"Die! Die! Die!"
The fire crackled and flickered about like little fingers of death. I vaguely remembered from science labs that the hottest of fires shone a faint blue, so quick and hot that the flames were nearly colorless. The bright surge of orange was no instant death warrant, but that, in and of itself, was the problem.
No, I didn't want to die, but if I had to…well, couldn't I die quickly? Painlessly?
It was hard not to be preoccupied with the slowly progressing line of flames inching up the branches toward my perch on the pile of timber, my arms wound tightly behind the trunk of a pine. The bark scraped the skin of my forearms roughly as I tried to twist my hands free of the tight, pinching wire. That's right, not rope, wire. It was cruel, really, because the area above the flame was always hotter than the actual flame itself. Even though the fire was several feet below, my wrists were already somewhat singed by the onslaught of hot air.
The sharp scent of burning rubber hit my nostrils and I knew that my sneakers had caught fire. A wave of dizziness overtook me and I had to hold my breath to keep from vomiting.
The fire reared up like a giant wave as wet droplets splattered across my general direction. The roar of the crowd in response was defeaning and madly delighted. A few spots on my arm lit up with the giant wave, like the domino effect. For a split-second, my heart stopped. The explosion of heat was like a level of agony that I didn't know could possibly exist. The flare up disappeared before it could leave more than a fleeting imprint on my memory, leaving behind singed yet not actively burning flesh.
"Again! Again! Again!" The crowd was going wild.
My shoulder bones pulled back as if to cower as I saw Corbin holding the gasoline can high, ready to pour the remaining contents on my perch. Fear hit me like a bucket of acid. My muscles tightened, ready for the pain. As the can tipped, only a few final drops fell, hissing and sputtering into flaming rain before they ever reached the fire.
The was a deafening "Boo!"
Death by fire, I couldn't help but muse despite my violently beating heart and near hysteria. It's a little inhumane, don't you think? Then again, how humane had we been? We had been terrible, heartless, cold…
And now it was our turn.
Witches died by fire. The thought popped into my head so suddenly, so pointlessly. And harm ye none, do as ye will…But I was no witch. Witch or not, I was still getting my comeuppance.
"Die! Die! Die!"
My only consolation was a loud male's voice belting furiously, yet hopelessly over the loud and ranting cheers of the mob. "Lynne! Lynne!"
That's right. That was me. Maybe I was a little delirious, given the circumstances. My thought patterns were changing so rapidly. And beneath it all, the slowly building hysteria continued. I'd start screaming soon. I knew it.
Oh, the fire was so hot. But I wasn't sweating. The heat dispelled any bit of moisture that seeped through my skin to coat the surface. Every nerve tingled with pain—it was too intense to pay attention to it all.
I gasped with pain, feeling the scream building in my throat. The pressure was intense, but I refused to let it free. Yet. I wouldn't give the countless mob of faces screwed in pure and unsympathetic fury the delight of protests.
"Die! Die! Die!"
If only I had never come to Splinter Bridge. This would never have been my reality...but then I never would have met him. Splinter Bridge, it was such a twisted town, a place I had never wanted to be. Yet, it made me who I was. It changed me in ways I would never want to forget. It was also my grave; my deathbed.
It was him again. My heart flowed with love, and with sincere regret. Oh, this was all my fault. If only I hadn't let Jonas die. What did he mean to me anyway? Now I was losing the one guy who had ever meant anything to me. I had to say goodbye to him—somehow—before the hysteria overtook me entirely.