“To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” Walter Pater
The day the trees caught fire
Would they go for the hotdogs in the freezer, making the most of this opportune grand barbeque? Would they grab phones and call someone, or join in on the no doubt frenzied social media movement?
People did neither. Was this the heralding of what so many different cultures called judgment day?
Albert woke from a loud rumble. He grunted in discomfort from the puss from the ceiling and rubbed his eyes. The light in the room danced in beams of orange hue. Reassuring himself, he was awake and it wasn’t a trick of the mind, Albert looked out the window of his cottage and saw to his shock that the forest around him was on fire. His eyes burst wide open in an instant and he jumped to his feet. He jumped into clothes that lay strewn on the floor and flew out the door.
He heard burning trees exhausting their ominous creaking efforts to stand tall. One tree looked just about ready to crash into his 4×4 parked under it. Albert always left the keys in the ignition and wasted no time in reuniting with his old friend, whom had carried him across numerous miles in the rough terrain. “Come on. Come on!” he encouraged the old car, tapping the steering wheel while he performed the dance of ignition timing and throttle control. He couldn’t afford any of the starting hiccups the old vehicle had otherwise grown fond of. The engine sprang to life at last. He thrust the car in reverse just in time to avoid the burning tree that had finally given up and crashed on the ground. He had to make it to the nearest gas station where there was a phone.
He felt his hands instinctively navigating the turns, as so many times before. If only for a few turns at least, as he jumped the brakes and jutted to avoid another falling tree. He made a small detour off road, but it was no problem for his powerful four-wheeled ally as it made quick work of the muddy terrain. It was the final stretch to the gas station now. Albert just didn’t understand why no one had been warned about the volcano. He had been to the gas station just the other day for supplies and the latest news, and there had been no news from John, the clerk.
It struck him, just how ALL the trees were on fire. The sheer power the volcano must’ve possessed to be able to consume entire mountain sides. As far as the eyes could see, each mountain slope, all the way down to the lake, was on fire. Like vast wheat fields in the summer they weaved like serpents of fire, puffing black smoke that reduced the previous clear sight that would stretch for miles on end, to a few yards. He was within a few hundred meters of the gas station, he could tell from the sharp characteristic turns in the road. His trusty car popped out of the dense smoke, into a clearing around the gas station. Somehow, some way, something prevented the smoke from closing in on the gas station and its owner that sat on top of the flat roofed building that housed the toilets. Albert’s yells at the clerk went unanswered. He then spotted the ladder that led to the roof. He made it up there and found his friend sitting in a camping chair, with his face twisted in all manner of grimaces. Portions of it were burnt and charred, but the eyes were untouched, and fixed on the horizon as if he said: “I’ve seen it coming. The locusts are here.”