Madness by Ella Hassall

This story is one of the January Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.


A faint orange light filled the tiny room, elongating the shadows. She let the match burn before blowing it out with one quick puff, inhaling the addictive smell. She loved that smell. She loved the sound that matches made when they struck against the side of the box. It was music to her ears – a symphony of beautiful chaos.

To put it plainly, Poppy loved fire.

There was something about how something so small, so seemingly meek, could cause such difficulties. How a small flickering light could grow and grow and cause utter hell. How a basic human necessity like heat could be a terrible human threat.

She cast aside the burnt out match after letting the charred wood crumble between her finger and thumb. She pulled another out of the box and lit it in a sharp movement, her eyes glowing with an almost crazy lust. She had no remorse for other humans, no care of their silly whims. All she cared for was nature. The natural forces that were as misleading as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Perhaps if she did care, there wouldn’t be candle stumps left, stuck to the mantelpiece, burnt out every night. There wouldn’t be coal constantly glinting in the fireplace. She wouldn’t steal the house’s supply of matches.

It is important to note that she wasn’t the only occupant of this particular house. On the floor above her, several rich aristocrats slept in duck-feather quilts, clad in silken nightgowns. Below her, more teenagers slept on simple straw beds that itched any bare skin in the depths of night. She hated it. Hated everyone else in the house.

Lost in thought, she dropped her match, cursing colourfully as the orange light seeped into her bed sheets. No matter. No matter. With a shrug, she lit another, and another, so engrossed in challenging herself, challenging physics, desperate to see just how lucky she was.

It was on the eight match that the bed caught fire. With a deluded squeal, she jumped up, her night dress swishing around her. Without even thinking, she threw more of her match boxes into the flames, grinning at the smell of smoke. She grabbed hot embers with her bare hands and threw them at their furniture before running out of the cramped room. As quick as a flash, she ran down the corridor, lighting more matches, throwing them every which way, grinning delightedly.

The screaming began as the residents of the mansion began to wake. She heard coughs and splutters as the tight hand of smoke gripped at their throats.

Within minutes, she was in the courtyard, practically bouncing on the spot. It wasn’t until the house burnt to a skeleton of wooden framework that she collected herself, and disgusting realisation kicked in. She looked up at the ash falling from the sky like snow. With a final sigh, she turned and walked away, not looking back at what she was leaving behind.



Ella Hassall
Great Britain

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