Burn Like Nothing
rating: +8+x

Picture the apprentice pyromancer. Thick leather apron, fingerless leather gloves right up to the elbow hung with the heavy steel strips of casting charms- tomes are made of paper and burn too easily for the pyromancer. So they carry sheet-metal, heat-bleached acrylic paint for visibility in etched grooves, tinkling like wind-chimes as they march. Some charms, thick, almost sword-heavy, eternally red-hot, are sheathed in fire-retardant rubber at the waist, glyphs like jagged wounds in the metal writhing and spitting sparks, too potent to gaze at for more than the few moments it takes to mouth the terrible syllables. The apprentice pyromancer, skin thickening and tanning because the heat outside burns hotter than the heat within, at least for now. They haven’t gotten the weeping lines yet. Where liquid fire spools out of their tear ducts, the corner of their mouth, the spaces under their fingernails, and scalds and burns lines into the skin.

A commander knows to judge the strength of the pyromancer by the evenness of those lines. If they waver, are irregular, asymmetrical- they flinched as it burned them, or shook, or stumbled, or worse, tried to put the fire out. This one will not make it much further. And if those lines look like tattoos, straight, softly curving to follow the contours of the face, guided only by gravity, you should be afraid. They are burning hot within.

The apprentice pyromancer looks out at a flowering meadow and sees wet kindling. They panic- what are they becoming? But soon enough all they will feel is a twinge of irritation that fire cannot spread easily here, and soon after that- nothing. Fire is not anger, or rage, or warmth, or passion. Fire feels nothing. Those are people meanings, not fire meanings. Fire has no meanings. Fire grows, and fire consumes, and fire goes out.

Molten heat leeches from the widening gaps under their fingernails as new readings in the casting charms are revealed. They begin to understand, though it does not feel like understanding. If they could put a word to it, it would be instinct, but a better word would be being. They are beginning to embody that which they channel. The wick of their soul is alight, and they are beginning to truly burn.

The pyromancer is sent ahead of the infantry because bullets melt against their flesh, and those that do not simply pass through. They have forgone clothing, and for the first time their slow apotheosis is laid bare- fat burned away, ribs and skull glowing like embers against skin with the bluish lustre of flame without oxygen, all distinguishing features of sex or biological function reduced to nil. They are bright and warm and pure, soft like the high-reaching tongue of a book-burning.

Their eyes are the worst of all. As a hand reaches to an enemy soldier’s gas mask, the metal and rubber and flesh melting and dripping as fat liquefies and bone bursts and flesh chars, a glimpse is caught of those eyes. All that is there is curiosity, and a pair of sockets full of imperfect, hungry light.

At the end, objectives, battle lines, insignias of rank or side, cease to matter. There is only that where the fire can spread.

And finally, the pyromancer stands alone, skin hissing in the rain as they flinch and start. The fuel is gone. Both within and without.

They remember those flowers, and they weep steam.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License