We have five elemental stories this week, each ablaze with intensity and searing with imagination. This week’s contributors include Kira, Sunil Sharma, Jenna Mason Stay, Kelli J Gavin, and Francine Witte. Warm yourself with these glowing stories of passion, loss, adventure, connection, desire, and fear.
Have you ever felt like one of your dreams was real? I hadn’t, until then.
I was wandering around in a forest nearby. Fall had started its work: a fiery red was now slowly making its way into the woods, replacing the lush green I had started to get used to.
I preferred red. Red was fire and passion. Fight and fire.
I took a red leaf in my hand. Contemplating it made me feel powerful. Energy coursed through me, I felt invincible. I started to get worried when I felt a burning sensation going from my head to my arm, but it also felt familiar, like an old but impulsive friend.
A sharp pain, gone in an instant. The leaf caught fire, immediately destroyed.
And then, I blacked out.
I woke up in the middle of red maple leaves. Still groggy, I got up and resumed my walk. How come I had fainted so suddenly? I started hobbling, unsure and confused. I probably needed some rest. The flush of energy was gone, I wouldn’t be able to try my magic for a while.
Exhausted, I arrived in a clearing. It truly was a beautiful place: the sunlight was shining upon a red carpet of leaves. It was noon. Soon, the forest was bathed in a bright red light, so much that I couldn’t see the trees clearly anymore.
The forest was on fire, and it was magnificent.
This vision made me feel so much better. The bright light was comforting, the wind was blowing softly, ruffling through the leaves, making some of them fly away. Fall was here, softly announcing the Earth’s coming slumber.
Small issue: I didn’t see the arrow pointed at me on time.
It went through me, stuck itself into a tree behind me. A sharp, piercing, short pain rushed through my entire body. Blood came out, my face was twisted in surprise. I collapsed, then felt nothing.
I leapt to my feet, alarmed and confused. No time to be tired. I was still in the forest, lying in the middle of red maple leaves. I was fully awake this time. I was in danger. The dream felt so real… It had to become true.
A shot of anger pulsed through my veins. They had transformed me, and now they wanted me dead?
I was going to burn them all. It was a kill or be killed situation.
I dashed towards the clearing, hid behind a tree, sneaked a peek towards the general direction the arrow had come from. I couldn’t see for sure…I would have to lure them out.
Desperate for a solution, I lit up a stick and threw it towards the middle of the clearing, then rushed behind another tree. Three arrows missed me. I heard ruffling noises in the shadows. I was surrounded.
They were in for a world of pain.
I’m not completely human anymore. Remember that next time you try to fire anything at me.
Kira is a writer and blogger as well as a languages teacher. She creates short stories and flash fiction, and is in the process of writing her first book. She also writes about mental health, video games, teaching, and likes to show off her photos.
All of this, because she aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.
Onwards to her writer’s den!
Sounds—growling, howling, roaring, barking, laughing—enough to unsettle urban imagination fired by a mysterious forest, on a wintry night. The campers, huddled around a merry fire, shivered by the strange.
Part of the Gothic Trail, they were there seeking adventure.
—Where? I cannot.
Rahul said, the usual skeptic.
Said the guide.
—Yes. I can see. Said Reema, adding: Glowing eyes. Edge of the lake.
The fire was continually fed. It leapt up high. The twigs burnt up fast in its yellow belly; the fierce flames, insatiable; warmth, comforting.
The bonfire lent a golden tinge to the faces. The shadows cast by the blaze were menacing.
An outlined figure, shimmering.
The campers experienced a chilling sensation.
—Who is it?
The guide declared: Princess’s Ghost!
—Every jungle has got dark denizens.
—Hmm. Do not believe.
Many colleagues nodded: There are dark forces.
Rahul smirked: Imagining things!
—You should not have joined the believers.
Said Reema: eyes red, speech, bit slurred.
The all-young corporate group from Delhi was getting excited slowly. The brooding forest and the strong wind added to the Otherness.
The lake glittered.
—Wherefrom comes the ghost?
Reema asked the guide.
—From the 18th-century fort.
—Why does she roam the night?
—She wanted to marry a commoner. When her lover was killed publicly, she jumped into the lake and died young and unfulfilled.
Rahul exclaimed: How romantic!
Rajesh countered: No. Real. These things happen.
—What about her lover?
Another camper asked.
The guide was silent. Then: Some folks have seen him also. Two separated lovers in different locations, on full-moon nights, pining.
—What if she pops up here?
Asked another woman.
—You will die of fright!
—Haunting in the outdoors!
They drank and ate supper. The moon shone on the trail leading to the fort. Trees swayed like drunken giants.
Wolves howled somewhere deep in the tropical forest.
—I can feel the spirits of the jungle.
—Oh! Revisiting the Sea of Trees?
Rajesh replied: Even Aokigahara is real. There are realities outside human ken. We should not be dismissive.
—I am not disrespectful. Just stating my view.
—Do not spoil the show! Rajesh admonished, every inch his senior in the office.
