There Was Only Fire

Copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

He set the gas light out on the table-cloth, slowly adjusting the flame to the lowest setting, mentally counting out the minutes until she arrived. They were running low on gas. Low flotillas of heavy clouds swept in from their eyries in the high mountains, casting their shadows across the river valley.


She was coming home.


Again and again he checked his pocket watch, again and again each half an hour he waited was revealed to be seconds apart.


He looked toward the aerodrome.

There was only fire.

He set off, but knew. Knew it was too late to help.

Too early to mourn.

It was a slow walk home.

Written for this week’s BeKindRewrite prompts Aerodome, Slow Walk Home and Pocket Watch,

as well as for the Friday Fictioneers’ photo-prompt. I’m a bit unsure about this story, I don’t think it works

(my brain hasn’t been co-operating all day.) What do you think?



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41 thoughts on “There Was Only Fire

  1. I love that last line.

  2. claireful says:

    I thought this really worked – a great story. I particularly loved the way you described time passing slowly: again and again each half an hour he waited was revealed to be seconds apart.

  3. Icy Sedgwick says:

    It was actually this line “Low flotillas of heavy clouds swept in from their eyries in the high mountains, casting their shadows across the river valley.” that did it for me. So poetic.

  4. rolark says:

    I actually liked this one better than the last few.

    • Really? Why? (read as: What have I been doing wrong?)

      • rolark says:

        Hey Chris, these are my thoughts (thanks for asking!):
        Tighten the Bolts and the Animal Farm story you wrote were both interesting, but it was the passage of time that got me confused. Not that I need a explicitly definite time frame, but with Tighten it seemed like I wasn’t sure exactly when events happened–the man was there for 3 weeks, but when did the “antiphonic droning” stop? When did the screams start, if they hadn’t stopped yet? As for the Animal Farm one, I have read that book (so good, thank you Orwell), and so I wanted to know an estimation of how long the horse had been free, how long had he gone without water before getting the spigot turned, etc. Nothing too specific, just an idea to help me feel his pain/thirst/frustration.
        As with this Fire one, the “hours as seconds” and the man counting the minutes until he could see his lady friend gave me an idea of how much he cared since the time passage was soooo short but still so painful, especially when his few minutes of waiting was answered with a fiery tragedy. And then he walked home later that day, showing me the story took place in less than a day. That made it punchy, in a good way.
        Anyway, hope all that made sense. Keep up the great work!

      • Hmmm. It wasn’t something that I’d thought about fully. Thanks for pointing out the ambiguity of the time frames, I suppose it was one of those situations where I know what I’m trying to say so it makes sense to me. Well, I suppose that’s why we post these stories online – to get that feedback that would be hard to find in real life (don’t have a writer’s group. Although I am planning on crashing some.)

        I’m glad you liked There Was Only Fire. There was something disjointed about it that I didn’t personally like, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the story. It’s always the stories that I don’t like as much that end up being the popular ones…

        And I’ll try to keep the standard up!

      • rolark says:

        Good luck in finding a writer’s group, they’re few and far between…I was a part of two different groups that slowly dissipated until I found this third and current one. We meet every single week, without fail, and it’s great! Anyway, glad my comments made sense, keep up the good work.

      • Yeah so I’ve heard, although a couple of people have come forward in Brisbane. So, we’ll see how that ends up…

  5. petrujviljoen says:

    Mind worked well enough I should think!

  6. elappleby says:

    Hi Chris
    I really liked this – it was a story in two parts – first the waiting – then the fire at the aerodrome. It was a big jump from the waiting to the fire and that jarred a little – maybe this is what you had a problem with?
    Both parts could be tiny stories in their own right – which is pretty impressive (I struggle to squeeze one story into 100 words!). I loved the last line, and I also loved the half hours which only lasted a few seconds. Excellent stuff.

    • Thanks, glad you liked it! I think that was the problem – there was no segue between the two stories. But I guess life is like that – everything’s normal until something’s not…

  7. Good story. I thought it worked fine. As others have said, quite poetic.

  8. “Too late to help, too early to mourn.” I like that line. I also like the way you separated the two parts of your story.

    Have a relaxing weekend!


  9. […] There Was Only Fire by ChrisWhiteWrites ~ @chriswhitewrite ~ Less than 500 words ~ Steampunk […]

  10. This is excellent. And I so agree with Janet, the line “Too late to help, too early to mourn” is so great.

  11. Dear Chris,
    You conveyed the feeling of hopelessness well.

  12. Brinda says:

    Chris – nice one, loved the way you build up the tension and climax in such a few words. Beautiful.

  13. This is a very artfully sketched scene. I liked the details of the pocket-watch and the lamp especially — a nicely non-contrived way of establishing temporal setting.

    • Thank you (Nicely non-contrived) it’s all about the little details, whenever I see these seemingly ‘useless’ details in other people’s work I feel happy. It’s all about the little details…

  14. elmowrites says:

    I like this story; you capture so well the impatience of waiting, and then the denial stage of grief too. There was only fire is a powerful line, and I liked the half-hours being seconds apart too. A little concirt – you have “running low” and “low clouds” very close together, consider a different word one of these times.

  15. I was going to say cut the first paragraph, because the meat of the story starts later, but then I read it again and realized you have to keep it. The slower beginning makes us settle in for something long – then when he sees the fire, it’s as sudden for us as it is for him. His whole world being destroyed. Nicely done, whether or not your brain was working that day. : )

    • That was the idea I was going for – the long, almost never-ending drag of waiting to see someone becoming in an instant something devastating. Because that’s how it happens in real life!

  16. Lyn says:

    Not so much a slow start, but an introduction of the couple by the man doing something as ordinary as lighting the lamps in readiness. The slow burning of the lamps, the vastness of the fire, the slow walk to what he knows he must face and the hopelessness of the inevitable. I loved it, but also felt so sad for the ending.

Comments and criticism always welcome!

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