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“Embers and Ashes” by Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos

She had a Nose; it was her inherited gift, her genetic curse; scents made their way through her nostrils, to her palate, tongue, throat. She could taste every aroma. That night, the smell woke her. In her slumber, the smoke permeated the papillae of her dehydrated tongue, her teeth transformed into charcoal. Desperate thirst.

She slowly roused, eyes lazily shut, her hand blindly seeking the glass of water on her nightstand. She sniffed the air. Suddenly alert, fully awakened, she sat up. Droplets of sweat curled along her weary spine, as mischievous incandescence whirled on her window. Then she heard the crackle, sizzle, snap, roar. She ran to the window, forced the shutters open, and wailed.

The barn was ablaze. Flames licked the wooden frame amorously, swelling high into the sky, soaring, twirling, waltzing through the night’s summer breeze. The hay they had lovingly, carefully grown, collected, dried, and stored, curled up into a deformed mass; a bonfire of devotion and labour disintegrating before her eyes. Blue flames swallowed the new tractor, undulating like the Gitanes on the cigarette packets her husband used to smoke.

In her transfixed stupor, she faintly heard the other sounds flowing from the farm. The cows in their shed mooed desperately sensing the danger, their hoofs rattling against the old stones as they pranced immovably. The hens peeped, high-pitched and quavering, a tumult of alarm. Closing her eyes, she pictured their ruffled, puffed out feathers, the agitation within the pen. Which would try to run? Which would hide?

She exhaled deeply, immobile, and watched, as the men arose and scurried with buckets of water, a line of dark ants rushing into the Olympian fire, the door to hell.

She watched, as the burning daze putrefied her mind into a vacant pasture, a contemplation of misty reminiscence, a haze of senseless impressions, a demented realism.

She watched as the fire fried her brain into a mush of wounded neurons, evaporating networks, destabilised connections, blurred reality. A meltdown of shrinking cerebral matter.

She watched as an inferno of Alzheimer’s burned her perceptiveness, her essence, her existence to the ground, leaving only embers, then ashes.

Delphine Gauthier-Georgakopoulos is a Breton writer living in Athens, Greece. She needs coffee, loves butter, is stubborn, and has a weird sense of humour.


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