Augustine

Big news! I’m still alive! Apologies for the long absence, and if Lord grants me some peace I should now be able to post more frequently. Also, I have a huge (for me, eh eh) surprise in store. Till then, here I am with a new short story. Enjoy!

***

The atmosphere was eerie that morning. A purplish shade of doom tinged the ether as far as the eye could see, leaden clouds flared up, turning into a burnt orange as falling stars crossed the sky. Except those weren’t falling stars. Augustine knew very well that the shining bodies shooting on the horizon were balls of flame, leaving behind a fascinating tail of death. She was a spirit of fire, she could feel its destructive force coursing inside of her, lava flowing in her veins.

There was a war raging, right beyond the forest, where the Lym river forked for a couple of miles, making way for a small village. Only once had Augustine dared to venture into the forest, back in the days where she was a child who still couldn’t dominate her volatile nature. Sometimes it still came back in form of nightmares. The crackling of wood, leaves blazing into ashes, the smoke, the screams. The screams. Those were the worst. Their sound was distorted, cavernous, belonging to another world. After that day, where two spirits of the forest became one with earth, she never dared walking among those breathing trees and everything they sheltered.

But the village humming beyond held the irresistible magic of the unknown. One day she took courage and skirted around the woods. She ran along the Lym river for half a day, defying the dangers of water, just to satisfy her young curiosity. She didn’t know what a village looked like, she’d never seen one. Spirits didn’t gather, or socialize. Especially with humans. It was simply against their nature; after all, they existed to protect the earth exactly from the damages that the humans caused.

So when she reached the point where the river broke in two, hugging protectively a small tract of land, she stood a moment to take it all in, unseen from all those busy eyes. Or so she had believed back then.

Victor, that was his name, that was the name of her love. Victor the blacksmith, Victor the onyx eyes, Victor the human.

There weren’t rules forbidding relationships between spirits and human. It was all about common sense. But Augustine was young and still had a lot to learn. Her apprentice wasn’t complete yet. You will be a real spirit of fire the day your tears turn stone into fire. That’s what the ancient had said. Which made no sense to her. She didn’t have the gift of tears to cry, nor a heart that could be broken. And stone couldn’t become fire, of that she was sure. Or so she had been taught.

A ball of fire, bigger than the others, crossed the sky over her head, forcing her back to the destructive reality. She could feel the ground shake under her feet and tried to steady herself so she wouldn’t lose balance. But she fell on her knees, pulled down by something she couldn’t define. It came from inside of her. A sensation of dread, of pain, of oxygen being taken away from her, of fire withering. In that moment, from miles away, she knew.

Where once there had been green and life, now there was only ash, death, desolation. That same fire she manipulated to bring life into the world, was used by humans to take lives away.

She stared at her hands, watched the fire flow in her veins, felt its vital warmth. She had already revived a human before, it was something permitted by the ancients. Then why wasn’t Victor opening his eyes? Why wasn’t his chest rising and falling? Why couldn’t she feel the pulse of life in his body? It took her a moment to realize that if fire had killed him, then more fire couldn’t bring him back. You don’t smother flames with more flames.

Augustine traipsed for hours, uncertain what to do, or where to go, until she stopped by the river, collapsing under the weight of her sorrow. Defeated. Abandoned.

Alone.

She was a spirit of fire, yet couldn’t ignite life in the cold body of her lover. Then what was she useful for?

From the safety of a rock she stared at the water, still in that point; sparkling with the rays of a mocking sun, stained by the somber reflection of the stones. She feared yet was lured by its fleeing nature, by its ability of washing everything away. Or of concealing it in its depths. She wished she could do the same, but fire never came and left unnoticed. Smoke and ashes were faithful remnants.

Her skin started burning in a way she never experienced before. Fearing her nemesis, she retreated her feet before realizing that she was too far from its danger. If it wasn’t the water, then what? She lifted her fiery eyes to the sky, searching for signs of raindrops. And that’s when she felt it. Something blurring her sight, burning her cheek.

One tear fell.

It landed on a small rock. Steam rose, the incandescence made it glow. Augustine took it and turned it over in her hands. The stone had lost its gloomy gray. It was translucent, shining with the flaming reflections of her soul. You will be a real spirit of fire the day your tears turn stone into fire.

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