Flash Fiction No. 19


And All Around Me Is Burning

I felt the flicker in my fingers when I was stroking the cat. It always starts like that.

A flicker.

And then the burning comes like you’ve put your hand into molten candle wax. Then your skin goes numb. You can’t feel the burning any more.

It’s almost pleasant.

When I was younger, they used to think I did it on purpose. They thought I had issues. That’s what everyone always thinks when you’re not like everybody else.

It could never be something a little bit different. It could never be a special power. It could never be magic.

Magic doesn’t exist.

I realised that when my fairy godmother didn’t show up that first day. It was a horrible day. It was so sunny and sweet and full of birdsong. I hated that day. It ruined my life.

I woke up on the lawn. The morning dew was in my face and there was soot all over my nightdress. They thought I’d done it in my sleep. They’d asked me questions, trying to figure it all out. Piece it altogether.

Didn’t they think that was what I’d been trying to do?

But I didn’t remember.

They’d said I might have smoke inhalation. They’d said that I should have been able to taste the smoke and that there should have been burns somewhere on my skin. But there was nothing. It was like I’d walked straight through the flames without them touching me.

They’d said I was lucky.

But after that it doesn’t matter, does it? You don’t have anyone so they tidy you away into a little corner and get their psychologists to watch over you, make sure you’re not abnormal, while they try to stuff you into someone else’s home. But I always came back.

There was always a fire or some kind of burning accident.

The psychologists would look at me closer, scribble things down on their notebooks and make assumptions. I knew what they thought. They thought I started the fires. They thought that I got matches or a lighter and flooded the place with flames. But I didn’t.

I didn’t need the lighter.

It’s all in the flicker.

So when I felt my fingers flickering again, I moved my hand away from the cat. I walked calmly into the bathroom, closed the door and filled the basin. And waited.

It always comes eventually. Sometimes it takes longer than others. Sometimes I can control how high the flames are or the direction they go in. But it never burns.

I guess you could say it’s like a curse.

It doesn’t feel like a curse. I like the flames. I like the control. It’s the only thing in my life that I can learn to regulate. If it gets too hot, I just put my hands in the water and everything cools down. It’s everything else that’s a mess.

And what happened to my parents?

That was an accident. I know. It came back to me. There was nothing I could do. It was my dad. He hadn’t learned to control it and he couldn’t switch it off.

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