I sat at my thick banquet table.  Cool night air danced in my hair.  I another great year, another great feast.  I ran my fingers over the cold speckled stone of the table.  The food was warm and rich.  I could tell my friends were impressed.  A large fire housed in ornate stone, warmed my guests.  There was laughter and the clanking of expensive silverware.  My dogs waited beneath the tables in perfect obedience.  I love the taste of meat, and so do they.  Even though they usually have to settle for cold scraps.  I savor the warm juice, and the way it melts in my mouth and makes my belly feel full.  I think I ate more than I should have, again.

Later that evening, I look down on my open court banquet hall.  Every night I see the same wounded beggar.  Something is wrong with him.  I don’t know what.  The servants are drunk again.  They don’t see him stealing food.  My dogs are licking the sores on his body.  There is no meat left, if there were, my dogs would kill him.  I’d enjoy seeing that.  But, all that is left is cold hard bread.  Sawdust really.  I make sure not to leave left overs.  My eyes catch the last glow from the dying fire.  The blackened wood has orange lights dancing on it.  He looks like a dying ghost crawling on my stonework.  Leaving rank blood in the wake of his crawl.  I wish he would go away and respect my privacy.

In the night, my body surrenders its last breath.  The morning finds me dead.  My spirit is flung off of the earth.  In a moment, I see it spinning away from me in vast cold space.  I think I am falling, but I am being pulled.  I am given no time to take in what I see.  I feel like I have fallen into my fire at home.  It is the size of an endless ocean.  I hit the surface hard, it is thick like molten rock.  Churning and boiling.  I am bounced and tossed.  On the horizon there is a distant light.  I scream in pain, as I swim though fire.  I arrive to a rocky face.  I look up into the sky.  In the clouds, I can see people at a banquet.  They are far away.  A vast darkness separates us.  A man, I have never seen before but somehow recognize is holding the beggar.  They have water.  I shout, and shout.  Somehow they hear me.  I ask, simply for a drop of water.  My mouth is so dry.  A burning, sticky, hot kind of dry.  I feel the heat of the fire.  Melted rock, falls from my lips.  Toxic gas vapors swirl out of my nose from the back of my throat.  Why don’t I ever burn up.  Doesn’t this nightmare end?  I am locked in a moment of pain.  I keep thinking my skin will melt off, but it never does.  I am trapped in the moment when fire first finds flesh, and bites.

The man lets the beggar go.  Somehow he can walk.  Somehow, in the night…  He must have died too.  He looks fit.  Younger.  Alive.  The man tells me I can’t go back to warn the living, I can’t leave.  I must stay, wrapped in eternities blanket of fire.  I am a orange ember trapped twisting in burning rock.  Pain, shouting, and flame are all I have left in  my new reality.  I burn in the privacy of death.

Copyright © 2017 Zachary W Gilbert