Writing Prompt: Day 185

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Day 185 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about your character’s experience with fireworks.

Erin: I had only ever seen fireworks on a screen. So, the first time my parents brought me I screamed and cried at the noise. Everyone laughed at me hopelessly trying to cover my ears. They couldn’t understand what it was like to be so guarded for so long from something so magnificent.

Shannon: For some reason watching firework shows on the Forth of July feels more like my own personal New Year’s Eve celebration. It always the time that I reflex on my life. As I’m watching I think about the previous year, and where I was before and where I am now. I think about how watching them felt a year ago, and question whether my feelings about it have changed at all. Somehow they always do.

What has your character gotten from displays of colorful crashes?

One thought on “Writing Prompt: Day 185

  1. No one knew for certain, even though the tales were scattered across our text books and school legends, what the history behind the Anima Stella Ritual was. All we knew was that it was the extravagant send-off that was given to those who’d died in battle when one fought the darkest nature we knew of; ourselves. I’d heard, years ago when I was younger, of societies even performing this celebratory rite over the bodies of suicide victims to help their families and souls recover. After reading every text I could get my hands on that had any single mention of the ceremony, I was sure we would get it right.
    Though it was traditional to have the family members of the deceased present, a decision was reached to not involve them in the event as none of us thought it wise to reveal Cari’s secrets; they weren’t ours to tell, and now that she was gone it didn’t feel right to uncover them without her. So, instead of the kin speaking to her, we had her closest friends draw up short letters, negating Lynn who’d left shortly after her death. While it would have been wonderful to have her, there was no way we’d ask her to come back here, especially this soon.
    Down through the village, those that remained trekked with a simple metal box held high on a few shoulders as the rest of the mourners surrounded the clustered company in scarlet red shirts and sandals. As we marched an hour or so before sunset, shop keepers and civilians ceased their regular operations to watch the sombre parade walking down Main Street. Very few knew the true significance of our procession, but those who did threw crimson flowers and tea leaves, as per tradition. Other than a lone, high-pitched speaker playing rock music quietly, the event was silent and gloomy. We went past the magick shop, where the owner passed a small sachet of carnelian shards to me before bowing low as we continued past her store.
    When we headed down the short, steep stretch toward the docks before turning left to the sandy beach, the barge’s captain waved me down emphatically. Shooing the rest on the journey, I jogged over to the ferry, sniffing the tears away. “I heard ‘bout that girl yer layin’ ter rest. If ‘ere’s some’un ter help me, I could shoot off yer fireworks out ‘ere,” he slurred, his beard obscuring bits and pieces of his sentences as it wagged.
    With a curt nod to him, I signalled for our pyrotechnic expert to join me and explained that he needed to set it up on the ferry with the captain. “Yeah, o’course, Elsa. I’ll be right back, it won’t take a jiffy,” he smiled for the first time in ages. That’s how we’d all been feeling lately; as though we’d never been happy before, and we couldn’t ever be again. Jogging over to the floating raft, he had a quick conversation with the captain before they set to work getting the fireworks ready. In the past few decades, the addition of newer technology made the send-offs more entertaining and a joyful celebration. We were, really, here to celebrate the life of Cari, not just to say goodbye.
    The remainder of the crowd was milling about the stormy beach, shivering in the bracing breeze and speaking in low, miserable tones. When I rejoined them, I stayed off to the side and prepared myself to speak; reminding myself not to cry over and over, until I could almost believe it. Behind my eyes I could still feel the unmistakable prickling of impending waterworks, but I figured I could get through one little speech without bawling.
    “Ladies and gentlemen,” I called over the crowd as I attempted to see everyone from my height. Sighing loudly, I glanced around and spotted a small cluster of boulders that would be perfect to stand on. I hopped my way over to them and scrambled to the top, peering about the gathering as I continued, “We have gathered here today to say goodbye to our ally Cari. She was a solid firebug with a gentle soul and a much-loathed photographic memory. While she aligned herself with the White Rose Society,” here, I paused to let the tension in the air release, “we know she didn’t give her life willingly for their ends. She was attempting to fight off the darkness, but it was too late.” Tears were already streaming down my cheeks in hot rivers, but I couldn’t do anything to stop it; Cari was the first fallen soldier I’d known in this battle, and I knew she wouldn’t be the last. Everyone here knew this as truth, and I could see the red-stained eyes and noses that proved they were feeling the same way.
