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|Burned (standard:other, 13521 words)|
|Author: 525||Added: Jan 15 2001||Views/Reads: 2995/1864||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A young man falls from society and searches for insanity.|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story gurney. I can see the wood start cooking instantly. Suddenly I'm in the coffin looking down at my feet: they are kicking. My hands are pounding on the lid. In the distance I can hear my hoarse voice screaming. I feel the heat. My feet slow; the screaming lessens. The heat is searing; my feet stop. I'm silent. I'm smiling. -Counsel I came out of my daydream to hear Dr. Ray say, "Well, that probably relates back to your mother". My mother. That was original and totally unpredictable. Since he kept interrupting me, I decided to give him something he would have to sink his teeth into. I told him that I felt like I was tied to a chair, my eyes held open with surgical tape, being forced to watch this story or play unfold in front of me. The story was my life, and it was going by so fast that I couldn't feel a part of it. I couldn't participate and I didn't even want to watch, but I had to. I had no control. I knew that the end was my unpleasant demise and that it was coming fast, too fast, but I couldn't stop watching. I was numb..... That ought to hold him. He said, "Well, Cole, the session’s over. We'll pick it up there next time." He was trying to look and sound measured and calm, but I knew he would be running for a smoke to light with his shaky hand as soon as possible. -Metamorphosis Driving home I realized that counseling sucked and was getting increasingly boring. It used to be a good distraction, but now I needed something more to fill my time, something to think about. I couldn't even keep myself from daydreaming during the sessions anymore. I did have one other pastime, but I wondered if that was serious enough to occupy my time. I liked lighting fires. I knew it; I wasn't in any kind of denial about it. I even knew it was a bit nuts. That’s why I had allowed my parents to talk me into going to see Dr. Ray. I have always known I was crazy- just not crazy enough not to know I was. It had started with lighters and firecrackers. Then one day when I was hiding from my parents to have a cigarette, I dropped my lighter and it caught a bunch of dry grass on fire. I was amazed at how fast the flames spread. I ran back to my mom and dad trying to stay calm, but my heart was beating a million miles a minute. Pretty soon it seemed like the whole hillside was engulfed in flames. My parents noticed it about the same time we could hear sirens approaching. Soon we were standing in a small group, looking up at the hill in awe. On the outside I was just one of the crowd, but as the firemen ran by and got out their equipment, something big started to sink into my young mind. I realized that I had caused this, that it was all due to me, and no one knew. That it was my secret fire. Since then I have been responsible for several canyon fires, one lasting all night. Once I even burned an old abandoned barn to the ground. After lighting it, I noticed a group of my supposed peers watching the flames and snuck around to join them. They were too stunned to act. They had no idea what they were looking at with their jaws hanging open. Little did they know how different we were. Before each of these fires I felt very excited, but after I would feel somewhat empty. Now I was wondering if setting fires was enough of a hobby to keep me occupied... enough to occupy my time and mind. I thought so. Especially if I concentrated on the preparation, stretched out that pre-fire feeling. And maybe, the better the tricks became the more satisfaction I could get after the fact. So I started formulating a plan that included renting a storage unit, thinking about Internet sites that could be helpful, and stealing my mom’s credit card to procure some funds. I knew there was risk, but my life had gotten to the point where boredom seemed the biggest risk. So that was it; the decision was made. I would start to focus my creative energy on setting fires. I would stop playing around and doing things randomly. I would develop a plan, not only for prep, but an over-all plan. I would still continue to see my shrink, though. There might still be some more things to learn there, about fucking with people’s heads. And even if there weren’t, it was always fun to fuck with Dr. Ray’s head. -Trick I loved my little storage unit. It was small and for now it was barren: it had only one plastic five-gallon gas can sitting lonely in a corner. In the future it would look much different, but for now that was all I needed. I was very excited about my first real trick and the plan was pretty solid. In fact, I had loose plans for my next three or four tricks. The Internet had been extremely helpful, and even if I couldn't find the info I wanted on some terrorist self-help sight, I could usually find someone in a chat room with destructive knowledge to share. In my head some of my the future tricks were shaping up to be very extravagant affairs, but my first would just be a simple burn. I could feel the heat already. I loved it. My five-gallon gas can would be just about all the supplies I needed. I felt a