I used to watch every one of those strange phenomena shows. I was transfixed, even though I was also often terrified–as much as I loved reading about the supernatural, it scared me to think that it might be real.
Spontaneous combustion is one of the things we don’t worry about all that much anymore. Maybe it’s because we’ve largely moved past thinking of the body as being comprised of imbalanced humours, or maybe because we have bigger bodily threats to worry about. Reports of the phenomenon still happen, but they’re significantly rarer than they used to be.
It’s still an interesting topic, though. I wrote a paper once on the human body as a computer in need of a heat sink, with Mr. Krook’s combustion in Dickens’ Bleak House representing the natural conclusion of storing too much with nowhere for the energy to go. It sometimes feels that way, doesn’t it, like everything inside you is struggling to get out?
Anyway, here’s a drabble.
(Noun: From Latin adūstus, ‘burnt, scorched’)
A bodily humour that is abnormally dark, associated with discomfort or illness, or having a scorched color.
Lily has been told countless times that she is too passionate, too fiery to find a husband. Her brothers say it’s bad for her health, that too much fire in the blood causes tension, hysteria, combustion.
“Lucky I carry a fan, then,” she says, flitting it at them as if to wave them away.
But at night she feels the fire in her fingertips, burning beneath her nails. It doesn’t hurt—it wouldn’t hurt her—but it pulses underneath her skin.
One night she lights a candle without a match, finger to wick. A fan will feed a flame, too.