Everything was pitch black.
It had become impossible to notice anything else; the bleakness was staring me right in the face, consuming everything in the vicinity, too huge to overlook. I tried to open my eyes, widening them as much as I could, but it made no difference. The room had lent itself to complete darkness, a tangible matter that had turned strangely thick and impossible to penetrate. It forced its way down my throat, choking me, replacing the air in my lungs until it became hard to breathe.
I tried to move, to break away from the spot I was frozen in, but my limbs wouldn't do what I wanted. Even turning my head was an unattainable feat; the muscles in my neck had turned to ice, now irreparably stiff.
Suddenly, light flooded the room. Immediately I realized it hadn’t come from an artificial source; there was certainly no bulb overhead. It was peculiar, crackling and morphing before my eyes, starting off as a single dot in the distance but rapidly spreading in both directions. All at once, the feeling returned to my body, as if the ability to move had been poured into me. I spun around, my eyes following the light, just in time to register the danger I was standing amongst.
The light was not as it had seemed. Instead, it had taken the form of flames, burning through a fuel that had me surrounded in seconds. I was standing in the middle of a circle of fire, which roared in all directions, the collective heat pushing in on me from every side.
In that moment, the obvious struck: I was trapped. It was too late; the ring was already a lethal formation of flames, stretching higher up in the air as if trying to snatch every last bit of oxygen. They were hungry, ferocious, uncaring. And I was entirely at their mercy.
I went to scream, but surprise lodged the sound in my throat. On the other side of the ring, a flaming barrier separating us, stood a figure. From this distance, their features were indistinguishable; the layout of their face was obscured by the wavering heat. Instinctively, I stepped closer, my eyes narrowing in an attempt to make out their identity.
When I did, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach proved even worse than the original terror.
It was my mother; I recognized her the moment our identical eyes locked. The intensity of the grey irises was unnerving, and not just because they were an exact replica of the pair I possessed. Now I knew it was her, it was much easier to take note of the impeccable ponytail, each strand of brown hair slicked perfectly into place. She stood tall behind the flames, their tips flickering just below her chin, yet keeping enough of a distance to remain unharmed.
I took another step closer, and my mother smiled in a way that induced almost crippling nausea. Then she raised her hand.
In it was a can of gasoline.
When realization hit, enlightening me as to what she was about to do, I couldn’t stop myself from crying out. “What the hell are you doing?!” I screamed, my voice raw, the very words digging into my throat. It hurt to shout so loudly, my insides aching to let it stop, but my mother’s expression was having a strange effect on my entire being. “Are you trying to kill me? What’s wrong with you?”
Despite my pleas, she remained silent, the ghost of a smirk curling the corners of her glossed lips.
“What are you doing?” I screamed, louder this time, though the smoke was already forcing its way down my throat. “Make it stop! Let me out, for God’s sake! I’m your daughter!”
YOU ARE READING
For seventeen-year-old Corey Ryder, life on the road is all she’s ever known. A trainee trapeze artist in her aunt’s circus, she’s never found herself in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. For her, it’s a way of life. But when a tragic a...