Sunday, July 11, 2010


Cory let her head drop back onto the dirty gray upholstered headrest. It was a little too high, but that was all right. She had a headache anyway.

She closed her eyes against the rhythmic passing of the streetlights outside the car's rain-spattered window. The summer night had turned cooler after the thunderstorm, but the humidity was still high. With her eyes closed the passing lights didn't hurt her eyes as much.

The car turned off the main road and went under the L train they had paralleled. The streetlights were too far away now to hide the flickering, fluttering firelight along her arms.

Cory cracked open one eye, then the other, ignoring the creak of grit caught in the folds of weary skin.

In the car's darkened interior, the blue flame gave off pale, cold light as it danced and waved and coiled along her arms in either direction-- up to her elbows, and down to her fingers--like living gloves. As she watched, it slowly ate the black soot covering her honey-brown skin. It reached for her faded red t-shirt and ate the soot there, too. When Cory lifted her arms from her thighs there were two, broad clean swathes of blue denim.

The flames reached for the car upholstery. Cory's attention snapped into focus. A sharp breath later and she had pulled the flames as close to her body as she could. They wouldn't burn her or anything she was wearing, she knew, but anything else seemed to be fair game.

The flames dulled to a bright but sullen orange-gold for a moment.

Her father glanced at her for a moment. "You're still burning." His eyes returned to the road.

Cory nodded. Tears pricked her eyes, but she wouldn't rub them. Couldn't for fear of her elbows brushing something they shouldn't.

Her father reached for her. His hand stopped short.

A glance in the side-view mirror explained why. The flames had begun traveling up her body and were now dancing along the edge of her round-neck t-shirt.

Cory's nose began to burn. "I'm sorry, Daddy." Her throat felt thick and filled with cotton. They knew from experience that the flames would burn her father as quickly as they'd burn a building.

"It's okay." He reached over and gave the top of her thick curls a quick ruffle before the flames could take a lick at him.

Still...his cuff came away with a new singe.


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