You are mesmerized. You know not to touch it, but it is so tempting. It dances! It waves! It lives! But it is so small, so weak. So hungry. This match alone will not sustain it for long. You need to find something else to fuel it. The sink is full of water, the cloth is wet. It won’t do. All the appliances are made of metal. You need to find something that will burn. There are clothes in the dryer. You open it and get them out. You don’t know how long they have been in there, but they are dry now. You are careful. Nothing has ever seemed so delicate. Watch it grow! So very hungry. Soon it will be too large to hold. But nothing could make you put it down. Shirt after shorts after socks, it just cannot be quenched. You are running out of clothes from the dryer. If you can’t continue to feed it… you shudder at the thought. It must not be allowed to die!
You are becoming frantic. The room is so cold! So bare! How are you supposed to save it in here? It must be freed. But…You look at its mother. She must be its mother, because you are its father. You can’t take it from her. Not so young! Morality forces you to stay. But there is so little fuel! You gather what you can: some scraps of paper, two mismatched socks and a wooden door jam. You know it won’t last more than a few minutes. Soon you must put it down. It is becoming unbearable. You hate yourself for it. You are careful when you do, but it survives. The dancing! You watch its first steps. It grows so fast. You crouch beside it and watch. Then you listen. It has a voice! Not words, but a voice none the less. You listen to it hiss and spit, your hand hovering close by. It reaches up and wraps itself around your fingers. You smile, enthralled by what you have created. But then it bites. You withdraw your hand and shout in anger. Back to the sink. You plunge your hand into the cold water. It is burnt right across the palm. You are incredulous. So ungrateful!
You yell at its mother. Why does she not control it? Why does she just hang there? You don’t want to do this on your own. It is always hungry. You know you can’t keep it alive for ever. But God knows you’re trying. More fuel, you need more fuel. It is beginning to look dejected. It must not feel unloved! You rush back to its side. You cast your head around in agitation. There must be something else. There must be more to feed it. Your shirt! You tear it off and offer it as food. It is consumed like everything else before. So quick! You need something that will not simply shrivel and disappear, something that will last, something sustainable, something … else. Something you don't have. But you know it won’t survive without you. If you leave it to find fuel, it will die. You can’t live with that. Why is this so hard? There has to be a solution. You know it’s there, right in front of your face, but you just can’t think of it.
You spy a cupboard. Its door is the only wood in this concrete cage. You jump to your feet and run at it, dropping your shoulder at the last minute. The door splinters, and shards of wood litter the floor. Fantastic! You bought yourself some time. You know it’s foolish, but you throw it all on at once. How it roars! It climbs higher and higher, flicking upwards. It reaches towards the roof … towards its mother. Oh, you should have known! You can’t do this by yourself. It needs her! It makes sense now. It was always reaching for her. So why does she continue to ignore it? It needs its mothers touch. What can you do? She doesn’t even seem to know you are here. How can she not hear you? You are yelling as loud as you can. How can she not see you? Her eyes are open. How can she not care? It is reaching for her. Touching her shoes, wrapping itself around her ankles. It is begging her for attention. You are barely able to control your frustration. You begin to pace, hands behind your head. You can feel the frustration turning to anger. You are losing control.
She has changed. She used to be different. She doesn't care about anything anymore. You stop directly in front of her. You look into her eyes. She looks back, her face blank. You watch as it climbs her legs. It tugs at her clothes, dances in front of her, and still she does not notice. It is huge now; it must be feeding off of her. It climbs her shirt now, climbs into her hair, up her noose. You can’t figure out why she won’t even look at it. Now it has her. Completely has her. So large, and yet so young! You are immensely proud. Her face is barely visible behind the haze, shifting left to right as if unstable. You step back against the wall and watch. It is such an amazing sight. Steadily it spreads away from her, across the roof. There is no need for you to feed it anymore; it can find fuel for itself. The sound of a smoke alarm rips through the room. Fear grips you. It has come so far! You won’t let anybody stop it now. It has too much life. Running footsteps. Someone is coming. You know you can’t hide it, so you must protect it. Tearing off the door of the dryer you approach the entrance, and stand ready.
A voice comes from the other side. Someone is here to save you! No. You are here to save someone. And you are ready to do so. He must leave! He must not come through that door. Whatever it takes, you tell yourself. Whatever it takes. He doesn’t listen to you. Why does no one listen? He busts the door open. Just a man, a neighbour. You swing at him but he has you by the shoulders. No room to move. He will take you away! And they will kill it. Your child! He is dragging you towards the door. But now there is flame! You feel its biting touch across your shoulder and know he felt it on his face. A chance now! You kick and he stumbles away. It seems to follow him, striking once, twice, bringing him down. You would have never thought! You strived so hard to protect it, but now it is protecting you. A smile crosses your face as you look at the room blazing around you. Laughter escapes as you slide to the floor. What a proud father you are.
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Book / Science Fiction
Short Story / Other
Short Story / Flash Fiction
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