I pull my hood up and tug on the strings to tighten it around my face, a futile effort in this incessantly hissing wind. The fire in front of me is low; I built it from scratch without accelerants except a few miraculous scraps of birch bark. Collecting wood for the fire was difficult, the surrounding land is desolate. Everything is damp; the wind carries a mist that stings my cheeks. I crouch down and hover protectively over the small flames licking through.
The fire is young and hungry; I rearrange the wood and speak a few words into the coals. As the last syllable slips through my teeth it surges, snapping it climbs five feet or more and roars.
Under my arm is a book, but more than a book it is the foundation of something much more powerful. It is familiar; the red leather cover worn away at the corners, my name engraved in gold at the bottom right corner, it sits comfortably in my hands as I sink into a meditation. I bind this simple package of bound paper with all the others that exist, every copy of the story that has fueled centuries of hate and war. I have personal reasons for wanting it gone but predominantly I feel it has brought more pain and suffering than good in this world. There are other stories that people rely on to justify their sins, but I only have so much time.
The bible is buzzing in my hand now, filled with the energy of thousands of years of story and faith, I toss it into the fire and watch the translucent pages buckle, curl and blacken. They eventually crumble and float up into the column of smoke the fire groans and burns deep crimson before nestling back down.
The fire will not last long so I move quickly, taking up a cup of dark liquid that moves like syrup and smells like dirt and power. I work a similar binding on the oil in my cup and soon it is hot in my hand and bubbling, nearly spilling over. An eruption of black flame surrounds me as I pour. The ancient remains of life, stolen sunlight that fueled humankind’s industrial advancement burns away in a flash. Our dependence on the substance and its ilk turned our planet into a wasteland, greedy men and women into monsters and warmongers.
Out of my pocket comes a creased and crumpled piece of paper printed with the face of a long dead man, and the words “In God We Trust.” I bind it, feel it quiver in my hand and release it, watching the flames turn long green and grasping. The accumulation of wealth has been a deceit for a long time, the rise of currency in trade in lieu of bartering for goods and services opened wider cracks for corruption to seep into and take hold.
I rest my hand on the final piece of this disastrous puzzle, a seemingly innocuous invention, two handles attached to a downward shaft of flared metal and a wheel. It is a relatively simple style, there are more advanced versions pulled by large stocky animals or engines. This rusty abandoned plow has unearthed thousands of stones and torn the soil open to be planted countless times.
The plow pushed men into the field and women into the home; it morphed our cultures and boomed our population and possibly sowed the seed of our self-destruction. Looking around at the barren land surrounding me I imagine it once verdant and fertile, workers sweating to bring food to the tables of hundreds and thousands. I hesitate, for a second and then setting my feet firmly into the soft ground I push the plow into the heart of the fire.
The metal drips and whines twisting as it breaks down, taking longer than the others partly because of its density and partly because the fire is tired.
Now the only memory of these things is mine, to eradicate them completely I must destroy this too. Even if I never spoke or wrote of them they could escape. Ideas are living things and they choose to be born with or without our consent. Harboring these secrets in my mind could eventually undo all I have just accomplished. I search the sky for the last time and step into the fire, it accepts me with a warm embrace and together we rise and race toward oblivion.