GIRL ON FIRE by Neal Suit

The first of the silvery sequins that grew and dangled from your skin appeared on your left shoulder, forming the shape of a crescent moon. I examined the sparkling protrusions rising near your collar bone, squinting as they glistened under the lamp.

You booked an appointment with the dermatologist. They gave you a cream and told you to come back in a week if it hadn’t cleared up. They took pictures to show their colleagues and friends and the internet. They fawned over how you shined.

Sequins sprouted on your arms, legs, neck, back, and forehead. Walking made you shimmer. The sequins not only reflected light but generated it, emitting an ethereal radiance. Your light seeped under our doors and billowed from our chimney, its slivers spilled out from our windows. People gathered to see the majestic illumination, took pictures and videos, posted them online and claimed you were a gift from God, a genius, an aspiration.

Sequins soon covered your entire body, each of your movements a cacophony of glittering fire wheels, a dancing forest of whirring diamonds. I wore sunglasses everywhere I went, even when I showered or sought refuge in the garage. In the pitch black of midnight, our house remained alight. I covered you in a thick, wool blanket. The glare was still like shards of glass piercing my optic nerves. The blanket burst into orange flame, sputtered into black, and disintegrated into gritty, dark powder. You caught our bed on fire, the heat from your reflection incinerating the wood frame and synthetic fibers of the sheets. I could not hold or touch you for fear of being singed, my skin burned to blisters.

Throngs assembled outside our house, hoping for a glimpse of you. When you left the house, crowds followed. Restaurants seated you at their best table without a reservation, a waiter standing by with a fire extinguisher in case your reflection combusted the table, the walls, the wine, the other customers. You were invited to red carpets, after parties, and award shows. Newspaper and television reporters called you a national treasure, a celestial being, a glimmering example of what can be achieved, what all young girls should strive to be. Fashion designers tried to sculpt dresses and gowns and jeans and blouses to simulate your luster, the marvel of your shine. All of them fell short of your grandeur and knew it.

You worried that the only reason anyone liked you was for your sequin skin. You worried that the sequins would dull or fall away. You had nightmares that someone grew diamonds for skin, another ruby flesh, overpowering your shine, outdazzling you. 

Your brilliance grew. Your bright glow created a veil of blindness, even for you. Everyone stood back, averting their eyes, seeing only the blur of light, unable to get close for fear of burning their skin and eyes, being reduced to ash. The most they could hope to see is the remnant of phosphorescence from where you had been, the scorch marks on the concrete where you had stood, the remains of a dying star. All the while they muttered to each other, “Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she perfect?”


Neal Suit is a recovering lawyer. He has short stories published or forthcoming in Cleaver, New World Writing, Literally Stories, Five on the Fifth, Bandit Fiction, Blue Lake Review, and (mac)ro(mic), among others. He can be reached on Twitter @SuitNeal.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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