Ashes

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Remembering a great fire, yes, indeed. Second and topmost floor, first hallway off the main stairs, apartment 21B. I remember it well. The door was an off-white color, yes, with rusted hinges and a faulty lock. Otherwise intact, right? Smoke billowed from under the door into the hallway, spilling down the stairs in solemn density, obscuring every tacky surface you would expect from a low-income apartment complex. It was four o’clock in the morning; your timing was near perfect. No one would have noticed until much later, until much too late. It was everywhere, was it not? The fire, I mean. Yes, it must have been, for I was there too. Although groggy, my memory seems coherent enough to make some sense. Great, orange tongues licked at your furniture in hungry destruction, bordered on only mild agitation for time allowed it to graze. It swallowed your heavy curtains as if drinking from a tap, for heaven’s sake. Yet, it found the courtesy to paint the walls a new shade of black. Must have been some kind of personal humor? The smoke, now that was interesting. It never came down to greet you as an old friend, as I expected, but churned across the ceiling like a massive ocean of soot. It only waded down to meet the floor when it reached the foyer, pushing itself out from under the door. Had you figured that one out yet? I thought not. I saw that Fire’s prowess astounded you beyond the point of no return, a return you were not willing to make. Am I right? Yes. You sat in the middle of the living room, your stare fixated on Fire’s mesmeric abundance. Like a fool. The intense heat singed the fine hairs on your arms, legs, neck, and you contemplated whether Fate understood your interference. You took control of your own destiny and showed it what you were capable of, without its help, of course. I mean, Chance or Fate is mere words to describe the outcome of conscious choice predated by previous actions, thus completing a designed series of events. Am I right . . . or wrong? Right? Wrong? No, wait, call me a fatalist, but the future is inevitable, my friend, no matter what choices you make to try to change that. Your fate was sealed the moment you were born. You started the fire, you decided to sit in the middle of the living room amidst it all, you decided on the outcome of your future, although the outcome was not yours to create. Just as your wife chose hers. Just as the doctors decided to end your daughter’s suffering from cancer before everything started to fall apart. The very beginning on the sequence of tragic events that would end with your inevitable future. Except, you and me both never imagined a liberator to arrive in time to come and change your predetermined quest, have we? That is understandable, at most. I get it. Inevitable. Your wife and child. I know how much you loved them, man. Hell, I have never seen such a love in my entire life, to be honest. I also understood why you wanted to end by the means of fire. Fire is what consumes a soul when loving so deeply, am I right? There was something symbolic you wanted to prove in memory of their existence, yes? I get that too, you sneaky bastard. In all the years of life on earth, misery has never acclimated to the weak of heart. We all know that. It never showed signs of remorse to the ones who could give their heart away as freely as you would give a sucker to a child. Yet, there you were, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the living room, rocking your torso back and forth with the gleam of firelight caught upon the surface of your tears, a flickering smile dangling from the corners of your lips, the strongest man I have ever met. Up until the world around you exploded with fragments of shimmering glass. I knew that you were so absorbed within your grief, the wanting and the expectation of seeing your beloved wife and daughter again that you did not at once notice the fiery bird swooping in from outside, its beady eyes fixated on you, its feathery body completely engulfed with fire of many a shade. In comparison with the bird, the fire you instigated looked like the shadow a big tree would make on a lovely, sunny day. Yes, it did. Magically, it started to feel like a protective shadow too. Instead of scorching hot tongues of fury, the flames quickly spread over the carpet, engulfed you, and tickled rather than burned. I remember the feeling. It came as a surprise. A surprise. I recall the glowing orange colors turning into a light blue hue with white sparks flying off its whipping ends as the big bird called out in . . . was it alarm or confusion? A spectacular entrance for our intervening friend, nonetheless. Not even Inevitability saw that coming, did it? Did it? No, it did not. The future, your predetermined future you created, screamed at us, at the bird, in raging fury. It wanted us so badly. I felt its rage burning although not fatally so. The bird was there. It was there and it was protecting us, do you remember? Like an angel, but without the glitter. It swooped around the room in wide arches; spread its enormous wings even wider before it settled its huge form over every exposed surface, dousing the blue flames with its own, before everything disappeared in a great flash of white light. . . When I came to, there were ashes everywhere. Someone was knocking on the front door. No, more like pounding with enormous fists or hammers, screaming your name. That must have been the crazy Landlord. Must have been, yes. I saw you lying on the floor, covered with ashes and debris. All your furniture was gone, unfortunately. That was your own doing, of course. I have no sympathy in that regard, idiot; however, you survived. Uhuh, you did. You were the lucky one who made it. Only luck could have interrupted the inescapable consequence of the expected. Luck is chance. Chance is fate. I saw the realization in your eyes when you rose from the ashes, probably light-headed what with all that was happening, probably irritated with the hammering on the front door, as well. Just a little bit, maybe. In the end, you knowing as well as I, that fate has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, erasing what was, opening a door to what is, and perhaps constitute to the wellbeing of its occupants in the meantime. It cares for the beginning of something new even though you cannot see that. It cares for ends too. Fate is I, friend, and your denial made it my belief. The Phoenix broke that bout of confusion, yes. Why? I could think of only one reason, friend. Because she loved you. I recognized her, and I know you did too. We owe it to the woman, man. It is not your time yet. She was not part of the design but she made herself fit for long enough to save you. Yes, okay, I will stop talking. Put on some clothes and think of an excuse to explain this mess. Go on, live your life.