    Taking another breath of frigid, salty air, I spotted the ferry sailing swiftly into position in front of us on the open water. I straightened my back and began speaking again, attempting to keep my voice level, “We are here to say goodbye and wish Cari’s soul a safe journey wherever she may be. Before we finish this ceremony, her close friends would like to say a few words,” I concluded, dropping down from the lofty stage and motioning to a few freezing students wrapped in a tartan blanket. As they collectively took their spot on the rocks, I zoned out and let the waves crashing upon the shore soothe me as they always had. With every rumbling, shattering sound, I felt the pain and sorrow washing from my skin like mud and the weight fell from my shoulders. Though I couldn’t hear the poems and speeches they’d prepared, I saw the strained looks on the students’ faces as they spoke; it was hard to watch them hold back waves of tears and anger.
    As they finished up, silently falling off the rocks and standing apart from the rest of us, I wandered through the crowd, passing out carnelian chips and eyeing the boat as it weighed anchor in the crushing storm surges. Everyone took their stones without a word, holding them close to their hearts as they instinctively knew to do. It was a calming, natural thing to hold; as though it were a part of our loved ones.
    When I took my place again, the sachet now empty of gems, I shouted loudly so all the world could hear my voicer reverberating on the cliff behind me, “I didn’t really know Cari. I saw her in passing, but couldn’t tell you much about her. She was an ignis element who could control fire very well; she must have learned when she was younger, but I don’t know when, where or why.” Truth flowed from my lips like the ocean water, dribbling in sloppy, sappy droplets that let me breathe deeper. “Lynn, her roommate who couldn’t be here because she was too heartbroken over losing her, showed me the mural she painted on their ceiling. To hear Lynn tell it, Cari was sick of seeing a blank canvas whenever she closed her eyes; it was like her mind was projecting something she saw within the plaster itself. She drew the whole island with the edges faded and important locations in full, perspective paintings.” Silence met me like a brick wall as everything around me, from the waves to the gentle downpour that was falling in hail and rain, went calm and still. “You know, she shouldn’t have died. I keep telling myself that we are better than those apple-eaters and that vengeance won’t bring her back. But, you know what? Neither will ignoring the problem and lying down and taking it. But that could make her just the first in many bodies we must mourn.”
    The last syllable echoed and continued to ring on every wave as it hit the shore. “Okay, now then, will those carrying the soul please step into the water,” I asked in whisper that carried to the four standing in the center of the group, holding up the metal box. Though there was no body or soul within the box, it was more symbolic than anything anyway; inside were pictures and drawing and letter and books and bits of sealing wax that made up the life Cari lived at university.
    Standing even taller than before, the soul-bearers turned around and headed toward the shoreline, everyone else hanging back a bit to avoid the freezing waters. When the first feet stepped into the wake, spectators gasped as they imagined the numbness that would spread like a virus through their bodies as they submerged to their chests in icy water. After a few minutes, everyone was gathered on the shore with their carnelian shards poised and the soul-bearers lifted the lid of the box. I began the next part, tossing my shard into the open box and shouting, “Vale,” at the top of my frozen lungs. Spotted here and there other voices joined in until everyone had thrown their shards into the metal coffin. When the men ducked away from the box, though it was heavy steel, it floated with the energy we had put into it.
    I struck the match and caressed the tiny flame between my hands for a minute to let it breathe and live before throwing it through the rain and into the floating metal container. As it hit, the contents exploded in a blur of flames and sparks that danced on the water like ballerinas before drowning. Suddenly, the barge threw off its own giant sparks that popped in enormous, colourful circles, lighting up the darkening sky. Just as the sun dipped below the ocean, so did the box with a sizzle and glug.

    As I sat at the edge of my bed, re-plaiting a scarlet ribbon through my braids, a gentle knock came from the other side of the door. Without thinking, I tied my hair hastily and strode to the other side of the room, thinking about puppies and rainbows to keep the smile on my lips. Swinging the unlocked door open, I found the hallway eerily empty and a letter lying on the soft carpeting, as I’d done so many times before. I chuckled at the nerve and plucked the pale paper from the floor, shutting the door behind me without locking it.
    Taking up my seat again, I marveled at the blood-red seal on the envelope that was stamped with the vaguely familiar White Rose seal. Their letters were almost identical to ours, but they were far more menacing with its apt choice of colour. As I broke through to the letter itself, I detected a whiff of a strange, old scent that made me sneeze. With the heavily-scented paper laid beside me, I unfolded the letter itself, which contained only two lines.
    Elsa, I win. Love, Mira.
    Dulce somnia atque vale.
    After reading the line, my lips moving silently as I attempted to recall my Latin lessons, I began to feel an odd dizzy sensation. As fireworks erupted behind my closed eyelids, I whispered the translation of Mira’s words to no one in particular, “Sweet dreams and goodbye.”

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