Kate E. Lore

The flame tastes rock but they don’t like it. Spit and sputter, they leave behind a black trail burn, an imitation of shadow, crude like a child’s drawing. The dead leaves are good, and paper, but it all crumbles into nothing, dissolve on the tongue like cotton candy. Gone too quick. Wood is best. Sticks make a good snack. But a log is a full meal.

This fire started from a match. Friction heat. Speed against grain, and a little potassium chlorate. They fell down with nothing but a thin strip of cardboard to cling to, falling through the air too much too fast to swallow. And then suddenly on the ground, in the dark, nearly smothered by all this material they didn’t know was edible just yet. They were still too young, too weak. But some chemicals came together to help, and a new spark was made and was lowered down a savoir. Deus ex machina. This little flame joined that little flame and together they became one and together they grew, and together they ate, and together they grew.

The flame swells and strengthens until it is a blaze of raging fire. They never imagined they could get this big, they never dreamed they could grow so tall. The fire flexes and roars, spewing black smoke up into the sky, raining down ash-like splash that can’t stop.

The grass never meant for this to happen. The tall skinny strands of green leaf had been growing this way all summer. Just trying to enjoy the sun, trying to relax and bask with the best view possible.

Grass did not like the sharp bite of fire. But grass can’t run away, there was nothing they could do.

Fire caught and spread, realizing now they can move, the fire sought off in every direction. How big can we get? How far can we go?

Fire found bushes. Fire found trees. Fire got bigger. Fire found houses. Fire saw people running, crying, coughing, shielding themselves, falling down, coughing, coughing. The fire wants to stop but they cannot. They keep growing and growing. The heat is too much even for them now. It feels like a fever. Like delirium. Is this really happening?

Birds fly into the sky. They scream warning. The fire roars now in agony. Help me! Stop me! They swallow the park ranger’s office. They mow down the campgrounds. They gobble up cars like scavengers to a carcass. Picking them clean of carbon, leaving behind a metal frame skeleton, stained with ash, metal warped bent by the heat.

Sirens wail and humans come in their metal flying birds. They go up up into the clouds and set down rain. And It chokes them, a slow drowning smother.

At the last minute, they are afraid. They reach out gripping for bark. But the rain is slick, slides down, softly lifts their touch from its perch, and puts them to rest, slow and hazy as sleep, that kiss goodnight, soft and wet.

Kate E. LoreKate E. Lore is an award-winning creative writer, artist, and freelance creator. Kate is openly queer with the preferred pronouns she/they. Kate is diagnosed neurodivergent with autism, ADHD, and PTSD-related anxiety. Born to a single widowed mother and raised in a low-income household, Kate is the youngest of four, the second to graduate high school, first bachelor’s degree, and the first MFA in the family. Kate E. Lore has had many publications for fiction, creative nonfiction, and graphic narrative featured in various literary magazines, including Under the Gum Tree, Longridge Review, Bending Genres, Door is a Jar, and Black Warrior Review.

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