April 17, 2017 by The Citron Review
by Rob Hill
“What are you going to do with me?” she asked softly, lying undressed and perfectly still on the cot.
They were in the dark interior of a small cabin overlooking the Hudson River. It had been raining lightly and the air was still dank. The cabin was hardly furnished. Just the small cot with the bent frame, a birdcage hanging from a wire containing only a few feathers, and a small listing table containing a battery-powered lantern which emitted a feeble light. There was what looked to be a can of gasoline beside the door, next to a pair of galoshes. Above this, a trenchcoat and a shapeless hat hung on a peg.
“I’ll have to get rid of you,” said the man after a pause. His mop of hair was inky black, as if dyed with shoe polish, curling down behind his ears. “I could leave you here, although you’ll be found within a few days.”
He held a matchbox in his right hand. With his left hand he pulled out a single match and struck it against the underside. It briefly lit up his pallid face, then he blew it out. He dropped the dead match on the cabin floor beside the can of gasoline.
“I suppose I could hide you in the rafters,” he continued. “It would take them a while to discover you there. Once they notice the odor.”
He struck another match, blew it out, dropped it.
“Can’t you hide me where no one will ever find me?” she pleaded.
“Where did you have in mind? If I put you in the ground, the worms will devour you. If I throw you in the river, the fishes will get you. Anywhere else they’ll eventually find you.” Another match caught fire and was blown out. “They’ll perform an autopsy. You realize that, don’t you? They’re a curious sort.”
“I don’t want them to find me,” she said softly.
“And after the autopsy, they’ll place you in a long box made of wood, and lower you into the ground, and you’ll lie there in darkness until you rot away.”
“I’m afraid of the dark.”
He struck another match and held it close so he could feel the heat against his eyeball. “I know you are.” He blew out the flame.
“I don’t want anyone to touch me,” she said.
“They’re sure to touch you if they find you. They’ll cut you open with their tools and probe inside.”
“Don’t let them.”
There were only two matches left. He lit one. “If I burn you to ash,” he said, reaching over and yanking a long string of hair from her scalp, “they can’t get their hands on you.” He touched the flame to the strand of hair, which ignited like a fuse. “If this place went up in flames, they would find your charred remains and assume it was an accident. You’ll suffer, but it will be over quickly. And you won’t be left for the worms and the body snatchers. It’s the only way to avoid them.” He blew out the match and dropped it onto the pile of dead matches.
“They say the soul escapes the body after death. But that’s not so, is it?”
“No,” she whispered, barely audible.
“They don’t realize you’re still trapped inside.”
“I don’t want them to touch me,” she whispered.
He lit the last match.
“It’s in my hands, then. All in my hands.”
He touched the flame to his cheek and took in the pain, shutting his eyes tightly.
“Please,” she whispered, “don’t let them touch me.”
He blew out the last match.
Rob Hill was born in Flint, Michigan, of all places, and currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared recently in Armchair/Shotgun, Akashic Books, Eunoia Review, Scrutiny, Polychrome Ink, and the ubiquitous elsewhere. He occasionally posts rags and bones at hellospider.wordpress.com