Vida stared absent minded into the ravenous flames that flickered and danced playfully against the inky black backdrop of the night. She exhaled and watched as the misty vapours of her breath floated like a tiny ghost before her, then evaporated into nothing. The flames roared and rose as the lanky figures of teenage boys fuelled the fire with whatever they could find. Aerosol cans flew through the air and landed with a crackling explosion upon the fire, whilst the drink fuelled teens chuckled and hooted primitively as the fire continued to devour everything that was thrown in it’s path. Although to onlookers this scene appeared to be nothing more than drunken teenage chaos and destruction on yet another estate, to Vida this was a source of familiarity and comfort, a sense of security that she seemed unable to obtain elsewhere, least not in her own home. Much like the others, Vida had been born on the estate, and had spent the entire sixteen years of her life learning the vital skills of survival that was a necessity when being an inhabitant of what people liked to call ‘deprived areas’. Of course Vida had never really thought of herself as ‘deprived’, and often recalled what her late grandmother has once said to her when she was a small child, ‘If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom’. It seemed to Vida that whilst she stared intensely into the enticing fire, she had never really understood that quote until now. Society had never really fitted her or her family comfortably enough, yet did they still consider themselves free?. Vida had always seemed to think so. But then Vida whispered the question aloud to herself, replaying it over and over again in her mind as she tried desperately to think of the answer, ‘what is freedom’?.
It had always seemed to her whilst growing up that this definition of freedom had something to do with herself being able to do whatever she liked, whenever she liked. Although now it seemed more likely to her that this is perhaps what her grandmother was talking about all those years ago. Perhaps freedom is merely an illusion, something we are made to believe in with the false sense of security that comes with such ways of thinking. Vida picked up an empty beer can and threw it into the hungry flames. It’s funny, she had never really thought about such things before now. Perhaps she had always been quietly content with her lot in life that it had never even occurred to her.
In despite of the still ever growing flames, it became obvious to Vida that an icy chill had began to set in with the onset of the night, which was also felt by the gang of teenagers who had grown tired of the bonfire and headed back to the warmth and comfort of their own homes. She knew that she would soon also have to make the slow and resistant walk back to her home, only to be met by the drunken and pitiful state of her mother who would declare her hatred for the world before falling into a deep and alcohol induced stupor on the sofa. Of course it had not always been that way, but since her Father left and her Grandmother died it seemed that her mother could no longer cope and found relief in the bottom of a vodka bottle.
Vida sighed and edged closer to the fire so she could warm the stinging coldness that had numbed her hands. By now all of the teenagers had long since abandoned the bonfire and Vida was left alone with nothing but the sound of her own breath and the crackling of the fire.
The thick, black smoke from the fire began to sting her eyes now that she was sat directly adjacent to it. She attempted to wipe her blurred eyes clear of the welling tears that had formed and hazed her vision, causing her to see only the distorted, dream like image of the vibrant fire colours surrounded by the black of the night that threatened to engulf it. It was with this struggle to retain her vision that she stopped dead in her pursuits, and lowered her hand slowly from her tear stained face. She had not been sure at first, perhaps it was just her tired eyes playing tricks, but now she could see it plain as day. The pixie like face of a boy stared up at her from the still smouldering flames of the fire. Vida jumped back in alarm and began to run across the field , yet some overwhelming force of curiosity slowed her frantic dash into an eventual stop as she stood still with her back facing the fire. Her heart drummed audibly inside her shaking chest as she contemplated the thought of turning back . “What the hell was it?”, Vida whispered to herself, struggling to retain her breath from the frantic dash to safety. Of course she had decided that she must be insane, yet she turned around slowly to face the fire, and began the hesitant walk back in the direction in which she had ran from. She hadn’t realised quite how far she had sprinted as she stared intently at the pinprick, amber dot that was the fire on the other side of the field, yet as she began to draw closer, the fire became larger and the flames more defined, which very much echoed the state of Vida’s rattling nerves.
Vida was nearing the location where she had seen the impossible face staring up at her, the grass was still flattened where she had been sat only moments ago warming her chilled hands. Vida stared intently into the fire once more, searching the flames for any sign of the face, or anything that could perhaps have been mistaken for a face but found nothing. She closed her eyes and sighed a deep sigh of relief, allowing the pent up adrenaline and nerves to exhale from her body with every breath she took. “Mental”, Vida sighed, “absolutely mental”, as she turned her back once more upon the fire and began to make the journey back across the field.
“Are you looking for me?”. The hairs on the back of Vida’s neck froze in despite of the licking flames that still roared only two paces behind her. She could feel the intensity of the adrenaline that rushed back into her body, daring her to turn around once more and face the source of the voice. Vida clenched her fists and felt the sweat upon her palms as she made her final decision. She turned around hesitantly and faced whoever or whatever the voice belonged to. “I thought you were going to make a run for it again”. There he was. The owner of the bodiless voice and face that had appeared to her in the flames of the fire. Vida choked but could not speak as she stared in awe at the bizarre image of this boy, if indeed he was a boy.
His hair was the colour of freshly fallen snow, crisp and brilliant white which flowed elegantly over his shoulders. His skin appeared delicately pale and looked like it would tear like tissue paper with one touch. However, as remarkable as these aspects of his appearance may have been, Vida could notice nothing more remarkable than the deep, glistening ruby coloured eyes that looked inquisitively back at her. Vida was lost for words, but felt the surmounting volcano of questions that she needed to ask begin to form on the tip of her tongue. She supposed that she would start with the most obvious question. She cleared her throat and asked in a small whisper, “who are you?”.
The boy cocked his head curiously to one side whilst he contemplated the question. “David…….yes, my name is David”. Neither David or Vida spoke as Vida shuffled awkwardly on her feet, awaiting some kind of explanation that didn’t come. A few moments passed in silence as Vida could feel David’s eyes burning into her as she stared in momentary disbelief at the ground. “Where did you come from”?. Vida snapped her head up decisively from the ground to face David, but found herself faced with nothing but an empty space where David was stood only seconds ago, replaced only with the inky black darkness of the night. Vida gaped with astonishment and turned rapidly on her heels to scan the empty field. David was nowhere to be seen, and even the roaring bonfire had now began to shrink into little more than a small camp fire which crackled and spat pitifully. Vida laughed in disbelief and shook her head vigorously before chucking a bucket of water onto the fire that had been left for the purpose. “I must be going insane”, she muttered, before wrapping her red hooded jacket more tightly around herself and heading back across the field towards her mothers home.