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Up in Fire

Up in Fire
Maryam Alatmane

Strong gusts of wind race along the moors howling. I march on, a heavy fur coat wrapped around my thin frame, snuggling deeper into a feathery soft scarf. Fiery tendrils of hair blow onto my face and the wind buffets me forward, like a dinghy in a storm. Gloved trembling hands grip the suitcase.

Slate grey fog crawls, its tendrils reaching forwards. It seeks me out in the gloom. Squinting, I move on, stepping tentatively on rocky ground. I glance down at my watch, the minute hand ticking dangerously close to time up, but the bleak landscape has been obliterated by a wall of grey.

Then, I see it. The tree stands like a beacon; its limbs rise up, coal black against a darkening sky. Walking with purpose, and then running, running, running until I reach it. Gently placing the suitcase down, I rip off my gloves, extending my hand towards the rough bark and striding around the tree. Behind me, the feeble fence creaks; wooden posts desperately clinging to loose soil. I stop randomly, but the patterns turn foreign beneath my fingers and I move on. Finally, I find it. Following the familiar looping lines dug into the tree trunk, I smile shakily. But it’s not over yet.

I reach into my pocket, flipping out a rusting Swiss knife. Pushing the blade into the tree, I watch as a viscous crimson substance oozes into the indentations. Light flashes suddenly through the gloom.

Moving soundlessly, I inch towards the suitcase. Numb hands fumble with the latches. Indistinct voices become clearer, coming closer. Time is almost up…

From a distance, he watches as they find her. Too late, they notice the flaming match she drops by her feet.

The world is ablaze. A monumental burst of light, flames rising up; vines wrapping around the tree and the girl and the suitcase. As the flames climb towards her face, she turns to face him, smiling.

And then she is gone.


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