As I run, the wild blazing in my lungs gives way to a glowing smoulder...
As I run, the wild blazing in my lungs gives way to a glowing smoulder. My initial flare of energy is dying down as I settle into a pace that I can maintain. I have to take care not to be consumed too soon. I can all too easily imagine my skeleton dusted with paper-like ashes; kisses as black as pitch imprisoned behind the bars of my stark ribs. Yes, I must be careful.
I can almost feel the shadow of his anger chasing me. It’s thick, dark and suffocating, like smoke carried atop the summer breeze. He’s watching. He’s waiting for me to falter so that he can scoop me up and take me home like an exhausted child. My rebellion hasn’t been extinguished yet, though.
Red skirts billow and bare feet strike dry earth. Avoiding the piercing knife-like stalks that jut from the cracked ground, I race across the field he never lets me work in. The crops were cut many days ago. Their remains have dried into rigid, grasping fingers with daggers for nails. They reach for my exposed ankles and attempt to jab at the smooth soles of my feet but I am too good at this game. I have played it too long and traced this path too many times. I don’t even have to look down to know the safe havens for my footsteps. Looking out at the horizon, they appear to be nothing more than a yellow haze melting into the red, gold and amber sky. I am Wildfire. I dance through the ninth circle of hell.
I’m so close. I know that it’s not far to go now. I know what’s coming. I know when and how and exactly how it will feel. I know the saline waves that will douse the flames and bathe the burns. My spine is suddenly full of pins in anticipation. Their frigid tips prickle my skin and just for a moment the heat is snatched from my being, like a candle flame stolen by a stray ribbon of night air. It is a momentary relief.
The ground drops from sight a little way ahead of me and I turn into the thicket my husband believes I hide in. Errant vines entangle themselves with my limbs and tug at my hair. Stalks snare my skirts. I am wildfire. No bonds can hold me.
My shadowed path comes into view. My little trail with walls of soil and a floor of stone. My pathway to heaven. I see the familiar tiny break in the foliage and the narrowest of walkways sloping down and fading into the gloom. Starting down, I relax my pace ever so slightly, knowing exactly how much I need to slow by so that I can keep myself from slipping and sliding to my death. Oh, I’ve misjudged it before. I’ve grazed knees, sliced palms and torn holes in my sides on the vicious rocky edges. Stains of the darkest maroon red still linger in the most hidden of nooks.
Eventually, ragged cliff stone gives way to smooth slate, worn and weathered by whispering waves, beneath my scratched and scarred feet. The dirt walls give way to my stone bay; my walled garden. A stronger wind winds its way across my scalp and through the strands of my hair, lifting them in greeting to the grey water, which shushes me in reply. The salt sears the back of my throat and chokes the sob of relief that lingers there. The sky has turned to charcoal overhead, the flames it held earlier all but dead. Towering walls rise up behind me and nothing but the amniotic safety of the sea stretches out before me.
I’ve read about other places where water meets land. Some have sand, of the kind my husband uses for some of his building work. I’m glad that my heaven doesn’t. I’d only have to brush it off in the foliage before I drag myself back. I don’t want to think about returning yet, though. All I want to think about is the sea. When I’m here, I forget his dark little house peeking at me from behind the hills or the glowering man behind the window glass. I prefer it that way. Whilst I’m here, I don’t have to be his wife. I am carved from the stone and born from the waves.
The soft pads of my feet hum with a rush of blood from their violent flight. Each passing second in my private heaven brings only relief; the chill of the stone seeps into my skin and draws me into its depths, accepting me as its own kind. The flames retreat but aren’t put out. I may be a pillar of stone but I’m molten at my core. I gaze outwards at the prismatic sheen dances on the white froth that is carried on the waves that follow each other forward, falter and fall back. Silver lines glimmer when the water rushes over them. Today, being stone isn’t far enough. I don’t want to just be impervious to the flames, I want to extinguish them.
I push forward. My slate limbs groan in protest as I walk forward until the swirling waters creeps up my shins, swallows my knees and licks my brittle hips. The sky drops large, dark spots of rain into the water around me which ripples and attempts to throw them back. Still I walk onwards. The water swirls up, encircling my waist and leaching the heat from my heart. Froth tastes my fingers and trails kisses up my arms to the nape of my neck as my hair is pulled straight in the water, my dark waves mixing with the sea’s. The blackest night takes hold of me and the lights die both in the sky and within me. As the darkness takes over, I am calm waters.