Pyrotheistic (short story I’m working on)

“Okay let me try explaining it this way: Mrs. Gren.”

“My surname’s Blanchet.”

“It’s an acronym.”

“Okay?”

“One: Movement: This one explains itself.
Two, respiration: Breathing, when an organism converts oxygen into carbon dioxide or vice versa.
Three, sensitivity: reacting and adapting to an environment.
Four, growth.
Five, reproduction.
Six excretion, and seven, nutrition: needing to feed on something to stay alive.”

“Okay, so what are all these about?”

Marcy was still waiting for the plot to thicken, it wasn’t like Evangeline to just drop facts irrelevant to the conversation.

Evangeline smiled: “All of them are the signs of life, if something doesn’t show all seven signs then it’s not alive.”

Marcy stayed quiet for a while, eyes screwing up while she pondered.
“I’m still not seeing your point.”

Still smiling Evangeline put down her wine glass and gestured towards the crackling fire: “Fire, fire moves, fire breathes, fire adapts to its environment as best it can, it grows, it reproduces, it leaves excreton. That would be whatevers left of those logs when the fires done licking them, and also fire needs to consume nutrition, it always eats something flammable, you can’t just see ‘burn’ something needs to be burning. So you see, by all definition fire is a living organism.”

Marcy looked at the fire with a new shade of intrigue: ”Wow, Eve, I would never have thought of that.”

Their wine glasses shallowed as the time passed, watching the fire as it was watching them.
Time trickled away as the fire burnt lower and lower until the gleaming coals played out a dirge to the fire that starved to death.

It took some more time watching the coals before Marcy broke the silence: ”You reckon we should hold it a funeral? I mean technically we would only be burying its crap, since that’s all that’s left, but it’s the idea that counts right?”

”Fire has no body…” Evangeline mused to herself barely registering Marcy’s presence
”It’s only a disembodied spirit, a living one that visits us briefly when we summon it, and leaves once it
can’t be supported in plain eyesight anymore.”

Her head snapped sideways to let her eyes meet those of Marcy.

”Marce, I’m quitting my job tomorrow.”

The practically minded Marcy failed to register at first what Evangeline had said, when realization hit her, sentences sprinted to her mind in a death race like so many sperm questing for the same goal, unfortunately, the winner was not the prime candidate: ”You can’t quit, You’re single.”

”I’m quitting Marcy.” A sparkle had leapt into Evangeline’s eyes:
”Haven’t you ever felt that there’s more you should be doing than what’s routine? That something bigger and more important could be waiting for you if you’d only take that leap?”

”What will you do for money?”

”I really don’t care, honestly, I’ll figure something out. But… I don’t know how to explain it but the more I’ve studied fires the more I’m drawn to them. It’s like they’re trying to tell me something.”

”What like you’re some kind of fire whisperer? You’re not making sense!”

After downing the last of her glass she continued: ”This is why you need me, these impulsive decisions will end you up on the street where nobody will care for you. You’re great at pediatrics, you can’t throw it away like this.”

Evangeline sobered up a bit: ”Look Marcy, this isn’t just a spur of the moment thing, I need this, I can’t explain this feeling to you, but this sense of significance… It blots out everything else, not much else matters right now, plus I have some money put away for this. It’ll work out.”

Marcy sat back: ”You’re really sure about this?”
”I really am.”

The next day Evangeline gave in her two weeks notice at the hospital.
The regular hypochondriac children were mortified at the idea of getting their lollies from someone else, while the staffroom was murmuring their feelings about it. They were going to miss Evangeline: the mysterious woman who seemed to drip with compassion, who always had a twinkle in her eyes and a wrinkle around them.

”What are you planning to do next?”
”Pyrology.” She said and smiled.
”Pyrology? I’ve never heard of it. What is that, like some faith for arsonists?”
Ben was confused by Evangeline’s abrupt news, he still longed to sow his fingers through hers, and clench her hand tight, if only once. He had never known anyone like her before. Anyone as enchanting. Sometimes it was like she wasn’t even living on Earth.
”No, maybe one day it will be, but for now, it’s just going to be me studying fire.”
He finished his triangular sandwich and escorted her back to her office.
”What made you decide to do this? Why now?”
”That would be telling.” She winked at him as they came to her office and stood on opposite sides of her door. He couldn’t help but feel that her smile hid something sad.
They stood on opposite sides of the door looking at each other.
”Ben?”
”Yeah?”
”I’m going inside now.” she said with laughter hidden in her voice she closed the door.
He realized he’d been staring at her.
”Damnit, next time Eve.” He whispered to himself, his footfalls echoed his melancholy as he thought about brushing her lips with his.

