Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 133

Feeling the fire, waxed in the blackness of night, at the narrow shore now, its angry glow reflecting off a ribbon of white beach sand, almost suffocating. He dogpaddles through the chill water to reach the middle of the slender lake, that refuge, that place of redemption from hell’s avenging inferno. The fire’s psychotic, a jealous lover whispering in his ear, pouring a glass of wine, reaching a grasping arm around that fourth side – surrounding, enclosing, devouring – and the wind becomes a vortex. It starts at the edges and circles the lake, spins like the free wheel of a bicycle, faster and faster, pulling acres of heavy smoke over the water, settling, sinking, becoming a muddy veneer of floating ash and dust. A herd of deer pushed before the fire, bounding from the reach of burning death, into the lake, into the cold water, swimming in circles, swimming past Griff, not caring, not noticing.

The swelling of darkness is all orange and crimson, dotted by specks of flying fire, a covey of quail flushed by the flames, ignited in midair, falling as they burn. Griff reaches the lifejacket, holds onto to it like life itself, unbuttons his wet shirt, pulls off his T-shirt – the heat is on his face, blistering, scorching, the smoke unbearable. He wraps the T-shirt around his head, covers his head; covers his mouth and nose. Retreats beneath the surface as long as breath allows. Grasps the lifejacket in one hand.

From underneath the water the fish see a sky of orange. Trout swim from the depths, allured, mystified, their scales glittering. Close to shore, near the wooded point, the shallow water nearly boils. The dry pines have exploded into an immense fireball, a rising avalanche, the heat so great, so searing it melts aluminum, shatters