• Alonzo Cortez

The Phoenix and The Cave - Short Story

The only thing I remember is a shriek of thunder and lightning strike across my body—an engulfing orange aura. The memory is a glimpse, but intact. As I let my eyes awaken from their slumber, I look up to the wet moss that drips around me. Beneath it, a layer of limestone rock that led to a distant light in an otherwise dark place.

I let my hands touch the barren floor. When I feel the pebbles of gravel slide against me, I wince in uncomfort from a burning sensation. Gathering myself as I tuck my knees to my chest to stand up against the wall next to me, my surroundings become more explicit. I place the palms of my hands on the rock next to me. The rock’s curvatures were so distinct that I knew it happened again. Again and again. The pain was endless. It was mindless.

This was the cave. Notably, it was my cave. The one I always went to. Throughout my time, this was my end-game. In reality, however, there was no end-game, and at the same time, there seemed like it was. I could no longer fathom to understand.

July 10th, 1876. This was my mother’s 50th birthday--the last one with me in the picture. It was a tradition that she lit the fire on her candles from her cigarette lighter, but that day was different. Instead, she gave me the lighter and placed it into my hands. My mother was a carefree parent, but she’d never break tradition. From allowing me to stay up past the midnight clock to dipping me into the ocean at four to learn how to swim, she was the “free-roam” type. And so, I just imagined her lighting her candles as she did the past 45 years of her life. Without a guiding hand, I approached the candle and pulled the trigger. At this point, the candle would magically light up, and the fire from the lighter went away. This time was different.

As I felt the flame inching upon the bare bones of my skin, I dropped the lighter into the floor. The next thing I knew was a series of crackling wood and screams of unhopeful escape.

“Jonah, get out of there!”

“Jonah, run!”

Before I could even utter a thought, the fire was encapsulating my finger, then my arms, and consumed me.

And yet, here I was.

The next time it happened was August 5th, 2030. The day was gloomy. Raining. I had just gotten my first ever paycheck at the bank. “Finance is the way to go. All the money is there, circulated through there. Do not choose to live a life like mine”, my Dad would always say after consuming his eight bottles of beer that simmered across his white top. As I turned off the television, I gave him a goodnight kiss after he gravitated his weight indenting the sofa. Going up the creaky wooden stairs to my room, I heard another crackling: the smell of char.

And just like that, the distant memory of a birthday, I can’t recall whose jogged through my mind. I went down, only to be toppled by a fall of burnt debris.

And yet, here I was again, at the cave.

This happened over and over again in fire, for nature always picked a time for me to die. The birthday candle. The collapse of the wooden scaffolding. The next was being the victim of a volatile car collision. Then I dropped a cigarette in the corporate building. A mishap in a circus show. It happened. Over and over.

And over. And yet, here I was again, at the cave. I know how or when, but I do know I die through rebirth by fire.

It has now been a Millenium, and the people still haven’t figured it out. News reports now claim as The Phoneix. What a glorious name for a shitty life. I live, eat, sleep, pursue my dreams, start paying off my debts, and the moment I hear or sense that burn of the wooden char, I know it is time. I know it is time again to wake up in that same damn cave over and over again.

No matter how hard I try, the fire always wins. You’d think that with experience, I’d know how to avoid it. But it’s just the opposite. Every single time, no matter how hard I have thought it out--it always happens. And every time, I wake up here, again, at the cave.

As I step out and look past the mountaintops, I know how this journey ends. My “why” to life is by no means extraordinary, unlike those people I meet. Sometimes, someone’s “why” would be simple: a friend or fiance. For others, maybe a dream: practice law or become a mogul in business.

My why, rather, is to end The Phoneix.

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About The Blogger

Alonzo Cortez is currently a student attending the University of Michigan and resides in Bayonne, NJ, but has lived in both Singapore and the Philippines. He is currently planning to major in the Ford School of Public Policy with a Ross Business Minor, hoping to move into corporate law and business ownership. He writes on a wide array of topics, like video game content on Moot, Sports Betting previews for the New York Knicks, as well as freelance work for Dade Group, LLC. Other than writing, Alonzo spends his time managing the re-establishment of the Phi Delta Fraternity as one of the founding brothers. Further, he works with fitness and health-based organizations as a brand ambassador for Loyal Fitness, a fitness clothing line, and Orgain, a plant-based protein shake.

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