In the rear view mirror she saw the light. There was a flash and then total black. At a count of five, just like she was told, a wave rolled across the car shaking it from somewhere deep inside. So deep that the atoms it was formed by might have re-arranged themselves.

Mags took a deep breath and thought about the sleeping pill, the good one, resting on the scarlet velvet lining in the small silver filigreed box zippered inside the breast pocket of her jacket.

The antique box had been passed down several generations or more. She could never remember how many. But was annoyingly reminded of the exact number by her leech of a brother every time she lifted the tiny latch to find her way to numbness.

Gace would always remind Mags how lucky she was to be the one to whom it was gifted. More than once she told him to shove it. She never asked for the box. She never did anything notable to deserve the box.

She just happened to be the oldest of the living grand daughters of the right and honorable Madame Enid Constance Margaret Crone. Besides carrying one of her names, all Mags did was to be born, not by her own choosing, but by the heat of passion between her mother and a stranger in the Spring of the Fire Moon. That was it.

She felt conspicuous in the open field. He told her she had nothing to worry about. The field was bordered on one side by a row of mountains and three quarters by a stand of old pine trees. There was a road, if you knew where to look, that would take her through the stand and back to safety. But she needed to be far enough away from the trees in case any of them tumbled from the force of the explosion.

Then she saw it. The flames. Actually, it began as a red glow on the outside of the trees behind her. It was the direction she entered the forest to get to the open field. It was the edge of town that was now engulfed, flames dancing high into the air.

It was the last part of the ceremony to commence. And she would complete it by removing herself without notice. She pressed the button and the car started. Electric cars were quiet, silent. She wouldn’t be heard. And the car was small enough that it would leave hardly a trace of its presence once it disappeared between the long legs of the green giants.

She didn’t even need to turn on the lights. The moon was full and the sky was a void of black so deep that the stars seemed like a shaker of salt had spread it contents across a black granite tabletop.

Mags rolled down the windows to smell the burn. She loved fire. That’s why fire was always her job. She knew how tricky it was. It could be a hot lover licking lightly at your face or turn on a dime to devour you crisp and black without a second thought.

She often questioned her demise. Would she prefer a joyful blue and yellow flame dancing in the wind accidentally touching the fringe of her scarf running up her chest, around her neck, scorching her with its playfulness? Or did she want to be the diva tied to a stake robed in flowing silk teasing the blaze to engulf her in a passionate caress until she was mad with heat and flame, singed to nothing but ash?

In the end, it wouldn’t really matter. Mags knew fire would be the main player in her finale.

As she pulled into the forest, the sirens began to drown out the lyrical crackle of her

“Bastards. Let it burn.”

She wanted, just once, for them to let the fire burn itself out. Leave behind what only what was vital. And that would be nothing.

To start anew. That’s what this was all about.

Mags reached inside her jacket to check that the zipper was closed. Then she tapped the pocket to be sure the precious box was still safe.

She learned her lesson once. She left the zipper open. She thought the box would be safe just tucked inside the pocket. But after touching the match to the fuel marinated twine, she tripped during her exit.

She didn’t notice the large stone. Unexpected cloud cover made it darker than she liked to work in and she didn’t just see the stone. She tripped as the line of fire raced towards the tall pile of leaves carefully arranged near the low overhang of the roof.

Mags picked herself up and continued on her way. As she was brushing herself off, she didn’t feel the box right above her left breast where it usually rested perfectly inside the jacket pocket. She turned and in the light of the now blazing pile she could see the glint reflecting in the pyre’s light.

Mags’ stomach knotted. She knew she couldn’t leave it. Not only because they could trace her to it, Madame’s initials were gracefully etched into it and everyone for miles knew what those initials meant. But she needed the pill. The pill was her reward and she would sleep, finally, for at least a day and part of a night. That was what she deserved, not the fucking box.

She was out of control. The plan wasn’t going her way and when she lost control, she couldn’t think straight. She also had less control of her body. Her chest tightened. She couldn’t take a deep breath and that meant there was less oxygen in her brain to help it work. Just like fire needing oxygen to burn, she needed a clear head to make smart decisions. She stumbled and fell again just as she reached the box. Luckily she gathered herself and made a clean getaway. That’s why tonight the pill was carefully zipped into the pocket of her jacket.

Mags stepped on the gas and was swallowed by the giants. Half way through the woods, Mags turned on the headlights, just as planned. Without a moment to think otherwise, she slammed on the breaks just in time. He was standing directly in front of the car. It was a miracle she didn’t hit him.

Pulling on the emergency break, Mags pushed herself out of the car like a wildfire
chasing down a hill.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

She slammed the door shut.

“If I hadn’t turned on the lights I would have never seen you standing there.” A big smile crossed her face. “You bastard!”

Mags jumped up wrapping her arms around the man’s neck and her legs around his middle. He grabbed her and they fell to the ground enjoying one other’s company and one another’s passion. She didn’t know if it was the heat of the fire or just her fire for him, but she thought of the diva at the stake and surrendered.

When he was finally able to pull Mags off him, he sat up and smiled at his protege. She rolled onto her back and stared at what sky she could see through the trees. They didn’t need to be quiet. The fire and the sirens and the crackle of falling buildings filled the air with their favorite music. They breathed deeply to be filled with the smoke of their night’s work.

They knew they would be safe inside the woods. The woods would be the first protected. The people understood the power of the woods, the medicine it provided, the shelter it gave to their food source, the shade, the beauty, the safety from the Bray. The woods would be protected first.

It was the man made structures that caused the pain, the hurt, the poverty. That’s why Mags and Rice did what they did. They were a team. One of the best. In the beginning there had been a few missteps. Ones that happen when people first start working together. But soon they found their rhythm. They understood one another. They could guess each other’s moves without asking, or even planning at times. And no one ever questioned them.

“We better get back before we’re missed.” Rice buttoned Mags shirt. He did that the first time and since then she purposely left it undone for him.

“I was good. Wasn’t I?”

“Yeah. It’s a great fire. You were quick and clean. I’m proud of you.”

He kissed her one more time and she was ready to sleep.

“Do you want me to drive?” Rice held his hand out to help her up.

This was one thing she didn’t like. She wasn’t a lady. She didn’t need to be coddled. She could take care of herself.

“Yeah. You drive.” And Mags stood without help and started to move to the car.

“Take it now.” Rice grabbed her elbow.

“I’ll take it when I’m ready.” She hated when he wanted to control her.

“Now. You know what happens when you wait too long.”

Mags also knew when he was right. She turned to look at him and he was holding a water bottle.


She unzipped the pocket, opened the box, popped the pill, and grabbed the water bottle. There was just enough for one small swallow. He must have worked hard getting back to her. He looked tired, too.

“Thanks.” She handed the bottle back to him and smiled.

He turned and got into the drivers seat. Mags closed her eyes and sighed. She realized that he wasn’t trying to control her. He just wanted what was good for her. She got into the car.

As soon as she buckled the seat belt, her head rested against the seat, and a deep sleep overtook her. The moon, blood red from the rising flames, lighted the way back to the manor of the small electric car and the two Firestarters.




Author’s Note:

Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month. And today’s prompt is form the website of Bonnie Neubauer and her Story Spinner:

in an open field

In the rear view mirror…

sleeping pill

Previous entries for NaNoWriMo:

November 4: Airstream.2
November 3: Airstream
ovember 2: Tea and Rosemary

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