Fires and Spirits

By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP Student 

Fire. My hand is on fire. I should be more worried. This is not a normal occurrence. Yet, I don’t have an ounce of worry, not an ounce of fear. The tips of my fingers are black and burned, but I felt no pain. The fire rests on the tips of my fingers, like fire on the wick of a candle.

I’m entranced. The fire doesn’t dance as much as it does in folk tales. It flickers. It was one place, then another. It’s not as smooth as the transition I read about in books. It doesn’t move over slowly, flow up and then down. It’s back and forth, big and small. It doesn’t matter that it’s nothing like I expected, it still entranced more than anything.

I always wanted to see fire somewhere other than candles. I hear about people up North and across the ocean that have to light fires for warmth. They light wood on fire, placed in a stone cavern they made in their homes. They huddle around it with cocoa drinks and thick blankets. They talk, they laugh.

Their fire is the fire that dances, the one they make stories with. They talk about spirits in the fire, they talk about the spirits of fire that smile upon them, and chase away the cold. The fiery spirits that come and melt the snow.

We have no snow here, there are no spirits of fire that smile upon us. We light candles, we create fire to keep the spirits away. We place the candles around shrines we have created, calling upon god’s above to save us from the spirits. The spirits that bring pestilence, that bring death.

I remember when a spirit came once, in the early morning. I was very little then. I had not gone to sleep that night, I wanted to see the stars. But I heard things from outside my door, things that did sound right. I had waited until they passed by my door, then I went to look.

There, outside my Abuela’s door, a white old man stood. He was see-through, and everything on him was white, his eyes, his hair, his skin, his clothes, as white as the foam on the sea. Next to him stood another. She was dressed in black. She was a woman.

She had a kind of a dress on, a kind of laced hood went on her head and over her shoulders. The dress was a black dress that went from her collarbone and to her feet, and down her arms, the sleeves puffed up on the ends. A string of lace went around her waist, like one of papa’s belts.

She wore no shoes, and she had long, midnight black hair. Her hair had streaks of grey and white. They were like the stars in the sky.

She had looked over to me, smiled, and nodded her head. She then turned back towards my Abuela’s door. The man never once turned his head, he had stared straight forward.

They walked into the room, through the door. I had been terrified, I ran all the way to my mama’s and papa’s room. I pushed open the door. It swung around and, with a bang, it stopped. Papa and Mama shot up at the sound, their heads swiveling in sync towards me. “Mama! There’s someone in Abuela’s room! There’s two of them!” My tiny voice had said. Papa ran out towards Abuela’s room.

“Who was going into Abuela’s room, Lorenza? Who?” Mama had asked me, holding me at arm’s length.

“I don’t know! I don’t know!” I had cried. After that, I tried to forget it. Papa had called Mama and me to Abuela’s room, and said that Abuela was dead. Mama had cried, I had cried, Papa had cried.

I never saw the two people again. I told my big brother about them. He said they were spirits. The lady was death, and he didn’t know who the man was. Today, I wonder if it was the same spirits from that night who have set my hand on fire. I doubt it is, this felt natural.

I go outside. It seems a better place for fire. But the minute I move, the fire went out. I tried moving back to that spot, but the fire didn’t come back.

My fingers were back to their original color, a plain tan. It didn’t seem like it was going to come back, so I moved on, and never cared. I had seen many strange things in my life time. I may have never seen those first two spirits again, but that did not mean I didn’t see others.

I saw many, many others.


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