A Flickering Hope of Home

I could sense the pandemonium about to be unleashed below me, seeing now, the tight little knot on the horizon causing this chaos. I stared ravenously at the pile of fuel beside me, mimicking Ralph’s insatiable glare towards the horizon. He was longing for home, while I was awaiting the rays of the sun to beam down through thin glass, and ignite a flame within me. I knew his gaze would soon travel upward, hoping to find a signal uncoiling, promising his return home, but as I felt the last of my hot, red embers turn to black, I knew he would be disappointed.
* * * *
The vibrant hue of deep red caught my attention as my gaze met a familiar face transformed by clay and charcoal stolen from my ashes. The boy’s freckles had vanished, now covered with white on one cheek and red on the other; his identity masked by a layer of white tinting his eye-socket. He saved the charcoal for a terrifying affect, slashing it boldly from right ear to left jaw. Hiding from his real identity, and liberated from shame and self-consciousness, Jack disregarded his responsibilities and fled toward the prized pigs. Unable to resist the compelling force of the mask, the other boys chased after him, ready and eager to hunt. I felt hopeless as I watched the dazzle paint drag the attention away from me and towards Jack. I, no longer a priority, was slowing diminishing, my smoke had withered to a thin coil and my flames were merely rising above the wood.
* * * *
Thump, thump, thump, thump. I could hear the sound of the slow, even footsteps coming up the mountain. The steps became a rhythm, making the uneven thump, crack, and snap, of Piggy’s feet as he stumbled over ragged clothes and broken sticks, an outcast among the footsteps. I could hear the terror in Ralph’s voice as he cried for Piggy’s specs, not knowing whether to run back or to save his breath, and put the fate of his survival in my hands. Ralph, not knowing that the boys tending my flames were untrustworthy, and had therefore abandoned their duties to go hunting, bounded forward and continued up the mountain with powerful, and purposeful movements. As Ralph’s strides pushed him closer to me, I sat on the mountain, alone, with no one fueling me, and allowing me to produce the thick curls of continuous blackness needed to save them. I watched as the little dot on the horizon moved farther and farther away, taking the hope of rescue with it. I turned my focus beneath me, desperately wishing I could call for Ralph, call for the specs, call for… someone or something that would keep the faces of disappointment away from my dead flames. The huffs and puffs of the racing boys became louder and louder until I could even hear the short, sharp breathes of Piggy’s asthma.
With a few final strides, Ralph stopped running and was towering over me, looking down with frustration and fear in his eyes. It finally dawned on him, what he should have realized at the bottom of the mountain: I was dead, smokeless and unable to call to the smoke of home that was beckoning from the horizon. I watched as the waves engulfed the last wisp of smoke on the horizon, taking with it the call from home that was no longer summoning my flames.
* * * *
I devoured the brittle, dry pieces of wood voraciously. My warm embers now red and hot ignited the center, consuming the crisp fuel on all sides. My flames swallowed dead leaves; heating them till they shriveled and turned to dust, then spitting them back out into even spirals of blackness. Soon, my flames crept forward on the ground, consuming anything in my way. I grew wider and brighter, soaring over the trees and leaves, and taking control of the island. I felt the power of my flames as they released thick, dark curls of smoke, which hovered over the island like menacing storm clouds. I stole all the oxygen surrounding me from the lungs of the fleeing savages, sparing nothing and no one. I heard the snap, crackle, and pop of weakening wood, as a tree, taken by my flames, crumbled under the heat. With every inch of ground I lit, I accelerated, terrorizing the skimpy legs trying to outrun my danger. Snap, crack, smash, two more trees came plummeting to the earth as my flames crackled, spraying sparks at the heels of the savages, and then erupting into a figure feared more than the beast. A flash of pink rushed in front of me, running in terror of my advancing flames. I could hear the vibration of a heartbeat coming from the undergrowth ahead of me. The vibration sped up, and then the body belonging to the beat burst forward, running in panic away from the burning forest. I pushed onward, circling around the island, and forming a horseshoe around the boys.
Engulfing most of the forest, I accelerated, forcing the boys off the island, wishing to end this war for them. My flames consumed a bush, barely missing Ralph’s legs as he sprinted toward the beach, no longer taking the other boys as a threat. The spears stopped flying, as I, now the only priority, closed in on the boys, pushing them towards the awaiting ocean. I guzzled the remaining oxygen between my flames and my smoke as I finally burst into the open air and onto the beach. I lit the tops of the coconut trees and my flames swung across the beach, roaring in excitement at the sight of the pristine white uniform, with gold accents reflecting the light of my enormous flames.
The smoke hung over the island like a blanket, signaling to the world that the war had ended and it was time to go home. I refused to stop burning until the boys were forced onto the ship, assuring that they were safe and I had succeeded in calling to home. I, unlike the first time, was in control and no longer reliant on the savages to provide fuel for my smoke signal. My embers burned bright and hot as I stared down at Ralph’s relieved face, no longer disappointed by a dead fire. I heard a crackle, as the last of the coconut trees turned to black and collapsed to the earth. My flames boomed like thunder, overpowering the tremendous cries of grief, which had overcome the boys. My smoke loomed over the weeping boys as they cried for the end of innocence, unaware of the war brought to them by the return of home. The last of the boys were pressured off the island by my impending flames, leaving the casualties of the war burning in my heat, while they traveled to the comfort of the real war at home.


Casey Horey, Age 14, Grade 8, Trinity School, Silver Key

This entry was written by NYC Scholastic Awards and published on September 24, 2013 at 10:00 am. It’s filed under Flash Fiction, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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