The little flame is haunting, now still, then dancing, in a pool of soft white wax on top of the black, marble surface of the headstone. I turn to look down the row of plots etched in the ground, thinking about the number of well-dressed rotting bodies and skeletons beneath. They think they’re so discreet, being covered with grass and weeds. But I know where they lie—the flames tell me. They litter the ground like fallen stars. flick flick flick.
A gust of wind makes my little flame shiver. I hold my breath, waiting for it to go out. It doesn’t. I exhale, and it sends a ripple through the flame. Beside me, my brother cups his hands around his candle, and the flame steadies after a while. His is now as still as mine.
I feel as cold as my parents probably are there where they lie looking up at us. I put my palms over the little flame, and I savor the heat. flick flick flick. It must have been rude to do that, for my little flame snuffed out. I’m sorry, Mother. I watch the smoke rise and disappear. It’s funny. My mother is just like the smoke from my little flame. She would always do that whenever she was angry. Rise and disappear. She would breathe very deeply, close her eyes, stand, turn away, take her bag, slam the door, open the gate, start the car, back the car, close the gate, drive away. She is like the smoke from my little flame. My dad was never like that. He just disappeared. He wasn’t even smoke. He was nothing.
That night, I keep thinking about the flame, flick flick flick, how it danced and twirled and stood still and shivered and stood still. I want to be still. My brother and I have never been still ever since they left. Never. We danced, but unlike the little flame we twisted and writhed grotesquely, scratching at our eyes, tearing our hair, bashing in our limbs and laughing when we heard them cruk crik cruk cruk crik cruk. They get to lie peaceful while we slowly turn to hollow creatures.
I get out of bed and walk downstairs, groping for the light switch. I make my way to the kitchen, where I find a fat, blue candle in one of the cupboards. I find the matches, too.
I go out the back door, careful to keep quiet. I retrieve my can of gasoline from where I had hidden it in my little garden.
I walk into the bathroom, my face floating, lit by the flame of my candle. I take two rolls of tissue from the plastic box underneath the sink, and walk upstairs to my aunt’s bedroom. I scatter the first roll everywhere—on top of her dresser, at the foot of her bed, inside her drawers. I take out her clothes, littering the floor with them. I close the curtains, and open the can. I let out enough to wet the entirety of the clothed floor. I wet the dresser and the drawers and the curtains and the ends of my aunt’s blankets. Finally, I let my little flame kiss the feet of the curtains. I quickly walk over to her drawers, and light up whatever’s left inside. Finally, I light the ends of her blanket.
I sneak out, and walk over to my brother’s room. I take out his clothes and strew them all over the floor, just as I did in my aunt’s room. I douse the floor with gasoline, and step outside before lighting up the patch of clothes nearest the door. I feel the knob and lock it from the inside before quickly shutting it.
Finally, I return to my room. I douse my bed with what’s left in the can and light up the end of the blanket at the foot of the bed before climbing into it. I turn to my right side—my favorite side—anticipating my little flame’s embrace. I smile as I feel my feet grow warm. I shall be dressed better than this in the morning when they come to get me. And we will lie beside you, Mother, and we won’t pretend. We will be fresh. Our plots will be naked, free of grass and weeds and life, and we won’t pretend.
The little flames are haunting, now still, then dancing, in pools of soft white wax on top of the black, marble surfaces of the headstones. flick flick flick.