Furniture burned surprisingly well; the dining room chairs were enough for Elliot to keep the feeling in his fingers, but the snap of the blaze and the stink of burning varnish wasn’t enough to keep gloomy thoughts at bay.

“Village’s 20 miles away,” Elliot said. “Never make it in the snow. Dammit, it’s their fault for pushing me out here. How’s anyone supposed to get anything written with committees and classes and all that college everywhere?”

The fire crackled in response; Elliot took this as agreement. “It’s bad enough that the place is full of professional vultures,” he said. “Grading papers five days a week and writing criticism the other two. If someone thinks they can tell Baudrillard he isn’t Marxist enough, they won’t show any mercy to me. No, it’s just more paper to shred, more writing to pick into its component pieces like a fetal pig on a dissection table.”

Ashes glowed and cinders churned; sparks worked their way up the chimney. “They’re afraid,” Elliot said. “they can’t produce anymore; they gave it up. Who wants to write when you can’t help but see all the petty biases and assumption that color it all? As if the endless stuffy papers they churn out are any better. They’ve forgotten how to produce, and they’re scared of anyone who still can.”

He pounded his fist on the cold wooden floor. “I’ll show them. They think they can doom me to obscurity, driving me out into the snow to die. I’ll show those dusty old fossils in the department what a real writer can do.”

More chairs went onto the fire in the following hours, and then the table, broken into pieces with a hammer. The bedframe was next, then the bookshelves and cupboard doors. All the while, Elliot scribbled furiously on his pad, stopping only to tear sheets out.

Finally, Dr. Harline’s books went into the blaze. “Screw the feminist reading of Crime and Punishment,” Elliot said, hefting the volume onto the ashes. “Let’s hear the arsonist reading. The Nazi reading. The this-is-why-they-don’t-allow-smoking-in-the-building reading.” The paper burned bright and fast, but before long, the embers were dying.

Things became fuzzy after that. Elliot had a vague recollection of more items offered up to Vulcan for heat, endless spirals of cursive writing snaking across notebook pages, and hoarse shouting and recriminations. The very existence of the Osborn University English department, the publishing industry, and readers at large were questioned in front of a rapt audience of dying coals. Everyone who had kept Elliot’s brilliant prose from attracting the praise it deserved was tried in the cinder court, convicted of obstructionism, and sentenced to hang in the air as frozen breaths.