Banefyre

Image: @4lexMcCarthy

This is fiction and intended for entertainment only.

On was clene bones & no wode & that is callid a bone fyre. A nothir is clene wode & no bones & that is callid a wode fyre fore people to sitte & to wake there by.

—John Mirk, Liber Festivalis, 1486

And then it has been three days without the gentle blanket of  rain. Three days of re-breathing the air of your home. Three days with the bulbs out and the doors locked. 

A week since the last fire on the fell. The ritual interrupted by sodden timber and slippery ground. A pause in the screams strangled on the wind. 

The air is close tonight, like summer’s last breath. 

But everyone was doing it. 

This morning, early in the morning, when courage allowed you a peek through your curtains, you saw the new pyre on the fell. 

Darkness has reliably returned tonight. You prepare for another sleepless countdown to dawn. 

But you were told to do it. The prime minister literally came on the TV and… 

A knock on the door shatters the silence, without the prelude of the squeaky gate. They know about the gate. A few extra seconds stolen from you.  

You fall in the darkness, stumbling to the back door. Even your living room is betraying you, or indicting you.  From the kitchen you can see the figures in the garden. Dark coats and creamy papier-mâché masks, illuminated by tungsten glow spilling from the neighbours’ houses. 

How could you know they would get fined? The maximum fine. 

The impatient second thump on the door cues the chanting. The words muffled by their masks into a sonorous ritual. 

A third bang arouses the volume of the dark chorus. The cymbal crash of your broken windows. You’re buying extra seconds curled in the corner of the room, but they’re everywhere now. Soon you’re smothered by their chanting, their hands, their rope, their hood. 

How were you to know they couldn’t afford it? 

The fell wind is whipping around your hood, throttling your screamed protests, angry bargaining, desperate threats.  You bite down on the nausea of being thrown upright. Then the splintering warmth of rough wood against your wrists. The crackling starts and you can feel the heat. Each scream just fills your lungs with smoke now. It’s so loud inside the fire.  

How were you to know they had a cupboard full of pills?  

You pray that you suffocate before the pain burns through the adrenaline. 

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