The Arsonist

Pastel houses, cracked and bleached, stand in tight, solid rows, too high to see over, but low enough to the ground to almost reach. I can’t tell if they’re one level or two. I want to touch their chalky wood–it seems so thin, so flimsy–and I want to knock the houses down.

A dry breeze clutches me, I shift uncomfortably where I stand–on a cracked porch, and bend my knee back and forth. I look up at the windswept sky, burnt from blue to almost yellow, filled with flapping cirrus.

An ant crawls onto my sand-caked running shoe before looping around and descending again. The wind touches my neck.

The silence makes my skull ache. My brain desperately anticipates a jet passing, the groans of traffic, the hard snap of shoes on the dusted pavement.

It’s all too yellow, bleached and bleached by the sun. My knees almost buckle. My teeth have minuscule pebbles in between them. The glinting asphalt makes my mouth dry and my throat thick.

I wonder when it will rain again. It will take more of the houses away, chipping their paint and wood, smoothing them over, dragging through the grass like dusty, wormy, dribbly, shimmering snakes. I want to see the clouds build, clench, plume. All dark purply-grey. They will be high above. I wish to fly to them, soar up straight through the open-shut air, drown in the droplets before they reach the earth again.

Maybe I’m on another planet. Where is the rain? Why is the gravity so much tighter? It stiffly clamps my shoes to the road.

I rub my fingers together. These houses.

A spark–snaps; flows; burns. The air, becoming a crust, shies away and is pulled in. A whirlpool, a black hole.

My palm lights up–the majesty of warmth. The heat cools my skin.

My hands cup, come closer together, spark, flame. First, hidden in the cage of my fingers, the fire cringes, then expands and I flatten my hands out.

I swing my arms and the fire trails rapidly behind, catching the corner of one of the buildings. It snaps, burns, pops, spreads. It embraces the whole house and another breeze twists through, sending tongues of the inferno cartwheeling across the dry spaces all neatly measured out some time ago or another. Aflame, grass climbs against other houses, demolished.

I set another, and sprint down several yards–and another–and a garden is lit, smoke crawls through the haze. I stomp hard, and feel the gravity almost pulling back, hesitant to once again grip me.

Licking and binding and hissing, the flames spread, lighting up the abandoned homes.

The borough burns, and I run.

A hawk circles overhead, riding hot winds, and turning away.

My lungs fill with salty air, I escape the reaches of the suburb, and I think I should go for a long swim.


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