Fire's Edge
a novel by
Alan Siporin

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Prologue


A large black woman sprawls across her couch, napping. At the other end of the sparse room, a thin pale man dozes lightly in his wheelchair, his head nodding, waking him. In the late afternoon, their basement apartment offers a cool escape from the summer heat.

A Coke bottle shatters a window above the man, strikes the floor and explodes. He jerks his head back hard. Gasoline glides across the room, a light blue flame riding atop the liquid. The fire incinerates a stack of newspapers. Swollen yellow flames quickly diverge, sucking up the oxygen, leaping to chairs and a table. The blaze locates things hidden from the eye, beneath the couch, in the cracks and crevices, nurturing its hunger on everything that can burn. Thick black clouds of smoke swarm the corners.

The pale man screams, bellowing out air. When he breathes back in, thick dark matter surges into his lungs. He heaves the black smoke back out, emptying his lungs again, leaving them unnourished. He shakes and writhes. He grabs his wheels with his hands, discovers he has no strength. He's out of breath, gulping for life. Epinephrine courses through his veins. And fear. Desperately, he sucks the smoke back in, vomits it out again. Reflexively, he gasps again, strangling himself on the finest particles of ash.

In the black woman's dream, she is held by men in white sheets. A man is lashed to a cross. They are about to torch him. Jovial and arrogant, the men in sheets have no faces, but the woman feels their demonic grins. She smells the smoke and kerosene wafting from torches. She can't make out the man who is tied to the cross. Could it be her grandfather? Or is it her brother? He appears strong and calm. Her fear is fused with pride. She observes her brother clearly now; a light brown man in his twenties, his jaw set and determined, his eyes glinting and defiant. But she hears him scream - a weak and mournful cry for help. The dream changes. Her brother is only five years old - a little boy - helpless and pleading. She reaches out to help him, but she can't budge.

She's strapped to the cross. No, she's bound to a tree. The fire sears her, soot clings to her nostrils, terror overwhelms her. In her dream, she is screaming.

Outside, passersby glimpse three young men running from the side of the house. Later, these witnesses will tell police the arsonists were skinheads: shaved heads, leather jackets and Doc Martin boots. One big kid, two smaller ones, laughing.

Copyright @2002. Alan Siporin. All rights reserved.
2002 / hardcover / ISBN 0-9722806-0-X / 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" / 320 pgs.
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