A single candle burns beside me, unwavering. I stare into the flame in an attempt to concentrate on what to write. Instead, I find my thoughts seductively lured into contemplation of the fire before me. There are few sights as beautiful as a naked flame, one that stands tall and burns brightly, reaching up into the heavens as if trying to touch its cousins, the stars. If I look closely enough into its depths, I can feel it looking back into my eyes, boring deep within my mind, as if trying to ascertain what it is I am thinking...I can almost hear its voice..."I live..."
I catch myself in my anthropomorphization and lean back. The flame is, of course, not a living thing. It has no voice. It is a chemical reaction induced by heat and fuel...yet...
It covets survival.
What, then, remains for it to prove its life?
I shake these thoughts from my head. I have no time for this. I should be writing. I have better things to do than stare at candles. And yet I find myself looking into the flame even deeper, as if trying to ascertain what it may be thinking. Its fiery depths yield no secrets, however, no mystical truths. It is, for all my wild speculation, just a flame. Just a controlled spark that is being fed at my whim so that it may render its light for my purposes. Slave to my desires, it is at my mercy. I can snuff it with a breath, or I can let it continue to live. Damn it, there I go again.
"Live". I can't let it live or make it die. Why am I thinking this way?
Movement out of the corner of my eye causes me to jump and upset the candle, nearly snuffing out the flame/life before me. I quickly catch it before it falls to the floor, and turn to determine the source of the movement.
In the flickering light of the near-extinguished flame, I see the cause of my disruption. It is merely a moth, having been attracted by the light. Sheepishly, I reset the candle on its perch and turn once again to my work. I have wasted too much time with this trivial contemplation. I set pen to paper and begin to write.
Thirty minutes later, I have only two sentences written, and I am again mesmerized by the candle and its new companion, the moth. The moth flutters in his orbit, confused by the light, unwilling to move on until he finds his direction from this new, bright star. The flame, disrupted by the slight breeze from the moth's wings, dances precariously on the end of its wick, nodding, winking at me as if to say, I'll prove it to you....."I live..."
The moth and flame dance together, partners in a death waltz. For at any moment, the fluttering moth might inadvertently snuff the flame, extinguishing the light and freeing him to find his way by the old, familiar lights, the ones above, in the heavens. Or at any time the flame might leap forth and claim the moth's frail, powdered body in its death throes, thereby allowing it to continue its still existence, undisturbed.
Fascinated, I am unable to look away as the moth, in his naivete, dances ever closer to the flame -- even as the flame, in its quiet predation, skirts death by waiting patiently for the moth to dance close enough for it to claim his dry husk. Closer....closer...
Finally, the moth flutters just a bit too close to this new star, and it is over. The flame proudly stands again, undisturbed. The moth writhes on the floor in seeming agony, unable to comprehend that this new bright thing has betrayed him, as a new flame engulfs his body. I look at the candle, almost aghast at the brutality and cold efficiency with which the flame lured its prey, trapped it, then laid its young upon the body of the moth so that it may feast upon him and have a place to live -- if only for a few short seconds.
For the moth has stopped writhing. As the new flame spreads across his blackening corpse, it burns brightly with the fire of youth.
I look back to the candle, and I swear I can hear the voice of the flame....