Behind Queenie I suddenly saw a small three year old boy standing by the far wall of the bungalow room, in the corner, as if trapped and cowering. He cried as he cowered in the corner. The lighting flashed on the walls in scary blasts as the small child cowered crying red faced. Except the little boy was not scared of the lighting but of the fire. I saw the room blazing with ghostly fire as the small boy, trapped, cowered. I jumped up and moved toward the boy. But I suddenly felt the ghostly fire on me. The heat. The smoke. The pain.
I forced my way to the boy and swept him up in my arms and ran outside as I burst into small, ghostly, blue flames. Bobby yelled and ran after me “John! John! You are on fire!” and I was. It was not a ghost fire. I was on fire!
The pouring rain doused the fire. I was gesturing, as if holding an invisible little boy. I felt the ghostly boy clinging to me. Then Queenie appeared. Bobby’s shouts and the shouts of the servants running out as they saw the flickering blue flames all over me woke her up. She ran out into the rain. Thunder and lighting roared across the sky. Queenie ran up and gestured as if plucking an invisible little boy out of my arms. “Rexy! Rexy! Rexy! Oh Rexy!” Queenie wept as she cradled the ghost as I fainted into Bobby’s arms.
I woke in hospital. I had a nice case of first and some second degree burns. Mostly it looked as if I had been out in the sun way too long without an umbrella. Fortunately most of the burns were on my torso. “Spontaneous Human Combustion!” the doctor roared out! “New one for my reports! Always starts inside the torso and erupts outward! Your face and extremities are fine! Monsoon rains douses you so you can live to boast! Damn it man! Spontaneous Human Combustion! One for the books! Congratulations!” The doctor actually shook my hand!
Queenie and Bobby came later that day. “We decided to let the doctor explain it his way” Bobby explained dryly. I could not see anything but ghostly blue flames flickering across your body John. But Queenie here ….”
“I saw him John! It was Rexy! My twin! I had….forgotten all about it! I suppose my family decided it was for the best that I did not remember what happened. It happened on Sept 13. That was when Rexy died.”
“It was not your fault Queenie” I said. “Then or last night. Accident. You were three. It was an accident. But everyone felt they had to pretend you. So they let you forget. They pretended your twin Rex never existed because they were scared you would remember and blame yourself. But it was not your fault. And don’t you see? Rex could not be mourned then. If you mourn now for Rex then I think his ghost will be released at last.”
“And my forgotten guilt?”
“And your forgotten guilt!”
“That was it! Bobby exclaimed! “I saw you as it were…. cradling a child! And the pattern of the blue flames….I could see little hands! And when you came out Queenie and gestured! You were holding the ghost in your hands! Cradling it!” Wait!” Bobby rushed out and then reappeared with a small photograph of Queenie aged three sitting next to blur beside her mother who was clearly pregnant and reclining in a garden chair. We stared at the blur. Then Queenie wept. Bobby pointed to the blur. “The photographer took a chemical and blotted away who was sitting between Queenie and her mother! It was Rex! Rex was sitting there! And the family had a photographer blot out the image of little Rex!”
Queenie picked up the small but expensive tintype in it’s silver frame and cradled it. Then she kissed the empty space where Rex had been blotted away. “Rexy. Rexy!”
“I don’t think next Sept 13 there will be a fire. Hold a birthday tea for a small child on Sept 13 — for Rexy. And I think his ghost will be pacified. I felt him at the tea you know! I just did not know who it was. I felt a small child. And the child was enjoying the tea. He was playing with the paper chains. Rex just needs to be lovingly remembered. That is all…..”