MASON PACED around. He tried not to hum the melody of a Christmas song that had been stuck in his head the whole evening. He knew that wouldn’t be a good idea, considering the situation. The firefighters were all over the place, most of them shooting daggers his way. He wrapped himself in the Christmas sweater he wore and tried to ignore them. It was all right. At least he kept telling himself that.

Most of the firefighters had gone inside, so Mason stood in front of his apartment building, trying to get a peek inside. One of them guarded the door, making it impossible to go in. So he gave up again and paced some more.

It wasn’t his fault. Mason kept telling himself that too. It was Christmas evening in two days. The whole town had been decorated weeks ago. It hadn’t snowed yet, though, and that disappointed Mason on a daily basis. He loved snow. He loved Christmas. He loved the colorful lights and presents. He loved baking cookies. The latter got him in trouble.

Mason felt nervous about Christmas. It would be the first Christmas in ages he’d have to spend by himself. His parents had decided to go out of town, traveling across Europe for the holidays. His sister had gone skiing with her family. His younger brother was spending the holidays with his girlfriend’s family. Mason told everyone he’d be okay. They knew how much he adored the holidays and how much it meant to him to spend them with the people he loved. He insisted everything would be fine. It felt weird, though. He got presents for everyone and decided they’d just have to wait under his Christmas tree until they came back. But the closer Christmas got, the more restless Mason felt.

At 11:00 p.m., he decided to bake some cookies. He baked a lot. So he got to it. He put them in the oven at 1:00 a.m. and went to check if there were any Christmas-themed movies on the television. Well, that turned out to be a huge mistake. He was surprised to come across one of his favorite movies, and he managed to forget about the cookies. He wrapped himself in one of the many Christmas sweaters he had in his possession and watched the movie.

Until the fire detector went off. The beeping noise finally caught his attention and he got up. His heart stopped for a second. Mason felt bewildered. He ran into the kitchen and realized the cookies were on fire. He panicked. He grabbed a bottle of water and opened the oven to attempt to put out the fire. That also turned out to be a mistake. The smoke rolled out and made the fire detector ring even louder. He panicked more. He opened the window in a desperate attempt to get the smoke out. And then he just ran around his apartment, wishing the ground would swallow him whole.