Jack awoke to the distant shout of a man's booming voice. He opened his eyes wide in the dark as if doing so would open his eardrums along with them.
The sound was clearly not a figment of his imagination. His pupils adjusted to the dark room. It took Jack a few seconds to recall where he was.
That's right, he slowly began to remember. He was home, in his bedroom.
The door was wedged open a crack and he could see a bluish glow bouncing off the hallway walls. He arose and curiously made his way toward the door, still listening intently.
Fire, men! Nice and steady!
As he entered the hallway, it was apparent that the noise was coming from the television downstairs. The dialogue became clearer as he came to the foot of the staircase. He observed his mother dozing peacefully on the couch, the television across from her illuminating the heavyset bags under her eyes.
The program on the television appeared to be an old war documentary. Jack gently picked up the fleece blanket hanging on the back of the couch and draped it over his mother.
He grasped the empty wine bottle on the coffee table and frowned disapprovingly. He could have sworn he'd hid all the bottles. She must have picked this one up on the way home.
He approached the television, bringing his face close to it as he sought out the unlit power button with the pads of his fingers.
Fire! Again! Fi- Fire consumed the entire home in less than an hour.
He retracted his hand in confusion. The channel had changed though Jack was sure he hadn't yet hit any buttons. Jack's arm dropped back to his side. He took a moment to absorb the new voice, stepping away from the screen. It was a local news program showing clips of fire engulfing a house.
Thankfully, all occupants managed to escape – Fire-breathing dragon! Stir the knights!
Again, the channel had changed.
The dialog shook loose something long dulled in the back of his mind. He suddenly remembered the heat on his face. He could hear his mother screaming, faint but undeniably her voice. He needed to look back at her resting on the couch to be sure it was all in his head.
Then the channel changed yet another time, and he couldn't help but transfix his eyes on the screen, aware of the pattern unfolding before him.