The mountains are an arid rampart to the east of the kingdom’s peaceful green valleys. Beyond the range is the desert, a titanic, sandy bowl which cradles the heat with ferocious intent. Even from here, on the easternmost peak, the stony ground ripples with heatwaves like distant hallucinations.

She is not interested in the ground. She has climbed for two weeks in order to reach this specific confluence of desert and height. As she leans out from her rocky perch into the blue void she is circled by thermals: empty air swirls around her, flame-hot on her skin. The sultry breeze lifts her hair from her shoulders, and she laughs.

Because she’s looking for it, she catches the momentary half-seen shimmer on the edge of her vision. It’s not a heatwave. There’s a trick to this; she unfocuses her gaze, squints into the glare. She looks beyond and along, and the sky is momentarily filled with the immeasurable wing-span, transparent and flickering against the sky. The bird-body is curved like a dagger, the eye, glittering and amused, surveying her for a visible instant, flame wisping around the diamond iris. Then it’s gone.

She launches herself from the ledge in an arcing swallow dive as though into a lover’s arms. The maelstrom of heat which embraces her strips the flesh instantly from her bones, unravelling mind and spirit. Ash drifts on the scorching sky.

Disembodied, she floats on the wind, a fierce intelligence re-knitting her tenderly into its airy, insubstantial, tensile net. She circles the air currents borne on the gyr’s invisible breast, feeling the imperceptible wings stretch to the horizon, a flame at her heart.

5 thoughts on “Heat”

  1. Girl, what is it with you and falling of cliffs to become a bird? It’s as bad as my unlikely romances 😉

    This is very lovely in its desert heat, very well conveyed, arid and shimmery. As usual, there is at least one word I have to google (“gyr” – I think it’s a kind of falcon after some looking, although funnily enough the first hit on google is Phoenix Goodyear Airport (IATA code: GYR) which kind of fits too!).

    The idea of just unfocusing your eyes, the trick of it, is very familiar to me from dreams of flying – you have to just let go of thinking about it in a very specific way, and it happens.

    The image of burning up to become is very powerful (Phoenix airport indeed!), and it’s a lovely story, and to me a very positive story of making through unmaking.

    Thank you, and merry Christmas :)

    1. Ah, hah! but this is both “falling off a cliff to become a bird” (or, in fact, a giant semi-transparent fire creature of approximately bird shape), and and unlikely unromance. I have subsumed your obsession as well as mine ;>. In fact, I realised that this was refiguring “falling off a cliff” about thirty seconds after I wrote it, but (a) I never got around to writing an alternative before the deadline, and (b) I’m happy to embrace my obsessions in a spirit of literary and psychological enquiry. Or something. (Besides, “Light” wasn’t strictly “falling off a cliff to become a bird”, even if it did have cliff-departure motifs…)

      I realise “gyr” is probably confusing, this is the climax moment of a much longer and bizarrely political fantasy story I never wrote up properly, and gyrs have their own identity and backstory and what have you. Possibly I should write up the whole story. Sometime. But I’m glad you liked the image.

      Happy Christmas to you too! late. But hey.

  2. I enjoyed the fantasy and think it worked really well with the very hot desert themes. Think the half-seen, shimmery, heat haze idea for the ‘Gyr’ is very interesting – especially the idea that they are very insubstantial/air-like (as opposed to just being hard to see).

    The explicit mention of the word ‘Gyr’ found disturbing without further context and think your meaning would have been clear without it.

    I enjoyed how her motives were not much explored allowing the reader to impose their own.

    Great ending – a slight taste of romance.

  3. Interesting piece. I understand it to be about Our Hero approaching this dry, mountainous area in which this gyr lives, and then deciding to kill herself for a chance at transformation, which the gyr provides.

    I thought the writing was good, and only have small nitpic:

    > There’s a trick to this
    The narrator seems to be quite explicitly coming to the fore here, and directly addressing us and providing us with an opinion (that it’s a “trick”). I like it, but it stands out: it seems to me the only place where the narrator addresses us in the piece.

  4. This was a lovely piece: beautifully descriptive and evocative 😉 I love the descriptions of the desert landscape, the way its structure is laid out (easternmost point, mountains as ramparts) and juxtaposed with the green kingdom which highlights the descriptions of heat. In the first paragraph I enjoyed the adjectives used to evoke more than just landcape description (peaceful green kingdom as opposed to the ferocious desert, desert cradling the heat like something precious).

    I also like how these descriptions continue on and include the more mystical gyr (love its immensity) and the woman’s journey and jump. It feels like a peaceful scene despite the leaping off a cliff and burning up – a beautiful moment between woman and gyr.

    There is one sentence which made me hesitate. In “Even from here, on the easternmost peak, the stony ground ripples …” I would prefer to have an indication of a viewing point in the “even from here” bit (e.g. even from this vantage), as I find myself reading the existing sentence as the ground rippling on the easternmost peak.

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