Point A, the first sentence of your story: When midnight came and went and all that was left on the road was a pile of…
Point B, the last sentence of your story: Dawn broke with an audible crack, a back stretching itself out of a long nighttime cramp, and all was still.
The All-Consuming Flame
When midnight came and went and all that was left on the road was a pile of charred clothes and ash, remnants of what was once my tribesmen. Their screams echoed in my mind as the bright red embers raged like waves crashing on a rocky beach. The smell of burnt flesh pervaded the air; my eyes tearing up from the clouds of smoke. I peered through the gap of the two rocks on the side of the murram road that I had hid behind. Warm streaks channeled down my leg at the mere sight of it.
“We did it!” Were the last words from Kangiri, my closest friend.
The feathers from a grey buti, the blood from a sacrificial kyuta, two yunigi, an akigi from a rajikwon, the precise markings on the ground making the protection symbol on which five men would stand and the incantation etched in red dye on the walls of the cave which still resounded freshly in my mind from days of repetition. She had awaked!
I glanced down at my hands now darkened from the ash while gently patting down my shirt to fan out the specks of amber from the fire that clang to it. Flashes of memory streamed through my mind. Synchronized chanting; a flash of light; fire embers reaching through like spread out fingers; the screams from my four friends as I ran from my position marked on the ground.
“I had to run. Why did I run?” There’s the smoke again; tears now freely flowing.
We had embraced this great honor entrusted to us by the village chief. The village had come under constant raids from the neighboring Bugali who stole our cattle and ferried away our youths to be used as slaves. Our bows and arrows did little against the weapons they had amassed through trade with the foreigners who came on their massive ships. A single bang and even the largest elephant would fall.
“Our only hope is to call on the ancient god to help us,” were the words from the village chief.
The wind splashed hot air against my face. The mugumo tree behind the flames from where the portal opened was now completely consumed. I held my knee to keep my leg still. Years of shouting from my father and that cursed disappointed gaze he would throw at me had taught me to suppress the obsessive shaking that would come upon my leg occasionally. A tell that I was weak he would call it, often making fun that I tremble like a gazelle in the rain. I braced myself to run feeling the heat growing ever stronger.
“I have to move,” I said to myself mustering the courage to get up from my seated position.
“The cave, I can hide there!”
I made a dash for it. My peripheral vision catching a glance of what now looked like a humanoid figure engulfed in flames emerging from the portal. Beneath it the soil and rocks had turned to molten lava from the heat. “A few more meters,” I said to myself edging closer to the cave. My lungs struggled to cope from the smoke and the hot air which I gulped in bouts. Barely had I made it to the mouth of the cave than I noticed a stream of yellow flashing towards me. I turned to see a limb of fire clutching my leg as I dove into the cave. The screams shrieked through the cave!
“This is it. It’s over,” I said to myself.
I looked back unclenching my eyes which I had squeezed shut from the pain. I raised my hand to my face to shield my eyes from the immense light. My eyes widened as I watched the flames cover the entire mouth of the cave but not enter, almost like a forcefield was keeping them out. The humanoid flame covered hands smashed against the cave entrance in a futile attempt to enter. Until our now fatal expedition, no one had dared to enter the cave fearing the rumored curse that had been placed on it by the ancestors.
I looked down at the hand shaped white and red flesh on my leg brimmed with charred skin. Waves of pain streamed from it to my throat and out my mouth in bone chilling screams. In the background outside the cave the humanoid flames grew larger and larger changing shape as multiple limbs shot from its torso. What once looked humanoid was now a river of tentacled flames.
“Oh god!” I said as I rolled over on my back facing the cave roof. Red and amber flashes illuminated the cave bringing to sight the previously shadowed sections of the cave. On the roof of it appeared to be words written like those on the walls from where we drew the incantation. I struggled to make them out between the stalactites that had grown over the years keeping them out of sight.
PRAISED BE MUMI THE FIRE GODDESS,
THE HARBINGER OF THE END,
THE ALL-CONSUMING FLAME.
I lay there my cheeks basted with tears. My back pressed against the rugged rock floor of the cave. In the distance intertwined with the crackling sound of burning twigs and wood, screams reached out like a thousand banshees.
“My god, the village!” I sounded out as my vision went black, passing out from the pain.
Dawn broke with an audible crack, a back stretching itself out of a long night-time cramp and all was still.