Pictures in the fire

The sky was dark and stormy and a strong wind was blowing in from the North able to chill even the warmest of people. The raging fire broke into the sky, the vivacious oranges and reds were silhouetted against the night. It started to rain; the small cool droplets refreshing my skin after it had been unruly invaded by the heat from the rampant flames. The mixture of temperatures caused mischief with my body.

The park in which I was standing was encircled by tall thin trees. The individual branches moved like the gnarled fingers of an elderly woman. At the far end of the park was the hustle and bustle of the rides, lit up by millions of minute fluorescent lights. The tanoy’s voice broke out through the air shattering the peace, bringing me back to reality with a start. The fair had begun; the whirring of the rides started and drowned out my thoughts. A flock of young agitated children giggled and cackled past me causing a brief gust of wind that swayed my tense body from side to side.

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I reached forward and put my hands on top of the smooth surface of the cardboard box that I had been carrying around with me. As I felt the silken sides of the rectangular box; my pale hands cautiously moved closer to the indent of the lid and I slowed prised the box open. As the lid was raised, the smell of floral incense drifted up towards me and a mixture of materials confronted my eyes. On top I saw a small square book of photographs, covered in plastic to keep its contents clean. This caught the edges of the moon’s rays and began to cast a fascinating pattern of shimmering iridescent lines that danced across the low sides of the box.

Taking a slow breath I clasped the book in my hands and dropped it into the bright flames that by now had hues of orange, red and yellow. The flames surged excitedly and stretched up like pokers of hot steel. They weaved and writhed as they consumed the book and then slowly retreated like a snake that had devoured its prey. I looked deep into the flames, searching to see if any of the book remained. As my eyes focused on the spot where the book had been, I could see the remaining embers, glowing brightly like elongated rubies. Sparks flew into the blackness surrounding me, like the outburst from a firework night sparkler. White smoke tinged with grey steadily twirled into the air, steered by the breeze that the heat had created.

I looked again into the vivid flames, attracted by the sudden flaring of a golden flame which exploded into life; like an erupting volcano. The golden finger of flame crept towards an untouched corner of the book, like molten lava stretching out onto virgin earth. As the lava consumed the final remnant of the book, the heat from the fire caused cool tears to seep from my reddened eyes and surge down my hot skin like a river in its infancy. These tears clouded my vision and as I looked again into the prancing flames I saw the image of a familiar face. The face was of my Grandmother, the colours from the blaze tingeing her customary sallow appearance with an autumnal hue. This unexpected vision gave me the confirmation I needed that burning the book had been a necessary task. I tried to clear my hazy vision and as the tears dried on my flushed face, the familiar image was engulfed by the fire.

I turned and walked away from the unbridled fire. I felt its warmth on the back of my body and could hear the furious spitting and crackling as it continued to burn. The flames projected an orange tone into the night, which created a backdrop for my journey. As I ventured further and further away from the fire and towards the park gates the heat on my back subsided and the noise of the fire lessened as if a door was closing behind me. As I reached the rusted iron park gate my fatigued body had cooled to match the temperature of the night, I turned one last time to watch the fire which by now had settled to a calm glow, and then turned again to continue my lonely journey home.