So the leader of our local writing group presented us with an awesome piece of artwork by Ariel Burgess to use as a writing prompt. Here’s the picture, and my story is after the break…
Aremat giggled. She held the head of the match against her upper lip, inhaling the sweet scent. The box of matches rested on the floor next to where she sat cross-legged and naked. Aremat picked it up and clutched it against her chest.
Her heart raced. This was always her favorite part. Striking a match, she watched the flame burst to life and dance on the chemical head. Fascinated, she stared as it pole-danced down the match. Even when it bit her fingers, she didn’t jerk away or drop it. A twinge of sadness twisted her stomach as the flame died on her fingertips.
She watched the birth and death of five more flames. It was time to finish. Her skin stuck to the floor as she attempted to stand, then slipped. Her brow furrowed momentarily with confusion. Blood. A large pool of it. Distracted for the moment she traced her fingers through it, drawing a headless cat.
A stick person was next. She stared at it for a minute. It was a woman, she decided. It couldn’t be a man. If it was a man it would be bad. She hated bad men. Bad men made her angry. Bad things happened to bad men. Her vision blurred and her hands balled into fists, trembling with rage.
Aremat closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm down. It wasn’t a man, she told herself. It was a woman. She opened her eyes and quickly drew two round breasts on the stick figure. There. A woman.
She dipped her fingers back into the blood and drew a line from her neck, down her chest and stomach. The bad men wouldn’t bother anyone anymore. Using the blood, she drew a swirl on her thigh, then two lines under it. She mirrored it on the other leg with more blood. That would protect her from the bad men; from their spirits and demons. She was safe now.
She pushed herself up, wobbling as her feet slipped in the drying blood. A smeared footprint obscured most of her stick person. Stick woman, she reminded herself. She’d brought her favorite special outfit along. She always brought it when she was out. Soft, red, lioness-skin leather slid across her bare skin as she dressed. Her entire body tingled as the animal flesh rubbed against her own. The lioness touched her with its energy. Everywhere. All at once. Her nerves were raw and dancing as her excitement built.
Stepping carefully over the two decapitated bodies lying on the floor, she made her way across the room to the can of lamp oil she’d brought along. The two bad men got a good soaking before she spread it across the floor. The last of the oil made a trail to the door of the building. No, not to the door. From the door. Her lover, the flame, needed her own special path. A path that would let her enter the room after Aremat left. Enter and devour the bad men. Aremat had saved the world from the bad men, and now the flame would get rid of them.
Aremat lay on her belly in the doorway. She pressed the match against her lips, kissing her love before bringing her to life. The match scraped across the strip on the box, and bliss flooded through her, head to toe. As the flame raced across the room, Aremat’s world went dark.
* * * *
Tamera stood in the middle of the street, arms wrapped around her body. Flames shot through the building in front of her. Tears flowed down her face and dripped onto the red leather suit she wore.
She had no idea how she’d gotten here.
Tamera had lost count of the number of times she’d found herself in this situation. It was like waking up, only not exactly; she wasn’t sleeping. She was always near a burning building, and always wearing this damned leather… whatever it was. She doubted it was even real leather. It didn’t matter though, she hated it. Hated the smell, hated the feel of it, hated everything about it. Worse, the way it stuck to her stomach and legs made her certain what she would find smeared under it.
She couldn’t stay. People would start showing up and asking questions. Questions she couldn’t answer. She pulled her cloak around herself and flipped the hood up over her head before darting into an alleyway. This time, she told herself. This time she would throw out the ratty, red outfit.
As she hurried home, she sucked absentmindedly on her fingertips. For some reason, they were sore and blistered.