Tale of the Fire
Nothing hurts like my own life. At the start I may have been happy to be free, yet at the end I felt each second of dwindle dawdling on the teeteredge of blank slate, tabula rasa, nothing, nothing, nothing. I felt myself binge drinking gasoline and matches, dozens of them thrown from a hand my own veil obscured in the dark. I engulfed the night. My face, my voice, they scream mercy, mercy as neighbors throttle blankets onto me, which I eat, or water, which I eat, or themselves out of calamity, and I eat them too. I smiled through the light of the moon. The loveseat in the living area was the first to go. I smashed out the window and turned the sand back to glass and took it upon myself to sit in the seat. I have never been seated before. The cushion under my writhing momentum splintered in its fabric. It loathed the moment it found my home. It lathered itself in the featherguts. It whined as air pounced from it to the gasses I blew through my nose. I was the dragon. I was the best thing in the world. Happening in front of all of you I took the life from the unliving things, the portraits, the pictures, the mixing bowl still caked with old batter, the knives covered in chickengore. Soda fizzed out in the fridge. The fridge itself melted into a boiling metal wax to be swallowed by the charred hardwood floor. Linoleum in the bathroom warped, turned to an undulating sea and wrapped itself over the creaking porcelain of the toilet. Hot water heater burst. Blank faces as explosions reached the sky and shrapnel from whoknowswhat catapulted through your eyes. Dust sparks blinded you. I destroyed the entire thing. Ate it all. And at the end of it, when I was just small again, I felt each ember of mine burn out, consumed by the air around me. I am now ash.
Tale of the Cabin
Many have lived on these floors. The most recent just left to get groceries. His wife is staying home, her stove blaring gas scent, blending the smell into the cabinet edges, the oak of my insides. Everything they own is part of me. The family portraits, their queen bed, their vomit stains, their whiskey bottles, their coffee cups, their furnishings, their children, I treat it all as if it were my own. It is. I tickle as the kids stomp up the stairs, when the bristles of the Christmas tree blends with the moth wallpaper the husband so diligently installed years ago. I catch the things that fall, though they may break. At the basement level I breathe and heat their showers with my blood. At attic level I store the winter cold and the discarded elements. Sometimes I look through old boxes and find things that belonged to someone else whose things were my things long ago. The family here now keeps the items they dig up in the corners and forgotten bookshelves. They hide them as if they hold some value to anybody but me. Usually they are trinkets, baubles, knickknacks cracked in many spaces and practically decaying from age. Other times, the items are charged with near spiritual auras. Yesterday I found an axe that belonged to a young man who lived here in peace with his wife. He cut wood constantly, and was handsome and strong. This is that man who loved me the most. My father. He reamed this forest to give me life. He took it seriously. For his wife. He was obsessed with building a fireplace. He couldn’t. He lit himself on fire in the middle of the living room and the neighbors had to douse half of me with water. I almost died. I was so afraid. The husband is home. He’s bought gasoline. He looks ill.
Tale of the Arsonist
Justify the lengths you will go to in order to fulfill someone else’s dream. Reincarnate another sense of yourself from days past in order to make sure she gets what she wants. She’s been haunting your haunt. Her spirit is the spirit that lives within your spirit as your spirits are dumped down the drain in a kitchen sink that was once yours long long ago. You watched, a specter leeching within the walls, your sight was obscured by a thin sheet of hideous wallpaper. Your wife would scream if she saw that; when she saw that, she nearly killed you again for allowing it to happen. Thing is, this is not her place to haunt. Her place to haunt is the woods out back, near the pit of firewood that fell on top of her and made her organs as much a part of the soil as the worms that ate them. You saw it, blamed yourself, why didn’t you cut less wood? why didn’t you use it more liberally? why? You think of the days when she comes home, peeking in at your transparent figure sitting on a sofa not your own as the family living here now sleeps. She looks sad. There are marks on her face from the bark where it cut her. You wanted so badly to give her that fireplace; you were stockpiling. Too much saved and not enough used. You got close. The chimney was built and ready to go, flue checked clean. Then she went with the neat stack of hickory. You look at your arm, the burn marks still there. The whole of you smells of gasoline and brimstone. You are the Devil. Look to the empty space where you could have warmed her. Decorative now. These people don’t respect the work you put in. The husband passes by you on his way out. You take the chance. You enter through his mouth. You go to the store. You buy fuel, matches. This cabin, the flames, are for her.
Alec Ivan Fugate is an award winning writer whose work has been featured in Occulum, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Burning House, and others. His debut novel will be released from Back Patio Press in fall of 2019.