man. No good girls here. S’too bad, really. I wanted to get some.”
“Dude,” Drake swung his arm around Reed’s shoulder and pointed with his half empty cup towards the couch from which he just left, “There’s two of ‘em now. Go get one, man! They’re hot!”
“Smokin’”. Reed agreed earnestly. He made his way over to the girls, tripping over his feet and knocking into people, emitting incomprehensible apologies.
“Hey girls, how’s the party goin’ for you two?” Reed asked the teens on the couch. Drake watched from behind his friend as one of the girls, a brunette, sighed and rolled her eyes.
“You guys are so lame,” she quipped.
“Now hey, girl,” Drake piped up immediately. He pushed his way through the crowd and stood next to Reed.
“This guy here is the bomb. You know he can do magic?”
“Whatever,” The brunette said, annoyed.
“No really. He can eat fire,” Drake looked at Reed, his vision fading in and out, “can’t you, dude?”
“Yeah he can! His dad’s a fire eater!” A voice yelled from behind Drake. He tried to search for the source of the comment but came up with nothing.
“Can you really?” The other girl, a blonde with short hair, asked. By this time, a sizable group of drunken teenagers had formed around the couch. People were talking and pointing at Reed. Drake didn’t like where this was going, but he was too intoxicated to think straight, and he kept prodding at the idea.
“Tell ‘em, Reed. Tell em you can eat fire.” Drake nudged his buddy.
“’Course I can eat fire,” Reed said with a grin, “My dad showed me how.”
The voice from before began chanting, “Do it. Do it. Do it.”
Once he had begun the chant, the rest of the room began chiming along. Reed put his hands up.
“Alright, I’ll show you. I’ll put on a good show. Someone get me a match.” Reed grabbed Drake’s cup of whiskey and drank the rest of it. Drake felt he should tell Reed that what he did wasn’t a good idea, but the thought left his mind instantly when someone passed Reed a pack of matches. Reed dropped the empty cup and lit a match from the box. The room erupted into loud cheering as he opened his mouth and dropped the match in.
Suddenly, the cheering distorted into screams of terror as Drake felt intense heat coming from his side. His mind took a minute to register the flames engulfing Reed. Drake’s vision cleared for an instant and witnessed his friend’s face completely ablaze. He stared at Reed as he dropped to the ground, screaming in terror. The room was clearing out as teens were fleeing the scene for their very lives. Drake watched as people passed by, not one person even stopping to help Reed. Drake suddenly felt a searing pain shoot up his arm. He went to touch it with his other hand and the pain engulfed that as well. He heard himself scream as he dropped to the ground. Desperately trying to crawl on his hands and knees, he started towards the door but the pain in his arms was too great. The fire was spreading all around him; black smoke stealing every ounce of oxygen in the room. His vision began to dance as the room spun and his mind began to shut down. The last thing he remembered was hearing sirens blaring from somewhere in the distance and he knew he was going to get busted for underage drinking.
Drake awoke to the sounds of people crying and water running. Through his hazy vision, he fixed his eyes on a burning house. There were firemen in yellow suits putting out the blaze with a giant hose and some were racing frantically around the streets. The red and blue lights of ambulances shone upon the damage of the yard. Drake looked down at his hands and saw they were wrapped in two large, white casts. The events of the night abruptly came back to him in a stream of guilt. He must have stayed in the house too long after Reed attempted to eat fire. His hands were probably burned to a crisp, as he could no longer feel anything below his elbow. Drake instantly remembered what he was supposed to tell Reed before he ate the match – that the alcohol was extremely flammable and would combust in his mouth. Drake began to sob as he realized he was too late to save his friend.
“You okay there, fella?” A fireman with a yellow hat and suit came up to him and asked, “The paramedics told me you have terrible third degree burns on your arms.”
Drake glanced down at his casts again. He couldn’t even wipe away his tears.
“Did anyone make it out alive?” He asked the fireman.
“You did,” was the reply. The man stopped for a second, “You were the only one. We still don’t know how many bodies were in the house. Lucky for you, you were closest to the door and we got you out in time.”
Drake’s tears began to pour at a more rapid pace. Reed was gone, and it was his entire fault. How many other people lost their lives because he was drinking and not thinking logically?
“What were you guys doing in there? Partying?” the fireman questioned, “Cause man that must’ve been some party. We still don’t know how the fire started.”
The man looked at Drake as if he expected an answer. Drake looked away, refusing to disclose any information. He didn’t want to get in trouble for this, even though he knew he deserved more than just some burns.
Once the fireman walked away, Drake dared himself to look back at the wreckage. Nothing was left of the house but jagged walls, protruding into the starry night sky. There were a few people on stretchers being loaded up and sent off to the hospital. He silently prayed they all survived. As he was being lifted into the back doors of the ambulance, he took his last look at the destroyed house, promising himself to never play with fire again.