Arms laden with cardboard boxes, she leads me outside and across the garden, socked feet on tiptoe in anticipation of the grass’ early-morning damp. Dawn, breaking bright and rain-washed, is kept out of the garden by the surrounding hedgerows and brambles, and one lumbering oak tree that plunges the whole space into shadow. Within this shadow sits something new: a roaring, manmade bonfire, orange flames flickering and transforming, smouldering and spitting ashy smoke from its peak. She’s been working on the bonfire all night, she tells me. I decide that an absence of reaction is better than an adverse reaction; besides, in her expansive repertoire of absurdity, this in no way tops the list.

She removes the lid from the uppermost box. Inside, the photographs of a previous life wait patiently their turn for cremation. I pluck something small from the thicket of her hair – a ripped oblong of paper, charred black along one edge – before we turn from each other to assess her creation for a moment. I wonder whether something so ruinous can be described as creation.

Gradually, she offloads the contents of the box into the flames. Although she assures me that it must be done, that one existence cannot begin until another is reduced to kindling, the sight of the blackening and curling and distorting of faces, of figures and buildings and memories long gone, cause my insides to shift uncomfortably. I avert my gaze, looking back towards the house.

Legal papers, bank statements, bills and various ambiguous documents follow the photographs, and books and pamphlets and leaflets and instructional guides and forgotten takeaway menus follow them. The bookshelves are stripped bare, hollowed like a spooned-out pomegranate. I grimace, forcibly reminding myself that these things are inanimate, that they are oblivious to the untimely ends forced upon them under the guise of new beginnings. By midday the kitchen cupboards are emptied, too: no crockery, no mugs, no pans, no cutlery. We eat a lunch of bread and cheese on squares of kitchen roll, which are later tossed into the bonfire as well.

When the remnants of what came before – wall hangings and DVDs and mantlepiece ornaments, old cassettes and bedside lamps and the welcome mat – are incinerated, she begins work on the house itself. At this point I have no choice but to join her, to become an accomplice in the chaos. We leave the scattered furniture as it is, most of it too heavy to haul outside, and move onto ripping the wallpaper from the walls and the curtains from their hangings and the carpet from its manufactured roots. Burgundy fibres gather beneath our fingernails and papery residue sticks to the sheen of our skin like snowflakes to a pane of glass. It is dusk by the time she takes a breath and slows, seemingly replete. I imagine that she would have gone all the way, however, if she could’ve; she would have dislodged the windows from their frames and melted them down in the fire’s yellow heat, and she would have ripped the plaster from the walls in dusty, off-white clumps, and she would have heaved the bricks from their foundations slowly, one-by-one, teeth bared, animalistic, through the strain.

Night, eventually, falls. Outside, under the imposing glow of the bonfire, she awaits the next beginning, her purge of the previous complete. She raises an imaginary glass, for all hers are now gone, and makes a toast. Above us, dense tendrils of ash and smoke disappear against a backdrop of bruised black and blue.