The Burning One – A Short Story by Author Jessica Leigh

short story, fiction, angels, death, survival

In many cultures, visitation by a divine angel can occur in varying forms. Have you ever experienced an angelic event that touched your life? ~Jessica Leigh


The Burning One

Moonlight slid through the open window and kissed her awake. Eva opened her eyes, and followed the shimmering path of moonbeams as they arched across the ceiling.

Although she was only twelve, Eva held no fear of night. She liked its dark rhythms and thick, musky scent. The night was her friend, both cool on bare skin, and soothing.

It was the sun that she hated. Stark, harsh, and always ready to expose the horrors of the living.

Eva pushed upon her elbows, forcing her body into a sitting position with a gasp. She glared at the two lumps of withered flesh that remained beneath the coverlet. Lifting her chin, she deliberately turned her gaze from her useless legs to the slivered moon that drifted beyond the windowpane. A breeze lifted, sighing, and on its wings she heard the echo of a voice, high-pitched and lingering.

A knot twisted inside her; excitement, fear, anticipation. He was lonely again and waiting for her from somewhere within the swelling void below her window.

Turning, Eva gripped the arms of her wheelchair and dragged the useless remainder of her body into it.

Once positioned, she unlatched the brake, and pushed against the sluggish wheels. The chair resisted for but an instant, then slid across the hardwood floor. Her eyes knew the darkness now, and shadows shrouded by evil withdrew, defeated, into the simple and inanimate lumps of dressers and drawers.

Even blind, she would have known the way. Three pushes, pause, reach to the right for the nightstand, and pull the small, worn afghan securely into her lap.

Two pushes. Eva was in the hallway. The house held the silence of a tomb, and its walls pressed in on her greedily. One push – and a long, thin squeak as the

floorboard groaned beneath her weight. She paused, listening for a stir of life from her mother’s room. Pointless, Eva knew, for her mother slept within the tender arms of her Percocet. Her father was dead and gone for three months now.

On the worst nights, when sleep had spurned her altogether, she heard her father calling to her. Why had she left him? Why had she remained? Her father was lonely. And Eva had failed him.

Biting her lip, she refused herself the indulgence of tears. Three pushes and Eva entered the foyer, her wheels whisking now on the cold, slate tile. Eva was stuck in the aftermath, and only half of her was dead. The other half clung stupidly to life. She did not know how to make it let go.

Eva drew open the heavy back door and the lapping tongue of night brushed over her gleefully. She breathed deeply, pulling in its dark and heady scent. She moved out into its arms, pushing again on the wheel rims, harder now, fighting against the earthy tug of moist and sucking sod.

She labored: five difficult pushes. She paused to listen as the breeze sighed through the trees, and the throaty hum of crickets pulsed from the thickest shadows. It was the witching hour, this the deepest stroke of night. It soothed her.

Eva tilted her head, waiting, struggling to still her ragged breath. A low moan rose from beyond, rising in pitch, wavering, and then falling away into nothingness.

Her stomach twisted again, sharper, turning in on itself. The moan terrified her. It was Eva’s voice, the voice inside, trapped and tempered by the thick hand of anguish. Woeful, like… The Day.

She had tried so hard to get to Daddy. She had tried so hard to reach him in time, back to the burning, flaming car she had been torn from only moments before.

Her legs hadn’t worked. The sun had been shining sinfully, the wrecked car she had been thrown from only moments ago, now aflame with wicked light. But Eva’s legs were dead.

The moan again.

When she pushed, the wheelchair caught a rut and tottered, one wheel spinning, on the brink of upsetting. Eva caught her gasp between her teeth, and then swallowed it. She would not cry out. She would not make a sound. She gripped the rims and waited, motionless. She would not try.

Eva closed her eyes and remembered the first time they’d stuffed her body into the confining wheelchair like a dry and lifeless husk. She remembered the sterile brightness of the schoolroom, and Teacher bending over her.

Teacher had been upset.

“Why do you not try, Eva? Why won’t you speak to me?”

Mother stood behind. “The doctor says that you could walk again, Eva, if you’d only try. Try for your Teacher. Try for Mommy.”

Eva waited. Slowly, the wheelchair righted itself, brought to rest against the skin of night by the tugging will of gravity. Her lips curled with the ghost of a smile. She pushed hard on the left rim to rid herself of the rut’s entrapment. And again, her wheels went slicking over dampened grass.

Four trembling pushes. The wretched cry came again, sharper now, and Eva’s panicked eyes searched through the shrouding darkness. She felt disoriented, and the night air was suddenly cloying, overpowering with heavy pollen and dew.

Where was her Seraph? She anxiously sought the glow of white flesh from within the belly of night, but there was only rippling shadow.

Two weeks ago, Mother had brought the creature home for what the therapists called convalescence. Eva had called it pity. And, turning the wheelchair away from her window, Eva had refused them any words. She had shown no emotion at all. But that night, when the sun had died away, her Seraph had called to her with an enchanting, whickering voice. And Eva had succumbed to her curiosity.

From her wheelchair, she had lifted a slender hand through the wire fencing, placing it against the warm satin of his flesh, flesh the shade of holiness incarnate.

