I watch as the smoke rises, silvery-grey wisps twirling and dancing through the air. Waves of anguish ripple through the mass and crash violently against the iron gates. Some struggle in vain; others hang their heads in despair. What’s the use in crying? I want to shout at them. Flames and fury, death and destruction. I could have done it differently, but I would have ended up here all the same.
“Open up!” A gruff voice commands. The gates creak open. Immediately, I know that it’s over. This is where I will spend eternity: in hot ribbons of heat and melting gas.
The truth is that I’m scared. All my life, I’ve been scared. Scared of fingers that press too deep into my skin, scared of fists that leave scars. Scared of sharp, gleaming knives that cut too close.
Scared of the perpetuity and timelessness of oblivion.
But most of all, I’m scared of—
I’m roughly shoved through the gates amongst echoes of panicked cries and last words melting softly. Immediately, we are cloaked in darkness. Not the kind of darkness that caresses you sweetly, the kind that lulls you into a deep sleep until you are blissfully unaware.
No, the darkness we are in seeps into our bodies, caging us and grasping us and suffocating us with its claws. Pernicious and malevolent. Unforgiving, relentless—eternal.
The thing about pain is that it demands to be felt, as said by one writer or another. What starts off as a kindling curls around you like a serpent around its prey, whispering saccharine fantasies and well-spun lies.
You never know until it’s too late.
The crackling flares shoot smoldering embers out. One lands on my skin, burning until I’m left with a bloody, dark spot. Red colors the floor beneath me. I should be used to the pain—a familiarity I’ve long been acquainted with. I’m not.
Like a flood, onyx heat engulfs me. I watch as the sparks paint a spell of cinder and ashes. Fire—a gift from the gods sent to protect, light up, warm our souls. So exquisite, yet so deadly.
The gates shut behind us.
The darkness is freeing, greeting me like an old companion. The flames curl gently, flickering and weaving, embroidering themselves into my flesh. I know that it’ll all be over soon, and I will return to the dust I was born from.
In the distance, I hear the calling of my name.
“Order number seventeen, large Pepperoni pizza in the oven!”
Death awaits me. I welcome it with open arms.