Hotter than Hell

Vic tugged the sliding glass door that always stuck with a heavy exhale of forgotten evening and morning anguish mixed with instant coffee.  He squeezed out a thin crack, terrycloth robe catching on the splintered wood frame, cursing landlord, property manager, and denied mortgage request.  He placed his chipped coffee mug and greasy quart container of water mindfully on the rickety wicker bistro table and sat in one of the rusty chairs, closed his eyes, and tried to relax in the soft morning to release his shoulders and tarp-tight forehead tension. 

Power lines cast swaying webbed shadows across the cracked cement slab, with grass, moss, and other unwelcome green blasting through.  Vic smiled when he saw the bright orange bucket in the sunny cinderblock corner, the lone vivid patch of brilliance a tall, strong stalked and staked ghost pepper plant, copious long leaves green and shiny, proud of its singular existence and how it was able to use its lone season of life to produce its sole purpose: create ghost peppers.

Vic had gotten the ghost pepper seeds at the restaurant where he worked last year and put them in the 5 gallon bucket of dirt that had been his ashtray.  He started smoking in the house, so they grew without him even noticing: when he did, he cleaned the soil, staked them properly, and began enjoying his brief happy escapes outside.   

The ghost pepper plant grew slowly and steadily surrounded by hot stone and direct afternoon sun all summer.  The flowers popped white buds which attracted bees and once a butterfly.  Tiny peppers emerged as adorable green nubs which Vic photographed and shared on his long-quiet social accounts.  The ghost peppers grew long, with bumps and spiny spikes pushing through waxy skin, the green color of nature’s toxic warning.  From stem to pointy tip, Vic observed the ghost peppers transition from zesty green to boiling florescent red to ominous orange, tone brighter and hotter than a highlighter.  The ghost peppers grew in pairs, scary barbed sentinels of verdant scoville despair.  

When the pointy ghost peppers appeared fully grown, Vic picked one and brought it inside, holding it in his palm with venerated adulation.  He moved the dirty dishes out of the way to reach the cutting board and knife at the bottom, sliced around the seeded cap and peeled opened the flesh; flicking a few rogue seeds off the insides with the knife tip, Vic popped the ghost pepper flesh into his mouth whole and chewed, and continued chewing as ghost pepper slid down and whole body intensity lit up making his eyeballs and kneecaps sweat, oily fire atop his dermis, igniting his core.

Vic slid his robe off as he breathed deep within nostrils and sinuses like hydrothermal steam vents, releasing pressure and liquid out of cranial cavities. He ripped off his shirt and wiped his messy face, matted hair, and tired hands, ghost pepper spraying from his teeth as he screamed into the empty fireplace of his soul, stoked awake with this pungent infusion.        

The mixture of moisture formed a hellacious hot spring and poured ghost pepper into his eyes blinding, completely impaired, Vic slammed his hands onto the counter and knocking the knife away fumbled and found the pepper stem and seeds and with an eruption of insane bravery tossed the entire top into his mouth and right into his stomach, melting himself into a moment of pure reality liquefying with the beauty of blackout, passing from here to there without moving, a ghost of a person eating a pepper to come back to life.