The next two weeks fizzled by with an air of melancholy. Evangeline had become increasingly aloof, detached from her colleuges.
She had become lunch room gossip, doubt about her sanity was voiced by faces who felt a childhood envy of her love for the mysterious and her courage to give up everything to pursue something extra ordinary.
Only it didn’t seem all that extraordinary.

”Does anybody know when her fascination started?” Ben inquired of his three colleagues around their throne hall in the lunch room.
”I never noticed it. She never made any effort to get to know me, so I wasn’t going to waste my time on her.” Magdeline retorted snippingly.
Eddy pointed his fork at Ben and gave his own reply:
”Sh’ washn very good looking you know? But still, there was sumpn-” he gulped his food down. ”there was something about her, like the way she’d look at you-” Ben’s heart skipped a beat, but he knew Eddy meant the way she looked at people in general.
”It’s like she saw something you didn’t, like she knew some kind of secret that she hid behind that smile of hers. Like she saw something beautiful in you that you didn’t even know was there.”
A silence followed with a haughty upturned nose from Magdeline in her bruised ego. Ben broke it.
”You guys really didn’t know her that well did you?”
”Did you?” Eddy countered.
”Not as well as I would’ve liked… I guess we’ll never know what happened.”
Agatha, the last of the four, raised her head and softly told them: ”Her father died.”
All attention was on Agatha now. ”When?”
She went on, still softly:
”About seven months ago. His car exploded in after a road collission-”
”Wait-” Eddy interrupted: ”How do you know this and we don’t? You never talk to anyone, nevermind Eve.”
”I drove past the wreck, I got out to see if anyone was still alive, I had a first aid kit with me. I called Reta and told her to send an ambulance. When I climbed out, Eve was there, staring at the wreck. She told me it was her father’s car.”
”Wait, we would’ve known if she was hurt. I do her check-ups myself.” Ben said.
”She wasn’t in the accident, she told me she came afterward.”
”Why didn’t you tell us?”
Magdeline.
”If she wanted people to know, she would’ve said something. I didn’t want to speak out of my place, and she’s always been a bit different. I didn’t want to cause a fuss around her, I didn’t know how she’d handle it.”
Ben’s brow furrowed in frustration. ”she never said anything, she didn’t even look down.” He thought.
Magdelene leaned in, and lowered her tone to something conspirational: ”Do you think that she might’ve had something to do with the explosion?”
”She was just standing there, watching the fire.” Agatha said almost more to herself.
”That’s ridiculous, she wouldn’t do something like that.” Ben replied heavily.
”So suddenly you know her back to front do you? We all know that she’s got an obsession with fire.” Magdelene shot back at him.
Ben was about to defend her again when a voice behind them spoke.
”I’ve come to say goodbye.”
The air turned to oil, as Magdelene turned crimson and looked down at her food.
Nobody knew how long she’d been there.

She was smiling. Waiting for a reply, when she didn’t get one her smile didn’t falter, she told them goodbye in her normal husky tones and turned to leave.
When she had gone around the corner Eddy looked at Magdelene and burst out laughing.
After some deliberation Ben ran after her, still angry about Magdelene’s accusations.
”But did it mean anything?” He thought. ”When she said it might be an arsonists religion one day…”

He caught up to her in the parking lot while she was ruffling through her bag, presumably searching for her keys. ”She never looks lost… She always seems in control.”
She looked up at him over the roof of her car, trying to catch his breath, eyes full of laughter she gently ushered him: ”Did you forget something?”
”Eve wait, there’s something I… I need to tell you.” He gulped in some air to try and catch his breath faster. Preparing for a monologue that seemed to be quickly losing its momentum under her loving gaze. Nothing he could have prepared seemed to matter now, it all just melted away in the moment of authenticity that her presence always forced on a situation.
He ended up staring dumbly at her for a while.
She waited patiently for him to speak his piece.
”Evangeline, you can’t leave.”
She didn’t answer, her calm silence prompting him to give an explanation

