Cereal No. 5

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2b ESV)

Fascination

The red flashing lights washed over the walls of her empty bedroom. The fire department had squelched the fire in the woods behind her house. Her parents were worried sick. And she was hunting for a train.

After her parents had fallen asleep, she crept out the back door. She wore her father’s wool army jacket with the canteen slung over one shoulder, and the knapsack over the other. The fifty-six dollars she borrowed from her mother’s tin can, she secured in a zippered pocket inside the jacket.

Her next stop before the railroad tracks was the shed, where her father kept the lawnmower. She jimmied open the latch, and quietly stole inside to take the gasoline can with her. A box of matches from the pantry were in her jeans pocket. She closed the shed door, and started towards the woods.

Once at the fort, she set aside her travel gear and started pouring gasoline around the perimeter. She stepped inside searching the dark night air with all her senses. A fiery memory singed her throat. She took a breath, and doused the bench seat with the remaining fuel. She ran back outside gagging from the fumes. She threw the can into the underbrush. She struck a match and whoosh the fire engulfed the fort in minutes.

Running with her gear slung over her shoulders, with the night vision of a cat, she made her way to the path that led to the train. To the train that would take her to the city. Her bulging belly slowed her down, and the crackling sound of the brush catching fire behind her tempted her to stop. But she kept going. No looking back now.

At the railroad tracks, she thought she heard the faint sound of an approaching train. Just a whistle in the wind or was that the train retreating? She sat on the damp grass beside the tracks to catch her breath. She waited. And waited, but no train.

She heard the sirens of the fire trucks, she almost looked back to see the woods aflame. Instead she hefted herself up from the ground. Looked to the west. Looked the east. Not even a hint of a train.

She knew the tracks would lead her towards her destination. She stepped over the rail and started walking east, stepping from railroad tie to railroad tie. Smoke filled her nostrils with a strange desire, a fascination with her own power. A new found ability to erase the past propelled her forward. A flutter in her belly reminded her that a new life dwelt within her.

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