7 March 2018 flash fiction: Fire Flower
It burned my lungs-scalding them, choking me in turn. I huddled the bundle closer to my chest, urging the air to remain as clean as possible for her. My daughter, three months old, was strapped to my chat in a large clothe-blanket sling. Yellow, now turning dangerous shades of grey and black. A tree snapped and fell 30 feet away from me.
My husband, child and I were going for a walk when it started, escalating beyond compare. The fire, I mean. This damned fire…We’d been walking quite a ways-lost in the innocent ecstasy of nature and laughter. My husband, Ben, picked wild daisies for me and stuck them in my hair. They fell out a while ago, each like a memory flooding into me strong as the blaze and then crushing me with sorrow equally strong.
He’s dead. He…I tripped over a rock and caught a hand on the ground hard, sending needles of pain through my wrist and forearm. My child, sweet child Katy, whimpered and sobbed softly.
“Hush, hush,” I pleaded, “save air. Save air. Preserve it, baby…child, hush.” My good child quieted to just fearful whimpers, likely listening to the rapid music my heart was making for her. The fire drew closer. Another branch fell-20 feet from me this time.
I pulled the corner of the wrap around my mouth, hoping to keep smoke out. This smoke that hovered and blew for assumed miles across the ground, feeding off the undergrowth. I had thankfully worn running shoes, but the ground was growing so hot that the rubber burned and began melting, sticking to my socks. My jeans had ripped from clingy branches-hands that tried to detain me. Failed, for me. For him…
I approached what looked like a stream, but a stream that had collected grease and other residues from a factory near the forest. Had I been just exploring, I’d have been disgusted. Instead, I trudged in, slowing down only so as not to stumble and douse Katy. It was lukewarm from the fire, but rocks running up the banks kept the flames away. A tree fell on this edge ten feet away. I hugged Katy to my chest and began to cry.
Ben was running for a while behind me when his shoe caught on a branch. A tree, burned at the base, began to fall.
“Run!” I closed my eyes to the blaze, desperately urging the image out of my mind-his body collapsing behind a wall of flaming branches—his muffled screams penetrating my sanity until all went numb, and only the feeling of the now scalding water remained.
I was a blur of disoriented flesh when firefighters saw me locked so decidedly in place in the stream. They took me to the hospital where both Katy and I were sent immediately to urgent care. Family was called. Well-wishers came to pay respect. I stared my deadened eyes on my scarred body straight ahead, deaf to the talk of a “heroic mother” and “brave woman” and blind to the unsympathetically unknowing looks of detestable pity.
Katy survived after being in urgent care for over a week. I stayed in critical condition for two and the hospital for two months.
Ben visited me in my memories, little daisies flooding into me, then disappearing for another day…
Until they all fell away one by one into the mouth of the fire.