“Once upon a time, there was a book, with a red faded cover and yellowed pages…”. His voice and the words wound their way around me, as I lay curled up on on the other side of the patched red velvet couch that took up most of our dreary living room. The slow dripping of the rain outside was falling onto the old tin roof above us, setting the mood as his voice slowly drifted me away from the rented two-bedroom ‘house’, and into the world being brought to life.
As he turned the pages of the worn covered book, I slowly closed my eyes, trying to vision the burning, bright fire he described in vivid detail, the image contrasted against the background music of the loud cracks and rumblings which accompanied the outside storm. Watching the burning pages of the book with that ‘once upon a time’ beginning, drying out, peeling and cracking into black, dark ash as a bright fire licked it to pieces.
A loud bang brought my sleepy eyes back to reality, with the vision being forced to an abrupt stop. The power had gone out with a blast, with the fridge stopping it’s slow hum and coming to a complete standstill. The silky caramel of his voice reminding me of his ‘there’s nothing we can do about it’ candid attitude, as he lighted the musty candles we’d picked up from the dollar store, before he continued on, turning the yellowing pages of the book in front of him.
The fire began to burn once again before my tired eyes, the warmth engulfing my form like it had the book only moments earlier, getting warmer and warmer before I could imagine that I could feel my skin peeling off like yellowing paper, the words which had been once inked so carefully into the pages of the now burned away story, winding their way around my skin, crumbling once again to ash. Into darkness, and slowly, ever so slowly into sleep, with the story smoking away, as if it had been a scarlet red bonfire being drowned out by a rainstorm.
Editor’s Note: Catriona was a runner up in the Woroni Writing Competition, responding to the prompt: ‘Once Upon a Time…’