So, I gave my body to be burned. I coiled myself on the spring mattress altar and wrapped my tired arms around the bundle of burning sticks, and held them that way for the entire night. I fought the urge to flinch away. I closed my eyes and prayed. Out of the smoldering pile of wood chips and shivering bones came the random whispers of a reply. The smoke that crawled up the wall spoke to me in the dark room, the pink night light on the far wall casting harsh shadows.
“Daddy.” The voice spoke, the eyes unfocused. “I lost my airplane.” Suddenly wide awake and frantic. “I lost my plane! I want my plane I lost my plane! My paper plane!”
I remembered a plane. A paper plane that my daughter’s friend had made her on Sunday. I wiped the hair from the forehead of the fiery fevered campfire. “It’s fine. I can make you a plane. I can make you a hundred planes. Daddy makes better planes. You will have a perfect plane. I’ll make you a plane tomorrow.”
I scratched her hot back with an aching hand tired from scratching constantly scratching. All night scratching.
There were a few minutes of silence and she was back. Rolling. Twisting. “My cape. I lost my cape.”
“Don’t worry about your cape. We will find your cape.” The cape is a doll baby blanket with a safety pin to close the neck. “It’s okay. Just go to sleep. Drink some more water, and go back to sleep.”
All night I held the fire. All night it awoke in brilliant flashes of light and delirious stammering. “My friend Macey! I dreamed she was swimming and was trapped under the water!” This was repeated probably 20 times that night and then many more times the next morning. Macey, under the water. A dream. A cyclical nightmare. I hushed her.
“Mom put a bug in me. I don’t want a bug in me.” She said quietly to the wall. Her eyes closed. “I don’t want bugs in me.”
I rubbed her back. The fire grew. I stared at the ceiling with numb hands, numb arms. And still, the fire grew. I hushed her. Blowing softly to chase away the flames of fever. The fire grew passing from her arms, to my arms. We melted together into a single form on the small bed, under the painted stars and slept for the weakest of moments among the flames.