Flustered he decide to go for broke.
”Look, Eve, I don’t even know how I’m supposed to go about this with you, but I like you, I like you more than I know how to express. I don’t have some romantic gesture to make but… I’m totaly crazy about you. You can’t go.”
Eve waited quietly for him to decide if he had more to say. He did. Starting to feel awkward: ”Okay, I understand that you’re not moving out of town or anything, so… I guess you can leave here, I just wanted you to know that I… Well, I like you. I just wanted to say that… Guess I’ll see you around.”
He turned to
walk back inside when she finally spoke back: ”Ben.”
He turned around hopefully.
”Yeah?”
”Don’t have feelings for me. Push it away.” She unlucked her car and started to climb inside.
He felt his heart sag, then indignant courage welled up inside of him.
”Why? Why do I have to push it away? In fact, why can’t we just be together?”
She studied his eyes for some time before giving her reply.
”Because you can’t know me-”
”I can get to know you better!”
”No you’re not listening to me, you CAN’T know me, I’m have a purpose bigger than myself. And it’s what defines me. It’s all I am. It’s more important than romance or work. It’s a calling.”
His thoughts were in turmoil: ”And it’s what makes you different. It’s what sets you apart from the rest of us that live day to day. You don’t look for romance, It’ll probably find you while your on your ‘quest.’ Can I be mad at you? I guess not. Damnit.”
”Well…” He said dejectedly: ”Good luck, it’ll be… Significant. Whatever you’re about to do will
mean something.”
”Goodbye Ben. You deserve to be happy.” Her smile faded into her car.

He left after car was gone, went to his friends and listened to them drip away the last bit of the discussion.
”Maybe she’s pyrokinetic, you know, like controlling fire with her mind.” Eddy gesticulated his mind controlling an invisible fire.
”Maybe she tries pyromancy, like doing magic with fire.” Magdelene intoned.
Ben dried the conversation up for them: ”You’re idiots, you’re supposed to be scientists. You can’t believe this crap.”
Agatha merely stared at her food, avoiding their gazes.

Evangeline went home. They wouldn’t hear from her again until she would be in the news paper a few years later.
The week Evangeline left the heartfelt hospital turned into a cold drearyness.
Marcy tried visiting her friend, but she was becoming more and more of a recluse. To some extent Marcy had always thought that Evangeline would outgrow her, that something bigger was cut out for Evangeline that simply did not include Marcy.
Her house was always dark, unwashed dishes cropped up in the most unlikely places.

Marcy brought pizza along, the seafood had always been Evangeline’s favourite.

The door was partially open and gave way to a dank home, smelling of musty wood and stale air. Coffee was curdling in its cup on the kitchen counter. A smell of smoke radiated from the closed curtains that only allowed a thin toothpick of light to filter through into the room.
”Evangeline? Hey Eve where are you?”
Nothing.

Marcy drew open some curtains, and opened the windows strengthening the light pillar, and circulating some of the mature air. It looked like Evangeline herself hadn’t been there in months. A muffled thump from the living room pulled marcy away from the kitchen. Silently she walked up to the door to the sounds of Evangelines coughing.

She came up to the doorway, and leaned against it with the pizza in the nook of her arm. Evangeline was only the living part to be associated with the rest of the house. Her and The fire.
The eerie scene in front of her immediately sent goosebumps erupting all over Marcy’s arms. The scene that greeted her pierced fear through her heart.

The fire was alive, it was trying to escape the cage of the fireplace, lolling its arms at Evangeline slowly, it was begging for Eve. It was the sole provider of light and accoustics in the room. It illuminated the sillhouette of Eve, making her look ethereal, insubstantial. The light playing off of her body threw its dimensions off. It was hard to know if she was really a completely solid form right then. The light played out shadows behind her, dancing to the macabre voice of the fire, forming almost-creatures and half spirits that dissolved into the flame’s cloak before the eyes could pick them apart. Evangeline stood, seemingly rooted to the spot a metre away from the flame. No movement. She just stared with her neck turned down.

