But Rachel didn't die. She didn't combust and her anxious thoughts remained in place, zipping spasmodically through her mind. They were sometimes so quick Rachel could hardly catch them. They existed but were so fast and evolved so quickly that Rachel felt she often couldn't see and understand them for what they were.
Rachel had lied awake, feeling a heat begin in her stomach and then travel the lengths of her extremities. Her arms and hands became hot. Her feet and toes. At one point, her torso was so hot that it nearly began to burn and Rachel felt sure that she felt the soft flickering of flames, sparking to life.
Eventually she must have fallen asleep, despite the fact that she did not remember ever easing away from her dread. She lay in terror, taught and alert and then somehow she was waking up. Pulling the covers away from her sweat-coated face, Rachel found that the dread was still there, but she found another emotion accompanied it. She was filled with a fresh excitement that intermingled with the dull nervousness plastered against her brain.
Rachel saw she'd slept much later than usual. In the corner of the hastily furnished bedroom a digital alarm clock resting on a black milk crate told Rachel that it was nearly ten o'clock.
Rachel pressed herself against the bare mattress, unsure of what to do next.
Normally she'd wake up and go downstairs and have waffles. Nan would already be at the table applying make-up. Rachel wasn't sure what to do here. There was no downstairs, and she wasn't sure about waffles.
Rachel took a moment to collect her thoughts, looking around at her new bedroom. There were piles of milkcrates containing cassette tapes and records. One held some magazines with naked women displayed across the pages. Strange clothing hung from wire shelving on two of the three walls. Velvet capes in black, red, blue, purple. Floor length leather coats. One of the leather coats had a red interior covered in a symbol Rachel had never seen. It was like a bunch of letter "L"s stuck together in the center, the result was almost like a star or a pinwheel.
The wire shelf above the bed held stacks of books. "The Witch's Familiar", "To Ride a Silver Broomstick", "The Complete Guide to Incense", "Practical Candleburning Rituals", "Book of Shadows" and "The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani."
Rachel was still considering whether to get out of bed or pull "The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe" out of her pack, when the faint stirrings and murmurings in the next room became ear-splitting, shrieks. Rachel's body jerked in response. A laying down jump. Her shoulder shook for an extra second as the tremor snapped through her.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!! AAAAAAEEEEEEhh!"
Rachel sat up in bed, ripping the quilt off she poised on the edge, not sure if she should stay where she was or go into the living room.
It was Helene screaming. Not yelling. Every word was infused with scream. Rachel had never heard a grownup raise their voice in such a way. It was as though Helene had opened her mouth to scream, but then decided to communicate with words, and so had molded her screams into ear-splitting nearly incomprehensible words.
Rachel ventured to the doorway and stood there behind the hollow-core six-panel waiting to see what would happen.
Nita yelled in response.
"She was crying! I was helping her to stop. Mom! She likes her swing!"
"I DON'T CARE!" Helene shrieked. "I DON'T FUCKING CARE! YOU LITTLE FUCKING JACKASS."
Helene paused a moment and then when she began to speak it was very quiet. It was a whisper, an animalistic hiss.
"Clean this shit up and then get the FUCK out of my sight" she hissed it through clenched teeth, only gaining in volume to swear.
YOU ARE READING
***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...