Fire filled the apartment.
Flames washed up the wall in yellow, sick-making ripples. Smoke boiled in the corners. There were faint pops and crashes as overheated ceramic dashed itself to pieces against the floor, but overwhelmingly it was the fire that roared in my ears. I watched it break the furniture down, the kitchen table collapsing in on itself.
Ravenous. Devouring. Beautiful, insatiable hunger.
In a strange way, it reminded me of her. The hunger, the heat – the pain.
No one expects a stranger to bite them, you see. Or maybe they do. Maybe that’s why, the reason, the lure.
When she’d looked at me across the parking lot, I’d wanted to believe that hunger was for me. Her eyes glowed gold under the sodium-yellow streetlights. Her breath steamed in the air. I remembered the cold touch of her leather jacket under my hands when she leaned into me.
I’d reached up to brush away a strand of hair, caught between my mouth and hers. Then my lip stung and it was bleeding. She leapt away, a flash of luminous eyes and a waft of hot breath her only goodbye.
No one thinks things like rabies, when kissed by a stranger on New Year’s Eve. Communicable is perhaps the farthest the thought goes. Just a kiss, if a bit rough.
No one expects to go bounding across rooftops clad only in hair and hunger a week later, but it happens. I found something reddish under my nails the next morning, a bit crusty. Like dirt, but… not.
I watched the news, wondering about fingerprints and DNA. Wondering if those change, too.
Waiting for the knock at the door. Where there’s smoke, after all.
I took to walking at night obsessively, my steps returning endlessly to the parking lot and the surrounding streets. I never saw her.
It was the bright gleam of the streetlamps that gave me the idea. Warm, golden glow, like molten gold. Fire.
I waited until the dark of the moon, just in case. I doused the apartment in gasoline. Nothing fancy, nothing really well planned. I doused myself. I looped the chain of the handcuffs around the gas intake pipe for the furnace and ratcheted them shut.
The rasp of the match was louder than the whumph as the fumes ignited.
The fire stole the breath from my lungs, just as she had. I hoped the consumption this time would be more thorough.
©2013 Rachel Unger
Rachel has seen the sun rise from a mountaintop, faced down a tarantula in the wild, and seen the Milky Way from the desert. She used to play with dirt for a living, but these days is finishing her thesis work on Devonian carbonates.