Fire and Blood
I am eager to light my lantern. This year I was allowed to carve it myself and I am proud of my bloody fingers. Watching from a window, I urge the sun to set faster. It seems to scream its frustration at my impatience in hues of orange and red. I extinguish it with the tip of my finger. Our fires died with the sun and now their hearths gape at me like hot black mouths. A shiver runs through me as I make my way to the kitchen, seeking a candle to light my lantern.
Now that my lantern leers up at me I am afraid and I move in close to my mother who, needing me to be out from under her feet, ushers me outside. She calls to my brother and warns him not to let me stand too close to the fire. He grabs my sleeve and pulls me out of the kitchen-his own lantern bobbing and grinning.
My father has set light to the pile of wood he spent all afternoon carefully constructing. A flame leaps from his torch and is quickly joined by others. Sinister shadows are cast across his face and he appears as if wearing many masks. Unlike the man standing across from him who is wearing a mask. He did a bad thing and is scared-my parents talk about it in hushed tones.
I stare into the fire for too long. The dancing flames cause me to sway with them. I cannot blink, my eyes are dry. I turn to look at my brother and he too is staring into the beautiful dancing light. The reflection of the fire makes his eyes look as though they are melting and I look away equally afraid of what I might see and what I might miss. I look around for my grandfather, he could be here tonight.
I do not watch as the throats of the animals are cut, but I do watch as their blood soaks into the ground and although in this light it looks black, I know that it is red. I remember the blood red sun and the way that it too seemed to sink into the earth. I hope that I never have to wear a mask. Our thanks now given, we are able to celebrate and I seek out the food -the fire has burned a hunger deep within me.
I save a small feast for my grandfather -he has been gone for a long time and I assume that he must be hungry. I sit and wait for him as the adults dance and leap. They look like flames escaping from the fire. My full belly and burning cheeks make my eyes heavy and I want to sleep. I am aware of my father lifting me onto his shoulder. I rest my face in the curve of his neck; his skin is gritty and smells smoky.
My father leads our torchlight procession back up to the house, I am still in his arms until we reach the doorway and then he passes me to my mother. With his torch still burning he steps into the kitchen and feeds the gaping mouth of the hearth. Our fire once again leaps to life and the unfamiliar are replaced by objects that I recognise. As my mother closes the door on the night, my brother and I place our lanterns in the window. I linger-if he is out there I don’t want to miss him.