Saturday, 6 June 2020

' We Lit Fires' by Amy O'Neil

When the gas ran out we used scraps of bark, newspaper and old textbooks warped by damp and teeming with insects. We used novels or legal pads, the throwaway scribbles of children gone. We lit fires under corrugated steel. We talked about the old world and its absurdities.

“I did the five-two diet once,” you said. I laughed.

“Now we’re doing the two-five diet.”

Sometimes the one-six. Sometimes seven-nothing and no foreseeable relief. Our senses homed in on the bright colours of emergencies, berries or blood.

“Do we have to do this one, Sam?” I said, cradling our last book.

“Want us to freeze to death?”

You peeled away each mottled page and crushed it into a fist. Moby Dick. I couldn’t recall any sentences or how, exactly it had ended, only that the ship went down. Flames crackled in your eyes like the artificial happiness of old films and I remembered how you were before, how you had once lit a fire in me.

Under your touch I was blue flame and white-hot electricity. You, writhing muscle and brown skin. In our dank fire-lit shelter, the end of the world was almost romantic. Now the skin hung off you and tasted of ash.

*

We headed west to an abandoned hospital already rinsed of anything good. Every last drug had been swiped, machines gutted, wires cut open. Snow fluttered in through a missing piece of roof. At least we could see the stars. Your icy fingers toyed with the jagged threads of your jumper sleeve.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” you said and I prayed for something, anything.

A bird landed in my hand, plump and beating like a little miracle.

You grabbed, skinned and spit-roasted it. I remembered Moby Dick then, and how the story closed in on itself. A bird nailed to the ship’s spar by its wing, that unconquerable white whale dragging everything to hell.

That was our last piece of meat.

In our starved delirium we saw helicopters in the sky. We lit fires all over the hospital and waved our arms like two kids on Christmas Eve.

We’re here. We’re alive.

Triumphantly, we burned the place to the ground.

No comments:

Post a comment

FlashFlood Contributes to Best Microfiction 2021!

Huge congratulations to Bill Merklee and Regan Puckett, our two 2020 FlashFlood nominees who have been chosen to appear in Best Microfiction...