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Last night I dreamt about the forest fire again. The red glow was beaming deep behind the treeline and set the sky ablaze. A pillar of smoke. The crisp smell of blackened wood. I bumped and scraped my bicycle past the unmoving traffic, my glasses once more fogged red with sweat and tears and taillights.
A faceless fireman stood between me and the flames. Get out, he said. Back up. Go home, boy. I wanted to scream. The flames licked the wood and spat out crackling twigs, laughed and bellowed in a heat wave that burned my cheeks like a backhand slap. I have my cat, I tried to say, to shout at him. She’s lost and she’s so old.
In my sleep I gritted my teeth and heaved from a dry throat.
The fireman levelled his facelessness to mine. Go. Home. My ears rang. He grabbed my shoulders and shoved me, sending me tumbling down to where my bicycle fell. She’s afraid of noises. I thought about how the bursting wood must’ve scared her, eyes bulging, hairs standing, cornered by the vacuum cleaner, how she sunk her head and ears into my armpit, the hummingbird beating of her chest as I carried her away from the room. I felt her soft fur in my hands – the rubber handles pulled and grazed the skin of my palm.
Today, my wife taught me how to crush animal bone to make fertilizer.
Yehezkiel Faoma grew up in Jakarta and its rusty skies grew on him. His work has appeared in Variant Literary Journal, Flashes of Brilliance, and Down in the Dirt. At night, you can find him learning Japanese or writing.