To see internal fire reduce a loved one to a few pounds of ash, at the dinner table, not even yet postprandial, but midprandial, over the pickle loaf, to see in the space of minutes organs acting as inside out candles, clothing as wick, the epidermis crepitating and popping. Let’s not even talk sub-cutaneous odours. Moot efforts to extinguish from all the kids but Terry. A typical nightgown, perhaps some rayon but shouldn’t have been a factor. Only her feet remained intact. Aunt Claire’s spontaneous combustion was not something we expected, but I have tried to make the most of it.
They say it should take seven hours so God knows what kind of accelerant. Deviant cousin Terry suspected but never charged. An electrician by trade. A knower of paths and heat-conduction. Shifty of eye, but worse: flitty of lid. A borderline nut and frequent citer of various research journals.
Struck down by subatomic particles in subatomic nuclear explosions leading to—yes, internal fireball. This the fate of Aunt Claire, who once yelled at me for pulling her dog’s tail. Particles even smaller than subatomic responsible, experts theorize. I’m talking trained nuclear physicists. I became acquainted via email with Dr.—, Dr. —, and perhaps most significantly, the noted commentator and paranormal go-to-guy — —. This paranormal go-to guy was instrumental in my success because he taught me the importance of establishing my personal brand.
Our case being special because of immense speed of combustion and unheard of table-full of witnesses. Not to mention cell phone video and 2.8 million hits on YouTube and subsequent and now somewhat regretted Jimmy Kimmel appearance. Did not know it would be so jokey. Not in good taste. Should have aimed higher, 60 Minutes.
Anyway, things have been lucrative for me on the paranormal/new-age lecture circuit. Last week I met the king of late night radio George Noory, also WWE’s The Undertaker™. Wasn’t overly fond of Aunt Claire anyway, or at least didn’t really care what became of her. Certainly her combustion and my eventual profit from it was the best thing that could have come of our relationship. I mean when I was young we’d play games together and that was nice. But before the combustion I maybe saw her once a year and it was just like seeing any other person you didn’t have much in common with and had to put on a brave face for.
My lecture consists of: details from coroners’ reports, both official and independently-commissioned; snazzy 3D graphs outlining relevant spon-com figures; discourses on both the Kirlian and Kilner effects; urethane burning demonstration I had to practice for some time, in which a flame shoots to the ceiling, this only being sanctioned in select venues but still something of a trademark for me.
Actual nightgown fabric a key property in my reconstruction. Candle wax to simulate sub-cutaneous fat. Real good Iphone photo of black-charred skin bubbles blown up 80x. Always at least three heavy-duty barbecue lighters after embarrassing incident in Lubbock.
Then a brief but powerful refutation of claims* that spontaneous combustion victims were likely drunk and confused and had somehow swallowed a match or lit cigarette after reckless imbibing, thus lighting themselves from within, because Aunt Claire wasn’t a heavy drinker and had had only two glasses of wine and was not swallowing matches prior to her combustion. This point is underscored with a nice picture of her and one of her students at the school for the blind she worked at.
I close with a tribute to the victims of so-called spontaneous combustion cases. B. Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire as soundtrack. Radiant PowerPoint imagery.
“How can I explain the fiery death of the former Mrs. Claire Desbiens?” I ask. Then I repeat the question in a more rhetorical way, hang my head, and slowly walk off stage, usually to resounding applause that surpasses the applause given to even king of late-night George Noory.
*See chapter titled From Sodom to Sydenham in Michael Harrison’s pioneering spon-com work titled Fire From Heaven: A Study of Spontaneous Combustion in Human Beings The Most Astonishing Phenomenon Since The Bermuda Triangle in which Harrison posits: “In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, their infraction of the rule was sexual, in the case of more modern victims they had been punished for having put an enemy [alcohol] in their mouths to steal away their brains.”