By Harry Marks

Every night before I close my eyes, I say your name through the gap in the open window hoping it will reach you, but it never does. It slips off the wind and crashes into the trees as the owl laughs.

I picture your hands, chilled by winter, seeking heat from inside my sweater as it wicks its way up your unpainted fingernails along your arms. The fireplace at our feet helps the rest of the way, but I don’t know if you have one. I’ve never seen your place, only glimpses of what your laptop camera allows on our infrequent chats. Your living room is a sketch I color in as I pull the blanket over me.

I lean into the fire’s warmth. I’ve only felt warmth like this once, a long time ago, but the wood did not endure. It was sturdy, from a tree with abyssal roots that burned away, leaving behind the blackened, brittle charcoal of my futile attempts to make someone else happy. 

Now, the kindling has taken hold. The flames flicker and grow, uneasy at first, until they realize there’s something to build on. It’s a fire I crave, yet I am terrified to stoke because I allowed it to consume me once. It peeled paint off the walls and melted pipes and left me a pile of ash to glue back together, flake by flake. 

But I’m drawn toward its glow, its potential, knowing it will destroy me again. I embrace the blaze. 

So I close my eyes and whisper your name and pray to a God I don’t believe in to let me see you just once, before I am ripped away by the violent blare of my alarm. 

I tried closing the window, but it’s stuck.

*  *  *

Harry Marks is an author from New Jersey, with stories published in HelloHorror, Baronfig.com, and the Coil. He also writes for the podcasts Lore and Cabinet of Curiosities from Grim & Mild.

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