portion of artwork for Charles Lennox's story

The Burning People
Charles Lennox

There is a place where the fire never goes out. Where burning people live. They smoke unfiltered cigarettes as penance. They cough up bolls of cancer and smear the cancer along the walls, with fingers burnt and withered, a few of them scrawling out their names, a last known address. Fire bulbs rain down from the blood red ceiling and shatter over their heads. The burning people run for shelter but find none. There is no protected covering here, no shade, no comfort of any kind. Even the tiny birds above tumble helplessly in the ash filled air, wings smoldering, flapping wildly. This is the forgotten world, burning without pause.

When one of the burning people escapes we hear about it on the news. California wildfires are reported on all channels. The Santa Ana winds come howling in and help the fires grow into adulthood and leapfrog over freeways. Containment is less than two percent. A state of emergency is declared. The local weather forecast predicts no rain this week, no rain on the horizon. Hills decorated in kindling burn. Million dollar homes overlooking the hills burn. Firefighters trapped in the fiery furnace burn quickest in its embrace. These days the sun is but a muted bowl through clouds of ash and the nights glow brightly in orange ember. Don’t you feel that on your skin? the outsiders say. Get out while you still can. California is lost. But we decide to stay put. In shelters unknown to the flames. We drink bottled water and think how precious the taste. We continue on with the hope that soon the fires will suffocate and be extinguished. And for us, that is enough.

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