Charred, blackened earth crunches beneath me, crackling in the quietness like sharp thunder would after a brilliant lightning strike. Gray ash replaces the lush green grass that once grew on this lakeside and the blades left are brown and black and curled in on themselves, shriveled with pain. The water reflects the darkened sky above. Billowing smoke blocks the sunshine above, wafting up into the oxygen-deprived world around me.
They make these signs. They tell you how dangerous the forest is on a given day. Dress them up with a great brown bear with a funny hat. Silly. I hate those signs. They don’t understand.
I am strong. Wild. Untamable. They try to control me. Smother me with those signs. Like wanted posters. Or with water that suffocates, harsh and cold. But I gobble them up, smiling with pleasure as they feed my insatiable hunger. And I do it out of love. They don’t care about the towering loves of my life. How I create new life out of the ashes.
The lake is my enemy. Its cold depths, choked with reeds and alive with brilliant fish that splash about, mock me. It laughs at me, cackling as its waves swirl up onto the beach of silt and pebbles and algae. I would dry it all out if I could, leaving a cracked bed of parched clay, empty of any particle, any atom of life that does not love me. But it’s too expansive, too deep, too wet.
I think back on all that I’ve accomplished in this day. How I watched their lungs fill up, choking on the black smoke, suffocating in the haze. How their blackened bodies fell, crumbling into the dirt, their limbs breaking away from their torsos. How I surrounded them entirely, making them feel my love for this forest, for the bracken and the pine trees that sway in the wind.
I always did it out of love. I need to bring new life into this world. The water claims this as well. Though they are just as capable of suffocating others,, like me. Perhaps we are too alike in this manner. We both bring life. We both bring comfort. We both can execute with a swiftness.
I look away from the lake and back into what was once a grand, thriving woodland, now reduced to charcoal. More fuel to feed me. Tall pine trees formerly ripe with the sweet, freshness of life are mere twigs covered in dust. The thick brush has been reduced to black powder. In the distance, you can see them. The charred remains among what is left. I turn away to glare at the water, slapping against large boulders I cannot harm.
It was an accident, with them. They should not have tried to stop me. Their flashing yellow suits of armor barely protected them from my violent roar. I had my lovers named and ready for their fate. They made a valiant effort to deprive me of my satisfaction but failed.
My reflection shimmers in the water, rippled and distorted. I feel myself flicker, fading, softened by the waves as they lap up the shore, tickling me. This is as far as I can go. A drop of water falls from the smoke-filled sky above and I look up, realizing my own fate. This is the end for me. For now. The lake titters as the rain patters onto its surface, disturbing the mirror it had been.
I will return. The forest knows this. I know this. It is only a matter of time. For now, I am extinguished as the smoke clears and steely clouds above open to shower the world in the element I so desperately despise.
I will be reborn.