Monday, June 29, 2015

A Fire on Dunwich Beach

The boy opened up the tinderbox and tried to start a fire in the pit. The waves lapped the edges of the beach, burrowing into the sand as if trying to erode the continent.

"That's not real flint, you know," the girl said as she watched the boy.

"What?" the boy said. He temporarily stopped striking the rock against the heavy black metal. "Of course it's flint. It's written on the box."

"It's fake flint," the girl said. "Artificial. It's actually called ferrocerium. Real flint works differently."

"Well, this one's not working at all," the boy said. "I can't fucking make it work."

"Here," the girl said and pulled out a box of matches. She struck one and it burst into a small flame.

"Great," the boy said. "So you wanted to watch me try in futility to light this thing like a stone age man."

"Don't be such a baby," the girl said. She tipped the match sideways and then raised up a piece of paper, setting it on fire, then blew out the match. Then she lowered the burning page into the firepit and watches as the fire spread outwards. "You wanted to come here."

The boy rubbed his hands in front of the fire. "Yeah, well, I didn't like sitting around the house. You didn't happen to bring any marshmallows, did you?"

The girl shook her head. "No food. Just the fire."

"Yeah, thanks," the boy said. "Hey, let's tell some scary stories."

The girl smiled. "Really?"

"What? You know of anything better to do?"

The girl shrugged. "I don't know any scary stories. But I do know a fairy tale."

The boy put his hands underneath his armpits and crossed his feet. "I'm not picky. Go on then."

"Once upon a time," the girl said, "there were two kingdoms who were continually at war. One was ruled by a king who boiled with rage. The other was ruled by a queen that simmered with hatred. The war between the kingdoms had lasted for generations beforehand, the reason for the war lost to history itself. The war was all the people knew, all the king and the queen knew.

"But one day, the people decided it was enough. They had fought and killed and fought and killed and it had done nothing. It was time, now, for peace. So it was decided that the King of Flint and the Queen of Flames were to be married."

"The King of Flint and the Queen of Flames?" the boy said. "Really?"

"Shut it," the girl said. "I told you this was a fairy tale and this is how fairy tales go." The boy made an imaginary zipper close across his mouth and gestured for her to continue.

"Their wedding was a historic occasion. Everyone for a thousand miles came to see them wed, for everyone knew that this at last was the end of the endless war. Even though they hated each other, each one would be forced to stay with the other or else the war would go on and on.

"But something strange happened on their wedding night. Something nobody anticipated: they fell in love. When they awoke the next morning, they were glad to be wed because now they had a bond that could never be broken. Now they could merge their kingdoms and be one, be whole.

"But the war had also twisted something inside them. They felt love for one another, but the anger and the hatred still seethed inside them, seeking release. When their subjects came forward with requests, they would laugh and make them walk across burning embers. And if someone displeased them, they would open them up and stuff them with burning coals. Their proclivities grew monstrous.

"Finally, the people had enough of it. They stormed the palace and chained the king and shut the queen in the highest tower. The next night, they took out her out and made her watch as they burned him."

"I thought this was a fairy tale and not a scary story?" the boy said.

"It is," the girl said, "you just aren't listening." The boy shrugged and rubbed his hands in front of the fire again.

"The Queen was now left with nothing but her hatred and her anger. It rose from her skin like steam and one day, still locked up in the tower, she put on her wedding dress and burst into flames.

"The people thought that was the end of it. No more King, no more Queen. But the fires continued. Houses burnt for no reason. People would find burns on their arms and faces, as if touched by fire. The kingdom was soon deserted, the people scattered, thought cursed by all those around them.

"But if you were to find this kingdom and walk through the blackened husk of a palace, you might see the King of Flint, still in chains, and the Queen of Flames, still in her wedding dress, as they dance around one another."

"Sounds like a ghost story, not a fairy tale," the boy said.

The girl picked up a stick and poked the fire. "Every story is a ghost story if you wait long enough."

They stayed on the beach until the sun rose and the fire was only a memory.

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