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She Goes Off At Night

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Rob gingerly closed the door of his medicine cabinet and heaved a sigh. A glance to his left out of the en suite showed his wife Rose still lying where he left her, struggling to read until the dim throb of a bedside table lamp. He discreetly checked his watch and gripped his toothbrush a little too hard it was almost ten in the evening and with each click of the second hand, his veins tightened. For as long as he could remember, Rose spontaneously combusted at ten, every night, without fail. Rob had met Rose this way, and they have been married for at least six years.


The exact day they met embarrassingly eluded him, but the first date is something he wouldnt forget. They were walking down the South Bank after meeting on a work trip, and the time had gotten better of Rose. Rather than warn him of her condition before a sweet embrace, Rose instead displayed seemingly faux-panic at her own watch and pushed Rob over a bollard as she ran for the river. On the dot, Big Ben struck ten as Rose submerged her screaming head under the water, filthy bubbles laced with plumes of smoke as all Rob could do was watch horrified as this beautiful woman, once fond of real ale and chess was now a layer of ash bobbing playfully on the surface. His chances with her had literally gone up in smoke, or so he thought.
They spent the rest of the night in A&E, for Rob had fainted after seeing a perfectly normal Rose rise from the embankment, dusting ash from her coat and apologizing profusely. She explained she didnt know why she burst into flames at all, let alone at the strike of ten, but had always joked that even Cinderella could play out a little less than two hours more than she could.

Rob struggled at first but after a turbulent first few months, the two settled down and bought their first house, overcome with a passion hotter than Rose's core temperature when the hour was right. 
Rose was happy because meeting men wasnt exactly easy. Having to run off from dates at half past nine was mortifying, especially when they were charming and probably would have made a joke about it. Rob was perfect however, and even made a joke about losing a glass slipper as he pressed a cold rag to his temple. Admittedly, she was only wearing discount heels but the sentiment was there. She pressed her head against his chest and he laughed again, remarking he could still smell the smoke in her hair.

Years had since passed, and both Rose and Rob had done a remarkable job of adapting their lifestyles. Nobody else knew. Rob often said it was a workplace affair in that theyd abruptly excuse themselves after checking their phones, and Rose had learned to smile about it.

Bonfire nights were complicated and Christmas was awkward, but at least the fires of that season masked the smell from their house, which would otherwise be attributed to bad home cooking or witchcraft at the very least.
Rose had even learned how to mask the fire itself, or at least the effects of it. While the eruption left no damage whatsoever, she still experienced the hallmarks of being set alight every night. This included singed skin, melting clothes and searing temperatures. The pain too was excruciating and it took Rob a year or so to grow accustomed that hed hear the woman he loved scream in agony as the fire overtook her. Twenty seconds of torture later and Rose was instantly free, albeit out of breath and smelling of coal. Despite this, she found that concentration, acclimatization and an odd paracetamol/warfarin combination kept the pain rather minimal.

However, Rob had been struggling with the condition lately, and not through selfish means either. He was happy to support his wife in any way he could, but the screams and strain had taken its toll. Rob had grown weary of Roses unhappiness at a compromised social life. Once, Rose had ignored her gut instinct and attended a sex toy party for a friends birthday. Rather than leave, she excused herself claiming an urgent phone call had cropped up. She went outside the house and undressed herself so the flames wouldnt steal her of any dignity and prepared for the anguish, even going so far as to seek refuge in the pond if things grew too much. 
Unfortunately, security lights flooded the garden at three minutes to ten, and it was only then Rose had realized she was still holding the vibrator they were perusing and admiring earlier. The last sight the guests had of Rose was that of a flaming naked woman, clutching a melting sex toy and running screaming through a garden fence. Years on, Rose still expressed annoyance as she knew precisely who would have taken her clothing, because that bitch Brenda loved the leather jacket.
 That memory had just left Rob, and while it was entertaining enough to think of while he was brushing his teeth, he fought back damp eyes as the clock marched nearer to ten. Casually, Rose set her book down and stood up, exhaling deeply as if to began a yoga session. She then cleared her throat as Rob set the brush down and wiped his mouth, eyes tracing the path Rose took back and forth in mental preparation.

"Nearly ten?" she asked quietly.

All Rob could do was nod his head, as his throat had grown too dry to utter a word. He hated this part, and knew she did too. They managed, but secretly wished they could stop eyeing watches and town hall clocks, leaving drinks halfway and missing pivotal scenes in movies.

"Okay, okay, okay," Rose said, shaking loose.

She barely had time to stand still when Rob pounced. Her dressing gown shook loose in shock, which wasnt going to survive the blaze anyway a small oversight on her part. She screamed, partly in surprise and mostly in terror, as she knew the flames would heavily scar or even kill. He fought back more tears as Rose let hers go. He hauled her onto the bed and wrapped tightly around her. Her dry sobbing settled as he brushed hair out of her face.

"I cant do this, Rose. I cant do this. I love you too much.

She didnt even have time to respond, as the fire struck with the bedside clock. The roar drowned out her anguish as she watched the only man she had ever loved become engulfed. Fire fell down his open mouth and took him. His skin fell apart like tissue paper and his body shook violently. She could barely see through the smoke, but felt his grip slacken as he became more ash than man.

She didnt sit up. Instead, the flames took hold of her too. Without pain, she found peace and a different kind of warmth as the two merged, patterns of ashes mingling like sand. As quickly as the fire had arrived, it had gone, taking the noise caused with it. Mercy came quickly for them both. It was as if even the flames knew their love was strong, and couldnt bear to separate them. Understanding unhappiness, both bodies had gone, with their last emotion being the most pure and effortless. A few seconds of silence rolled by before a gentle breeze parted the curtains. With it, a framed picture of the two sharing a summer embrace fell in the middle causing little disturbance happy and peaceful until the end.

Edited by Craig

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That's all I got.



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Craig, know this is old, but just had to say. This is an amazingly unique piece of work and absolutely beautiful in every way. Executed perfectly and one of my favorite stories on GTAF. Hope to see more from you one day.

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