This is part nine of our series called “Inspired By Sound,” where writers use a song as the muse for their story. This piece by Elissa Gray takes influence from "Fire and the Flood," by Vance Joy.
The waves whipped against my rugged ankles, cleaning the wounds that remained from a day full of immeasurable travel. The sand had torn my bare feet to shreds, leaving scratches and blisters open to the salt-filled waters of the wicked blue ocean. Standing there, half empty and half lost, I couldn’t remember where I had been a minute ago, or if I had been anywhere at all. Mysteries of where I had come from and why I was here floated aimlessly in my indistinct mind. But there were two things I couldn’t deny – two facts that infiltrated my conscious and refused to leave. First, I had been walking for ages, traveling for too long to comprehend. And second, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was fate.
The sea’s synchronized movements continued to beat along my raw skin, yet I couldn’t seem to register the relentless stinging of the salt. My breath was slow, almost nonexistent, and I watched the sun set – or maybe it was rise – directly in front of me.
Suddenly, the world shifted. A flash of crimson and indignant ebony. I saw a fire, blazing directly in front of me, and then a fog of darkened ash-filled the air. My lungs consumed the heavy smoke, allowing the cinders to coat my throat and lie smoldering on my extended lips. The flames lashed through my caramel brown hair, turning the strands of bronze to a fiery vermilion, which vaguely reminded me of the color that a fire truck turned when it was resting casually under the golden rays of tangerine sun.
As I began to burn, I did not scream. I did not yell, not from the agony of my skin melting slowly from my feeble skeleton, not from the thick dust that littered across my mouth and lungs. I did not feel weak or scared or alone; instead, I was enveloped in a euphoria I could not explain. It was as if I could fly to the moon in a fleeting burst or swim effortlessly across the infinite ocean, as if the world was in the palm of my hand, and I had the chance to be and to do whatever I desired. I felt invisible; I felt powerful; I felt impossible. I allowed the fire to enclose my broken and decrepit body, allowed it to take everything from my physical being and turn it nearly into meaningless ash.
Before the fire claimed its final victim, the destroyed soles of my feet, I experienced the final exhilaration of chilly sea water dancing across my toes and crawling along my legs. The simple ocean waves, cooling my charred skin, gave me an idea, one that allowed everything to somehow fall into place, to make sense. I took a step forward, with no idea of what was in front of me – reality or just a blissful imagination. My legs continued to cruise along the underwater beach, granting the icy tide its wish to nibble at my knees and eventually tickle my upper thighs. Somehow, my entire body was still present, beneath the tide, as if the water was restoring every sensation and every piece of me. It was not until I could feel the waves lap against my cheeks that I noticed the flames were still scorching every inch of my skin, a paradox of endless dimensions. I took this impossible contradiction, this combination of hot and cold, of water and fire, as luck, as freedom, as everything I had ever needed. In that moment, I was free and untouchable; I was floating in the sea of desire while breathing in the smoke of success. At the same time that I gradually burned alive, I drowned in infinite intoxication. I was living my fate. I was the fire and the flood.