Kage Baker was a child of California, all the way through to her bones and breath.
She was familiar with the fire that always sleeps just under the golden hills, the embers that stir when the santana winds blow. She had breathed a lot of ashes in her life, and seen the sun set like a bloody wound through smoke. She had driven through the streets darkened with ash, and seen the stop lights turned black and orange and blue through the yellow murk.
She could quote the entire opening passage from Mr. Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Wind”, with all the appropriate mime and hand jive.
Tonight is one of those nights, the sun just having gone down in a welter of dragon’s blood over the sea. There are 20-odd fires burning in California tonight, from Redding in the North to Anaheim in the South – mostly in urban areas, too, so what’s burning is mostly hundreds of buildings: more than 1,500, at last report. Ashes of burnt houses near Disneyland are raining down on the coastal roofs of Long Beach and Santa Monica. Livestock is fleeing all the little Northern farms, and sheltering in County fairgrounds anyplace they aren’t on fire. The fabled counties of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino are in flames.
I have lots of friends up there – none in Anaheim. Thank You, whichever one of You is responsible … I’m already worrying that the L.A.Basin is not yet smouldering; there are only so many ends of the state I can worry about at one time. And for once, I am not living in an area that is on fire. So far, anyway – I do live within a mile or so of Griffith Park, and it’s been a couple of years since that burned.
Kage would be enraged and heart-broken at the fires in the North. All the land that is burning are places we travelled through, in long golden days that went on forever: the playground of our youth, the Summer Country. We drank cherry juice under the eucalyptus trees that shaded famous vineyards. We washed golden dust from our lips with warm beer under oak trees. We drove for hours through bays of blue shadow between hills perfumed with apples.
Tonight … fire drakes climb those hillsides, and rear up on the crests to roar at the moon.
The gods keep any of you, Dear Readers, who may live under the wings of dragons tonight.