Only Ever Ashes
My mother, she dreamt of apocalypse. The walls caved in on her some days and she saw, far out, with the sun bruising the sky with its decline . . . the city, wreathed in fire.
"It's no work of God," she said when I asked. "It's no work of Man, either. The Cosmos says there can't anything be done. Man or demon, we only spark; it's not catching."
I never did find out exactly what set that fire. I was too afraid, and so I only watched her watching, the buildings crowned in gold, the heat red like blood rising from a wound.
It must not have been a real city. If it was, how could it have burned for so long? Years . . . and then they finally put her in the series of white rooms: the hospital, the home. But that didn't stop the city from burning. It just shut her up. You tend not to talk when you only sleep.
I don't need to ask now. About the city. It isn't that it caught. It isn't that you set it, either. Just one day you look, and you realize the world is burning. The world has always been burning. You just haven't really looked until now.
Rust and gold and umber and midnight in the center, like an eye, staring out, watching you watching it watching you. Heat crisping your coat, sweat running at your temples, your reflection distorted in the bubbling glass of the barber shop window. When you turn to that girl she's wreathed in fire, a monument, her body a halo. Her eyes, they pierce, a flaming lance, they set my skin at a crawl and my blood evaporated out my mouth.
Don't tell. The whites of her eyes, they whispered. Don't speak. The Cosmos, it says there can't anything be done. Man or demon, we only spark.
And so I say nothing and let the flames crawl inside my belly, singeing my heart.
They gave me my mother in a plastic urn. I poured her into my hands, felt the soft and grainy traces of her body. I anointed my forehead. I thought, I heard someone say, that I should cast her somewhere, into the ocean or over a field or on a highway. But I thought: she belongs elsewhere. She's an ember in a burning city.
My mother, she dreamt of apocalypse. My mother, she sparked and caught. My mother, she was only ever ashes.
Fable Vayne loves haunted houses, thunderstorms, and cookie dough ice cream. She once tried to contact the Other Side but was redirected to voice mail.