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by Anita Goveas

There’s an ancient prophesy that you’ll die by volcano. It’s passed down to you at birth, like your grandmother’s light eyes and your father’s square chin.

It’s not just your curse, others in your family succumbed to fire. Your great-grandmother was as happy at the birth of her daughters as at her sons. After the third girl was born, and her inability to learn proper values was firmly established, she went outside to fetch the rice pot from the cooking fire before it bubbled over. They worked out what happened from the quantity of ash.

On a school trip to Chislehurst caves, a pale skinny boy in an ink-stained shirt whispers your hair is as dirty as coal. You lean your head against cool rock and it starts to bubble around you. You avoid sitting on walls after that.

Things that can kill you: expectations, ignorance, other people’s hate. Longing.

Things that can be avoided: fate.

You’re hard on things that draw heat, fridges, fans, air conditioners. When you’re twenty-one, your new laptop explodes after a discussion with your tutor about Winston Churchill and the West Bengal famine. You hide it at the back of a cupboard and write everything by hand.

Your aunt walked away from a marriage proposal from a man twice her age and her parents’ refusal to send her to engineering college in Hyderabad, into a blazing sun. They found one singed brown chappal and a twisted earring. This happens in your lifetime.

They’ll discover a dark slick that leads to your piled-up clothes, neat and unstained but smelling of hot tar and barbecue. They’ll never be sure you didn’t get the volcano first.

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London and fuelled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She was first published in the London Short Story prize 2016, most recently in Dime Show Review, Literary Orphans and Noble/Gas Quarterly.