—Hush! Exclaimed Reema. I saw the spirits hovering behind the campfire.
—Where? Asked Rajesh.
Fleeting figures in the damp air.
… A piercing cry.
The group fell silent. The fire crackled. But the air underwent a change. Most felt evil lurking in the shadows.
—OK. I will check.
Before others could stop, Rahul ran down.
…his loud scream echoed; desperate, chilling.
The men took up torches—to chase the scream, near the lake…
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
For more details, please visit the blog:
Jenna Mason Stay
She watched the flame danced across her fingers—the sparks, the colors of the flames. Most people thought of fire as yellow or maybe orange, but fire was red and blue too. It burst with bits of green or blinding white as it caught trace minerals on her skin. It was both loud and quiet, like the moment before sunrise, before the world turns back on again. It was sweet and tart, hard and soft, a study in contradictions. It was life.
The flames tickled, and she brushed it back down from its subtle creep up her arm. She liked it best when she held it in her hands. She could turn it and turn it, roll it from her palm to the back of her hand and back again.
No one wanted to join her. She couldn’t understand that—the way they stood back and watched. They were fascinated too, she knew it, but no one approached. Were the flames really so frightening?
She shrugged and stomped out an ember that had landed in the dirt. So be it. They wouldn’t know the glory of the flame, and she would not have to share. As long as she held the flame, she would be alone, but that was enough.
A figure stepped from the crowd. He was tall, and his face filled with fascination as he approached—cautiously, as if she might bite. When he came close enough, the light of the flames reflected in his brown eyes, and she felt the beckoning call from a fire that for once she did not control.
“What’s it like?” he asked, almost reverently.
“Like the world,” she said. “A tiny world, burning in your hand, and all the comfort and warmth and discovery and joy you will ever know, all encapsulated in one spot.” She held up her hand, and she watched him watch the flames dance, swirling around her hand like the sand on the beach.
He looked at her then, and his face glowed. “May I try it?”
She blinked. No one had ever asked this. Hadn’t she thought—known—that no one else would ever join her? “You … want to hold the fire?” she asked, and she could not restrain the surprise.
“I’ve heard said it can be done, even by those without the gift.” He shrugged shyly and looked away. “I hoped you might teach me.” When his eyes returned to her, they held back nothing, and his tone was confident, certain. Warm. “I want to know.”
He was right. It could be shared. Even now she felt the fire aching to grow. She smiled. “Yes, I’ll show you.” She reached out her hand, and his joined hers.
They touched, and the fire flowed between them, the flame lighting both their hands, bursting into sparks of brilliant light. Her smiled widened. This was how fire was meant to feel—strong, powerful, true.
And oh, how it burned.
Jeanna Mason Stay does most of her writing in fantasy and fairy tales, making up new ways to look at old stories. Occasionally, though, she hears a siren call from some other genre. Jeanna’s most recent fairy tale is “Breadcrumbs,” the story of a post-traumatic Gretel searching for healing, published in Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Tales.
Jeanna loves fireflies, serial commas, and her husband and children. Not necessarily in that order. She dreams of one day owning a herd of Chia sheep. You can find her at calloohcallaycallay.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/JeannaMasonStay/.
Kelli J Gavin
I catch fire more often than I care to admit
I catch feelings that fan the flame
I wonder if others burn the way I do
I wonder if they have pulled all the alarms
You can only fuel the fire for so long
You can’t watch from afar
I burn up rather quickly
My throat tightens
My hands wring
My eyes wince from the smoke
I wipe the soot from my skin
My feet tread carefully
Not sure where to turn
Not sure if the floor will hold
The beams crash behind me
The flames shoot up each wall
Five alarm fire I am afraid
No one cares to respond
The flame is extinguished
Usually by me creating distance
The ruins are all I have left.
The embers continue to smolder
I have to work at regaining my composure
I don’t have anything to cling to
It must be obvious
I sweep up the remnants
Nothing left to piece back together
At least the walls have been scrubbed
New rugs have been laid
All prepared for the next time I burn
Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others. Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin
Blog found at firstname.lastname@example.org
Woman, Man, Fire
I’m saying this because. I need to live same as you. I gave you my heart. It was plump and red. I had a photo of it. You even took it. But then you started saying busy and work. Now that photo is blackened and curled. The fire started as quick as love. As wrong as love. I don’t even think you are listening.
Trouble is I am listening. Listening when I should be walking away. I saw your troubled heart, your broken photo heart. I knew it needed fixing and I couldn’t. I’m glad the photo burned. The house, the shrubs around it. I worried about that stove. I can always smell the future, the burn of it. Trouble is you didn’t listen.
First of all, I need to live. I need to eat in order to jump into my full yellow, blue hot at the base. The two of you so tasty. How could I resist? Started with dry and brittle love. Forget about the stove. The spark of romance out long ago, but this burned better. Woman still holding on. Man over. Out of balance works just fine for me. I can clean a mountain of its pine trees, leaving nothing but scraggled hands. Your love was an easy meal.
Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.