Sophie Prewett

"You should have seen the fireworks. The whole street was dancing."

The door leading to the day room is the same colour as robins' eggs. Closer inspection of the paint will reveal a labyrinth of cracks that ripple out across the entire door. In some areas the paint has been completely chipped away by impatient nurses with clattering metal tea trolleys. The corridor leading to it is interconnected with others, forming a network of twists and turns, and the glow from the rectangular lights creates an atmosphere of tunnels. The air reeks of disinfectant. The smell of it swirls around corridors, seeping into piles of laundry and nurses' clothes, leaving an imprint of itself on everything. It forces itself deep into each crevice, including every gap in the blue paint.

The room behind the door is filled with ex-servicemen, their eyes sunken and ghostly. On the far side of the room, over by the window, is a small hunched man, perched on a metal wheelchair. He has a tiny body; all skin and bone, making him look like a half starved bird. His skin and hair are achromic; their colour is buried under layers of Flanders mud from years ago. The man has watery blue eyes that deceive the world by seeming vacant. His name is Tom Brennan and his eyes are alive, they just don't see the present.

***

Tom stood in the street and looked up at the sky as fireworks screeched and exploded against the stars. His ears were filled with high pitched shrieks and deep explosions as the sparkling streams of red and green continued their assault on the defenceless night sky, which rumbled and groaned, protesting against the unwanted attack. The smell of sulphur swirled along the wind, twisting and curling its way up his nostrils. The whole street had turned out to see the display and around him people danced and sang, somehow managing to keep time despite the battle raging above their heads.

He watched as a group of volunteers ignited the fuse of another firework before retreating to safety. The group had just managed to take cover behind an old stonewall when a shrieking stream of crimson streaked upwards and burst into a million tiny shards of light that scattered out across the field. He wondered if the fireworks were calling to one another, their screeching conversations sounded like the blue jays that lived around his house.

In the middle of the field a bonfire roared, it's flames fighting away the cold November night. Glowing embers danced like fireflies and mixed in with the sound of children's voices singing. When Tom moved closer to the burning stack to warm his hands he caught sight of the guy who had been thrown on the fire earlier. As he watched the flames burn through its chest he thought of all the work that had gone into creating it, only for it to be destroyed so completely. While he stood and watched, it's limbs fell apart from the torso and fire curled around them. At the same moment as another firework howled through the air, the head tumbled down the stacked wood and focused its one eyed stare on him. A lopsided grin that had earlier looked comical turned into a twisted smile as flames blacked the face and burnt through the stuffing inside. He turned and hurried away from the pyre and the burning guy, the howl from the firework and the children's song still ringing in his ears, "Remember, remember the fifth of November…"

He spotted his sister Barbara across the field and hurried towards her, eager to get far away from the burning heap. As he approached her, Barbara gasped with wonder as another firework shot into the air and exploded, raining hot ash down upon the world. Her enjoyment was infectious and his heart pounded with excitement each time another firework erupted into colourful splashes of light and smoke. The atmosphere was intoxicating. The two children jumped as a screaming Catherine wheel erupted into ruby flames behind them, threatening to spin off its carefully prepared crucifix. In the pauses between the bang of fireworks he could hear his friends and family singing an old Irish song. He reached out his hand to his sister.

Margaret grabbed Tom's hand and the two children joined in the dancing, adding their own discordant voices to the song. Around them fireworks were being carefully prepared and shot into the sky to join the heavenly massacre. Some burned slowly, expressing their agony through the wailing that accompanied fizzing colours, whereas others burst up, exploding in a magnificent moment of light and glory, illuminating the night for all to see. The next day, when the celebrations were done, the only physical evidence of the night's battle would be the unmarked sticks that had tumbled back down to the ground.

Word count: 812