Marcy was about to speak when the goosebumps that had never completely left her regrew into tiny mountain ranges ”Don’t say anything.”
Evangeline’s whisper was a thunderclap through the room.
She didn’t turn to Marcy. The fire still held her attention.

Marcy stood dumbstruck, unable to tear her eyes away from Eve. She wasn’t the normal, mysterious, intriguing Eve. In this room right then she was something more than human, something supernatural.
A rhythmic red flicker caught Marcy’s eye, her peripheral vision drew her eyes toward it.
It was a video-camera, signalling that it was running out of disc space. A faint beeping sound emitted from it like a deafening echo.
Evangeline picked up the video camera and took out the small disc from inside of it. She put it in the laptop that was laying on the same table. This laptop had three USB cables snaking into normal camera’s.
”Would you put on the light please?”
Marcy obeyed Evangeline’s request as though hypnotized. She was quiet in trepidation.
When she flicked the switch the supernatural quality of the room dissipated in the artificial light. Once again it was Simply the room in which they had sat watching so many mundane fires over so many vineyards worth of wine.
Thinking back Marcy had to question her own memory, it was highly possible that it was never all that ordinary.
”You wanna see it?”
”… See what?” Marcy asked carefully.

Realization snapped Evangeline’s eyebrows wide: ”Oh, I haven’t even told you yet! How long ago have I seen you?”
”two weeks ago, you haven’t picked up your phone since you quit your job.”
Evangeline’s brow furrowed as she mouthed the words ”two weeks.”
She shuffled past Marcy and stared at her own kitchen in alien shock. Still staring at her kitchen in wondour she asked Marcy: ”Do I have something to eat?”
Now Marcy was on more solid ground, even in the best of circumstances she was more privy to this information than Evangeline was. This was the Eve she loved.
”Eva, go take a bath, I’ll make some tea. I doubt your milks still good, but maybe you have a box in your cupboard, we’ll reheat the pizza to eat. It’s Seafood.”
‘Eva’ was the nickname Marcy used whenever she adressed Evangeline seriously.
Evangeline smiled at Marcy. A genuine smile that creased the skin around her eyes.
”Thank you.”
The way she said it, was worth more than a whole sentence could ever mean.

When she came back the haunting smell of smoke had been replaced with the sweet aroma of red tea, and the pungent bliss of smell that came from Evangeline’s favourite pizza.
They sat down and each grabbed a slice.
”I miss you.”
”I know… I’ve been neglecting you, I’m really sorry that I’m putting you through this, and I really wish I could tell you that it’s all over and I can give you all my free time.”
”I know, look Eva, I wont lie to you, it hurts a little, but this is who you are. Your passion is- well it’s your passion. It’s part of what makes you the Eve I love.”
”Can’t I just marry you?” Evangeline teased.
”Oh my parents would kill me if I brought a brunette home.”

Evangeline laughed out loud. A contagious melody that put a Smile on Marcy’s lips too.
”It’s just that nobody understands that. This guy from work asked me out the day I left and-”
”What?! What’d you say? Is he cute?”
”I, I guess but anyway, oh I said no, and it’s exactly that reason. If I was with him, then I couldn’t follow this properly because I’d carry responsabilities to him, and this part of me that needs to answer that calling is such a big part of me that it has to be part of what attracts him to me, so it’s a catch 22.”
”So you said no?”
”Did you listen to me just now?”
”So a no then.” Marcy sighed and continued: ”Did you tell it to him like that?”
”Not the whole thing no.”
”Evangeline, you’re aloof. Sometime’s it seems like you’re so detached from reality that you barely notice your impact on others.”
”I’m sorry?”
”It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it’s probably part of your mystique. I bet you that your cryptic answer had him thinking about you for days. If he isn’t still doing it.”
”That’s not what I wanted.”
”And THAT makes it even worse. You have no idea how a man’s heart works, yet you pull their strings so easily.”

