Man on Fire

He caught fire, like he always did. He had performed the stunt hundreds of times. He would light himself ablaze, climb the ladder and dive head first into a pool of water from forty feet above. He had performed the stunt every Friday and twice on Saturdays for the last fifteen years across the country. Still the crowd would watch in amazement each time and this afternoon was no different. Surely, if the flames did not kill him, the drop would.

They watched, half hoping to see something amazing, half embracing the primal urge to see just a glimpse of death. The same intuition that forces everyone to look at a car wreck locked their eyes in place as he began to climb as if nothing were happening. The flames blinded him, he climbed on instinct now, they couldn't see that. Even as he reached the top and felt ahead with his steps. Ever the constant show man he felt a step ahead using his foot, to the crowd below it appeared as if he were doing a balancing stunt. Slowly is toe met the edge of the diving board. Oxygen was running low as it always did, the time was now.

His descent wasn't beautiful in a technical sense. It was an ugly dive, but a dive he could survive. The crowd gasped as he flung his body forward into the air. He could no longer hear the sounds of the audience, the flames were too loud, the smoke had blurred his vision and the lack of oxygen left him with just enough consciousness to adjust his body in the air.

A splash and the quick sizzling sound of fire being exterminated all at once were the sounds as he hit the water. The crowd held their breath, unsure if they had just witnessed the death they had come to see. Seconds seemed like an eternity as they waited. His head appeared from the water followed by an arm lifted high in victory. The crowd cheered as one should when a man cheats death. He caught fire, like he always did, and walked away, like he always did. 

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