The smell of smoke fills my nostrils and ash clouds my lungs. I run my hand over the rough scars on my cheek as memories come back to me.
Too much smoke.
Too much burning.
I have to go.
Ignoring the multiple calls of my probably concerned friends, I run.
My feet hitting the ground hard with each step.
My lungs burning in more ways than one.
My hair wound tightly in a short ponytail, hitting my back with each stride.
My hand clutching the small pendant around my neck.
The only thing I have left.
A tear escapes my eyes, grazing my scars. I finally stop moving and collapse on the ground, laying my head against a tree.
I’m safe, for now. The smell is gone. I should be far enough.
My pale blue eyes blur with more tears and I let them flow freely. Footsteps. Coming towards me. My friends? They’ll bring the smell with them. I have to keep running.
Their shouts come closer so I quickly get up and continue running, wincing as my arm grazes the hard bark of a tree. There are scars there too. Scars everywhere.
I keep running.
Until I can’t move anymore, my legs aching. Almost like before. Like that day.
I don’t have the energy to bend my legs, sit down. I just stand, rigid, staring at the sun.
The Sun could burn things too. If it wanted to.
Please don’t burn me sun.
I have to escape the sun now too.
Forcing my legs to move, I continue running. I trip on a rock and fall hard on my knees.
Ripped Jeans. Now even more.
The scars on my legs now even more visible.
I don’t care. Not really.
It’s so hot, the sun beating mercilessly down on me.
The sun. That’s why I’m running.
I get back up and run again, my legs now numb.
Numb like at the hospital. I couldn’t walk then. Now I can.
Right? Yes. I’m still moving.
I don’t know.
Are my friends still following me? Probably not.
No parents to worry about me. So there’s nothing waiting for me. I can just keep running until I’m tired. Until I escape the sun.
I free my hair from my ponytail, still running.
Strands of dark brown fly in all directions. Flowing in the wind. Am I running that fast?
Or is it just wind? The wind isn’t safe. Wind can move fires.
You could drop one lit cigar, one match, and the forest would soon be in flames. Orange and yellow and red and at the hottest parts blue.
Blue like the sky. The whole world isn’t safe anymore.
Maybe I can go underground?
No. Deep breaths. The sky will not burn. The sun will not burn me. Stop running.
I obey my command.
I lick my dry lips and look around me. Where have I stopped?
Trees, trees, trees. So many trees. The easiest thing to burn.
I’ll never be free from the fires. Burning in my mind, burning burning burning.
Burning my lungs. I need to slow my breathing.
One. Inhale. Two. Exhale. One. Inhale. Two. Ex-
Footsteps. Like an avalanche.
Three people? Maybe four.
Maybe an animal. My friends? Are they even real friends? No.
If they were they’d understand.
That I need to run away.
Faster and faster and-
Wait. I’m not moving right now. If I stay they’ll find me. Whether it’s people or wolves or birds or-No, birds fly, they don’t run. I wish I was a bird.
Fly away from the fire. From the smoke.
But instead, I have to run. Now.
I move my legs one by one, but I’m walking, not running. I’m too tired. Too drained.
I need water. No. Water is too precious. It should be saved to put out the fires.
Fires. They’re everywhere. Too many. Too little water.
So I don’t want water. I want food. Maybe I shouldn’t have left. They had food. Them. The people. My ‘friends’.
But they also had fire. So I didn’t want to stay. More tears fall down my face, falling to the dirt.
Must keep moving.
What am I running from?
Oh. The fire.
Will I ever really be far enough though? My clothes are flammable.
A drip of oil and electricity and boom. The worst kind of fire. An explosion.
More smoke than normal fires. Water doesn’t help. It makes it worse. So I need to stop crying.
No. No, no, no, no, no.
More tears only fall.
I wipe them away hard with my sweater. It hurts. My scars. Dots of red line my sweater. Blood. Will I ever be free from the reminders?
From the memories?
No, I will not.
Because the fires are everywhere.
You open up the news-boom. Fire.
Because of careless campers or broken stoves, or really hot days or…
There are fires made on purpose too.
Bonfires, cookouts, fireworks.
Who’s stupid enough to make fireworks?
Stupid people, of course.
I ran away when they did those too.
Don’t they get the hint?
No. Some people are clueless. Oblivious, like people who just watch homes go up in flames. Not even sane enough to call the fire department, the police, someone.
Maybe they enjoy watching things burn.
Burn. Fire. Smoke. Such tasteless words.
Ash isn’t tasteless. I found out that day. So much fell in my mouth.
I was coughing and hacking and choking, and then everything went dark. I never want to taste it again
I rarely eat anything anymore, afraid that’s how it’ll taste.
I only eat cold things. Ice cream. Salad. Nothing made on a stove. Never. I had them remove it from my house.
The only way I sleep at night. I also turn off all the lights. All the time. No electricity. It’s cheaper too.
It’s only a little cold in winter. I use blankets. In summer I go to the basement against the floor, never going outside. It’s too dangerous with the sun.
Ah. The sun.
I better keep running before it catches me.