by Lisa McCourt Hollar
“Come on Sue, let us in.” Sarah pounded on her friends door, while the other women that stood behind her, echoed similar sentiments.
“Its cold out here,” Connie said. “If you dont let us in, we could get pneumonia and die. Do you want that on your concience?”
The door opened a crack and Sue peeked through the opening. Sarah could see the gold chain still attatched, but at least this was progress. She would break the flimsy chain if she needed to, if for no other reason than to restore some sanity to her friends life.
“Go away,” Sue said. “I dont want to be responsible if something happens to you because you were with me today.”
“Come on Sue, its your birthday tomorrow. We just want to help you celebrate. See…we brought cake and party food.” Helen held up the bags she held in her hand. Some of them had oriental symbols on them and the name of Sues favorite chinese restaurant. In birthdays past, Sue and her friends had celebrated her birthdays there. Sue, being superstitious, had always enjoyed reading the fortunes and finding ways to incorporate the saying into her life.
“I dont feel like eating,” Sue said. She attempted to close the door, except Sarah stuck her foot in the opening.
“Open the damn door, or I will break it down.” Sarah meant it too and stared pointedly at Sue to let her know she wouldnt put up with anymore of this bullshit.
“We would come back tomorrow, you know, on your birthday, but you kinda indicated you might be dead.”
Connie and Helen turned to look at Cindy, while Sarah almost lost her footing, startled as she was at Cindys stupidity. Cindy looked back at the other three, trying to figure out what she had said that was so wrong.
“What? Its not okay to tease her about her superstitions anymore? We always have before.”
“This is different,” Connie hissed. “Tomorrow we can tease her all we want. When she sees she is still alive.”
“Come on,” Sarah said, directing her attention back to Sue. “Let us in. If Death is coming for you, we will face him with you. We just want to help you through this. Friends forever, remember. Death cant stop that.”
Sighing, Sue nodded. “Fine. Ill let you in.”
Sarah removed her foot from the door and stepped back. She hoped when Sue pushed it shut to release the chain, she wouldnt decide to keep it shut.
Sue had always superstitious. For the most part, Sues friends thought her rituals were cute, even if they did border a bit on Obssesive Compulsive. Other times, like now, her superstitions became annoying. Sue was often preoccupied with death. Then a few months ago she had a dream, where a bird was flying through her house. She was convinced it was an omen. The next night she dreamed she was laying in a coffin. She woke up and her neighbors dog was barking outside her window. That dog barked all the time, but for reasons Sarah couldnt understand, Sue became convinced that Death was stalking her. So Sarah convinced her to go to see a fortune teller. She thought the woman would give her friend reassurance that all was well. Instead the stupid hag had told Sue she would be dead before her 30th birthday.
“If she doesnt open that door,” Sarah said, “were breaking it down.”
The three women nodded their agreement, though the door was heavy and they werent sure that they could. They all sighed with relief when the door opened.
Sue had to admit her friends being there did make her feel better. She almost believed that she might make it through this day alive. Almost, because the day wasnt over with. It was only 11:00 p.m. She had another hour to get through and anything could happen. She could choke on her fortune cookie for instance.
Stuffed on Sweet and Sour chicken, all of her friends had opened their fortune cookies. Sue had left hers alone, not wanting to tempt fate. Now she looked at it, still sitting in front of her and felt a new wave of fear hit her.
“Go ahead and open it.” Sarah said.
“The present or the cookie,” Cindy asked and Sue laughed. She was in the process of opening her presents and Sue only had one left…Cindys.
“Okay, okay, I can take a hint.” Grasping the small box, Sue stripped away the colorful paper, revealing a small, white box. Lifting the lid, she gasped at the surprise inside. It was a lighter, shaped like a rooster. Besides her superstitions, Sue collected roosters. She believed they brough good luck. Flicking the switch, she laughed as flames shot out of the beak.
“Thank you!” Sue pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and drpped one of the cancer sticks in her hand.
“You know, as preoccupied with death as you are, Im surprised that you even smoke.” Helen was only half joking, as she pulled out her own cig to join her friend.
“If I have to die, I might as well die happy.”
“Well I want to know what your fortune cookie says.” Cindy snatched the cookie off the table and broke it open, just as Sue was lighting Helens cigarette. The flame flickered against the end of the stick.
“So what does it say,” Connie asked curiously. Sarah hoped it was smomethuing happy. Judging from the look on Cindys face, it wasnt.
“Well, what does it say,” Sue asked, lighting her own cigarette.
“Nothing.” Cindy crumpled the piece of paper and threw it in the trash.
“Well, you opened it. I have to know now.”
“After midnight,” Cindy said. “Read it after midnight and then we can all laugh again at your superstitions.”
Sue looked at the clock. It was only ten more minutes. She could wait..
couldnt she. But then….Sue opened the crumpled paper and read the words, while she absent mindedly flicked the lighter, causing the flames to leap from the roosters beak.
Beware The Fire Breathing Rooster
Sue screamed, dropping the lighter. When she let go, the switch that she had depressed with her thumb stayed down, stuck in place by some invisible hand. The lighter landed against her drapes, catching the material on fire, engulfing them in flames in a matter of seconds. Before the women could react, the only exit from the room was cut off.
Grabbing a chair, Sue lifted it, preparing to throw it through the window. Sarah screamed for her to stop, but panicked, Sue ignored her, shattering the glass. As soon as the air hit the room, the flames exploded towards the window, lighting Sue on fire. A few moments after her screams died, it turned midnight.