"Pyre" excerpt

Excerpt from "Pyre," by Sarah Hawley

I watched the fire blaze in the clearing below me, the flames tinged purple by the leaves used as tinder.

Everything on Garbrax seemed stained purple. The heat of the day dropped fast into violet sunsets; the sun rose again through a lavender haze that left fat dewdrops on the forest leaves. The tree trunks were coated in jewel-bright mosses that crawled up from the forest floor.

Berry had told me that the mosses grew in symbiosis with the most striking characteristic of this rainforest—the
codiaeum garbraxis. These large, dense bushes clustered around nearly every tree. Their waxy purple leaves were larger than a man’s head, and when they burned the smoke smelled like cinnamon and copper.

The flames before me were blindingly bright, but at the edge of the fire I could see a dark, shriveled lump, enclosed within the rapidly burning cremation frame. I inhaled deeply. Beneath the spicy scent of the burning leaves, a new smell rose: a half-savory, half-repulsive stench. Ten years of ethnographic field research had taught me that scent well; that was the smell of a community facing its own mortality.


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