His mane was thick and flowing like the robe of an angel, and Eva had been awed by the power of him. His eyes were large and liquid, glittering with the moon’s pale reflection, and filled with knowledge far beyond her twelve slim years.

His name came to her. “Seraph,” Eva had whispered aloud, not quite understanding. At her voice, the animal had lowered his great head to blow sweet and heated breath upon her, lifting the clasp of night up and away. In Seraph’s face, Eva had known the sun. The very next day, she looked up his name. It was the name of an angel. It meant “the burning one.” Although she did not understand why, every night from thereon, she had sought him at the midnight hour, when all others slept.

But tonight, she could not make out the glow of his brilliance in the darkness. Eva pushed and pushed at the rims, breathlessly closing in on the dark line of fence. The moan rose again, now soft and quavering. And near. Where was Seraph?

A strangled cry filled her throat when she saw him. He lay on the ground, barbed wire twisting over his white flesh, now cruelly slashed with lines of glistening red. Now and again, his great body would thrash, and then wearily draw still once more.

Eva reached the fence. She was panting in short, harsh whimpers. “Seraph!” His massive head lifted, and he nickered. Tears burned at her eyes, hot and blinding, as his head lowered back slowly until his muzzle touched the dampened earth and rested there.

Eva looked over her shoulder, measuring the distance between the fence and the dark, hulking form of the sleeping house. The blacked stretch of night between seemed yawning and limitless.

She slid her body from the wheelchair. It met the ground heavily, forcing the air from her lungs in a whoosh. She pushed up on her elbows, and painstakingly began to crawl, inching beneath the shrouding fence. With trembling fingers, she touched upon the wicked points of cold wire burrowed into tender flesh. Her Seraph no longer moved.

Eva struck at her stubborn legs with hard fists, forcing her knees up under body. Her legs had obeyed her. Eva found one white leg and lifted. It was oh so very heavy. The barbed wire came loose in her hands reluctantly, piercing her skin as she unwound it.

Methodically, she sought all four of his massive hooves, lifting, pulling, tugging, and tearing her own skin. Her grief drowned any pain. “Seraph, please,” she whispered to him. He did not respond. When it was finally done, and she had removed all the cruel metal but for what lay beneath him, she crawled on hands and knees for the afghan. She pulled it from the seat and shoved at the chair with all her might. It wobbled, tipped, and fell on its side.

Exertion caused her breath to hitch, but she crawled back to her Seraph, and climbed across his great, warm body. When she felt the slow rise and fall of his ribs beneath her, Eva pulled the afghan over them both. She lowered her head to his neck and felt the soft tickle of mane against her wet cheeks. She closed her eyes.

Above them, a cloud passed the passionless face of the moon.

**************************

Dawn came slowly, licking across the heavens with fingers of rose and muted gold. The groom found her in the pasture, her black curls seeping out from beneath the blanket to spill across the white flesh beneath.

He saw the blood stains that were everywhere, and cried out loudly. “Eva!” Dropping to his knees, he tried to pull her off the animal.

Eva came awake, screeching, and gripped the horse’s neck with a fierce strength. She would not leave him. Ever. “Nooo!”

The animal emitted a long, low groan at her keening voice. Both the groom and Eva stilled.

“He’s alive, Eva.”

Slowly, the horse lifted his long forelegs out before him. Carefully, he raised his massive body from the ground. Eva gripped the white mane and clung to him.

The groom stared at her in amazement. “Eva, your legs.”

She glanced down, seeing that her nightdress had ridden up over her thighs. Seeing that her legs were long, bare, and gripping the animal’s bloodied sides.

The horse blew through his nostrils, and shook its great head wearily. The groom slipped a halter over his long nose, and led him gingerly from the pasture with the girl still clinging to his back.

Mother was in the doorway, a motionless figure with a slim, white hand fluttering at her throat. Eva smiled and stretched out her bare arms. And allowed the sun to touch her.

Author’s Note: Medieval Christian theology paints seraphim in the highest choir of the angelic hierarchy. They seek to energetically lift those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all-consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness. ~ Source: Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy (vii)

About the Author:
Jessica Leigh is an emerging author in the romance field, and still holds her “day job” as a free-lance writer/PR specialist for a social media marketing firm. She is also an Environmental Scientist and researcher with a degree from Penn State University. Her first historical romance release, Savage Forest, delves deep into the Native American cultural heritage of the eastern seaboard, and chronicles the life and death struggle of a feisty young Swedish immigrant thrust into a native way of life unknown to her. Jessica’s recent contemporary romance release, Waiting for Eden, is now available on Kindle, and she is currently at work on a sequel to Savage Forest.

Visit me on Facebook or at www.writerjessicaleigh.com for release updates and more!
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About writerjessicaleigh

Author, free-lance writer, business owner, mother of four, and environmental enthusiast, Jessica Leigh resides in Kempton, Pennsylvania, surrounded by her beautiful Appalachian forest along a meandering trout stream.
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One Response to The Burning One – A Short Story by Author Jessica Leigh

  1. Pingback: The Burning One – A Short Story by Author Jessica Leigh | jessicawessner

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