If you haven't yet, please be sure to check out Marilyn Meredith's great guest post yesterday on the power of persistence, and if you have read anything I've written, please check out this post that was posted shortly before Marilyn's, in which I explore some of the philosophy that plays into my writing.
Otherwise, I was going to post something else today, but I felt compelled to write this story instead. It's flash fiction, written in one setting and unedited except for spell-check. Forgive any errors, and I hope you enjoy it or at least get something out of it.
"Come Here Ted"
(c) C. N. Nevets, 2010
Two years. No, make that six years. Maybe longer, now that I think about it. Hell, I know there was a time it wasn't like this, but I'll be damned if I can pinpoint when it was.
I remember when the fire was only up to my knees. I can't remember a time it was just on feet. It's been six months since I've been able to get out of bed. It's all over my chest.
It's not even proper fire. It's just burning. A slow sizzle, eating away at my flesh. Creeping up my body. Consuming me slowly enough that it crystallizes my bones and caramelizes my flesh.
So hot, though.
But no one knows what's causing it. Nothing will stop it. No salve will soothe it, no icepack will cool it, no dressing will protect it.
Hell, they lopped off my legs to stop it from spreading, and even that didn't work.
There hasn't been a time I haven't hated it. There's no getting used to slowly burning alive. But it wasn't always this hard to take.
But about a year ago, I lost my house. I couldn't work anymore. No way to support myself. Uncle Chet let me move into his place. He even let me have his room. He didn't sleep there anymore. Ever since Aunt Amber left him he just falls asleep watching TV in the living room.
Uncle Chet was always a different sort than me. Had a mirror above his bed. I thought it was weird when I first moved in. Couldn't stand it.
Truth be told, though, the longer I lay in bed, not able to get up and about and see folks, I started talking to myself in the mirror. I not only got used to the mirror being up there, but I grew to like it. It was a comfort to me.
Only, there was something weird.
I didn't notice it for a long time. When I did, I thought it was a defect or a trick of the lights or even a trick of my own memory and self-perception.
Somehow, looking in the mirror, I always seemed to look a little different.
One day, I found out it was more than that. One day I couldn't put any clothes on. I couldn't even put the fire-proof layer on that I always wore underneath. Hurt too much. So I just lay there on an asbestos sheet, naked as the day I was born, and I looked up in the mirror.
And I didn't see my own charred body.
I saw my body,as it would look without the fire.
I shook my head and slapped my face and pinched my arm and nothing made it change. I slept on it. It didn't change. Nothing changed it, at all. The reflection was a match, except that it wasn't slowly burning to death.
At first that felt like a shot in the arm.
Then it felt like I was being teased.
The last thing I wanted was to be so thoroughly reminded of what I could never be. It wasn't a perfect me. I wasn't flawless. But I wasn't burning. I wasn't being destroyed, bit by bit, day by day.
I ached to be like that.
I wanted nothing more than to become the me I could see in the mirror. For a few weeks I tried everything I could think of to make it happen, but it didn't seem to matter. At the end of the few weeks, it was the same.
Me, on the bed, burning.
And looking at myself, free.
For the past two days, the reflection has had something else different. A sign. A sign that says, “Come here, Ted.”
I want to jump into the mirror and smash my head into it. I'll either come here, Ted, by doing that, or I'll just end this nonsense.
But my body can't stand up anymore, let along jump. I can't come here, Ted – not by jumping, not by climbing, not be anything that involves moving. All I can do is soak in this eternal moment.
Me, on the burning.
And looking at myself, free.