Anushka Chatterjee

Pale wings fluttered in the fading light, edges dipped in shimmer. Shadows stretched and awoke, yawning away the sleep. Light faded but also brightened. Spots of bright red and orange, streaks of burning heat atop delicate stems of wax.

The wings fluttered; their owner seeking light. The very same light that it saw every night. Saw and worshipped from a distance, too afraid of the heat, of the unknown. But the deep red beckoned, promising warmth and sight unlike any experienced earlier.

It had been a long time since the winged one first saw the flame. Saw that streak of desperate warmth that left you gasping. A long time. Not one word, not one touch, barely even a glance, yet, a fever burned in both, as shadows mingled.

Would the fragile balance melt away? The air smelled different today.

Wings fluttered. Carefully, slowly, steadily, it stole towards the flame, irresistibly drawn. No escape. Stranger yet, no desire to escape. There was no trap. Slowly, slowly, distance reduced and the flame flickered. Streaks of gold and bronze wavering in the gentle breeze, beckoning, tempting. The little one, of wings and gossamer, drew even closer. Now hovering around the tip of the flame.

Warmth unlike anything it had known before. Gentle, delicate warmth like a mother’s gentle touch. So very warm,  but no warmth. Even closer, closer, closer. The air really was different today, smelling of change and time. Closer, closer.

The heat, no longer warmth, was almost too much to bear. Yet, the streaks beckoned. Almost too much, but not yet. So close and yet so far. Where is love, in the absence of touch? But, today. Love.

The little winged one of gossamer and silk extended a delicate limb and gently touched the flame. The warmth, the heat, the burn! Unimaginable, incomprehensible. Fire spread across its limbs. Blazing fire that devoured every cell and left behind nothing but ash.

Ash flew everywhere. Little flakes of grey and white flitting around where the winged one once danced, calling out to the flame. Nothing but ash.

That first touch. Wings, gossamer, flame, ash. All one. The last.