Girl on Fire

She walks on embers, but she doesn’t burn. Inside, she is cold. The one thought she had was to escape, but they stopped her with hot words and heated glares. Now, her room is a furnace and the air is filled with sparks. Her heart seizes after every beat, a neat little silence that fills the air for the briefest of moments. Her breath puffs out in front of her nose, an icy exhale melting into steam.

They cage her like they’re afraid. She shakes and trembles and bares her teeth when they approach. The coals under her feet want to ignite the air, but hiss as she shifts over them. The entrapped girl can only pace, as frost turns to sweat on her temples. ‘Make her like us,’ one had said, unerring, as they observed her. ‘She does not have fire. She will break.’ They pushed her with spears of red iron, prodded her sides until they withdrew their chilled weapons.

The girl of ice was thawing. Her breath was no longer visible, and her palms were hot. The air clutched at her throat, attacked her eyes. Salted water poured over her nose and into her mouth. It took an infinite amount of time for the girl to crack, but here she was: ice to slush, and then into a new substance entirely.

The girl shrinks away from her bars, unable to touch the metal as she once did. They wield hot pokers that sear her skin, char it black. She lays on the embers and wishes for a cold breeze. The heat in the air accepts her defeat and lays with her. It evaporates her tears.

‘You have broken her,’ one says to the others. ‘That is not what I wanted.’ They shake their heads at the damaged wreck at their feet. ‘Her ice kept her alive. She cannot withstand the fire.’ They did not disagree. She picked herself up one last time, hot through and through, and stared at the man who had killed her.

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