It hit me
at three in the morning
that I never turned the oven off
after cooking dinner.
Don’t remember cooking dinner
or even what I ate.
Just knew it was still on
and I needed to act.
Springing from my old bed
and flying to the living room,
I found the oven hot
where my desk used to stand.
Though the inside was black,
the heat was unmistakable
so I turned the knobs to zero,
difficult, ’cause the numbers weren’t in order.
Almost satisfied, I crawled
back into bed but still afraid
of hidden, lurking flame.
I watched that oven long
just waiting and waiting,
thought I saw a flash
while waiting and waiting,
anxiety unchained
with the waiting and waiting
and then
the fear made manifest.

Dull, unused coils
burst into brightest orange flame,
sinister snakes of hunger
bent on consumption.
I had to move
or the fire would keep spreading,
taking my bedside glass of water
and splashing it into the oven.
For a moment, it was dark again
save for one neon sliver,
but all evil needs is that little sliver
to resurrect itself.
Fire slithered back
renewing the battle.
Adrenaline kicked in
and the chaos made manifest.

I had two cups of water now
and I splashed those in as well
before dashing to the kitchen
refilling, reloading
not bothering to see
how effective the first attack was.
Two more glassfuls tossed into
the fire trying to rage
but no matter how many flames I snuffed,
snakes I crushed,
the fire kept on burning, 
consuming, growing.
I thought, any moment now
I’m bound to wake up
so I paused in the midst of battle
waiting for deliverance.
I stood in the strangely smokeless room
waiting for deliverance,
but there was no deliverance
and a false reality made manifest.

I was slowing in the battle now
from the running back and forth from the sink.
The oven had shifted to the front door now
and my apartment doubled in size.
Every round trip seemed to place
more clutter in my path
so that it was eventual
that I would stumble and fall,
two glasses of water shattering,
their contents scattered on the floor.
The fire had advantage now.
I was starting to lose
and I was ready
to let a tragedy win.
No, I thought
you’re not out of options.
I pulled out my phone
to dial 9-1-1
but the numbers were all scrambled.
I couldn’t make the call
leaving me alone and helpless.
The despair made manifest.

I considered just allowing
those snakes to swarm around me,
offering up my entire world
to their insatiable consuming.
I considered being turned
into char by the flame,
letting it wrap me up and take me
to a new more blissful life.
By myself, I couldn’t save myself
and it was going to kill me.
But right at that moment,
firefighters I never called
burst into the building.
They drug me out and saved me,
killed the flame and preserved my world.
Someone had been watching
and hope was made manifest.

Only then did my brain
awaken my eyes to peaceful night,
but emotions were still ebbing.
I had thought the whole thing real.
In silence, I began
piecing the nightmare back together,
a paradigm of human existence
reflected in my dreams.
Did my brain not create the problem
with a constant fear of fire?
Did I not in turn grow the fire
with unchecked anxious worryings
and the initial conviction
that I could handle the whole thing myself?
I started well, but started to fail
and the failure was going to kill me,
until that unknown soul picked me up.
Never saw his face but he was paying attention
just like how the waking world should work.
And reality was made manifest.