Catherine stepped carefully over the black rock. It cracked and broke under her hiking boots, and bits of char were caught in the wind and throw to the air. She followed the bulbous flow of magma as it made its lengthy swell across the old flow. Further on, it fell into the stirring sea of the Pacific. She held her camera steady and filmed the molten liquid as it flexed and fattened and rolled along without end. Brilliant oranges that lurked underneath would surge forth and then fade away as it cooled. Here and there, the black surface would tear open and small flames would erupt out like nature’s very own Bic lighter. She watched the world being born before her.
From the main body, a fatty arm had veered off and forged a new trail. It pulsed like a muscle and folded dull orange over smoldering reds as it moved on. The black valley narrowed into a trench and the flow followed in kind. The Earth wormed over each ripple and bump and fell to the sea in stretchy clumps. A coil of magma began to roll itself, and Catherine was reminded of her grandmother who lived in Spain. The magma looked like the thick dough that her grandmother would roll and braid into long, delicious loaves of bread. There were moments when even the texture was the same. Smoke swirled in the air and stung her eyes, and the memory of her grandmother was gone as quickly as it had come.
The afternoon grew long and the wind picked up. Thunderclouds formed on the near horizon. Catherine made her way along the flow and found her boyfriend Brian. He was building tiny little structures made of sticks in a section where the flow had veered into the tropical forest.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
Brian shrugged. “I don’t know. There’s something fascinating about it, ya know? How it just keeps coming.”
Catherine looked up the slope of the mountain and stared at the sterile strip of black that gashed the lush greenery around them. Near the top, the volcano smoldered like a medieval god. “Yeah. It has a mesmerizing quality, doesn’t it?”
Brian only nodded as a fiery snake rolled its growing belly over a small teepee of bark and leaves. It was simple and unforgiving act, the Earth swallowing the Earth.
“It’s going to rain soon,” Catherine said. “And it’s getting dark.”
“Yeah,” Brian said with a sound of remorse. He turned and glared at the darkening sky. “Yeah, you’re right.” He stepped back to let the blood of the planet flow by. “Five more minutes?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Catherine.
They stood and held hands. A light rain pattered on their foul-weather jackets, but still they watched the island grow. Inch by inch, crevice by knurled groove, the core of our world poured out. Catherine felt a hollowness come to her during that moment on the field, a primitive feeling that dated back to some ancient beginning where fire roamed freely and out of control and man hid in caves and struggled to find food. She felt a primal insignificance as the lava flowed over anything and everything, seeming to know that it could not stop, that it would never be stopped, not by man or Earth or time. She thought of the show she’d seen that talked about the sun swelling as it neared its death. She thought of everything on the planet being hot and orange like that insatiable snake of fire that slithered and grew before them. She thought of the world burning, melting, and then dying. And she thought of her grandmother.
She tugged on Brian’s hand, and they left in silence.