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Scotland's Burning: Pyre has a moment of self doubt, and recalls a previous project
Posted by Douglas, Nov 16, 2008. 4060 views. ID = 2010

Scotland's Burning

Posted by Douglas, Nov 16, 2008. 4060 views. ID = 2010
This post was written in 66 minutes.
This post has been awarded 16 stars by 4 readers.
This post is Part 8 of a writing series titled Kindle.

Herald always made Pyre feel uneasy. It wasn't just his constant morphing into different manifestations. It wasn't just his little rebellions against the immortals. Pyre hated his constant insistence that the Kindle had more in common with the humans than with the gods.

Because if humans were cousins to the Kindle, that changed everything.

As Pyre wandered - more or less aimlessly, but making his way generally back toward the motel - he remembered where he was three months ago, and what he was doing.

It was a poet that time. He lived in a little villa just off the coast of the Spanish Mediterranean with his bride. He was a handsome young man, and she was a lovely woman with a cheerful twinkle in her eye, and a playful, joking manner. Even Pyre, with his complete inexperience of human emotions, could tell how deeply she loved her poet, and how deeply he loved her in return.

And there was the problem. The young man loved her more than he loved his craft. Every piece of writing passed by her eyes for approval, and he waited with nervous anticipation for her judgment of his work. Even worse, every poem was written not as he felt it, but with the intent of pleasing his beloved. His best works were crumpled and discarded, never to be read by anyone, solely because he knew she would not appreciate them. And the works he tried to publish, those were the ones she loved, but no one else had any interest in them. Day by day his frustration grew, and his poetry, with the rise of his frustration, grew continually worse.

It only took Pyre two days to figure out that dynamic. It was a strange variation on the eternal love triangle: a man, a woman, and a craft. Pyre understood that one of the three vertices of that unstable triangle would have to be removed in order for the young man's gift to blossom, grow, and truly inspire the world.

The next day, the lovely young bride was walking the rocky ledges by the sparkling blue Mediterranean when she slipped on a bit of unnoticed seaweed and took a tragic tumble. For two days her husband wrote no poetry; his time was spent searching for his disappeared love. On the third day her body washed up on a sandy beach miles away, and the poet was called upon to identify her. After screaming into the sky for a seemingly unbearable length of time, the young man sat down to put his grief and horror into words. Pyre stood watching over his shoulder as the words poured out onto the page and then, satisfied, he left Spain that evening.

But what if Herald was right? What if the humans were more like the Kindle than Pyre wanted to believe? What if the human race was more than just so many sheep and cattle destined to be herded by the gods and their shepherds? What if the life of one human mattered more in the grand scheme of things than a painting, or a poem, or a grand symphonic suite? And what if the life of a lovely young woman living on the Mediterranean was worth just as much as the life of a brilliant poet, even if she would never contribute anything to the great archive of human knowledge and beauty?

Pyre paused in his wandering, aware of a familiar mumbling, muttering sort of singing. It was the old homeless man in the freight yard. Today he stood by himself at the fire - all of his hobo buddies had gone for the night. "Scotland's burning, Scotland's burning, Pour on water..." Oddly, the tune he sang seemed no different than the tune he used every night - though he always sang different words.

Pyre sighed as he walked by, and tried to ignore the simple old toothless man. But the man intruded into his train of thought. And what of this old man? Is his life also of value? Even though his sole touch of genius seems to be the ability to recite pointless nursery rhymes, does he matter as much as the poet? Does he matter as much as me?

And there, at last, Pyre could see the real issue: though he was merely a kindler of dreams, a blunt instrument in the hands of the gods to perform their will, he considered his own life to be of worth. The issue was not that he might be like the humans, but that they might be like him.

The off-key singing stopped, and the homeless man spoke. His words were rhythmic, and he sounded like he was quoting a bit of poetry. "You walk on by my humble home each eve, and never stop to take a spot of tea." Pyre froze momentarily, supposing, absurdly, that the man spoke to him. He turned and looked directly at the witless fellow, but the man was blindly staring into space at a point several yards from where Pyre stood. "Think not that you can pass unnoticed by, just because my eyes do not perceive."

Pyre swallowed hard, and took a deep breath. He had heard of this before, though he had never experienced it. Sometimes other Kindle spoke of the old and infirm, or the young and innocent, or the dim and witless who, like dogs and cats, could sense their presence. But this old man, surely he didn't qualify - anyone who could put together iambic pentameter on the fly could not qualify as witless.

He looked about to make sure no one else was nearby, and then manifested. The old man's distant gaze immediately found him. "Were you talking to me?" Pyre demanded.

"Ah, my friend, how could you even doubt?" the nursery-rhyme poet said, still in a sing-song reciting tone, "You see that there is no one else about."

"How did you know I was there?"

The old man seemed not to understand the question, and after a moment his eyes glazed a bit, and he returned to singing Scotland's Burning, having completely forgotten about Pyre.

Troubled, and wondering what this strange encounter might mean, Pyre continued on his path back to the motel.

Copyright 2008 Douglas. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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This post has been awarded 16 stars by 4 readers.
This post is Part 8 of a writing series titled Kindle. The next part of this series can be found here: Jelly Donut Mishap.
This is a revised version of a post. Click here to view the original version


Dec 2, 2008
The rhyme I'm familiar with is this:

London's burning, London's burning.
Fetch the engines, fetch the engines.
Fire fire, Fire Fire!
Pour on water, pour on water.
London's burning, London's burning.

I've never heard of Scotland's burning??? (either in the UK or Australia- where it's often sung as a round) Is this a US version? Could be puzzling for some readers - me for instance 8-)

   ~Posted by Scribbler, Dec 2, 2008

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