{The Fire Breather}

Though he be strong, he is not fierce; though he be powerful, he is not violent. Although he be dependable, righteous he can’t be; though he be wise, he is not heard. He is a Fire Breather: his word burns like a torch; like Elijah’s does it purify – but can it ever be understood? By whom?

He casts a curious figure in the wilderness, as he stands by the shore, by the riverbank, on the mountain, on the traffic island in the city; in the square; shadowless, peerless, ageless. The inner beauty of his mind obscured and masked by the dust on his brow and the mud round his ankles. His hair all a-tangle, his white beard streaked now only with the occasional charcoal, with a strand of dark blond here, or there ginger. His scent is not sweet, nor is he at first glance a joy to behold. 

At second glance the wrinkles around his eyes show as laugh lines, and they are merry with wisdom. At third glance the light in his eyes shines bright as a flame: the oxygen of an insight beyond.

Through meditation and study and practice he has mastered the art of putting his mind above matter, and so he has learnt to walk on water, but he can only do so when nobody watches because he knows that if anyone were to see him, they would turn him into a miracle worker, a prophet, a freak. A messiah. A wonder of no more worth than that it defies the simple laws of contemporarily understood physics.

He will not have it. He will not be entertainment. He will not speak of his understanding, nor will he surmise his premonitions other than to those who are able and willing to pause. And stay silent, but for a while. Ere they ask questions. Those who are capable of phrasing these questions from a hunger for knowledge, a desire to learn. They are not many. The shouting, the screaming, the screeching, the demands for explanations, the sarcastic tones and the jibes, the heckling, the laughter, the desire—the instinct—for tearing him down, the lust for his failure, for his destruction, for him being hung drawn and quartered, for his undoing, are great.

He knows this, and he inwardly smiles. He has the capacity in his heart to forgive. He is magnanimous in his disposition towards those who hate him, who wish him silenced, who relish him misunderstood. Because he knows: one day something or someone will catch fire from his word and the fire will spread and will cause a great conflagration from which the lands will emerge purged and fertile for new thought to grow.

That is not his aim nor his goal nor his intention, that is just his purpose. His purpose is to quietly whisper into the din of the crowd that will not heed him, and plant the seeds he was given to sow. Until one takes hold. Until from just one or just two or just three or four first, and then four or five more, some thing starts to grow. He doesn’t even know what that could be. He has no certainty that it will not be dangerous, poisonous even, or be made such by others who will take what they find and turn it upside down, inside out; who pervert him and his gentle teachings into dogma and strife. He cannot prevent this from happening, if it must. He can only be true to his purpose, his purpose being his word.

Fear not the Fire Breather, but neither dismiss or ignore him. And doubt not the might of the Word.

∞ Pyromania

It was a particularly pointless but spectacular crime that shook the town, the nation, the world. It could not be explained, even though the Earnest Psychologist tried, on TV, to find reason or if not reason then at least rhyme. It could not be put to use, even though the Angry Prophet admonished the people for failing to see its hidden purpose; and could it, oh could it, ever be forgiven? The Sacred Sage counselled thus, but the offence was so severe, the laceration so visceral and the shock so unshakeable that the hand of mercy may not extend for millennia. As for the Messenger? The furious rabble killed him on the spot.

George had recently moved to the area and he was in no way unusual, other than in the ways that everyone is, especially when puberty all of a sudden gives way to sullen teenage anguish and pain. George’s pain was no different to most, so most would have said, but he alone had to bear it and he knew that nobody knew what it was. Nor did he care. Nor did he think about it and dwell on its nature. He felt an ache of malcontent with the world that was heavy and sad and he didn’t have words to talk about it, nor did he have friends who would have responded in terms of pure friendship if he had ever articulated it himself. The Earnest Psychologist, in retrospect, tried to reason that the breakup of his parents two years prior would have been an incision of trauma and separation in his life. The Angry Prophet berated the people: your passive aggression, your smug disengagement, your unbearable peace! Someone needed to come to infuriate you! To shake you! His pain is now yours. Own his pain! And turn it on the system that pains you! The Sacred Sage knew not of pain or system but he knew of love. ‘Love this boy, he is your son,’ he said, as they shouted him down: ‘the world you are part of, that you are a creation and at the same time creators of, is the world that has all of you in it and all that you hold dear, and it also has him in it, and all that you despise; if you despise him you despise part of you: the hatred that pains you is the hatred for the part of you that you don’t want to know. Love him like your son; more than your son! Love him and forgive him: extend the hand of friendship to him and say these words: you are redeemed.’ But George was not redeemed. They cried, ‘he has not atoned and he has not shown remorse, he has not begged for our forgiveness, on his knees, as he must, for the horrendousness of his deed has no bounds.’ The Sacred Sage sighed.

George was wandering along the beach that he had recently moved to, with his father, a spruce man called Mark. Mark was a good dad to George and he loved his son in an uncomplicated way that as far as he knew and was able to tell made sense and sufficed. It was not an ungenerous love, it was genuine. Real. George had no reason to doubt that his dad loved him, and his dad was far from his mind. On his mind was nothing specific as he ambled, listlessly, on the promenade from his new flat – he did not think of it yet as his home; events he himself was about to unleash were to make sure that he never would – by Boscombe Pier towards Bournemouth town.

He wasn’t thinking of his friends (he had one or two), or his class mates (he was mostly indifferent to them), nor was he thinking of any girl. Sometimes he thought of a girl, there was one in his class who was undeniably pretty, and sassy too, and whose lips curled up by the edge of her mouth when she smiled, which he thought was attractive, and her name was Sarah, which reminded him of his aunt, who was also called Sarah, but he was not thinking of his aunt either that evening, making his way slowly towards Bournemouth Pier. He wasn’t thinking of homework nor of any sports teams he may or may not have had a passing interest in, and he wasn’t thinking of a nondescript future. Nor was he thinking there was no future, or that the future would be nondescript. (As it turned out, the future for George would be highly specific), he was moving at the languid pace of a lanky youth westwards, and he was going to meet up with some mates. This thought, such as it was, neither uneased nor excited him: it was one of those things that one did.

So George’s head was not filled with anything in particular at this time: he was neither angry nor sad, not lonely nor elated. He hadn’t had anything to drink at this point, and he had not taken any drugs either. The Earnest Psychologist found this hardest to deal with in retrospect: there was no trigger, no immediate cause. Not now, and not in the hours and days that followed. The Angry Prophet disagreed: the cause was all around: the cause was there right in front of him: just look at it and you see it, open your eyes! The Sacred Sage knew not of any cause or what causes might be ‘good’ or ‘sufficient’ or ‘real’; he spake unto them: ‘have done, with fear and loathing and hatred and cause. Love him as if he had given or needed no cause.’ They yelled at him words of shame and abuse.

What caught his eye and his attention and filled his head with a leftfield thought – one that seemed to come out of nowhere and should have fleeted through his mind without trace, but didn’t: it lodged itself there and nested, and laid its eggs and sat on them, warm and soft and heavy, till these thought eggs hatched, and they were not quiet or timid, but loud and vigorous and demanding to be fed with action – what ignited the spark of mischievous unrest that would have to – there already was no escape – yield onto abject disaster but also glorious ecstasy, if but for one moment, what was on his mind were the beach huts.