Yes, I Started that Wildfire
Dream | June 24, 2012
A party of us are going out to dinner. My mom, two sisters, myself, some guy and his young daughter comprise our group.
In a previous conversation the others had offered to lend me some money, but I declined to borrow. When we stroll into the convenience store I spy an ATM machine in front of a big picture window, and seek to cash up.
While my mom yaks with the counter attendant behind me the machine accepts my debit card and emits some whirring noises. I stare out the window, looking right down the middle of the street that curves round the store. The other guy in our party is standing outside smoking a cigarette. A hazy dusk has smudged L.A. with dirty grays. On the right are townhouses and condominium complexes that began to climb a hillside, and on the left is a neighborhood of single-family homes. Straight ahead in the darkening gloom a freeway overpass rises high over everything.
The ATM screen presents me with an option to buy gas. Well, we do need gas, so I tap Yes. The next options are sprinkler and jet which puzzles me greatly. Not knowing what to make of it I tap the sprinkler option.
A strange motion outside catches my eye. The road slopes down a bit and before it passes under the freeway there's a billboard stand that rises maybe a hundred feet up from the street so that the billboard could be seen by freeway drivers. Only, there is no billboard. Mounted to the top of that huge metal pole is a gigantic lawn sprinkler, and it's suddenly alive and spraying out streams of gasoline hundreds of feet high. I watch in horror as it oscillates back and forth: first dousing the townhouses and dry scrubby hillside on the right, then soaking the street and neighborhood on the left.
In a panic I look back at the screen. The only other option is jet. Not really thinking, I just push it.
Now the sprinkler spray has changed into a single thick jet that spirals around, shooting gas all over everything. Small fires have started on the hillside near the condos.
What the fuck did I do? I just wanted a hundred bucks! Now I notice a cancel button and press it hastily as the other guy in our party bursts into the room. He had been smoking a cigarette and the gas had rained down and set his right arm aflame. But instead of trying to extinguish it he is in shock and just pointing at it. I'm like, Oh my god! and pat it out quickly. The skin is still black and sizzling.
Outside the fires are aggressively tearing up the hillside and are about to start burning houses. From our viewpoint it looks like everything is on fire, and we are freaking out. I don't think anybody knew why this was happening, or that I had caused the fire.
I tell my mom we should get out of here now since this area will soon be packed full of fire engines and firemen soon. Only my mother, little sister and I jump into the station wagon; the others have vanished.
We drive down a block and turn left into the neighborhood. I pull out my phone to call 9-1-1. I'm trying to type the numbers but keep dialing 1-1-1. Finally I get connected, only to hear a cheerful recorded message accompanied by chimey music telling me to have some information ready for the operator.
After an interminable wait the operator comes on and asks me what is the emergency? I tell her there is a wildfire. Where? The car has stopped at a stop sign and I get out to look at the street sign. In the dark it's hard to see, and I'm trying to spell out the name but keep getting it wrong. My mom has driven off for some reason. Everything is going wrong....
I look back towards where we had come from. My mouth is open in utter disbelief. The entire hillside and all buildings are completely engulfed in flame. In the air above this wall of fire, helicopters buzz about and little planes are dropping payloads.
Hello? says the operator. I tell her that the fire has already been reported and I'm going to hang up now.
The last thing I remember before waking up is watching that massive wildfire raging over the countryside eating up houses, and thinking Ohhh...fuck...