The television screen flickered through myriad images that painted the walls of the living room in rainbow patterns.
Tara Stone reclined in the armchair, unblinking as she stared at the screen. Each picture merged with the next in a succession of subliminal images.
The tribal drumbeats that accompanied the images made her heart beat fast, made her unaware of anything but the here and now.
Seconds later, the phantasmagoria of images came to a stop and the screen turned white with static.
Tara blinked and wiped her eyes. She felt as though she was waking from a dream.
She stood up and turned the television off. Then she removed the disc from the
She felt wonderful.
She walked through to the kitchen and stared at the box of matches on the table. Without hesitating, she snatched the box up, removed a match and struck it. The flame flared and she stared at it for a moment, and then blew it out.
Now for the ultimate test.
The wind howled outside, so she plucked a coat from the hook behind the door, dropped the matches into her pocket and left the house.
The sky was clear of clouds, and the setting sun painted an orange band across the horizon.
Inhaling the crisp air, she headed toward the town centre. The box of matches rattled in her pocket with each step.
Up ahead the illuminated windows of a tower block formed a giant crossword puzzle grid.
When she reached the base of the tower, she wandered around until she found a door into the service bay. The lock was broken, the walls either side of the entrance daubed with the modern day hieroglyphics of graffiti artists.
Once inside the building, she waited until her eyes grew accustomed to the lack of light. Shapes materialised from the darkness: old electrical appliances skulked in the corner, opposite which a pile of old newspapers had been stacked in a haphazard mountain. Tins of paint sat atop the electrical appliances, and she walked across and inspected them. As well as the paint, she found a half-full tub of white spirits and a rusty screwdriver. She couldn't have wished for more.
Smiling to herself, Tara prised the lids off the paint, and sloshed the contents over the mountain of paper. When that was done, she poured the white spirits over the pile and then took the matches out of her pocket.
She had a momentary flicker of doubt, but then she looked at the multicoloured rivers of paint that flowed over the paper and it triggered something in her subconscious.
She struck a match, marvelled at the flame for a moment, and then flung it onto the paper. She continued to throw burning matches until the paper mountain was ablaze, the rivers of paint bubbling like molten lava.
The heat warmed her cheeks, and when it became unbearable she retreated outside and walked a safe distance away.
It didn't take long before tongues of flame licked out of the doorway, and it wasn't much longer until the flames began to devour the lower floors.
People appeared at windows, screaming, their clothes and hair alight. Glass exploded as people jumped in an attempt to save themselves.
Tara watched from further along the road, mesmerised by the flames pirouetting around the structure, painting the sky in ribbons of fire. It was only the sound of approaching sirens that broke the spell.
With a final look at her handiwork, she stood up and made her way home.
Once inside her house, she looked out of the window and watched the flames light up the horizon like a living painting. It looked marvellous.
She glimpsed at the disc she had played earlier and read the title: Fire and how to beat the phobia. A self help guide.
Tara smiled to herself and wondered which of her many phobias she should overcome next.