Tomorrow I will burn a man. Burnt wool and blackened skin, the freckled face peeled away in a fire, closing into itself like moonflowers. I will burn the corpse until it crumbles to nothing. Then his wife will be mine, the wife, who cannot know a love like the one I harbor for her. Surely she will know, surely, when the man is gone.

I will think about the man, the burning man, when I follow him to the grocery store, a dim shadow flickering behind carts of watermelon. He will look like me. His hair will be black rather than dark brown, and his nose bigger, and he will have put on the cozy weight of a husband. But the similarities—impeccable. Scarred brow. A slight limp in his left leg. Oh, how I will perfect that limp.

And he will choose a watermelon, the one I recommend. I will stalk him to a side street that filters into the suburbs, thinking about a life with his wife, and about the sound that flesh makes when it is burning. A soft sizzle, perhaps, like whispering.

No, I will correct myself as I reach for the man’s arm, rather, it will sound like the brush of autumn leaves against gravel. Orange leaves, freckled face, burnt face: in the end, it matters not, only that I leave no trace of ourselves.

Sometimes burning and loving are the same. I will kneel before the wife’s doorstep with a bright, blooming face and promise her anything. My fists will uncurl and a wraith of ash will spill out onto the porch. And when she says burn, I will close myself into the flame, a black-orange blossom, and crumble to nothing.

~ fin ~

Anjali Ravi is an Indian American writer of dark fiction and an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland. She is currently pursuing a BA in English Literature. Her work is published or forthcoming in Menacing Hedge and anthologies by Pantheon Magazine and Black Heart Magazine. Find her at