Watching the House Burn
by Christian Bell
We watched the old house burn, holding hands. Above, the sky gray, bare trees, screeching blackbirds the sirens of alert. The wide open grounds, a field of bumpy green, broken tree limbs. For years, we talked about legends of the building’s history. A psycho father killed his family, hanged himself. Every other family that moved in stayed for awhile and abruptly left. It sat on the grounds of either an abandoned cemetery, a typhoid-ravaged boarding school, or a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Some people had claimed to see figures in the windows, but it’s more like the windows become eyes, trees framing the structure as wiry mad hair.
We watched the flames, screaming demons eating oxygen. I stare, transfixed, think I see silhouettes, black snakes of smoke moving uphill through bare trees. We don’t believe in ghosts. We’ve come here since childhood, stealing kisses in the shadows. She would cry on my shoulder, trying to flush out the monster back home. Now, as an adult, this arson was her therapy. I brought the gasoline and the lighter; she was a prisoner, she couldn’t lift her hands. The flames crackled and spit—cauterization for her wounds.
Later, we would kiss. Later, I would ask her to marry me. All the world’s blackbirds circled above, their chorus harsh jagged scratches. Her monster would still be alive after this—smoking cigars, drinking beer, rotting away in a beaten torn recliner. For now, she clutched my hand, wouldn’t let us leave.