They both took a sip of tea and looked down.
”I can’t talk to other people this way, I want you to know I appreciate it. Oh! I NEED to tell you about this!”
Marcy looked at her expectantly: ”Yes?”
”Everything I’ve been doing! It’s amazing!”
Marcy darkened slightly, the conversation had taken her mind completely off of the semi-human Evangeline she had seen illuminated by the fire.
That fire that looked so much like it wasn’t just alive, but… Conscious.
Marcy rubbed her arms and fought off a shiver. She wrote it off as her imagination, it had to have been prompted by the atmosphere.
”So what did you find?” Her voice turned flat.
Oblivious to her tone Evangeline stood up and took Marcy’s hand.
”I have to show this to you.”
She took her back to the living room, with the smoke smell still permeating the air around them.
Marcy opened some windows while Evangeline rebooted the
laptop,
Marcy could see Evangeline’s excitement bubbling over. She was impatient with the laptop slowly booting into its OS.

Finally the music queued that Evangeline could show Marcy her findings.
”So I thought that if I was going to study it I should tape it. Now look at this.”
The little cd showing the footage of the fire came on. The fire that had died in the fire place was nom digitally reincarnated on the small laptop screen.
”Do you see anything strange?”
”It’s just a fire Eve.”
”I thought that too at first. I think it took me a few days to finally see something out of the ordinary- there did you see that?”
”see what?”
”It happens a few times in every fire’s life, if you look closely you can see it with the naked eye.”
”Okay but what is it?”
”I don’t know, but there’s definately something ‘else’ there. It’s a shape inside the fire, and the fire changes when it appears for that split second, but I have no idea how to predict its timing, what it is exactly, or what it means.”
”You mean like those faces people say you can always see in the smoke?”

”What do you mean?” Evangeline started, surprised, nearly tugging the words from Marcy’s tongue.
”I don’t know, it’s something some this conspiracy obsessed friend told me once, he showed me footage of the two towers falling in America, and highlighted some smoke to show me the demon faces in them.”
”How could you not have told me this before?” Marcy had never seen this side of Evangeline before, this edge of anger was alien to her character.
”I didn’t think of it Eve? It just didn’t cross my mind okay.”
”We have to start looking for this! It could be exactly the break through I’ve been needing!” Ecstasy was dripping from her voice, the sudden switch dented Marcy’s conviction of her memory of Eve’s expression just moments before.

Trying to ease her discomfort into this specific conversation was a catch 22, Eve wasn’t going to be distracted from her purpose by anything. So marcy tried keeping her mind numb by sending its blood to her tongue.
“I think we need to restock your food drawers and your fridge.”
“How do you suppose we could isolate these faces? Do you think there’s one in every frame or just in the ones that I thought looked strange?” Evangeline wasn’t looking at Marcy right then.
“Evangeline… You’ve spent two weeks alone with nothing but this, wouldn’t you like to go out and do something for once?”
“Like what?”
“Watch a movie or something?”
“… Why?”
Evangeline seemed genuinely confused by the notion. Marcy thought she knew her by that time, and knowing Evangeline, she honestly didn’t see the point in doing something that wasn’t goal oriented. She would need a practical reason, one that would make sense in relation to her work here.
“Well I only want to spend some time with you, but maybe if you got out of the house you would be able to come back with a clearer head? Let your subconscious do some work maybe? This house is so dark and gloomy, it has to be stifling your mind.”
Evangeline’s brow furrowed: “You really think it could help?”
“I don’t really care, but fire will still exist tomorrow tomorrow, so if it doesn’t. You’ve wasted one day.”
Marcy looked at her, chewing her lower lip with her eyes on her laptop. She was obviously reluctant to let this go.
“I just need to-”
“Get ready? Of course you do, who knows when last you’ve had a shower, so go clean yourself, please, for both our sake’s.”
“Alright, but I just want to.”
“Oh I’ll pick you out some clothes, no need to worry about that.”
Submission grudgingly crept onto Evangeline’s face in something that hinted of a far off relief, practically being pushed up her own stairs by her best friend Evangeline moaned: “I just wanted to check one frame, can we see just one before we go?”
“Eve, if you don’t get in that shower now I will pick you out the most hideous outfit I can assemble from your entire closet and then burn the rest of your clothes.”
Evangeline kept quiet then, obviously keeping her voice to herself.

