The Road to Fire

This fiction piece was written by Mahim Uddin, Class 9 for the Prestigious Writing Competition. This write-up secured him the position of 2nd runner-up among the 16-19 age-group.

The write-up has not been edited.

I watched…

The road stretched inside between the old burnt factories which exploded last month by chemicals. The smoke of the explosion still diffused with the once clean breeze of the little town of Campton, the recently industrialized town with towering smokestacks of industrial units that slowly depleted the greenery of nature. The grey ashes of smoke and the grey descending cloud swirled with the radioactive air over the town bustling with robots and hardly any human being, mostly homeless and helpless who had no brick homes to protect them from the suffocating atmosphere and sometimes from the malfunctioning robots which damaged human beings brutally with their built-in weapons installed for self-defense. The road through the market was always thronging with lives along with the AIs which always acted somewhat hostile to the people, and the town stretching from the Frete River to the hoary scalded town which was once the home of the people of Campton was always full of hustle and bustle of the daily activities. But no one even dared to roam around the only road, leading into the smoky shade of the burnt past, which led to the ghost of the early life of Campton. They said that the area around the road was prohibited to humans due to excess exposure to radiation of the chemical gas, the robots did not go there probably because if they would go there, the people might get interested to go there; doing something forbidden is in human nature. There could be more reasons which were out of my young understandings but I knew that there was something which might change the whole reality- there was something which could turn the outcome of Campton back to the peaceful days. Since the deadly inferno from the explosion last month, the little town emerged to a brink of turning into an industrialized city with the rapid development of the town, and human force being outnumbered by the machines and AI units. People were curious about the world that was in ashes but no one wanted to lose their lives under the verdict of doing illegal act. But it only applied to the safe humans, but to us-the homeless, life did not mean anything to us. Life meant challenges and embracing beloved death. I took a deep breath and let my curiosity take over me, moving my legs towards the road long forgotten.


I took a stroll through the smoldering area of flying ashes and the dark smoke of the fire…

The road was blackened with powdery dust that was conflagrated and the pitched road was broken with stones falling out. It went through towards an open field with rows of burnt ghastly houses empty with signs of life left for the future to acknowledge them. There were many buildings which were non-existent; a shop-like architecture caught my eyes inside which I saw half burnt remains of people and pieces which we rarely picked up in the polluted street of Campton. I tried to remember the life before the explosion but I had a vague memory of it; I could only remember the day of the carnival with my parents where I was gifted my first bicycle. I paced on forward passing a mammoth number of corpses gathering inside a smoldered concrete building, probably a safe house during the fire. Those sights brought chills down my spine; I was frightened by the mere thought of it. I shook the idea from my head and carefully went on. As I went in farther, I was having difficult to breathe and my skin began to burn inside, probably the radiation was causing it. I slowly stride onward to the open field, passing clusters of broken, blown up items which still looked like they were being used by someone maybe a ghostly victim.


I observed…

The field was bare like sub-Saharan grassland with smoked prairie and leaf-less plants standing dead, the meadow was surrounded by aligned buildings with infrastructures which ceased to exist like a major part of the life. There were few concrete ducts which rested one over another; they were cracked with heat and darkened with chemicals of different types. I peeped in and found out something which I never expected to see, particularly in the burned lifeless town! There were few sets of human clothes, fully clean and kept tidily, and several mechanical tools which I did not recognize. I was so sure that there was no one alive in that part, I became thunderstruck; it really was painful to learn that there was still someone not accepted to the new game of survival. I noticed an old paper folded under a shirt. I pulled it out and read it; it was written by Professor Eilde.


I read…

            “I have a confession to make. I betrayed Campton. I betrayed my home. I could not prevent the mess I began; this all happened because of me. I am sorry, Campton.

This all began when I discovered Dromafide-H compound which could stimulate the brain to believe it being dead and stop working. I showed it to the Campton Chemical Industry in order to persuade them to sponsor my discovery to the National Chemistry Federation. But when I showed them, they captured Dromafide-H to use it as a threat against the people to keep them under their control. So in order to stop the plan, I programmed a legion of robots with their leader- a grade 9 AI robot, nearly as genius as me. But after all I was a human; I made a grave mistake trusting my bots. They destroyed the chemical factories causing the great fire, obliterating Campton to ashes. Fortunately, I survived the fire and now self-exiled here as a part of my punishment…”


Suddenly I heard footsteps behind. As I turned to see who it was, I saw an elderly man of fifties standing silently, gazing at me coldly. My vision became blurry and instantly I collapsed senseless…

“Radiation 100%… Survival 0%…”


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