The Burning Person by Bob Schofield


The Burning Person by Bob Schofield

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A young couple retreats from the big city to a secluded cabin by a lake, only to find their new home to be stranger than expected. Each night the clouds open up, and a mass of burning people pour into the water. When the couple takes one of these burning people into their home, they find their lives become stranger still. 

Now faceless policemen wander the tree line. 

Now the animals gather in wicker churches. 

Now something wicked boils beneath the lake.

The Burning Person is a spooky lullaby you probably shouldn’t sing aloud. It’s a surrealist fable for the end times. A fever dream about spirals, family, blackbirds, and smoke.

136 pages. Released December 15, 2017.

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Excerpt 1 from The Burning Person

Policemen pressed down upon the lake, prying uselessly at the door. Imprisoned blackbirds trailed behind them, beaks and wings all wrapped in wire. The woman gagged on the binding in her mouth, felt it digging into her wrists. The man lay beside her broken into pieces. Barely breathing. Bleeding lake water. A ring of moss and feathers, bits of blood-stained shell clung to his shirt.

The few remaining animals ran mad through the trees, scraping the bark, uprooting what they could and burning off the leaves. They whittled makeshift spears with their teeth. Flaming branches flew through space.

The beasts took off their skin. Their antlers. Their claws. They set themselves ablaze and rushed into the water.

Meanwhile policemen flew in every direction. Crawling on all fours through the grass. Pressing their spirals faces to bits of cloud and bone.

There were so many, the surface of the lake began to shudder. The city floated by, as it did every night, but in their frenzy the policemen tore it from the sky. The clouds arrived too, heavy with bodies, and the policemen ripped those apart as well. The cosmic spheres broke into discord. A constant, unmitigated fall. Huge structures of glass and cement toppled over, spilling people as if from a pitcher. Fragments of broken cloud rained among those souls already dead, already burning, but in numbers the lake had never before seen.

Excerpt 2 from The Burning Person

In solitude, the woman changed. The beak in her head had grown longer, heavier. Blackbird feathers pressed against the window.

The burning person sat in the chimney and watched dark lines hatch across her face.

The world groaned, and cracked, but somehow kept on spinning.

The woman removed the oven mitts and lifted the burning person from the chimney. She let them pool there, let them stare. Bright red and painful in her bird palm. She told them everything was different now. They were on their own, and would have to keep each other safe. “We have to protect each other,” she said. “Now more than ever.”

“There is nothing you can trust out there, little matchstick,” waving a hand toward the world outside their doorstep. “And I simply cannot let you go. I see that now. Nothing is stable. Nothing is safe. Not that man. Not this lake. Not the beasts flooding the forest with useless prayer. Certainly not the policemen that scheme above the trees. Not even the promises we make to one another. Not the sky, the clouds, the doors, or the fireworks that pour from them.”

The fingers of her other hand pressed to the burning person’s cheek. There was the smell of feathers as they burned. “Not your poor brothers and sisters, bright and twisting in the sky.”

Tiny wings beat in her mouth with every word.