I awaken to an uncomfortable sensation.
Very, very cold.
Straining my eyes, I can see a vast white snow enveloping the majority of the scenery. Its snowy luminescence cradles the earth, demanding nothing but asking everything. Trees that have long shed their leaves gaze about in silent reverie. Small icy droplets and carefree winds further contribute to the reverent atmosphere.
Though as blissful as the scenery is, the aching bones and shivers running down my spine return me to cold reality. I'll need to find a way to warm myself lest the frost take me.
Scanning the area, I see a small fire that appears to be at the end of its life. The final charry remnants of wood used as nourishment shrivel away, and the embers borne from it appear ready to quietly fade.
Well, the most reasonable thing to do is try and find some more fuel for the fire. And just as I say that, a peculiar man walks by and drops a few sticks of wood slathered with animal fat into the pit.
The sudden explosive burst of energy gives renewed life to the flame's once withered soul. The newly found chaotic energy of the roaring flames set a deep contrast to the surrounding pale white scenery. Immediately, I can feel additional warmth flowing against my body.
Much better. Still, it's not quite enough. My body continues to complain at the conditions it's being put under. I suppose I could move a bit closer to the fire. But if I get too close, I might end up burning myself.
...Although if I were to catch fire, that would solve my immediate problem. Who needs a fire when you are the fire? It might even be convenient for others to huddle around me to warm themselves up.
Chuckling at the idea, I take the joke to its natural conclusion.
As I'm pondering such thoughts, my lethargy from awakening dissipates slightly. With newfound clarity, I take notice of my aching stomach churns and the beat of my heart rumbling. A growing pressure in my head makes me feel dizzy.
However, a useful diversion comes to me as the man who kindled the fire approaches, talking with a smile. At some point he pauses his speech as if waiting for my response. I try to reply, but no words come out. Everything still seems a bit out of focus, like a dream.
A dream? Ahh that's right, a sudden recollection brings the context of this situation back to me. Right, inaction won't solve anything. Still, I feel a certain peace wash over me. As if this is something I've long accepted.
I attempt again to speak, just to confirm my own existence. But the familiar sound of my voice doesn't reach back to my ears. I try to pinch myself, but even my hands won't cooperate.
In the meantime, the fire that was once the life savior of my existence begins to grow uncomfortably large. In the background, a few curious onlookers seem attracted to the expanding flames.
Suddenly cheers begin to erupt and the man beams, appearing to take great pride in the growing procession. He addresses the crowd with the vigor of a lion's roar. The crowd answers back with the same fervor, as if a single pride.
The people, the fire, the scenery. All the puzzle pieces that were forming in my head suddenly connect, and the delirious state I was in now fully shatters. True clarity seeps into my skull, its truth demanding to be acknowledged.
Yes, I remember now why I'm here. It is for this supposed truth that I stand here now. In the search for this truth, I found something I didn't want to see.
Still, I faced it head on and hoped others would listen. It seems my intentions were lost.
Now I'm finally being rewarded for my efforts. Perhaps it's fine to let it all go and engage in a little self-indulgence. At the very least, I can live with the satisfaction of giving it my all.
More than anything, I wish I could accept this. To become drunk on the thought of this being a reasonable ending.
Instead, it will all be over. The celebrations will cease and this beginning will come to a close. For others, it will have merely been a few exciting moments in an otherwise monotonous day.
And in the end, I'm still left wondering if this is all okay.
The sunny sky begins to darken, and rain clouds fall. A soft sleet casts upon the land, with lofty winds glistening the air.
Nonetheless, processions have gone smoothly. Large bundles of wood are stored safely under the cover of a make-shift tent. Tables are neatly arranged showcasing a variety of appetizers and entrées aesthetically arranged by color gradient. At the end of the rainbow, a few barrels of wine are being generously tapped with the people around all laughing, cheering. Some of them even cackling like hyenas. All beholden to the site in front of them.
It's not the largest group, but large enough to attract interest of outsiders. Many continue to walk by, as though it's nothing unusual, and they would be correct. There is nothing unique about this situation. Still, for some of us, it tugs at our heart strings and causes us to briefly consider our own standing.
A man walks up next to the woman and says the necessary ceremonial words. She does not respond, but that is within expectation. He's done this many times before, the smile on his face betrays his experience.
"For any members of the audience, speak now or forever hold your peace."
The penultimate phrase. The crowd suddenly becomes quiet. Of course, this is all within tradition. No one would dare object, nor would they have the power to do so.
Finally, turning to the woman, he says:
"Any last words?"
She remains quiet. And shortly afterwards, burns in a slow flame.