- Reading time: six-and-a-half minutes
- Word count: 1066
- Published: 14 dec 2013
- Author: Matador the First
- Copyright: Matador the First, 2013
Quickbreak Donwood began to suspect there was a daemon that had it out for him, hiding in one of the universe’s processes somewhere, when he caught his fifth Christmas tree on fire.
“Had to buy the 3G model.” As the fake tree really burned in front of him he saw in every flame putting out warmth unwelcome in a warm month every single cent of the hundreds of dollars he’d spent on the 3G-enabled Christmas tree and its extended warranty. “Don’t think I would’ve bought it if Mitchell hadn’t slipped and fallen in a pool of my blood.” The money spent on the equally flammable four live trees before the 3G one appeared as well: hundreds of thousands of pennies rising and melting and falling now, pelting our hero on his head and toes.
But as the lights melted down so did our hero’s guilt because Mitchell had told him the tree’s default configuration, even without a firmware update, had a few different lighting modes. So did the manager when she got the tree from the back and so did the tree’s box. But when Quickbreak got home and set up the tree he couldn’t get the lights to turn on at all. The manual had no information so he searched online and found many other trees had had the same issue and users had fixed it by getting an interim firmware update that the manufacturer had pushed out without saying anything about it, which update was solely for (a slew of) bug fixes, and so he went to work and borrowed one of their spare never-used touch screens and when he connected it to his tree at home and opened the Web browser and went to get what he thought was the firmware update the tree’s operating system had him download a specialized update application instead, which application would download and install the actual firmware update and all future ones once it itself was downloaded and installed.
Once the updating application was installed Quickbreak had it search for the latest firmware but first it forced him to turn off the tree’s Wi-Fi and use its 3G connection, claiming this was done for security reasons and also saying the tree had to verify his 3G account status with AT&T, which took maybe thirty to forty minutes, which was when he was most tempted to go for a round or two or twelve of the old Lewee Routine and when he went looking for the bat and couldn’t find it he remembered his ex had accidentally donated it to Goodwill so he didn’t have a bat to use, which made him want to bash in the garage door even more, and before he burst a blood vessel in one or both of his eyes he checked the touch screen, which showed that hey the newest firmware had been found online and like did he want to download it or something? So he told the prompt to download and that prompt disappeared and then the app promptly showed another prompt, which new prompt informed him AT&T had imposed a limit on file sizes for downloads over their cellular-data network (which file-size limit was one megabyte shy of the firmware update’s file size) due to “High Holiday Demand” and would be lifting the limitation just in time for New Year’s Eve, which for our hero meant he’d have no Christmas-tree lights till after Christmas and that was unacceptable, man, so he called up the tree’s manufacturer, who told him they could upgrade the firmware for him if he sent it in in a prepaid box they’d ship to him but that due to how busy they were it was “very likely probable” he wouldn’t get the tree back till after New Year’s, so that option was right out, and he knew because the tree wasn’t technically broken Kmart wouldn’t replace or exchange it and their extended warranty didn’t cover “accidental” damage and also overrode their return policy, which meant he couldn’t return it to them at all, ever, and so because he wanted his tree to look proper he stormed back to the store’s seasonal section and bought Christmas lights aplenty to light up the tree at home.
Because he’d bought decorations four times before his last visit, the store had run out of regular cheap ornaments and was selling only expensive handcrafted ones from some village in France, which village Quickbreak was certain didn’t actually exist (or at the very least wasn’t actually in France) but he agreed the ornaments were handblown and -shaped and -painted. They cost four times as much as the old ornaments and our hero wouldn’t have bought them had the manager not said the store wouldn’t be getting any more cheap ones that Christmas season. What probably made seeing the ornaments go worse than seeing the lights and tree go was that the ornaments were exploding. But although it was scary and imposing, our hero didn’t yet feel intimi—
“Shit!” His hands flew to his face. “Glass in the eye! Glass in the eye!”
Quickbreak cursed the nine hundred dollars he’d spent on the 3G-enabled artificial Christmas tree. He cursed the lights he’d had to go back to the store for. He cursed the überexpensive handcrafted ornaments he’d inadvertently forced himself to buy. He cursed his overinquisitive and experimentatious nature. He cursed soaking the tree in kerosene and then soaking it again. But most of all, he cursed—
“Shit! My leg!”
—his leg’s being on fire.
Our hero flailed his arms (just a bit at first), moving them faster and faster and breathing louder and harder, as if circulating the flames’ fuel supply faster and in circles would help his cause. When he saw the fire on his leg hadn’t shrunk at all but had in fact doubled in size and tripled in brightness he abandoned his arm-flailing and took to running in a circle and not stopping till he got so dizzy he fell flat on his face whereupon instead of stopping and rolling he scrambled up to his feet and dashed toward and then through the glass sliding door at the back of his living room.
The closed glass sliding door at the back of his living room.
As the tree blazed in the living room behind him, our hero sat in the grass scooping dirt onto his fresh-burned leg.
“Blazing-Fast 3G” is the eleventh section in a twelve-part story. You can follow the story as it's posted to the home page or by tracking its tag.