Inside the small wooden house, everything is still. The air is musty and stale. In the bedroom everything is dark, except for a silver wash of moonlight that slips past the curtains and washes over a man, motionless as a corpse, on the iron bed. One arm is outstretched as if he’s reaching for the half-empty rum bottle on the bedside table. As he snores softly, a flush of light appears at the window, an orange-red glow that peeps into the room. It slips under the window and slides down the wall, and creeps over to the bed. It has form as it moves, a head, shoulders, a limbless body wrapped in curling fire that casts more heat than light. It rises up onto the bed and floats over the man’s prostrate body. It lingers close, pulsing, throbbing to his every breath.
The man moves and the flame moves with him. He thrusts his hips and it rides him, rising and falling, up and down, as if on a tide. Up and down, silently, up and down. A cock crows outside and the flame pauses. It slides, quietly off the man. Creeps back along the floor, slithers up the wall and back under the window, into the night.
-No! The man calls out. He struggles to sit up, looking around. -Who there? He calls out.
Silence is the only response. The man drops back to the pillows. After a moment he hauls himself out of bed, and staggers out of the bedroom to the living room, bumping into the sofa on his way to the front door. He rattles the handle, pulls and pushes to make sure it’s locked. Then he moves to the window and pulls the closed curtains tighter. As if all his energy has been spent, he drops into the old rocking chair.
-Oh Lord, mama woy-woy. He mutters.
Despite the closed curtains, morning pushes the night out of the room. The bureau against the wall grows visible, the blue doily on the dining table, the bible on a shelf. Dogs bark, birds call, the neighbour’s door bangs. The sounds of town waking, moving, going about its business penetrates the heavy silence of the room. The man doesn’t move. Light shifts the shadows around him as the sun climbs into the sky, but he remains slack and motionless. Eventually the sun begins its descent and the shadows grow wider and deeper. The man sleeps.
As night settles in, a jumbie bird calls from outside and there is a soft tapping at the window. The man stirs but does not wake. A red glow appears under the front door. It bathes the floor in orange light. Quietly, a large flame squeezes under the door and into the room. It licks its way across the floor to the man. The only sound it makes is a soft crackle as it sidles up the chair and cautiously straddles the sleeping man. It wraps itself around him, rocking him back and forth in the wooden chair. The man mutters unintelligibly, but doesn’t wake. Back and forth, the wood creaks, back and forth.