by Colette Duelli-Duente
My hands brush the charred remains of what was once my home. It crumbles at the touch of my fingertips, falling onto the damaged ground below. I can remember the smoke and the stench of fire. The screams of the people I loved still echo in my ear every hour of every day. I wish with all my heart to forget it all, the feeling of death inching nearer as I ran out of the house, engulfed in flames. Lungs full of ash, and heart aching to have one more second to spend with my family before they were set aflame before my very eyes. I wish I could’ve ceased to exist beside their souls when I had the chance, and to whisper “I love you” as we floated up to the auburn sky.
The remains crunch under my feet. I count the steps to the living room, where we laughed and shouted and let out all of our deepest emotions. I didn’t realize I was in heaven in those moments; I was overcome with jealousy and hate, not knowing that it wouldn’t get any better than that. Now I am forever burning in the guilt and ache of the love that got stolen from my soul. The pause in my memory is broken, and my thoughts loops over and over, until I scream into the bare reassurance that surrounds me. Life and death are opposite to me now, as life is a bird trying to reach up into the sky with a chain around its neck, and death is that same bird, but with limitless freedom, soaring over the clouds.