Except from Blood and Fire

While I walked—huddled under my hoodie for protection from the persistent, gnawing breeze coming off the Pacific—I thought back to that dark room inside the shop. I remembered the pain coursing through my body. And I remembered the gash on my hand, now gone. The words were all around me. What were they saying? At the time, I seemed to understand them so clearly, but now it was lost in fog—just like everything else in this city.

Snippets of the chant came back to me. Not much more than the tune. But even so, just the thought of them seemed to make my hand tingle with phantom pain. I remembered a little more—the sounds of some of the words—and the pain got worse. Even just the memory of those words seemed to hold a magic in them. I tried to shake it off, but the burning in my hand just grew and grew. I looked down at my palm, almost expecting to see the gash had reappeared, but what I found there was much more disturbing.

A line of fire stood out where the gash had once been. My hand was a platform on which little flames danced, and yet my flesh was not consumed by the burning. Thin trails of smoke rose from my fingertips. I clenched my hand shut, and the pain—along with the flames—went out. Wide eyed, I looked around, but no one around me seemed to have noticed.

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