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Crimson Skies

Dragons flew along the skyline. Their crimson scales reflected off the towering buildings of the city washing the streets below in red. The sun festival was my favorite event of the year. Thousands filled the streets to watch the dragons fly, others lined up to eat at the myriad of different food stalls. Children ran through the maze of human traffic keeping their eyes glued upward as they followed their favorite winged beast.
I squeezed my wife's hand and gestured with my eyes towards the river. There was no point in trying to talk above the crowds around us. I knew there was an open space by the river to watch the dragons and fireworks in some peace.
"Slow down. You remind me of these little children running through the streets." My wife laughed. "Next, you'll be begging me for change to buy an ice cream."
I smiled back at her. I couldn't deny my excitement and to be honest the sun festival did make me feel like a child. Maybe I would buy an ice cream.
There was a large explosion and the skyscrapers around us vibrated, sending shards of glass down upon the crowds. I shielded my eyes. Had a firework misfired?
The back and forth foot traffic had shifted, and now, like a rising river, a wall of bodies came running towards us. Fear strained their faces. I turned to grab my wife's hand. She was staring where people were running from. Above their heads I could now see tongues of flame reaching upward and black plumes of smoke.
I screamed at her to run, yet she no longer moved. The fires were getting closer. I shook her, trying to snap her out of her daze. Why won't she move? I picked her up and began to run towards the bridge.
The fire was still far away, yet I felt its blaze on my skin. I started coughing. Where had all the smoke suddenly come from? I noticed no one else running. I turned around to see that they were all frozen.
In the distance I saw buildings collapsing. I looked towards the sky for dragons, but they had vanished. Had they been the culprits of this madness?
A loud alarm started to shriek. I felt hot ashes burning my limbs, and darkness enshrouded my vision. I could no longer breathe.
I gasped for breath and awoke in a tub of hot water. Where was I? Was it a dream?
I tried pulling myself out of the water, but my body was too weak. I felt a tugging on the back of my head and reached back to feel a thick cord which hooked right into a socket in my skull.
I looked down at scrawny forearms of loose skin and bone. I lifted my head and saw I was surrounded by people around the walls of a great column in their own tiny baths.
In the center was a massive fire rising up, incinerating everything it touched.
I looked around to try and see what everyone else was doing.
They didn't rise up. They didn't scream or fight. All they did was hold the neural cord within tightly gripped fingers pulling and pushing it back in. Again and again and again.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 24th, 2019
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