Saturday, November 5

Chapter 36:

Ironman pt. 2

His eyes blinked, but he could see nothing. He wondered if this was what happened when your life ran out – utter darkness. He tried to turn his head, and heard it scrape along the remains of a burnt roof joist. He moved his hands and legs and feet. He pushed against the burnt boards, now cool to the touch, and found it was not utter darkness, but only a moonless night. He sighed out steam: he still held water and a fire. He wasn’t dead.

The sound of his pushing timber and ash off of himself woke a dog nearby who began barking. Peter quickly stood and looked around himself. There was none stirring in the town. He walked as quietly as he could over the ashes of the hut, and towards the edge of the village nearest the woods. He would go there and wait for his end to come. He didn’t deserve to live, and he knew it, but was unable to drain himself or put out his own fire. He felt like a coward as he slunk into the forest – a condemned murderer.

The woods obscured all light in the sky, but he opened his burner door and let his dying embers light the way deeper and deeper away from the village. He looked and saw that he was down to his last coal. It wouldn’t be long now, he thought. He let out steam in a long sigh that culminated in a low whistle. At the sound, he saw something flash in the bushes. He looked, and saw another and another. They were small pale-green lights that went on and off at random places and in no particular order. He watched them dance through the night about him. Like... like... he had no words to describe them. One landed on his hand and lit up. It was a fly of fire, thought Peter, and he watched it walk along his hand, then leap up and dance in the night glowing on and off.
The woods around him were full of the fireflies that night, and he walked along with them, opening and closing his furnace-door as though he were one of them. They had no fear of him, nor did he wish to find out if they were flesh and bone underneath. They passed ten minutes flickering together in the night: they with their green glow, and he with his orange.

He was feeling tired, and so he sat down against the stump of a large tree whose branches seemed to fill the entire sky. Through the leaves, Peter could see stars begin to flicker like the fireflies. He stared up into the sky until his eyes closed, and he drifted off into a fitful sleep: the steady puffing of steam slowly becoming less and less as the night progressed and the stars took their course across the night sky. The sky grew lighter in the east, little by little, as the fire in his burner faded, until an orange glow lit the rim of the world: a great ball of fire rising into the day to give its warmth and glow to all: a perfect example of design and function, and his fire was gone. Softly the sun rose into the heavens, scattering all darkness and fear from the village. Babies cried as her rays struck their tired eyes. Roosters crowed out their song saying the night had ended with all its monsters and woes. Sheep began to bleat for their straw and donkeys bray for oats. Cows begged to be milked, and life had begun again in the village.

A small child nestled to her mother’s breast with one arm hanging limply at its side. Her mother rocked her gently and crooned softly into the child’s ear as it rested: it had been a long night for the child and mother as, from time to time, they thought they would lose each other. But with the help of a shepherd, the wound had been stopped from bleeding, and the child had a chance of survival it could last the night. It had lost its left arm’s use, but they had not amputated it for fear of a more serious infection. The child had been in a stupor, and had ceased crying, but her mother had not. Both clung to the hope that all was not lost, and in this glorious morning, both had triumphed.

"I see she lasted the night," the shepherd commented to the grandmother of the child as he entered the hut. "And so did the child."

"Aye," said the grandmother. "She is a fighter as were her father, God rest his soul."

"Anna is no name for such a one," said the mother with a tired voice of one half waking from a dream, and half still in the other world, "but she will be named for the one who spared her life: death himself. Shallon."


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