Bad with matches

This is a black and white image of matches with smoke depicting a drawing of a face.
Illustration by Bren Robinson

“If there’s one thing that this stupid pandemic can’t ruin it’s Halloween,” Juno said to herself. Halloween was Juno’s absolute favourite holiday and this year it was on a Saturday, on a full moon no less! After being in isolation for what felt like years,  the young woman felt she deserved a little celebration. Even if she was alone in her stuffy, closet-sized apartment, she was going to make the most of it. 

Tip-toeing from her bedside to the windowsill, Juno gracefully flicked a match against the coarse surface on the side of the matchbox and ever so gently attempted to light the wick on her festive skull shaped candle. Juno, however wasn’t so good with matches and went through about three before finally finding success. The light from the candle quickly enveloped her bedroom, flickering with the breeze coming in from a crack in the damaged window pane. A scent of amber and musk accompanied the flicker as the wax slowly melted releasing a luxurious autumnal aroma. 

Happy with the ghostly ambiance she had created in her room, Juno climbed back into bed, reaching for her laptop and opening it up. The laptop took about five minutes to turn on, it was antiquated and rundown but Juno simply couldn’t be bothered to get a newer one, so she dealt with the delays. When the browser finally opened, Juno typed the name of one of her many handy not-so-legal movie watching websites into the search bar and patiently awaited yet another page to load.  She knew exactly what she was going to be watching and as eleven o’clock struck, the familiar ominous tones from the intro of Halloween erupted from her run down speakers. 

After watching it every year, Juno knew this movie scene by scene. Laying in bed, wrapped in a shearling blanket, she intently watched the movie. Juno barely flinched when Michael Myers appeared from behind a door and anticipated his every coming move with giddy, childlike excitement, her back hunched over toward the screen. 

As Jamie-Lee Curtis unmasked her assailant and the movie cameto a close, Juno’s excitement suddenly turned to dread, as a knot in her stomach began to develop. Gently closing her laptop just as the credits begin to descend, Juno gingerly lowered her back onto the bed. Breathing sharply in and out, she stared at the grey toned ceiling as the stabbing pain in her gut began to consume her. The aching was constant and grew with each flicker of the candlelight, gnawing at the centre of her torso as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Hunger pains, maybe that’s all it really was. Juno decided this feeling of unease could  all be fixed with a snack. 

Juno stretched her left arm across the bed to flick the lightswitch that was slightly out of her reach, when the light  finally turned on, she placed her feet onto the cold hardwood floor beside her bed and once again tiptoed over to her windowsill. In one swift blow, the candle light was out. Quietly making her way to the bedroom door, Juno couldn’t help but to notice that her room was much more disheveled than she had recalled-alarmingly so. 

Sprawled across the hardwood floor were burnt out matches, so many that only some areas of the wood were visible. It puzzled Juno how she hadn’t felt these on the bottom of her feet as she walked around her room as it seemed these must have been accumulating for at least a few months. She frantically bent over, attempting to pick up as many of the small wooden bits as she could while still managing the constant pangs of discomfort in her gut. With two handfuls of matches collected, Juno opened her bedroom door, a loud creak and a crude smell welcoming her into the cramped kitchen area. 

The kitchen counters were covered in old, unidentifiable food and the sink was piled high with dishes. Juno had no idea how the house was in such a state. It was only her who lived here. The omnipresent pain didn’t allow Juno to dwell on the mess for too long, it had spread from her stomach to her head, causing a deafening migraine that needed to be addressed immediately. Juno opened her cupboard to find nothing but a few canned goods, crackers and some peanut butter. Desperate, she opened the peanut butter and dipped a few rackers into the jar, getting crumbs mixed unevenly into the spread. 

Juno feverishly demolished the crackers, swallowing every last crumb and licking the spread from her fingertips. This late night feast however didn’t help her growing discomfort and as she took her last bite her ears began to ring, the room spinning around at an uncontrollable pace. As the hour shifted to midnight Juno made her way to the kitchen table with the miniscule amount of stamina she had within her.

 Sitting down in a partially broken wooden chair, Juno looked up across the room at a photo of her beside her elderly mother. She studied her beautiful aged face carefully, how she missed her warm smile and soft round cheeks. Juno then began to wonder where her mother was right now, once always with her she had grown too ill to stay with her. For some reason though,  the young girl couldn’t remember where her mother had gone when she left to quarantine elsewhere. 

This thought was abruptly interrupted by that crude smell that she witnessed when walking into the kitchen. It seemed to grow with every passing moment, emanating from somewhere in her living room across from where she sat. The stench was sickeningly sour and musty, reminiscent of vomit and mothballs. 

Juno then was almost certain that perhaps it was the smell causing her troubles, so she decided to use all of the strength and focus that she could muster to go and investigate. Grabbing hold of the kitchen table to steady her dizzy gaze, Juno took short and focused steps from the tiled kitchen into the carpeted living room.  With her distorted vision,  all Juno could see was the television projecting some news show into the empty living room, a magazine atop her dusty coffee table and a rather disheveled couch. The smell though, was much stronger in this room, it crawled into Juno’s nostrils like a poisonous gas, creating a striking pain behind her eyes causing her to collapse into a couch cushion. 

Sinking into the stiff corduroy, Juno’s eyes drifted around the room, scanning it up and down, taking in the mess that she never noticed until this very moment. Her eyes were drawn specifically to another match on the ground. Its burnt end seemed to be  pointing in a menacing way toward the coffee table. Following the match’s gaze, Juno saw an area of the carpet soaked in what appeared to be blood. As soon as her eyes set on the stain the smell overtook her. She focused as hard as she could to overcome the blindness caused by the constant pounding in her head. Staring at the pool of crimson, Juno could make out a figure. A body. A decaying body. It looked as if it had been there for weeks, unmoved. As Juno looked closer a feeling of absolute terror rushed over her as her heart began to race and a cold sweat descended the back of her neck. She could tell by the plumpness of the cheeks despite decomposition, that she had found the corpse of her mother.

Falling to her knees agony and confusion, Juno wept among the garbage on her living room floor, mourning the loss of a mother she never knew she lost. As morning shone through the windows of her tarnished apartment, Juno  succumbed to her own exhaustion and grief, falling asleep in the rubble.  As her head lay atop a mound of burned out matches, Juno’s television loudly projected the morning news, “Good morning Toronto, it is 6 a.m. November 1st 2026…”