The Red Goddess
The pass lay in the northern California Mountains at an elevation of 3,112 feet. This is where she was born on a hot August morning, in the brush at the bottom of the pass. Her newborn voice crackled softly as she absorbed the morning heat. Hunger soon set in. She spread her red-blushed arms and grasped the surrounding shrubbery. Devouring it, her strength increased.
A hot gust of wind blew her arms against the hill that rose before her. Her body widened as she crept upward, struggling desperately to gain more ground. Then the most natural and wonderful idea came to her. She stretched an arm out and shot a hot ember over the brush. It landed 6 yards away and quickly went aflame.
The Red Goddess crawled to it, embraced it, and knew now that this was the way to grow. She roared with delight and cracked the air with her energy. More, she must grow more. She reached her arms out and shot embers in every direction. She joined them, and soon covered the entire hillside.
An icy pain—a portion of her body—destroyed!
Above her, figures sailed high in the sky. They again dropped something cold. More of her body, destroyed. She spread herself around in such a way that her smoke billowed heavily. The Red Goddess roared fiercely as the sky turned black.
They were gone. She felt no more of their coldness.
Reaching the hillside's crest, she saw what she did not understand. She could not possibly know what a four-lane highway was, vehicles racing in two different directions. She studied the treetops on the far side of the highway. To reach them she knew what she had to do.
The Red Goddess shot embers onto the highway's pavement. Others struck vehicles, some bursting into flame. She gathered all the strength she could muster and pulled herself up to the highway, grasped an ignited vehicle and consumed it. Keep going, she told herself. Yes, stretch and leap to the next vehicle, confident now that she would spread herself to the trees.
Ghostly figures appeared in the smoky haze. The Red Goddess felt a freezing pain as she lost one of her arms. Drivers with extinguishers continued their attack. She had met her enemies; she knew them now. With renewed energy she wrapped herself around the biggest thing she could find. She knew not what it was, did not know it was an 18-wheeler carrying hazardous material. It exploded and her enemies fled from her wrath.
The Red Goddess was now well over a 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and felt the power of her existence. Pushing forward to the far side of the highway, she consumed the treetops and drove her way downward into the valley, spreading herself wider, temperature increasing. Her arms flailed to a height of nearly 90 feet.
Before long, the entire valley was aflame, and the dense smoke continued to rise against the enemy. Leaving the valley, she climbed the mountain she faced. She did not know that she now covered 10 square miles. Upon reaching the mountaintop, her enemies scurried about their structures, while vehicles sprayed her with their coldness. She had not yet won, and refused to give up.
From her arms she flung hundreds of embers. The homes soon ignited, and the vehicles retreated. At 2,000 degrees she blanketed the mountaintop with her orange-red body, and she pushed on.
A town lay a long way down the other side of the mountain. She knew it belonged to her enemies, knowing now what their structures looked like. Her body spread wider and grew to over 20 square miles.
Once at the edge of town the Red Goddess halted and gathered her strength. She then took her outermost arms and wrapped the sides of the town. When encircled, she drove forward and set everything aflame.
The evacuation of the town had already begun. Business owners fled their burning shops. Bankers fled as their money sailed as ash on the fiery winds. While the religious devout cried out to the heavens as if it were judgment day.
Above the Red Goddess, the planes were again attacking her with their freezing pain. Her body swelled and her arms exploded to a height of 150 feet. The pilots, taken by surprise, found themselves a hellish end.
Leaving the town burning in her wake, she reached a temperature of 2,300 degrees, and now covered 100 square miles.
At dusk, hot winds blew strong, as if the Furies had come to the aid of the Red Goddess. By dawn of the next day she covered nearly 700 square miles. It was then she saw a city in the distance. Knowing nothing of bricks and concrete, the city appeared barren of what she needed to survive.
A plan came to her. She threw embers before her and created three small patches of fire. Leaving them on their own, they burst into parallel lines of low flame. During the day and throughout the night, the Red Goddess stayed behind as her three creations pawed their way toward the city, burning a path through the brush like commandoes on their bellies.
The sun rose on the horizon, too early in the day for anyone to see the three slip beneath the doors of a corporate office building. Once inside, the three joined and became one.
The building burst into flame. The Red Goddess knew now there was sustenance to be had. Pushing forward, her flames swallowed the city. Explosions rocked the streets. Within the havoc her enemies jammed their escape routes, fought with one another in their attempt to flee. Finally, most were consumed.
The Red Goddess continued southward, leaving the entire city ablaze. The land ahead was flat. She knew not what an oil refinery was, but she was too large now to avoid it. As she spread over it, the many explosions filled her with a strength she had never thought possible.
The Red Goddess had now grown to 70,000 square miles and moving eastward. She heard the cries of pain that came from her enemies. She heard the prayers to their gods. Gods that meant nothing to her. Enthralled with her own power, she now believed herself to be the one and only god of the earth, and she pressed on.
A ground crew of over 30,000 had gathered from all over the country. They despaired over the strong winds that pushed the Red Goddess into the Angeles National Forest. Where she roared and raged against the firefighters and caused acres of trees to explode. Missiles of fiery branches attacked the ground crew with a vengeance. She ignited their escape routes, ate up as many enemies as she could, then left the survivors to run for their lives. None of them aware of her strategic abilities, none ever imagining The Red Goddess had deliberately spared the oldest and tallest of the trees.
Above her, an attack force of Air tankers, Helitankers and Supertankers spilled their
ferric-oxide retardant on her outer reaches. The Red Goddess sacrificed a number of her arms, permitting the tankers to extinguish them. The air attack then moved in toward her full body.
The time to implement her strategy had come sooner than expected. She threw embers back to where they had first attacked. The embers ignited the trees she had spared. But not all, leaving some to continue her game of wits. She forced the tankers back and forth until nightfall. The tankers fled finally, unable to operate within the smoky darkness.
She drove southward on the night wind and engulfed Southern California, to then blaze her way back up through Arizona and Nevada; up through Idaho, into Oregon and Washington, and into western Canada.
Newsflashes were no longer coming from the west. Their media facilities no longer existed. From the Rockies to the Atlantic Ocean, everyone was horrified. News broadcasters all said the same: Since the beginning of this tragedy, how is it possible that there has been no rain, and that the winds have continually favored the fire.
The Canadian winds shifted westward and carried the embers of the Red Goddess over the Bering Strait into Russia, where they ignited the forests. The winds then shifted her flames farther northward, where the snow of the mountains melted into evaporating rivers. The winds again shifted, this time eastward, sending embers over the Amundsen Gulf to the northern islands, and then to ride the wind into Greenland.
The winds of the western United States carried a storm of embers eastward to the Atlantic, southward through Mexico, then down into Central and South America. By nightfall the skies of the world had filled with embers. By morning the planet was ablaze. The only survivors were the creatures of the sea, people and animals aboard ships, and those few who populated the Poles.
The Red Goddess never knew she had been a child of Nature—the one and only god of the earth. It was she who had given the Red Goddess thought, perception and purpose. It was she who had driven the Red Goddess on the wind. It was she who had needed to cleanse the earth and begin anew.
Phillip Frey's history includes professional actor, produced screenwriter and writer/director of three short films, one of which showed at the New York Film Festival. He is now devoted only to writing prose. The books "Dangerous Times" and "Hym and Hur" were his first published works of fiction. Phillip Frey's contest-winning story, "The Hero of Lost Causes," may be read in Scribes Valley Publishing's annual short story anthology, "Slow the Pace."