I have lived in darkness for the past three days.
I am alone in this small room with nothing but a bed, a pot for my wastes and a door. No windows or candles to provide the smallest hope of light. My hands are tied behind my back. I have tried to escape thrice only to be thrown down by a man twice my size and my bonds made tighter. But I am not the only one suffering.
There are four of us — there have always been four — here in this temple. I hear one of the girls at night, crying to sleep. One prayed, only stopping when it’s time for dinner — the only meal the men provided us. The other one is silent that I wonder if she can’t talk at all. Then the last one is me, who always fought. I will never stop fighting till I died.
Today’s the fourth day, the last day. And the men have come for us.
The sun is almost setting but the light still hurts my eyes. The men lead us out the temple, toward the raised dais where four posts were set, facing each direction. Below the dais are people whom we know. We have lived in the same village, smiled at one another on the streets, and helped each other in the time of need. But tradition dictates that four women must give their own life for the continuance of other’s. There are many who supports this tradition; I am one of the few who don’t.
The men tie each of us to individual posts and I flex my wrists apart so they can still move. Kindlings are set upon our feet, encircling the posts themselves. They intend to burn us. I will not let them.
A priest starts bringing the orb of Fira into the middle of the dais, his lips moving faintly with his prayers. The crowd is silent as the priest bellows, “Praise be to the goddess of Fire!”
“Praise to her and all her glory!” the crowd answers.
“Today we shall witness yet again our goddess’s love and passion sweep over our lands and families. And how else can we show her our gratitude? How else can we make sure that she never leaves our side? Today! These four young, beautiful souls will enter our goddess’s sweet loving arms and make the goddess divine satisfied!” says the priest. The orb glows bright red in the center and I know that if I somehow get a hold of it, I might get the chance to live.
The priest then takes hold of a torch, walks toward the praying girl at my right, shouts, “Let the fire burn our diseases!”, and sets fire to her.
The crowd cheers but the sound of the girl’s cries rings louder in my ears. Soon her cries are doubled by the girl opposite from me and then tripled by the girl at my left as the priest lights them up one by one, burning away “calamities” and “conquerors”, as if us girls are manifestations of the things they hate and fear.
I am wrong to stay in this village for too long. I am wrong for thinking I could live here in peace. And I refuse to let others live while I die for their sakes.
The priest comes for me but I have already loosened the rope around my wrists.
“Let the fire burn the wicked!”
I wrench the torch from the priest’s hands and hit his surprised face with the burning end. A satisfying crunch and the sizzling of burning flesh fills my ears as the priest went down. The crowd gasps and the closest to the dais backs away. But I don’t worry about them; let them help him to his feet. The orb of Fira has already caught my attention.
I sprint toward it; the men guarding us realizing too late that it isn’t the priest’s demise that I am after. It is my freedom and life of all the girls that would have succeeded our sacrifice. I reach towards the glowing orb and I’ve prepared myself to be burned but —
What? The orb is…cold?
Suddenly I feel…lighter than I’ve ever felt before. My flushed body calms as brightly colored wind — no, not wind but fire! — envelope my body. Flashes of blues and greens and golds lift my hair and swirl around my arms.
I look up the sky and laugh. So this is power.
I lower my gaze upon the crowd that not so long ago cheered for the deaths of four girls. Four. Because the girl I was died and now I am reborn as fire. I open my arms and release myself unto them.
Burn them all.