Prompt: You come across a pack of matches that sets off a series of uncanny events. Start your story with "My mother always told me not to play with fire." End it with "And that's how I ended up in the middle of nowhere -- naked."
My mother always told me not to play with fire, but I didn’t always listen to mom. She was full of all of the things I couldn’t or wasn’t supposed to do. But in this case she may have been right. Let me tell you what happened and you judge if dear old mom was on to something.
The power had gone out in our home again. My wife, Linda, broke out her candles and our battery-powered radio preparing for a quiet evening without TV. I tried lighting the candles with my propane gadget but I couldn’t get it to catch. I angrily heaved it into the trash, got my flashlight and started rummaging through the kitchen drawers, searching for matches. After five minutes or so of looking and swearing Linda remembered she had a pack of souvenir matches in one of her purses in the closet.
Do you know what going through old purses, in the dark, with a weak flashlight beam is like? Purses are like old shoes, only more so ― they don’t wear out. They just get replaced and stored, too old to be used again but too good to be thrown away. I found a paper clip, two buttons, one really old stick of Juicy Fruit, a rumpled grocery list, lots of wadded up tissues and a small key, but no matches. Finally after lots of cussing and slamming things around I opened her formal, little black handbag, the one she carries when she gets really dressed up. There was something in the bag that might be some sorta matches, but not like any I’d ever seen before. Didn’t she say they were a souvenir ― a souvenir of what I wondered, as I grabbed them and headed off into the dark to find Linda?
“Are these the matches you were talking about?” I said as I thrust out this mysterious package and fumbled with my flashlight.
“That looks like them.”
“They don’t look like real matches. Where did you get ‘em?”
“I never told you the story, but remember when we took that golf vacation to Vegas with our New Jersey friends, years ago. Well, the night you guys went to bed early ― to make your crack-of-dawn start time ― we had a girl’s night out. I was at a blackjack table while the other girls were playing the slots. An interesting and exotic looking man was sitting next to me smoking these strange cigarettes. He was foreign and rich, really rich by the looks of his clothes, jewelry and the huge pile of chips he kept restacking. The smoke was a nuisance but it had this very different and almost pleasing aroma. Kind of like some pipe tobaccos. He could tell that his smoke was getting to me so he turned and spoke for the first time. ‘May I offer you a very special treat,’ he said in his heavily accented English as he opened his ornate gold cigarette case.”
“Get to the punch line, will ya. It’s dark in here and my batteries are almost gone.”
“I told him I didn’t smoke but something about his pleasing manner and the aroma of his exotic tobacco made me want to try one. Or it could have been the four or five vodka tonics I had earlier or the grappa I was sipping now, but it was definitely something. Anyway, I took one, put it to my mouth and he lit it with his gold lighter. I took one drag and it was like ― like hard to describe. You know when you’re sitting in a dark movie theatre waiting for the film to start and POW the screen lights up. Well, it was kinda like that. I just sat there in shock watching my own private light show when the dealer asked me if I wanted a hit. I realized then that I hadn’t even looked at my cards.”
“This guy gave you drugs at a blackjack table in Vegas?"
“No it wasn’t a drug. It was something else. I don’t know what, but it was something else. I got up in this blissful sort of daze, raked in my few chips, and started to leave. This guy stood and as he offered me those matches he said something I’ll never understand or never forget. He said, ‘I’ll meet your there’.”
“I looked at the package he had given me in the elevator on the way back to our room.” Linda continues, much more animated now. “Something was printed on the cover but I couldn’t read it. I might have been Arabic, but I didn’t think so. What could have meant by, ‘I’ll meet you there’?”
“Hell if I know, but here goes,” I say as I yank this funny looking match from its gaudy package. I strike it like you would any other match; it flares and then explodes in a huge ball of colors and warmth. “And that's how I ended up in the middle of nowhere ― naked.”