The community attends a late-night lecture given by a renowned logician. At centerstage, he dips his hands into a basin of gasoline. The smell of it reaches into the first three rows. Requesting some assistance from a willing audience member, he selects a young woman who raises her hand at the rear of the auditorium. On stage, the woman is given a disposable lighter. She wears a long yellow raincoat. Her red hair is a little wet from nighttime weather. The logician extends his hands out toward the woman — palms down, the left resting gently atop the right. He asks her twice to set his hands on fire: once with nonchalance, and again with a more forceful intonation after her apprehension becomes clear. When she holds the lighter to his hands, and rolls her thumb against the spark wheel, it’s her own hands that go up like kindle. The woman becomes frantic, as does the crowd. The fire is white and vigorous. It travels up her arms before engulfing her entirely. She screams and darts, flailing around the stage. In seconds, she is a small heap of ash at the logician’s feet. The audience falls silent. Three knocks are then emitted from backstage. In response, the logician excuses himself and disappears behind the curtain. Soon after, the woman emerges from offstage, unharmed and now wearing the logician’s clothes. She stands beside the ashes of the woman she was only minutes ago. She bows slightly and thanks everyone for their time. At the back of the auditorium, a man in a raincoat starts to clap.
M. DREW WILLIAMS is from Western New York. His poetry has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, publications such as Harpur Palate, The New Territory, and Midwestern Gothic. He holds an MFA from Creighton University.