Rushing downstairs I saw flames erupting from the top of the stereo cabinet. It wasn't burning electronics, however, but a pillar candle we missed blowing out after Christmas night. Some Christmas beads had wound their way into the glass vase that the candle was in, and thick black smoke was billowing above some really impressive flames.
Fortunately the vase was intact, and I was able to rush to the kitchen, grab a dinner plate and put it on top of the opening, effectively snuffing the flames. This left me just having to deal with a living room full of thick, toxic smoke; opening the front door and a side window reminded me that it was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit out.
I kept reminding myself, while shivering and spinning a towel like a fan to move the smoke, that this could have been a lot worse. Had the glass cracked, the flames would have engulfed the wood furniture it was on, or the flames could have ignited the lampshade that was just a few inches away, and that in turn could have caught the painting on fire above that, and then the whole house could have been burning by the time I got down there.
When we got up this morning it was like pure evil had settled in the living room. There was this pitch black soot on most of the surfaces, and it had formed black webs on the ceiling and light fixtures. You had to be careful to lightly dust it away with a dry paper towel so it wouldn't smear all over the place. Markie and I both had black under our noses, and I wonder what kind of nasty cancer we're both going to die of from inhaling this stuff.
With a combination of dry wiping, vacuuming and wet wiping, it seems to be pretty much cleaned up. There's still a sent of melted plastic in the air, but I'm hoping that the smell will be overwhelmed when I roast the goose tomorrow for a belated Christmas dinner.
I don't have to belabor the moral of the story, but it's nice to know 2008 is almost over -- it's been a bumpy ride.