Story by Kloipy (Seth Dombach)
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. Her first inclination was to rush back inside. The sunlight was too bright and her eyes burned in a whitewashed haze. She was startled by the sound of an ailing engine as a car sped down the road toward the town. The smell outside was at once sweet and acrid. To her left, and behind the tree line, black towers of smoke rose up into the sky smothering the bright blue of the afternoon. She listened as the wind picked up and could start to see the first orange licks of the fire pushing it’s way through the woods. She stooped down to pull her slippers off, resting her hip against the railing of the porch. She was aware of her toes and the way the wood felt underneath them. Feeling each footfall, she made her way down the steps and out on to the grass which was soft and still a bit damp from the morning.
A siren, far off, began its wailing while she advanced toward the field. She could now hear the crackle of hundred year timber as the trees became blackened in the distance. She crossed the road without looking, without even noticing until her feet touched what was left of the corn after this seasons harvest. The faded yellow of the remaining husks was drawn back by the raging oranges and reds of what was now a forest of flame. The fire itself seemed alive; as if it were a sturdy line of pawns slowly trudging, toward the King. The mud of the field was rising between her toes with each step and the bottom of her dress was being speckled like a Pollack painting with each advance she made.
As if reacting to her presence the wind shifted, focusing its attention on her. It blew her hair from off her ears and refreshed the scent of the burning woods within her nostrils. By the time she had made it half way through the field she could feel the heat on her face. With each gust, part of her felt like the fire was on her, but she did not avert her gaze from the sensation. She looked dead center into what was once a wood where she would walk through, picking up leaf litter and looking for owl castings. Now it was something changed; transformed. A bare, blackened thing; alive and dead at the same time.
A memory flashed into her mind that she hadn’t thought of in years. She was seven and swimming in the creek behind her parent’s house as she normally did on those long summers. She had taken swimming lessons two years prior, but for some reason the current was too strong and left her all but a mile from her home. That day she walked home barefoot on the hot pavement. Her feet had started bleeding as she had not yet built up callouses. Someone in a pickup truck stopped to ask if she needed a ride (and in those days you could have without worry). She refused and walked the rest of the way home.
Now the fire was quicker almost rushing to greet her. She turned around, walked briskly back to house. Without looking back she opened the door, walked back to the book, trailing footprints on the hardwood, and sat back on the table. She opened the book up. Only one chapter left.