The Cold Side
by Jace Daniel (b. 1969)
Back to the stake, hands and ankles bound behind me by unburnable chains, I had to admire the hooded one’s skill. An artist of great restraint, an effective minimalist, he started the fire masterfully small, taking extra care that carbon monoxide poisoning or suffocation would not interfere with inevitable heatstroke, shock, loss of blood, or simple thermal disposition of my body parts.
The progression began at my calves at the fall of the torch. Skin lifted from flesh as the flames strolled up the back of my trousers, an unfamiliar smell quickly buried by the pain that greeted my thighs and hands. I planned my escape to the sky as the mutating inferno’s orange tongues licked my forearms, embracing my torso, squeezing the screams from my upper chest through my lips before swallowing my eyes.
Then I woke up and flipped the pillow over.