Something crawled out of Rachel's mind that night. Slithering out of the folds of her brain, it birthed itself. It was embryonic then. It was kindling for the fire.
As Rachel lay awake, thoughts flashing across her mind in electrifying spurts, she kept her body stiff and her eyes fixated on a large black spot. It was about halfway up the length of the wall and the size of a quarter. So dark, it was visible against the stark white wall even in the darkness. The only light came from the streetlights outside. A yellowed hue filtered in through dusty vinyl slats.
This small gray house; this bleak little box, was in bipolar contrast to her grandparents beige four-bedroom Cape Cod style home. Everything could be heard here. The walls were thin and stained. The clacking of her Octavio's keyboard and the static buzz of the fluorescent lights in the hallway could be heard clearly through the drywall and low-grade plywood.
Rachel considered for the first time in her life, that she had a much larger degree of control over the happenings in her life than she'd ever thought. She had a frightening level of control.
She had made a phone call. That's all that she did. She keyed seven digits into the keypad of a telephone and told the truth to the woman who answered.
It was only weeks later and she was here. She had done this. She was here, in a house with a mom she'd never met, two freckled sisters, and a tall pony-tailed stepfather who sat unmoving in front of his PC for the greater part of the afternoon, breaking his sedentary habits only to urinate and retrieve more Heineken from the fridge.
In the bright light of the afternoon, the house had been fascinating, as had its inhabitants. Rachel had felt the thrill of newness as she entered the house.
The first items she'd seen as the door was pushed open were the candlesticks. The TV, situated only steps from the front door, was flanked with large exotic looking candlesticks, both of which were taller than she was. Even the large fat candles themselves constituted about half of her height. The candlesticks were a sheening bronze and had intricate scenes of ancient Greece etched into the surface of the metal. Rachel had a small quivering thought; that maybe Helene and Octavio were world travelers. Maybe they'd been to all the different countries in the world.
The walls were white, covered in stains and marks. In fact the entire house was lacking the sterile cleanliness in which Rachel had been raised. Antennaed creatures traversed paths across all of the floors; roaches, ants, even water bugs. Rachel hated and was terrified of bugs. She tried her very hardest to forget them as she laid plank-like in her new twin bed, staring at the dark black spot on the wall across from her bed. She didn't blink. She focused on not blinking, allowing tears to pool and spill over her wavering lids. The edges of the spot began to undulate, subtly at first. So slightly it was difficult for Rachel to tell if the movement was real or just an optical illusion caused by the lens of water she peered through.
Rachel remembered the hangings on the walls. A portrait of an Egyptian woman was the focal point of the living room. It hung directly across from the front door and was an impressive size of nearly six feet across and eight feet in height. The woman's eyes were unfocused and serene. Pyramids shimmered in gold behind her. In the hallway hung an intricate tapestry that ran the length of the hall. A group of tigers in threads of stunning orange and black cowered on one end of the hall. Nine feet away on the other end of the hall, poachers riding elephants and dunning old-fashioned muskets were stitched in dark and ominous tones. Between the groups was a landscape of navy blue night sky and emerald grass. Smaller pictures could be found throughout the house. Women in various states of undress luxuriated on beds of flowers in the bathroom and in the kitchen a large-busted and armless woman grimaced as though she couldn't decide whether she were in abject pain or absolute ecstasy.
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***Long-listed for the Watty's 2018***Rachel lives in constant fear that she will burst into flames. She can feel the heat building in her gut. She keeps buckets of water under the bed. She keeps them to fend off the flames that her body may create...