December 10th, 2003
My frozen hands tremble as I fumble to work my little butane lighter. The tips of my fingers are raw and bloodied already, and I wince in pain with every failed attempt to spark a flame. Finally, I achieve a jittery fire which impatiently dances atop the lighter. I carefully lower it to my pile of kindling, and the fire cautiously creeps out and spreads until it is a healthy size. I watch it for a while, tending to it until it’s strong. Now, there is enough light to see around me, and enough heat to survive the night.
Here, deep in the forest, with everything frozen and quiet, the only light and sound comes from my fire. It is the whole world to me right now. It dances and sings in a raspy, crackling voice to me and I am happy to enjoy its company. I can almost imagine that I can hear it whispering and babbling happily.
“It’s so cold.”
I must be tired. I’m hearing things. The popping and sizzling of the fire is really beginning to sound like words. Maybe I’m just lonely out here. Maybe I just really want someone to talk to, so I’m hearing coherence in the chaos of the fire. I could have sworn I heard it say -
“It’s so cold.”
There it was again, softer this time. I lean closer to the blaze and its warmth caresses my face, setting me at ease. I’m listening intently now, anxious for what I’ll hear next.
“If you let me die tonight, you‘ll die tonight.”
There was no mistaking it. It said it clearly, albeit in the raspy, singsong voice of a fire consuming wet branches. Yet even as the words become clearer, they become softer, drawing me in closer to make out the next statement. The warmth splashes over me as I inch my face closer, and the frost that had settled in my bones begins to thaw. The fire is speaking constantly now, chattering quietly to itself, and I can only pick out bits of words and portions of sentences.
“Get closer. Watch closely. If I die, you die. I’m the only thing keeping you alive. Pay attention!”
The fire ends its tirade with a loud snap of burning wood and then is quiet. I lean in even closer, eager to receive whatever secret is coming next. The heat is no longer pleasant. It sears me as the flames playfully lick at my face. The fire is being coy, teasing me with its silence to see how long I will wait on it. The smoke reaches into my nostrils and the embers float carelessly from the heart of the fire into my eyes, which are now welling with ash. I don’t care. I just want to hear what comes next.
“Get closer. Pay attention. Watch closely, now more than ever…”
December 17th, 2003
“In other news, the charred body of an unidentified man was found deep in the mountainous forests east of the city. Investigators have stated that the man appeared to have caught fire while sitting by his campfire and, inexplicably, did not appear to have made any effort to extinguish himself. His burned remains were found, frozen in position by the icy temperatures, leaning over the ashes of a long extinguished fire. In what is most perhaps the most bizarre detail of the grisly scene, the man is reported to have been found with an ‘expectant‘ smile still on his face.”
By David Feuling at www.ss-comic.com