Red Sky At Night

Written today (June 21st) as part of National Writing Day

 

The sky is aflame.

Ablaze. A fiery hue decorates the night sky above Fife. Red, yellow, orange. Fire. Flame. A furnace at the foot of the heavens. Incinerating the clouds. It awakens me. Stirs me from my half-hearted slumber. As it has done every night this week so far. Five nights now. Mossmorran. The Exxon ethylene plant. Skulking on the outskirts of Cowdenbeath. It’s warning flame burning into the darkness. A beacon calling out across the countryside. The towns. The coast. Engulfing, smothering, suffocating all. The eye of Sauron. Curtains wither, unable to resist the light. It invades the privacy, the seclusion of the bedroom. And yet it inspires. Infuses me with an energy. A vibrancy. Alights the embers of my being. My inspiration. It draws me in, welcomes me, lures me. Like a moth to a…well, you know. It burns through my writer’s block and screams, yells, demands in my ear ‘WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!’

I open the curtains wide, tempted even to tear them from the rail, desperate as I am to submit to the light, to the flame. Invade, bathe, swarm. The room fills with light. I turn and look at my wife asleep on the bed. She barely stirs. Oblivious to the ferocity, the majesty of the flame. Oblivious to the inspiration. I sit down at my writing desk placed directly in front of the window. I gaze at the flame. Its power relentless, its energy undying. Staring. Staring. Worshipping. My mind sparks, burns, replaying a relentless reel time and again. A movie clip. Black and white. Colin Clive, in that famous scene from Frankenstein. He bellows, screeches. It’s ALIVE. IT’S ALIVE!!! My skull pulsing with the words, the images, the demands. The message. Clear. Sent from the flame. It IS alive. I AM alive. I grab a pen and splay out a raft of blank paper before me. And I scrawl. Word after word. Letter upon letter. A continual flood streaming from my fingertips, dripping from my mind. Page upon page, claimed and vanquished. The prey to my predatory inspirations.

Ablaze. My mind, the flame. The fire, my words. My bones shimmering in a frenzy, my blood scything through my flesh with purpose. Frenetic. And I scrawl, write, scrawl. Again and again. Barely moving the pen, allowing the flame to spew through me onto the page. Spilling forth directions, incantations, ingenuity. My limbs, the page, the flame becoming one. One through inspiration, one through the fire. A single entity, a single expression. A single desire. I write. Write. Write. And let the flame, the night, take me.

I awaken.

The morning light streams in through the window, the curtains cast wide. A pool of sweat darkens the pillow. My forehead clammy, evidence of the latter. I scramble up to a sitting position, staring out the adjacent window towards Mossmorran. The flame gone. Absent. Slight tufts of smoke now emanate lazily from the chimney, the tower. I glance down. Fully clothed. Jacket, shoes and all. Bedraggled. Creased. Soaked. In sweat. In grime. In blood. Blood? My knuckles pulse, etched in dried blood. I turn my hands. My palms, red. Awash. I lift up the duvet. Islands of blood dot the bedsheet. I scramble for explanation, for logic. My wife stirs beside me. I quickly pull myself under the covers, concealing myself, the sheet, the mystery. She yawns.

‘Morning’ she croaks, caressing my face. I smile weakly. ‘You look awful, you look like you’ve hardly slept again!? Are you feeling ok?’

‘Thanks. It’s that bloody light at Mossmorran. Keeping me up. I can barely sleep.’

‘Mossmorran?!’

‘The flame at Mossmorran, yes. Every night this week.’

‘Every night this week!? What are you talking about? There’s been no flame? I’d know about it if there was because it usually bloody well keeps me up! You know that. Plus there’d be comments on the local twitter group about it. Folk are always complaining about it. Here, let me have a quick look…’ she swivels and pulls the charger cable out of her phone and draws the latter to her chest.

My wife flicks and scrolls through her Twitter feed as I warily look on. A realisation creeping into my mind from somewhere. What the realisation is I don’t know. And yet something prods at me. Simmers. My body trembles.

‘No’ she says, ‘nothing about it. See? You must have dreamt it. There’s always comments about it if that flame is burning. And the whole bloody sky lights up so I doubt anyone would miss it.’

‘I’m telling you, the flame was burning last night! It’s been burning now for the last five…’

‘Aw jesus…’ she interrupts, ‘that’s another one.’

‘Another what?’

‘Another person reported as missing. An old man. Last seen leaving the pub last night. His wife has just posted on the police page. Always comes home. She’s adamant something must have happened. Bloody hell. That’s the fifth this week! It’s every night! All local. If that’s not scary I don’t know what is!? Horrible. Just horrible’ she says as she steps out of bed.

My mind drifts from my wife’s words, her fears. Under the covers I reach out a hand, feeling a damp patch of blood lingering between my knees. Memories attempt to form in my mind, speeding by, begging to be snared. Colin Clive’s maniacal exhilaration flits in and out. Fragments. Scenes. Shards.

‘Have you been writing again?’ I hear my wife mumble distantly as she approaches the writing desk, stepping in front of the image of the ethylene plant stretching across the window.

I turn, intending to discreetly pull myself out of bed, and feel an object jag into my side. My pocket. My jacket pocket. I creep my hand nervously to my pocket and jerk as it connects with a blade. Pain shoots up my finger. Stabbing. A warmth floods from my hand, still concealed beneath the covers. Blood. Panic, pain, fear explodes within me, dragging me from the bed. I stop. Muddy footprints adorn the bedroom carpet. Leading to the bed. To a conclusion. To me. A shudder echoes through my frame as I look up. My wife stares at me. A clutch of paper thrust from her hand.

‘What…is…this?’ she whispers, fear coursing through her voice.

The paper stares back at me. Pages upon pages. Letters, words, repetition screaming back at me. FIRE FLAME FIRE. FIRE FLAME FIRE. Again and again. Front and back. Decorating every inch of the paper. FIRE FLAME FIRE. FIRE FLAME FIRE.

I pull myself from the bed to a standing position. My wife recoils, her eyes widen, horror clasping hold of her as she looks at me. The paper drops from her hands as she sees the blood drenched across my hands, my clothes. Words catch in her throat. Fear, definitive and absolute, exudes from every pore of her flesh. Her eyes on me. Judging, questioning, cowering.

‘The…the flame…’ I mutter. ‘It’s the flame…’

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