He heard the wail of fire engines racing through the street. He kept walking. As he reached the top of the hill, he got a good view of the village below him.
The flames competed with the smoke for ascendancy. The fire engines, two of them, came to a stop in the square. Firemen jumped out and set up to fight the flames. They seemed not to be in a hurry, but this was deceptive. With practised ease and efficiency, they soon had a stream of water aimed directly at the heart of the fire.
Steam joined the flames and smoke. The middle of the house was burning furiously and as he watched, it gave way and the house seemed to cave inwards. The pressure of the water on the weakened beams was too much and the house collapsed inwards into itself.
He flipped open the matchbox and counted the matchsticks. There were three left. He turned and walked away down the other side of the hill. Down in the glade below, he set up the small tent, wrapped himself up in his sleeping bag and slept.
He awoke as the dawn’s early light slowly brightened the sky. He quickly packed up and left down through the woods and across the stream. The 8 o’clock bus deposited him an hour later in the town, right outside the rail station.
He was in London by noon and at her house by 12:30.
She wasn’t there. Across the street was the teashop where they had sat so many times. He sat at a table by the window for more than an hour, his baggage next to him.
They arrived, hand in hand. He watched her take out the key from her bag, unlock the door and kiss him. They went in.
That night, the fire in Camden Town was successfully put out. Two people trapped in the flames could not be saved.
The moors of Devon were large and lonely. The little tent flapped in the gentle breeze. He sat on a rock, the two matchsticks at his feet.
Two weeks later, a group of hikers reported their discovery of the charred remains of a campsite and a body.
On a rock nearby, was a small structure made with rocks. Balanced inside was a single matchstick.