Flash Fiction Story: The Burned

The Burned

“What are we waiting for?” Jeanne asked for the fifteen-thousandth time.

The bird glared at her, then turned his head away and squawked one loud, shrill reply.

“Right. I’m trying to be patient, but I’ve been waiting -”

SQUAWK!

Jeanne’s lips tightened and she prayed silently for God to grant her more patience. Patience, and maybe a book, or some other way to pass the time.

Jeanne leaned back and folded her hands behind her head, whistling a tune she remembered her mother singing as she cooked. She closed her eyes and remembered the smell of roasting rabbit wafting through her home. She could see the rabbit, dripping with juices as the fire wrapped around its golden carcass, hissing and popping as it burned. Then the fire grew. It leapt out from the hearth and climbed up the walls, drowning her home in swaths of orange and yellow flames. But her eyes remained focused on the rabbit, the poor dead creature, awash in the glow of the fire.

When one beady red rabbit eye opened, the fire surrounded Jeanne, and then the rabbit spoke. “Burn,” it said. “Burn!”

Jeanne screamed, and did as the rabbit asked. She burned.

When she opened her eyes again, she was no longer in her burning house. She was back with the bird, waiting.

“Squawk?” the bird asked. His long neck allowed his head to twist at a 90 degree angle, which Jeanne found unnerving. She shivered and turned away.

“Another vision,” she mumbled with a modest shrug.

“SQUAWK!”

Jeanne grimaced. “I know. I thought I’d be rid of the visions by now.” She shrunk into herself and sobbed. She was beginning to think she’d be stuck here forever.

The bird squawked again, this time with reproach, and shook his head.

“I’ve been stuck here for over 500 years, with no one to speak to except a squawking red bird and these horrible visions tormenting me. Will it always be like this, or will I finally move on? I just – I can’t take it any more,” she screamed, as she leapt to her feet. “God, I am your true and devoted servant. I served you faithfully in life and now I ask you to release me. Please, God, I beg for your mercy!” Jeanne collapsed, releasing all the years of frustration and anxiety through her ragged sobs.

Feathers tickled Jeanne’s face and she felt a cool mist envelop her body. When she opened her eyes, she was back on Earth, surrounded by a small grove of trees. Astonished, she looked down to see her own naked body, just as young and beautiful as she had been in life.

“Jeanne, God has heard your prayer. He was merely waiting for you to ask.”

She stood, cradling her cold, naked body with her arms, and stared around her in amazement. “Where am I?”

She found the bird sitting on a path between two towering trees, and she stepped toward him as he spoke to her.“You’re back in France. It’s 580 years later though, so you’ve got some catching up to do. Don’t worry, I’ll help you adjust. Just don’t mention me to anyone, or they’ll think you’re crazy. And you know how well that ended last time, right?” The bird chuckled, then patted her leg with one long outstretched wing.

Jeanne dropped in front of the bird, caressing its cheek. “Why – I thought I’d – why am I here?”

The bird’s head tilted sideways again, though not quite so awkward of an angle this time. “You’re a phoenix, Jeanne. Just like me. When we burn, we do not die. We are born again.” The bird trotted off down the path and after a deep breath, Jeanne followed patiently behind.

Flash Fiction story written for the TerribleMinds challenge: “Plucked from the Pages of History”

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10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Story: The Burned

  1. AndrewContidrew says:

    That was great! The world needs more stories about the Phoenix.

    Have you ever read Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix(Hi no Tori) series? This made me think of it immediately for both the subject matter and the descriptions.

  2. saraheolson says:

    Thanks everyone! This was a lot of fun.

    @Andrew – no I’ve never heard of that series. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. Bob Bois says:

    Posting again, I know:
    But this reminded me (suddenly) of a song my kids used to sing (hope I dont offend…):

    Joan of Arc!
    What a lark!
    She dressed and fought
    Just like a bloke!
    (Like a bloke!)

    Joan of Arc!
    Just a spark!
    Sent that lassie up in smoke!
    (Up in smoke!)

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