The evening they went out to watch a movie and get a drink, they watched a movie called twilight. It came highly recommended to Marcy by her younger, who was fifteen as opposed to Marcy being twenty nine. Marcy was enraptured by the movie, gasping at the sheer romance evinced by the vampire’s eternal desire for that which he had to restrain himself from. Evangeline didn’t get it. She kept looking at her watch and at the exit, she took three bathroom breaks during the movie, the first of which lasted fifteen minutes and in which she had mysteriously returned with a lighter and a box of matches, the receipt for which stuck slightly out of her jeans pocket. By the end of the third break, the matches were missing.
When they came out Marcy was nearly in tears: “We have to go see that again some time, wasn’t it lovely?”
“It was…” Evangeline seemed not to know how to continue the sentence, so she ended with: “That blonde boy was good looking?”
“Good looking? He was gorgeous! I’m ordering a poster. If only guys like that really existed.”
“You’d want someone like that?” Evangeline inquired, seeming to really not know.
“I would have his babies.”
“Okay…”
“You’re not maniacal about this man. Why?”
“Um. He just seems, vapid. He’s mysterious and everything, but it didn’t look like there was much to keep secret anyway.”
“You think he was too mysterious?”
“I guess so.”
“Isn’t that ironic.”
Evangeline tilted her head in a question, Marcy just smiled at her: “Let’s go get that drink.”
“You must be the only person who can keep me off balance.”
“I must be the only person who isn’t intimidated by you.”

They ended up at a bar in the shopping mall, Evangeline sipping daintily from her straw while her hand kept resting on a rectangular shape in her pocket.
“I have to do something about this.” Marcy thought to herself.” She looked around, and noticed a lone, well dressed man in his late twenties, his head was shaved bald, his watch and the jewelry around his neck spoke of money, and he was staring at Evangeline. If he was conscious of Marcy then he was actively ignoring her, never taking his gaze off of Evangeline.
Marcy slid off of her chair and walked over to him full of feline femininity. Only when she was within arms reach of him did his gaze snap away from Evangeline’s oblivious form. Even then it longed to return.
“I see you’re eyeing my friend over there.”
“You know her well?”
The strangeness of the question would only later occur to Marcy.
“Best friends, how would you like to buy her a drink?”
He looked back at Evangeline: “I’d like that.” He said without a smile, before following Marcy back to the bar counter.
He dismissed Marcy’s presence the moment their conversation ended, and he wouldn’t acknowledge her again either.
He was looking straight at Evangeline until she finally returned his gaze, here something passed between them that absolutely excluded Marcy, something in his eye caught Evangeline’s full attention. He wasn’t closing in to interact within her personal space, he wasn’t leaning on the bar counter in a relaxed pose from which to start amiable conversation. He simply stood, locking eyes with her.
It was obvious something was going on here, and both this man and Evangeline were aware of it, all the friendly air was sucked out of Evangeline as an aura of seriousness seemed to drown out sounds from around them, filtering out more and more of the background noise and sights until there was nothing left but the space which they occupied.
“You’re still wearing shoes.”
She didn’t respond, it took about five seconds for him to go on: “The crossroad lies before you, you’ll have to choose your muse, divine or infernal.”
“When?”
“Soon.”
“How will I know?”
“Through your own revelation.”
He looked up once: “Barman, a flaming Lamborgine for the lady.”
He put down money on the counter and took out a small piece of cardboard. The man made Marcy uncomfortable, nothing about him seemed normal anymore, it was like his presence was outside of his own body. Like he didn’t just occupy space on a physical dimension. With a pen he dotted some dents into the cardboard. He put it on the table and slid it to Evangeline without ceremony. Then he left.
There was a silence as Evangeline lightly brushed her thumb over the convexes now sticking from the cardboard.
“What was that about?” Marcy nearly whispered.
Without looking up Evangeline asked: “Who do you know that can read braille?” She didn’t look like she really expected an answer. Marcy ran her hands through her hair and rested her elbow on the bar, four clumps of hair sticking between her fingers.
“I’ll be drinking that.” She informed the bartender.

Advertisements

~ by William Webster on May 15, 2010.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: