HOME -Flash Fiction by guest author Wiebo Grobler
The wind speaks to me. Pushing stray hair away from my face and whispering in my ears. Her scent fills my nose: wood smoke, pine needles, and peaty moss. I don’t understand what she’s trying to say, but she soothes me nonetheless. A familiar lullaby, yet the words and melody elude me. I breathe in the cold air and exhale a cloudy fog.
Closing my eyes, I tilt my head back and stretch my arms. Slowly walking, I run my fingers over the bark of the trees lining my path. Each bump, knot, and imperfection - familiar - as if my own.
I grew up in these woods, played here with my sisters as a child, braiding flowers into each other’s hair while listening to the cardinal deliver his doctrine of sacrifice and a better world. Every family is born into an element, and each winter, one is sent to prepare the way for the rest.
We picnicked amongst their roots as teens and frolicked in their autumn leaves with more than one boy or girl. They protected us from the fierce winds of life and absorbed our tears when the weight of who we are and what is expected of us became too much to bear. This was our calling, our destiny, ordained and writ for centuries.
We clambered and raced up their crowns to sit and stare at the distant grey and white mountains and the carpet of green stretching towards it. I fell from those heights more than once and splinted my broken bones with their limbs. These trees were as much part of me as I was of them.
The wind’s touch shifts past my neck and, with the gentleness of a lover’s lips, kisses my arms. Prickles of hair stand on end like tiny worshippers with hands upraised, reaching up toward the heavens in rapture.
Dappled rays of sunlight filter down onto the forest floor, jumping around and dancing like tiny candle wicks. A kaleidoscope of color beneath the shadows of giants. My giants.
It was cold this morning. The grass, layered with frost-like diamond dust, crunches underfoot as I walk toward the clearing. I’m the last to be sent. The youngest of five, and it was always five. I’d waited so long. One by one, my sisters had gone before me. My heart fluttered in my chest in excitement and trepidation—a soul trapped inside a cage of flesh and bone.
The whole village stood gathered in the clearing, resplendent in colorful clothes with dried garlands of flowers adorning the women’s hair. I enter the horseshoe of stacked logs and stop in the center. Taking a deep breath, I turn and smile.
The cardinal nods and each villager picks up a single piece of wood to place around the entrance. Murmurs of `blessed resurrection` and `swift flight` reach my ears as the horseshoe becomes an enclosed circle. My parents are the last to step forward, the rising sun turning their tears into rubies. I give my mother a comforting smile and a loving wink to my father.
The cardinal raises his staff. The amber carving of a bird in flight catches the morning light, and its warm orange glow fills the clearing.
Father steps forward and lights the pyre. The flames dance slowly, tentatively at first, hot kisses flicking lightly across my ankles. I close my eyes as the fire envelopes me in a warm blanket. The smoke does not choke, but brings the scent of cherished memories, playing with my sisters, my grandmother’s cooking, and the proud look in my father’s eyes as he watched us grow and learn.
The fire builds and rages; curtains of orange wrap around me, and ropes of smoke bind me into a cocoon of darkness.
Time passes. An eternity - a moment - I cannot tell. A crack of light appears, and I’m blinded as more chunks of blackness are torn away like eggshells.
I blink at the four creatures of exquisite beauty, yet all so familiar, staring down at me. The smiles on their faces match mine. I stretch my limbs out from my cocoon, marveling at the new world around me.
Once again, the wind speaks to me, and in this new body, I understand. With burning eyes of flame and wings of fire, I set flight with my sisters into this new world and endless freedom—a pentagram of phoenixes streaking like flaming comets across a turquoise sky.
by Wiebo Grobler
BIO: Born in South-Africa and raised in a small farming community, Wiebo only had his imagination to keep him occupied, till he discovered the magic of books.
He fell in love with the characters within from an early age. Soon he began to create his own worlds and stories in his head. These stories developed voices, which clamoured to be heard. So, he writes.
Shortlisted for his Flash Fiction and Poetry for the Fish Publishing Prize he had various stories published in Molotov Lit, National Flash Fiction Day, Reflex Fiction and more.
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Website: Wiebo Grobler Author