Laughter and Tears

A thunderclap.

No, a thunder applause. A raucous, thunderous applause. And it's all for me.

He approves of my good work, he does. The man up there, up there with his hosts of standing ovators, for surely my performance has rendered them upright from their seats. A smile lights my face as lightning strikes.

The fire below me grows larger, consuming the wooding outbuildings like tinder. The unusually dry season had worked in my favour, obviously a sign of his helping hand in the matter. Surely, then, he wanted this. The coincidences, the portents, the booming thunder all proved this now.

I laugh, giddy, from the hilltop as flames creep up the bell tower, clawing at the eaves of the steeple. The bright fingers dislodge dark tiles, the tar between them bubbling and melting in the heat. I cannot hear the clatter as they fall over the occasional claps of thunder, the cackle of the cruel flames, the piercing screams that now punctuate the night.

They all deserved this, to be consumed by bright flames. Each one was unclean, hypocritical, a wold in sheep's clothing. The had pulled the wool over their eyes, though, those sinners. They would live eternally as they now died.

Rain begins to fall, delicately, almost a fine mist this evening. It falls from the dark sky, the droplets illuminated intermittently by lightning strikes.

Could he be... crying?

I panic. Maybe he didn't want this. Maybe I read the signs wrong? Maybe, maybe the thunder was his heaving shoulders as he cried for the loss of his children.

There's a heat at my back so I turn.

The fire has made it around the hill, the dry grass accelerating the spread to a sprinter's pace. With the ring now closed the flames advance up the hill. I can feel their heat, hear their cruel intentions. Eyes wide, I scramble up a tree, praying that I might be saved from the fire's frightful embrace.

No, not now, I plead. Not like this!

The rain falls more heavily now, but it cannot quell the flame's hunger. The water ascends as steam, mingling with the choking smoke. My own tears join those of him above.

A cacophony of sound to my right sends shivers down my spine, the brass bell of the tower tumbling to the earth below. The screams have died with their bearers.

There's a sudden flash, a moment of intense heat, and then I'm falling. I cannot hear the accompanying boom, cannot hear the mirthful laughter of the flames: my ears are filled with my own shrill screams of terror.

The End

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