Susie left home at age fourteen. The moon hung in the sky like a lightbulb, shattering the darkness, when it wasn’t flickering out behind the rolling storm clouds. The light poured down until it pooled on the two-story townhouse on the corner of Newton Avenue. It was happy once, but now it was covered in a thick black ooze, staining the brick, like a prick and poke tattoo made into their own soft skin.
It wasn’t that Susie never believed Mama, but she would just tell Susie that she was clumsy or that the wine stains on the skin, which burned like the kisses of a drunk devil, were the signs of love from the ooze. The ooze had not always been this way, in fact when it first came into the house; the ooze seemed kind. Then the pain started. The ooze liked the pain. It had latched itself onto Mama, draining her so that it could feed. Susie was not stupid. She knew. She always knew when the ooze would stagger into the house, knocking over everything in sight as it leaked and slobbered, leaving its thick black sludge on everything it touched.
Susie had learned how to hide her marks from the ooze. It had become a game. The ooze would always soothe Mama after its attacks. It was a form of self-preservation, ensuring the food was never gone for long. Susie was never sure what she was protecting, but she found a way to bring it back to Mama. At school, Susie only thought of Mama. She only wanted Mama to be safe. “I tripped, Mr. Harper,” Susie said. It was an answer that was robotic and vacant, and even to her own ears, it sounded hollow, echoing back in her head like a scream. She knew the teacher meant well, but this inquisition had to end. She could not give an answer that would get Mama hurt. “I’m so clumsy.” Susie looked down on her arm, watching a slow trail of black ooze dripped off her skin, plummeting down onto the floor, pooling under her shoes.
As the black ooze pooled under her shoes, Susie knew.
It was all a lie.
There was a mark on both of them. A stain and there was only one way to ensure that everything would end. There was only one way to stop the ooze from hurting them once and for all. The idea started as a match in the dark, slowly growing, flickering, gasping for air to ensure that the flame feed enough to become a spark.
The scene in her head of the ooze engulfed in flame was lovely. It became an image of a spark on that oil black stain of the ooze, and soon the idea engulfed her. As the sun sank under the horizon, the idea was carried to full term, just waiting to be born into the world.
Susie left home at age fourteen, the flames from the bedroom that the ooze and Mama shared lapped into the sky. She had tears in her eyes as she called the emergency number. “I need to report a fire,” Susie said. Getting onto the bus, she hung up the phone. As the bus pulled away from the station, she could no longer hear the screams.
Quinn Crook (they/them) is an autistic, nonbinary writer. Their work has been published in Sledgehammer Lit, Warp 10, and Celestine Magazine. They can often be found haunting local coffee shops in their quest to drink the world’s best latte.