A tender flame licked the lower branches of a meticulously trimmed tree. Barely five years in its place, the young thing’s life was at its end. It was a rescue, of sorts, or so mused the figure standing watch over the sorry tree’s demise. The tiny neutered pear was better off this way – better quick, hot death by fire than slow, excruciating decay in the suffocating confines of a suburban streetscape. The entire effort was a rescue. Of course; the silent figure now understood. Rescue for the tree. Rescue for the grass. Rescue for the misguided curator of this pitiful microcosm of middle-class success.
Echoes of sirens bounced among houses and streetlight poles. The figure started at the sound, snapping from a daze; for the flames elegantly lapping, the rising glow of arcs within arcs, the timeless fragrance of organic burn – they produced a hypnotic effect, caused the approaching sirens to be less noticeable at first. Time was short. Reluctantly, the figure backed slowly, eyes not departing from the achingly beautiful scene. The fire certainly was beautiful, in the way of a young, wild lion – growing years within minutes, its hushed roar gaining momentum with a mounting hunger. It was nature, the fire. It was nature taking back.
Through the fire’s forceful whispers, the report of embers popping, and the fire trucks’ swirling sirens – now just blocks away – a clicking sound emerged. The figure, obscured in a long, hooded coat – color of midnight, stuffed a gloved hand into the coat’s waist pocket while grasping the edges of the hood with a free hand, pulling it tighter to face, dissolving flesh into fabric, becoming less humanoid and more apparition. Again the clicking sound, now hurried, and a jiggle of the lever-style knob on the front door of the house beyond the burning foliage.
More clicks – the deadbolt turning.
Door opening, first a crack, now –
An arm and a bare, squatty leg, now a t-shirt clad torso, and a FACE! – punched with shock – a tantalizing cocktail of fear and dismay, outrage and anger – oh that face!
A smile appeared – buried, invisible behind the figure’s hood, and coarse, imperceptible whispers, heard only by the figure – backing, backing into the cool obscurity of night.
“Yes! Yesss! Yyeessss!”