May 2014 - Comments Off

IN WHICH SHILOH SUDDENLY COMBUSTS

Alec MacNeil '17

When Shiloh stepped out of the shower towards the sink he burst into flames. Yet his skin did not scorch; nor did his eyeballs melt to goop, nor did his hair burn to ash blacker than his mother’s stove. Instead, Shiloh reached for his toothbrush. It turned to liquid as he held it and seeped through his fingers down the drain. He looked into the mirror.

Shiloh trudged to his room across the hall; sparks from his feet’s fire traced his path. He decided to try to get dressed. It took him three pairs of underwear before he gave up with a sigh.

Then his stomach growled.

Shiloh left his room and went down the stairs. He caught glimpses of his fiery form in the reflections off of family photos lining the walls of the hall. His favorite had always been the one of him and his father sitting together at a bonfire. They used to vacation at a beach during his adolescent summers and spent nights telling each other ghost stories. Pausing to look at it, Shiloh saw himself and his father smiling, opaqued by the reflection of Shiloh’s burning body. It was the only picture of his father Shiloh had left since they moved. He stopped staring when his stomach rumbled again and then he ambled on into the kitchen.

His mother was working at the stove. She was making fettucini with a spicy red pepper sauce. Two pots boiled. One with pasta, the other with sauce.

“Dinner will be ready in a minute,” she said.

“Oh.” He sat in one of the two titanium chairs at the kitchen counter.

Five minutes passed and a sharp ding came from a timer on the counter. Shiloh’s mother took the pot with the pasta over to the sink, where she had already placed the strainer. She poured the pot’s contents into the strainer, which she held over the sink. The boiled water seeped through the strainer down the drain. Shiloh’s mother took a bowl out of the cupboard above the sink and plucked a fork from a nearby drawer. After she scooped some pasta into the bowl, she brought both the fork and the bowl over to the counter and placed them in front of Shiloh. He looked at the plain fettucini for a moment before returning his gaze to his mother.

“How silly of me to forget.” She took a step back and took the pot off the stove. She leaned over the counter and poured the sauce over her son’s fettucini. “There you go.”

“Thanks.” Shiloh stared into his mother’s eyes.

“You’re welcome. Put the leftovers in the fridge when you’re full. You can heat them up tomorrow for lunch.” She left the kitchen quietly.

Shiloh listened to her mother’s footsteps climb the stairs, pad down the hall and then begin to die when she got into her lifeless room. He picked up the fork. It melted slowly for half an hour until the metallic liquid congealed on the countertop after it seeped through his burning fingers. Shiloh frowned. He reached his fingers into the bowl and the spicy fettucini caught fire. When the flames dwindled, ash remained.

Staring into the black mound, Shiloh felt himself beginning to cry. Yet he felt no tears streaking down his face. He looked up and realized that steam had been pouring out of his eyes. Two thin streams had been running from his face to the ceiling, concealed by burnt tears. Shiloh watched these twin phantom rivers flow lazily into a dead ocean for hours.

When the fire alarm went off, his mother rushed down stairs.

“Oh,” she said. “I left the stove on again.”

Published by: in Issue 2: Spring 2014, Volume 70

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