The metal is cold against my fist. It’s been days since your body warmed it. Gray, greasy soot coats the gold links, the scent of fire looms in the air.
The Admiral knew I watched from the tree line, as he baptized your body in gasoline. He’d hoped to flush me out, and it might have worked, but Fox and I held each other tight. The weight of her grip rooted me in place. We pressed our cheeks together, our tears mingling with the dust on our faces, turning to mud. I pressed my lips against her shoulder to keep from screaming as your cries filled the midnight sky as you burned.
We retreated farther into the woods until our scouts were sure the Admiral and his men had given up. They laid in wait for days, but we didn’t give them the satisfaction of walking into their trap. Men can be so predictable when it comes to their view of women. Did they think burning you alive would break me, break us? All the Admiral has done is solidify our resolve.
Our house is nothing now—years of memories gone in a plume of black smoke. Charred timbers, white with ash, stake out where we slept, ate, spoke, and loved.
A sob catches in my throat, and I blink away the tears as I stand before where your soul resided. I listened with the others as it left your body—the ultimate release from the pain, from the sizzling heat.
Your beautiful skin, the color of coconut husk, is gone. I search for the mischievous glint in your perfect brown eyes but find only scorched bone.
A breeze catches my hair, and it caresses my face. The memory of our first kiss plays in my head like a movie. You brushed my hair from my face and leaned in, our lips brushed in the sweetest sensation. Your breath smelled of mint. Your mouth tasted of honey.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the dawn light, trying to hold the memory like a photograph. I wanted so badly to come to you. To throw my body on your pyre and ascend to the heavens with you in a burst of orange sparks. But we have work to do in your name, in the name of all who the Admiral has taken. We will find them. We will find them all just as the Liliths found us.
I wipe the chain clean against my pants. A black, greasy stain smudges the fabric—pieces of you. I push the thought away, and with dirty fingers, I clasp the chain around my neck and straighten the heart-shaped charm. Inside there were once photos of you and your mother. You both wore the same smile in the times before the Great Shift. The locket now refuses to open, and I must work to remember you as you were.
Fox tugs at my arm, nudging me from thoughts of you. Her eyes are soft under a film of salty tears. She and the others have sifted through the ashes and recovered a few hidden items. The Admiral may have numbers on his side, but we have wit and cunning. One would think they’d searched our home before torching it, but they missed the loose floorboard. Just as you said they would.
I sigh. The knot in my chest loosens a measure. Your intel is still good. The identities of friendlies inside the Admiral’s compound remain safe.
Fox inquires if I want to bury you. The others would like to lay you to rest. I decline. You are a message between the Admiral and me. The idea that I left you for the scavengers will bother him. But I know you will understand this makeshift sky burial. The birds will finish what the flames could not.
I give the order to move to the next safe haven and continue our mission. This fight isn’t over. We are Lilith.
If you enjoyed this short story, I'd be chuffed if you checked out some of my other fiction.
If you're thinking of upgrading to a Vocal+ membership, why not receive a huge discount on your first month? Follow the link below to learn more.