THE FIRE

Today I saw the after effects of the fire and I felt a chill run through my body.

I passed by what used to be a structure and today it was nothing but blackened toothpicks. The fire had visited, consuming everything in its path and leaving emptiness in its wake.

I had heard of the fire. I had heard the myths and legends of how it was a ravenous monster. “When the fire is hungry,” the elders say, “you do not want to be there.” I was sceptical. They must have exaggerated a bit. The fire can’t be that bad but it can and it is. Today, I believed them because today, I saw it.

I was not there when good ol’ fire came to call but I know what it is to watch it wave goodbye.

I looked at the fat lady wailing across the road and I heard the story of how the fire wrapped her store, her only means of livelihood, in its blazing embrace. I stared at the tear-streaked faces of parents and I found myself drowning in the pools of their sadness. My gaze travelled to the children and immediately, I wished it never had for I knew that the image of their fear-filled eyes would haunt my dreams.

Those eyes that were just this morning radiating joy were now emitting such despair that for a moment I could swear that I heard the sound of my heart breaking. In the depths of those eyes I watched the fire wrap the only home they knew, the only one they had, with its hot fingers pulling until it came tumbling down. In their eyes, I saw the motion picture of how they barely managed to escape with only the clothes on their backs.

Today, there was chaos everywhere I looked. Men were climbing in and out of the rubble trying to salvage all they could, women were screaming until their lungs threatened to burst, babies were crying for no other reason than the fact that their mothers were weeping until their throats hurt, businessmen stared in shock as though they could not comprehend how everything they worked for all their lives had evaporated in less than a minute and landlords fainted.

Today, I stared at the site of broken dreams and shattered hope and I learnt something, when disaster strikes it is terrible but there is nothing worse than the moments that follow, the moments when the dust eventually settles and we truly see for the first time the outcome of the entire ordeal.

I looked at the elders and they were shaking their heads, grief-stricken.

“This is a tragedy”, one said. I agreed silently.

Another said, “Quite unfortunate.” I couldn’t agree more.

“It is well.” said a third. I was confused…

It is well? How could it possibly be well? People have lost everything and it is well? That doesn’t make any sense…then I became furious. How could the fire do this? The fire I knew was nice. It cooked, it warmed, it gave light. How could it turn around to become this, this monster? Why?!

Today, I saw visions. Visions of the structure standing tall and glorious and beautiful before the fire; Visions of the fire entangling it with its glowing tentacles; Visions of the fire opening its fiery mouth to swallow the structure, to wipe it from the face of the earth never to be seen again. I shook from the weight of these visions, so vivid and filled with red. I blinked and looked again and in place of the structure was nothing…nothing but ash.

My eyelids stung, my throat tightened and the tears threatened to fall but I wouldn’t let them. I wouldn’t give in to the despair in the air and I wouldn’t give in to the desperation of the situation. I had to get out of there but my feet remained rooted to the ground, my eyes fixed on the scene before me and I remembered a phrase…Beauty will rise from the ashes…What beauty? The fire had eloped with anything beautiful leaving only ugliness and bitterness. I turned to leave.

And after two steps, I halted in my tracks. With my back to the scene, I realised that amidst all the confusion, we failed to appreciate one thing that despite all the raging and ranting, despite all the fury and wrath, the fire was merciful…No life was lost and where there is life, there is hope.

Today, I felt the after effects of the fire and I smiled.

Beauty Will Rise?