Burn It All



Scene Title Burn It All
Synopsis Because she must.
Date March 1, 2018

In Dreams

Winter moonlight paints Saint Margaret’s School for Girls in pallid gray tones and reflects off the snow clinging to the church’s tall, statuesque steeples. Trees stripped of their leaves stand out against the sky like bent fingers, not unlike the dead matchstick ones Delia glimpsed in photographs. The windows are dark, no colour pours out into the barren courtyard or the street outside; everyone, from Sister Antonella to the smallest of her charges, sleeps fitfully in their beds. She can hear the wind shrilling through the orphanage’s draughty corridors from where she stands, looking up at the building’s topmost point: a cross.

Otherwise, it is quiet. The wind in the trees causes the branches to rattle and creak. Her breath makes a thin sound when she breathes, and is expelled as formless vapour into the cold March air. There should be leaves budding, she thinks, but the world is as stark and monochrome as the mismatched school uniform she wears. She knows without looking down because she can see her eleven-year-old reflection in the puddles gathered in the street, fiery-red hair pulled back and knit in a plain fishtail braid. The chill colours her cheeks pink and makes gooseflesh stand up on the exposed skin of her long pale arms and legs.

A chain-link fence separates the plot of land that Saint Margaret’s stands on from the outside world. The orphanage’s neighbors exist as distant, hazy lights in her peripheral vision, meaning that she is alone except for the bodies packed inside. A gate hangs open behind her, the lock cut and chain left swinging. Metal tinkles on metal.

Her body might small but it is filled with purpose.

An open canister of gasoline hangs from her left hand. The fumes smell like an old friend.

In her right hand, she clutches a box of matches that clatters softly when she slides it open using the edge of her thumb.

Burn it all, a voice says.

The gas canister is tipped and a thin trail is poured from the gate, close to the trees, and then swings around to the front of the orphanage where a majority of the fuel is splashed onto the front door and adjacent windows.

Then the jerry can is thrown into the bushes by the stairs like trash.

She takes a deep breath as she makes a straight line back to the open gate. The match box flicked open with one thumb as she walks. Not even a backward glance to whom she’s condemned to a fiery death. The voice is much stronger than her will to do the right thing. It may even be that this is the right thing. Who is to say.

Her eyes are to the ground as she reaches the end/start of the line and it’s only then that she pulls three matches out, holding them in parallel between her cold fingers. She strikes and they don’t spark, one breaks off and falls to the gravel. Again, she pushes the remaining two matches against the rough surface and watches as the flame bursts to life and then dies down to a slow burn on the wood.

Then she drops them.

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