The Fireman

I’m already awake when the alarm bell sounds. I roll off my bunk, surrounded by the sleepy grunts of my brothers, and together we hit the floor running. My locker is open and I’m pulling on my fire-resistant gear when the realization hits me: today’s the day.

Today, I’m going to die.

I grunt and continue dressing. I’m not especially concerned about dying, since it won’t be my first time. It will happen in the fire (it’s always a fire) and my death will save someone else’s life.

That’s the way of it.

Pompeii, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople, Moscow, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Dresden—it’s always the same. The fires will rage, I’ll be consumed, and another will live as a result. And when it’s over, when the ashes have settled and grown cool, I’ll rise again.

I’ll wake up in a new city in a new body.

The new me will be similar to the old: the fire doesn’t take everything. But the quirks and subtleties of this man will be gone—burned away along with his attachments and hopes and fears and replaced with a whole new set of idiosyncrasies, dreams, and desires.

Ready to do it all again.

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