The wood cabin’s kitchen is dark and cramped. At the table sits Witch with a bowl in front of her. In her hand she holds a wet sponge with which she is wiping the phosphorus off matchboxes. Dark red droplets drip into the bowl. Witch’s hands are red and bony, and she herself is as dark as an overdone roast potato. She has a mop of dark wiry hair. Outside the window are the sickly beds of the vegetable garden. The sky is leaden. At the gas cooker stands a thin man called Misha. His matchstick arms hold an enamel saucepan lid over the burner. On it are crushed tablets of Sedalgin, an analgesic rich in codeine. “This is the way to wash matches,” she says, turning to me.

more from Marina Akhmedova at Eurozine here.