As Bridges Burn by Cooper Nelson

The orange-red glow of flames scorched the night sky. The flames licked the dark night air, feasting viciously on the abundant oxygen that dwelled laced within the tapestry of the ethereal sky. Every bite fueled the fire, nourishing its body, permitting it to bolster and grow. The razor sharp teeth of the flames, teeming with scorching venom, left the sky parched and blistered.

The navy blue of the sky was seared black, and clouds of smoke rose from deep within the skeleton of the inferno, constricting and suffocating the sky. The dark blue sky melted down like wax, dripping scolding embers down into the flames below; they devoured them. I watched from atop a hill.

My fingers threaded together.

My nails dug into my skin.

The growing flames burnt my face, and doused my eyes, but they never shut. The hairs on my arms were singed and fell to the ground like used matches. Piles of ashes formed at my feet. My heart pounded against my chest, beating like a ticking time bomb ready to explode. My eyes were black and cavernous. My pupils, like a malice toxin, consumed the whites of my eyes leaving them dark and empty. I watched the flames engulf the town in the distance. It snaked though the city like a viper, venomous fangs buried into the buildings, pumping blistering venom into them turning them to ash. One by one, swallowing up every structure until all that was left of each building was a mound of ash. With every advance the fire made, the fire burning within my body sweltered and grew. Beads of hot sweat, like that of acid, bled from my skin. The fire smoldering in my body rushed through my veins like blood. As I watched, the luminous flames reflected in my eyes.

The deep darkness combusting within.

My eyes set ablaze with fire.

A sinister smile crept across my face. The fire proceeded, devouring structure after structure. The woeful cries of those trapped within the sweltering inferno rose into the sky like smoke, and haunted the air like ghosts. The cries died as they reached me. This scene was one I had seen many times before. The cries blew past me like the wind, routine and ignored.

I took a step forward and watched as the fire grew and lit up the sky. The blue melted away and was covered by red that crawled across the sky like molten lava. The snake of flames continued to press on, consuming every building it past. The cries of those in its way fell silent as its flaming body covered them, setting them ablaze without even the courtesy of leaving a corpse behind for loved ones to find. My eyes moved on past the flames, moving like a serpent, through the remaining structures quaking in the fire’s path, and nearly dropped off the steep cliff into the ocean.

The edge was jagged and callous.

Rocks jutted from the cliff side like protruding fangs.

Enraged waves beat at the cliff side, with every strike reaching a closed fist ever higher with the intent of quenching the blistering flames. The waves wailed and roared hungry to reach the flames and quench their undying thirst. My eyes scanned across the thunderous sea and up the side of the cliff at where I stood. A single bridge divided the oceanic gap between cliff sides. A single bridge that if destroyed would isolate one side from the other. The fire in my mind intensified as the thought of the bridge burning dangled over my subconscious. The flames slithered ever closer to the bridge, feasting on the last few homes and buildings as it stalked its inert prey. The cries of pain and loss had all but ended as the flames approached their destination. There the bridge stood, suspended above the water, firm and bold. The eyes of the serpent narrowed in, it barred it fangs as it lunged forward to strike. The bridge was set ablaze. The burnt orange glow sheathed the entire night sky. Only the area around the cliff side where I stood resembled the night sky that was once present. Suspended cables, concrete support beams, metal crossbars all were blanketed by flame. The heat radiating across the divide intensified, as the heat growing deep within my body neared its full potential. I could feel my body boiling, and I loved it. The flames flowed through my body, reaching my toes and fingers. It streamed up my spine; warming my entire body, reaching my eyes. The color of red bled over into my eye sockets, pouring out over the hollow blackness, dying them an effervescent crimson. The heat rose from my eyes and spilled over into my head, spewing out into my skull.

Drowning my brain.

Dousing moral thoughts.

Red-hot flames burst from my lips as I threw my head back, cackling into the illuminated sky. My hands raised high into the air, fists clenched. I had obtained victory. The city was rubble, nothing more than a mound of ashes. The bridge groaned and sizzled as it burnt. A cool drop of rain fell onto my closed palm.

My laughing stopped.

The fire in my eyes subsided.

A wisp of smoke rose from my hand where the rain drop had fallen. Another fell on my face, and another on my neck. Small strands of steam wafted up into the air. Drops of rain fell gradually now, soaking my body. Rising steam blanketed me like a curtain. As the cold drops of rain fell, the fire raging inside me slowly cooled. The heat receded from my fingertips, toes and head and crawled back down to the innards of my being. The hatred inside of me was gone.

For a moment I felt nothing.

For a moment I felt remorse.

I watched as the rain fell heavily down on the city. The fire hissed and wept as it was extinguished by the falling rain. The snake of fire fell from the bridge and was consumed by the crashing waves below. Swallowed up like so many homes.

So many families.

So many lives.

Cold steam ascended from the city and from the bridge, and rose into the air, melting away the orange glow. The sky returned to normal. Building rose from the ashes and took the place of those destroyed. I fell to my knees and buried my face in my hands. Tears filled with remorse and regret blended with the rain, soaking my face. My heartbeat softened. The fog in my mind cleared. I lifted my face up to the sky and held my hands out wide, allowing the rain to cover me and wash away the cinders that plastered my skin. I took it all in, allowing every injustice and offense to be cleansed.

The rain continued to fall.

The guilt was washed away.

Cooper Nelson is a junior at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. He is double majoring in communications with an emphasis on Public Relations and English, while also spending the last two years playing basketball at the collegiate level. He is employeed part time as an English and writing tutor for the university and spends the rest of his free time freelance writing and writing short stories and novels. He aspires one day to work at a public relations firm and be an established, successful author. Cooper has already published his first book, Blume, a science fiction story, and is currently in the process of writing more as he works on earning his degree and advancing into other facets of life.