Stretching Fire Stretching Fire

is a book published in 1936 by the great John Dickson Carr. In a quite brilliant way it balances through the entire story, on both sides of the fine line between the safety of the mundane, ordinary existence and the ęsupernaturalĽ. Itís without any doubt one of modern litteratureís classical works. Youíre sitting in your chair when you read the enticing story. Or... you may lie there unmoving, Stone Cold. You believe that now, now, you finally have the plot worked out, the mystery solved.
Then, on the last page, the truth is staring back at you. You realize that your notion of life as ordered and structured is quite off the mark. Thereís a desperate hope in you for this to be the case in this and any other case, but youíre totally and hopelessly wrong. And you know it inside, where your humanity is hiding as a wet spot in a closet. Where your humanity shouldíve been instead of a black, disgustingly spot.
I canít really understand why Iím standing here talking to you. Youíve probably not even read the book. Itís what Itís what Iíve always said. There is no limit to human stupidity. I remember in my time as an ace war - pilot, those were the days. A rich man was a man and not a greedy parasite. A woman was... yes, a woman. You see, Iíll be leaving for another mission quite soon now. Iíll be reviewing a movie called The Lost World. And the cinema sheep once more need my valuable advice. As we all know are truth - seeking movies that are not also boring, harmful to your health. The Public need guidance. Everybody know this. Otherwise they may be completely lost.
The Lost World is a very good movie. And as such the common visitor to the theater would not understand the most crucial points of the story and thereby leave the theater with a nagging worry that will return during the night and torment the poor guy (or gal). In fact there is a high probability that this worry never is going to leave this person og thereby make him (or her) basically unproductive for the rest of that persons miserable life.
Yes, life sure is strange. I, for instance? In my youth I tried my utmost to succeed as an author and a movie director, but the world didnít appreciate my talent. Iím not complaining, though. Since i now can use all my time to expose hustlers who call themselves writers. They submit their books and manuscripts to reputed publishers and expect a breakthrough. Forget it, pal! It wont happen. Not as long as I and my equals decide whatís good art and whatís not. By the way, do you know that John Dickson Carr was supposed to be a plumber? I mean, how stupid can you get? Life becomes impossible when a plumber imagine himself to be a writer. Even worse is it when everybody else also believe in this grievous error.
Life has THOUGHT me not to trust plumbers.
It is said that artists and plumbers have something in common, that both... ha ha, is digging in the dirt, but I donít buy that. Not for a moment. Art shall be and look like... yes, precisely, a work of art and should not provoke anybody. I mean... the world is bad enough already, isnít it? It shouldnít be necessary to point out the fucking madness. No, an artist should keep to straight lines and safety in numbers just like everybody else. A censorship board of influential and responsible citizens should make sure that the public isnít exposed to damaging art. Then the world will sooner or later become a better place to be. With equality and brotherhood for all.
Yes, because one shall not underestimate equality and brotherhood. In my time as an ace war - pilot, then everybody was equal. Bodies floated everywhere. And thou shall not underestimate the value of floating bodies. Our beloved and familiar planet is as we all know overpopulated. Take, for instance, all those roaches that crawls our way. They live in the sewer and expect us to do the same. They come from everywhere... I mean, how are we supposed to feel, what shall we DO with the lot of them. Incredible enough, they demand to be treated as human beings. And todayís youth born in this country, isnít much better. Theyíre nothing but a bunch of rabble who steals from respectable citizens and even throw eggs on them, who parasite on the common riches and in general show no respect what so ever for us older and wiser. We with more experience and knowledge.
I met a polite and well - mannered youth today. He asked for directions to the nearest church. Encouraged I explained it in detail to him. My point is... I was that close to drawing a map for his convenience. Later I heard that the damn church had burned down to the ground. In retrospect Iím forced to admit to myself that I acted with a little bit naivetť. Just a little bit. What an absolutely grave mistake, to point a well dressed, clean kid towards a church in this day and age. Itís a doomed venture.

Burnin'

Whatís become of the world? The nine Oíclock news brought me news today that really got me steamed. You have certainly heard about them, the two older women that robbed First National bank. And that wasnít even the most shocking turn of events. The worst was when the reporter smiled when he told his adoring public that two boy scouts did help the two to cross the street afterwards, and then proceeded to steel their handbags. Sometimes I get so fucking pissed that I...
By the way, i met quite by coincidence one of those strange heathens the other day. Another pimple - faced, hairless youth with a strongly exaggerated belief in his own skills and intelligence. By a strange twist of fate we started and continued with a conversation that was both deep and profound. He told me about his deeds. Among other things he gave a detailed description of how to burn a church all the way down to the ground. You need gasoline, a lot of gasoline, and then you can go to work. I have to tell you, itís not easy this work. To be certain of the desired effect itís necessary to spread the fuel all over the old, dry wood. Old, dry wood can be SO moist, you know. In other words you need to get inside to empty the god damn petrol from your HUGE can. To get inside I recommend a big and heavy ax, sharpened and polished for several hours. Then if youíre determined and brave enough you quite simply walk in the front door.
If you, for some reason, do not want to use something as uncivilized as an ax, or think itís not time enough to use this method, there is a whole sleuth of alternative methods available. Iím here in this quorum just gonna mention the simplest and least risky. You smash one window and empty your petrol - can through it, strike a match and throws it (preferably from a distance) inside and pull back fast and far.
I sat and listened to his surprisingly vital and luminous tale and felt an irresistible pull in my innards. Towards the end of our genial conversation I threw all caution to the wind and asked him casually:
- Eh... is your schedule less than tight in the near future?
We watched while the damn church burned to the ground. We howled and screamed and enjoyed ourselves immensely while the dipshit firemen in vain tried to put out the infernal inferno. In retrospect I can for the most part admit that this was a mistake.

So here I am, in this place, surrounded by walls and morons. Thieves, murderers and god knows what. Of one thing though, I am certain: All who spend their nights on this dubious place are certainly my intellectual inferior. Something that makes it all that much worse, though more understandable, is the fact that the employees of the facility hardly is better equipped.
Allow me one final observation, before I finish this tale of triumph and tragedy:
The top Watchdog brought, on my urgent insistence literature I could ęgrow onĽ. He came up with THE BURNING COURT by John Dickson Carr. He did not realize, as every moron should, that I had already read the book. Up and down, back and forth, in and out.
What a totally, complete idiot.

Evanaugh Hughes
Our outstanding man among inmates

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