“It’s so beautiful,” Jennifer said, staring into the fire. The orange flames leapt on the logs, the wood from the garage that had sat drying for so many previous winters. The fire popped and crackled.
“Yes, so beautiful,” I agreed. I smiled at her and clinked my wineglass against hers. She smiled back and all of the beauty in the world seeped into the room around her. We kissed and life was gorgeous.
The fire spat and sputtered and crackled and roared in the hearth. We watched the film network television had decided was the one we should watch that evening – Casablanca. Classic.
The night wore on and we cuddled on the couch and watched the closing credits of the film, as the closing credits of the darkening sky brought late evening into night. Jenny yawned and rubbed her hand against my knee beneath the afghan.
“I’m tired,” she said. “I’m going to go to bed, honey.” She got up from the leather of the couch our bodies had warmed.
“Okay my dear,” I said, leaning forward and kissing her on the lips again. “I’ll be right up after you. Just let the fire die out.”
She headed upstairs. The room was dark save for the dim orange glow of the fire. I opened the hot glass door with the poker, turning the handle on its brass side with the black end of the instrument.
I turned the pieces of wood which were breaking down into coals. This one, onto its back. This one, atop the other.
Suddenly I felt the air in the room grow cold, and then heard a roaring come from the chimney, the sound of the wind. The fire sputtered, then gained strength, then flared outward, larger and larger. The small orange flames grew bigger and turned bright red, then an acidic blue.
I backed away from the fireplace, confused – what was happening? The fire grew in strength and vigor, and from the blue depths of it I saw a ghostly spectre appear, then take form in the darkness of the living room. He was clad in a black cloak and his face was bones. In his hand he held an ancient scythe with a thirsty blade.
“What… what are you?” I stammered. This couldn’t be real. I was losing my mind.
“I’ve come for you,” he said, his voice permeating my reality. “Your wife shall sleep soundly tonight, but you will join me in hell.”
He swung his sickle.