The psychic smells the fire before the smoke alarm goes off. A Molotov cocktail through the front window of her shop. She’s wearing all her important jewelry, has her car keys in her joggers, slips into her sneakers and grabs her rose shawl off the end of her bed. Douses the shawl in water and covers her head and mouth with it. Her important papers are in the bank. Her valuables are at her sister’s. All she has to do is make it out of the house alive. She has two to three minutes to achieve this. She feels like an actor in a movie. Going through the prescribed steps to get the hoped for effect. But she hadn’t thought about how the heat would feel on her skin. As she descends the stairs, watching her foot land each time so she doesn’t slip, she wonders how close you have to be to fire to get burned. For it leave a mark. The clock melts off the wall into pile of plastic on the floor sliced through with a sheet of glass that shattered on impact. At her back door, she uses the shawl as a barrier between her and the hot metal. Propels herself outside into the chilling night air. Drops the shawl. Coughs out smoke. Breathes in deeply. Feels the solidity of the earth, how far down it goes. Roots herself to the present. Touches the wet grass and lies down to watch the stars.
Chelsea Stickle is the author of the flash fiction chapbook Breaking Points (Black Lawrence Press, 2021). Her stories appear in CHEAP POP, CRAFT, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. Her micros have been selected for Best Microfiction 2021 and the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2022. Her second chapbook Everything’s Changing is forthcoming from ThirtyWest Publishing in January 2023. She lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.