Word Count: 700
Origin: I wrote this story for a class in the Fall Semester of 2011. The assignment was to write a piece of fiction under 750 words where the character underwent some sort of transformation. Originally, I thought this would be a story of spontaneous combustion. You’ll see why.
Premise: A teenage girl who always dreamed of being special finally gets that chance.
Abigail tore at the buttons of her coat and ripped it from her shoulders. The frigid night air didn’t cool her at all.
She counted in her head in an attempt to calm herself, but the sense of stifling didn’t ease. A band of tension tightened around her chest. Her fingernails dug furrows in the skin above her sternum as she scratched, desperate to ease the burning from within that seemed to escalate with every instant that passed.
Her skin prickled. If her nerves were any indication, her clothes should have already ignited. The passage of her ragged, panicked breaths singed her throat.
Her boyfriend Bart had finally gotten out of his truck and come around to her side. “You okay, Abs?” Concern edged his voice.
She’d ditched out of the passenger side rather abruptly when she felt the heat building. He’d brought her out here to tell her something important, he’d said, but he hadn’t gotten the chance yet.
She ran out into the ankle-deep snow until she’d put some distance between them. The white fluff retreated away from her instantly, turning to slush under her feet. “Yeah,” she panted. “Just girl stuff, you know?”
“Uh. Sure.” Now he sounded uncomfortable. “Don’t go too far, okay?” He started to walk back to the truck, and then stopped. “It’s freezing out here, aren’t you cold?”
“I’m good. Just give me a couple of minutes.”
A few seconds later his door closed again. She crouched low, pushing her hands into snow that melted on contact.
She’d never hated her mother until now. Incendius. A demon born of fire, that’s what her mother had been. Her father had been seduced by a woman with the face of an angel, he’d said. Six months later a baby girl was deposited on his doorstep. Abigail had grown up thinking she’d been a disappointment to her mother. Not demonic in any way as far as the various ‘specialists’ could tell, just an ordinary, boring girl.
Or had been until a few weeks ago. Ever since the strange woman grabbed her at the mall, things had been different. She felt hot almost all the time. Once or twice a day she felt like she was going to burn up and turn into ash on the spot. There was a fire inside her that no amount of cold could touch. She’d even tried the walk-in freezer at the grocery store she worked at. She’d melted half the ice cream before the episode ended, but managed to convince her boss it was an electrical glitch.
“Incendius,” the old woman with the blind eyes had hissed.
The heat flared dangerously and brought her attention back to her current problem. She looked down at her hands. In horror, she watched as her skin hardened and cracked, taking on the appearance of dry, red earth.
Abigail became aware of a figure approaching her. Slender and tall, the woman wore a loose-fitting robe as dark as the night around it. Heart-achingly beautiful, her long red hair flickered in the wind.
“Mother?” Abigail asked.
“Yes.” She had a voice like the rustling of flame.
Abigail understood now why her father had fallen prey to this woman. Who could resist? “What’s going on?”
A delicate shrug preceded her matter-of-fact response. “A mistake. You were not meant for this.”
Her mother drifted closer. “You must choose now. The fire or the flesh.”
Abigail’s head spun. Wasn’t this what she’d always hoped for? That her mother would come back to claim her? To love her? Then why did she feel so empty?
Without asking, she knew they would disappear without a trace. How would her dad manage, never knowing what had happened to her? Would Bart blame himself forever for her disappearance?
After only seconds of contemplation, she knew she couldn’t go. “The flesh,” she whispered and closed her eyes.
She felt a hand on her head, smoothing her hair back. The heat within her eased at once. A brief gust of wind fluttered over her face.
When she opened her eyes, her mother was gone and once again she was just an ordinary, boring girl.
Incendius by Coral Moore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.