I have not much time to write lately being sunk into this wonderful book project and as much as I love to paint and draw I miss writing regulary. My short story Incendiary has been written in spare moments here and there. This story has been an idea burning, if you will, in my mind for a while now, inspired by a real dream I had years ago along with heavy doses of Shirley Jackson’s influence. I thought it appropriate to post the piece this week as Valentine’s Day is approaching. It is a drafty first draft but a devilishly fun diversion of low commitment for me. As you all know I love short stories, so I have enjoyed working on it. Let me know what you think.
By Liz Amini-Holmes
Used or adapted for setting property on fire: incendiary bombs. Of or pertaining to the criminal setting on fire of property.Tending to arouse strife, sedition, etc.; inflammatory.
A person who deliberately sets fire to buildings or other property, as an arsonist.Military. a shell, bomb, or grenade containing napalm, thermite, or some other substance that burns with an intense heat.A person who stirs up strife, sedition, etc.; an agitator.
He came to me in a dream. It was at that time of night when your brain sinks into its dark places, where little rivulets of primordial soup still exist. He came out of one of those pools, festering for eons triggered by my neurons, which fuels my synapses. Using those electrically excitable cells to pushed pass my grammar school education, prep high school training then an ultimately piercing full force beyond my elite but useless English double masters degrees, that was my demon’s spark. He managed to make a fire in my dull grey matter. He burst forth at first as a cloudy a dark shape then from the center of the dark mass emerged a red circle that grew larger and larger as his image took over the blackness. He was a red-faced devil with horns, an auburn goatee and a shit-eating grin. He was not some sophisticate devil masked as a metaphor conjured from a Freudian analysis; he was not literary devil as cool and calculating as Faust. My devil was the type you see on Zigzag rolling papers or on a beer can logo-not even a beerbottle label. If he were a real person he’d drive a truck, wear a white tee shirt and work construction. He was the solid devil of the lower working class. He just stayed stuck in my mind what seemed like hours in dreamtime but was probably just a seconds in real time. When I came to, I tried shaking off his common evil continence from my head but he would not leave. He was a brat, an imp, a gloomer on of my mind, that snarky goat-boy devil. This demon was a virus that infiltrated my brain leaving a scar, as some viruses will do, an epilepsy from the underworld. After pulling aside the heavy pastel floral comforter off my body and reaching over to my nightstand for some stale water I was sure he was gone. However when I looked into the lamp light, which I now keep on all night since the panic had started, and there he was again emerging from the dust whorls around the bulb. He was the guy who stayed at the party way after everyone left, getting too drunk and sleeping on the coach then loudly demanding breakfast in the morning.
He kept coming but not every night. Just like any bad boy he would string you along. When he didn’t appear I wondered where he was and whom he was with. Me completely in crush by his charm forgot all about how irritated I was all I knew was I happy he was back. He was a good kisser that is what did me in. The red boy’s mouth fit over mine in a hard but tender way. Engulfing my lips while his tongue was slow and searching, taking deep draughts of me. My demon lover was not a selfish kisser either like other men who make kissing only a prelude to sex. Kissing was his way to reach me, to communicate to me, to set me on fire. We did nothing but kiss the first month. He would appear in his dark cloud then lay solidly on top of me getting to know me though my mouth his tongue working it’s way back into my mind. I could close my eyes and drift away as he stoked my tongue, lips, loving me in a way no else ever did. Not that I had much experience aside from my husband and two other college boyfriends. That was the extent of my knowledge, none of whom where very good lovers but I did not know that at the time not until the devil. His mouth, what I could see of it was not as crude as I first thought. He had nice teeth. My tongue would slide over their perfect enamel-no chips, no fillings. His lips were thin in a good way, boyishly warm as if he had just run into the house from the cold from playing soccer or basketball, hungry for dinner. He was warm but not too hot-never sweaty like my husband was. My husband, Peter, his sticky back hair clinging to my hands as he tried to weakly insert himself into me, his hairiness always surprised me every time even though I was married to him for ten years. His black back hair always amazed me of how much of it he had and how disgusting it felt, coarse like a water dog’s hair. But my demon was smooth skinned and sinewy muscled with a modest tuft of chest hair nested in between his chest muscles. He did not need to advertise his manhood, as it was so apparent. Peter, my husband was chubby, not fat, but his muscles were all well hidden. He had a baby’s soft body that never felt any flex of anything remotely exciting, well protected like the rest of him. His job never made it never necessary for him to exert anything except pushing his chair from his desk at the end of the day.
Peter was fond of food. He watch cooking shows but never attempted to really make anything himself. Being fond of food and comfort he did not need much else. Sex was an extra that like dessert if not offered on the menu that night he could do without. The Woldorf School had taught him, all 12 years of it, the entire world was a good, safe place and the color black was bad. That was about all he got out of it. He was an affable, aimless creature. He didn’t need too much, even much of me except his basic needs met and some pretty gloss on top.
After I disappeared I heard that many women in town cooked steaming casseroles and left them at his door to eat when he got home. They even went so far as clean up the house on a rotating basis, all of them jocking for position. He had it made, a clean house, warm food and no bother. I am sure one day one of the women will get him and be content with her easy prize, as he suits as essence and the presence of a real man. I on the other hand preferred my aberration, unlike the real thing it did not disappoint.
All in all the rakish fellow with good time on his mind and wicked sense of humor was it for me. I could see why so many went over to his side. It was the fun palace to be. After he arrived my attacks slowed down and I wanted the lights out. Peter was baffled by my ups and downs but all I cared about was I felt better and better. He never understood why I was so nervous about in the first place as things were so calm and perfect and safe. Nor did he understand why my fits were going away as my nightmares were starting. He claimed I was like someone possessed in the night and told me he thought of moving into the guest room. But I knew he would not as it would take too much effort and the bed was not as comfortable as ours. When I was not waiting for lights out I was writing and reading again, my brain set alight now even during the day. What would I have to write about other than correcting college papers? Peter wanted to know. Writing was hard work. Peter felt it might trigger more attacks as it use to be such a strain on me. Now That I had a part time job fixing up the JC’s English departments papers wasn’t that a better situation? Peter wanted to have me stop writing so my nightmares would stop but really he was afraid it would take away from his now predictable routine.
The day I evaporated or I should say blazed into thin air did not seem unlike most days in early spring, tepid temperatures with a milky blue sky. After a long writing stretch I lay down mid-morning for a nap to catch up on much needed sleep. They said in the newspaper article all that was found was a scorched floral comforter. The hole I left was a crater charred to the bedroom floor. No sign of a body. Nothing. They did not implicate Peter as he had witness at work to his whereabouts. The authorities chalked up my odd demise an unstable mind with a penchant for a dramatic ending.
All I remember I was no longer at home.
One day at the open market, me with a tall man, his hand tender at the small of my back, bearing a wicked grin ear to ear, us easlily strolling along the produce stands, I holding my newspaper and my coffee, black and hot and he with his first beer of the day. Out from the bakery stand unbrella appeared Peter. Although noticeably pudgier from all the charitable dinners and caretaking he looked good, more content even more than before. He took a hard second glace at us, crushing the warm loaves of bread he had just bought to his chest. He tried getting a better look at us squinting through the searing morning sunlight, then a small dark woman with wide hips and squat kegs appeared by his side. He quickly he grabbed her arm then walked way in the other direction. I wonder what he thought; that she was too young to be me, her hair was the wrong color, shorts too short, that I would never be with a man like that. These thoughts might have slid down into that grey matter where the color black lay hidden long sealed up with good and bad and in-between, things that he cold not grasp nor really care to.