The Warmth of a Gentle Fire

This was a prompt posted by Wiwaxia Silver: “May I request for a vial of your insanity?”

I put a blackberry in her hand.

“I don’t understand. I was told that a vial–“

I took my spoon out of my teacup and tapped her nose with it, the metal still warm. “You don’t ask for insanity and understanding. One destroys the other.”

“So . . . it would make me strong?” Her eyes, blue pools of trauma and anger and anxiety, were desperate.

“No.” I didn’t elaborate, just lifted my cup to sip.

“I don’t understand. They say the insanity makes you strong, that it’s why you can’t be stopped.” Despair was stirring in her eyes. I could see the questions forming. ‘Was it all lies,’ ‘was everything I’ve done been for nothing,’ and the biggest one of all, ‘is there really no hope here?’

The moment was right – I lunged across the table, stabbing her through the heart with a spike of my blackened blood, hardened to steel. She screamed, struggled to rise, but I kicked the chair out from under her, and she collapsed. She struggled up again, and I kicked the table into her side, sending her sprawling again. “Stop your goddamn mewling. You’re not dying. Look at it.”

She rolled to her back, eyes wide with terror as she looked at her chest. There was no blood. The spike, however, seemed to be caving into itself. But she’d feel the reality of it – she’d feel the ice spreading through her blood. “This . . . this is the insanity? Do . . . do I eat the berry now?”

“If you want. It’s just a blackberry.”

“So . . . what you said about strength?”

“The insanity doesn’t make you strong. It makes you weak. So weak that any impulse might dominate. So weak that civilized behavior is too great a risk. So weak that understanding the feelings of others seems like an unaffordable luxury.” She struggled up, and I knew the pain must be starting from the change in her breathing. “Worth it . . . to kill them.”

“My dear . . . I saw in your eyes what’s been done to you. If all you do is kill them, you will regret it. You want to return your suffering upon them? Suffering is like a fire. Feed it, grow it, maintain it, and it will keep you warm for as long as you live.”

Author: Eric Eshleman

I'm not real.

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