by Rachel Morgandale
The slick, wet taste of blood like desire filled her mouth. Her sharp white teeth pierced the inside of her own mouth. It was a taste she first swallowed down when she was fifteen. She bit her own mouth to keep from speaking or acting, cooling her insides and waiting, controlling the fire, smoothing it out until it was a round stone in the very center of her. It was a delicious sort of self-punishment, but it couldn’t last. It wouldn’t have to; the waiting had been almost long enough.
She had tried to forget him, forget what he had done, but it spread. The thought kept growing; its tendrils clung to all other thoughts like a vine. She was operating solely on the fuel of revenge. Once it was done, she wasn’t sure what she would do. What would she have left?
Three fires within a month. Not an incredible coincidence in the heat of summer, but all within a block of my house? And all on days when the sign in front of the local fire department listed the risk level as low.
It was a small town and the neighbors enjoyed the excitement though they didn’t like to admit it. No one had been hurt. The first was at the top of the hill in a garage. Then there was one across the street and later that week one right next door. Each one was little harder to contain, each one a little closer to me.
This had your signature all over it. The elegant build up, the inevitable conclusion; I should have known, but I couldn’t run away every time there was a fire. They were natural, a part of the cycle of cleansing, of clearing. I had run long enough, moving to impersonal apartment after impersonal apartment; I wanted a home. You were closing in on me. After all these years and all these miles the day I dreaded had finally arrived. You had found me.
The faintest glow of orange peeked over the horizon that night when you arrived. I ran, twisting my ankle in a depression in the garden soil and I tumbled into the grass already growing wet with night dew.
You stood in front of me with a can of gasoline and that deceptively soft smile on your lips. That smile had once meant something very different. Finally, you came to punish me for my sins and yours. We had both forgotten the facts, twisted them in our own minds over these years. We blamed each other. She stared down at me.
Lifting the can high in the air, she let the noxious liquid pour out. It soaked fabric and then skin. He was paralyzed, mind and body.
It wasn’t until she began to flick open the silver lighter that he could rouse himself. Then it was too late. Dancing flames surged up and down her body. That smile stayed fixed until he had to look away, had to back away. Sirens were already screaming in the background.
Last Updated: 4/12/12