need to graduate from grass and canyon fires, and I had the perfect plan to do that in a big way. There was an abandoned house I knew of in East County; the kids at school partied there sometimes. It was isolated, away from where I lived, and there was a hill nearby that would be great for viewing my handiwork. I was a bit scared, so I decided to set the trick up at night. As I got dressed to go out for the evening’s events, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. I was wearing dark sweats and a dark shirt. I felt like O.J. Simpson, and that wasn’t the only reason I was smiling. I parked my car behind the house at the bottom of a big hill. I thought that was far enough away and, like I said, the area wasn’t very populated. I was nervous, but I didn’t really think there was a big risk of being seen. I got my gas can out of the trunk and noticed again that I couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off of my face. It felt like I had just had a few beers or a bong hit and I was amongst friends. I navy-sealed up the hill (more laughing at myself over this) and found a way in the house through a boarded-up sliding glass door. I surveyed my surroundings and found nothing but desertion and dead silence. This was too easy; this was too cool. Any supplies I needed, other than the fuel I’d brought, were there waiting for me. I found an old mattress and a pile of garbage that had a bunch of papers in it. I proceeded to soak the mattress and papers in unleaded and move them to strategic locations throughout the condemned house. I was still feeling a bit giddy, but other feelings had snuck into my psyche. I felt focused, efficient, and productive. I loved how I felt. I made some fuel trails from the mattress and the papers to the center of the main room. I still had about a quarter of the gas can left, so I just laid the can on its side. I had come up with the ignition system on my own (and was pretty proud of myself). It was just a small battery-powered alarm clock whose wiring I had tapped into and connected to a model rocket igniter, like a simple little time-release match. When this alarm went off, it would be a fire alarm. I laid the igniter just inside the lip of the gas can, set the alarm for forty-five minutes, and stood up to inspect my handiwork. It looked good; it would look better in about an hour. I hadn’t left anything traceable. The gas can, clock, and igniter had all been sitting around my parents’ house forever, so there was no way to connect them to me. I doubted that there would be much evidence of them left by the time the authorities got here anyway. I got back to the car and drove to my viewing point without incident and with about fifteen minutes to spare. I felt better than I ever had in my life. I felt like an expectant father. Waiting for my wife Hell to bear her offspring Fire. I was ready to start passing out cigars. This must be what artists feel like while painting or musicians while composing. I was creating power, creating destruction. I saw a flash through a window. Or did I? It didn’t take long for confirmation. I could see light and shadow flicker in both the windows visible from where I was watching. I thought I was going to cream my jeans. I was lost; I couldn’t see anything else. It was everything to me. Flames started spilling out of the windows, first cooking then eating the wood above. I could see death in the black smoke just above the flames. I swore I could hear screaming. As the flames took hold, I could feel negative thoughts and feelings lifting off of me, rising like the smoke from the blaze. But the smoke (and the feelings) didn’t disappear completely; they settled over the surrounding landscape suffocating and dirty. It was nice, very nice. I saw a piece of the roof collapse, leaving a hole that was soon filled with fire. From there it didn’t take long to achieve total destruction. The window flames crawled up to meet the roof flames and soon the whole house was a party. There was no subtlety or question anymore. This house was burning and would continue to do so until it became a giant briquette. I stared with shameless glee as the flames flicked higher and higher, like a dragon’s forked tongue licking at the blackened sky. I still felt drunk, but I also felt a bit spent, so I decided it was time to go. I had gotten what I came for. As I drove away I could here sirens in the distance, I smiled the tired smile of accomplishment. -Dissatisfaction I opened my eyes the next morning and I wasn’t quite sure where I was. The sun and gentle breezes coming through my window were teaming up to make confusing shadow and light animations on my walls and ceiling. I felt hung over. I rubbed my eyes for a second and realized I was waking up in my room as always. Once I saw the O.J. outfit I had worn last night, the confusion went away in a rush. I knew exactly where I was and I knew exactly what had happened the night before. My heart was beating so hard I wondered if my parents could hear it in the kitchen. I stood up really fast and suddenly felt really hung over. I almost fell down. I smiled and quickly sat back down. I thought about where to go from here. I guess I didn’t have much choice; I would just act normally. I would go down and get some breakfast, like I did every Saturday morning, if I didn’t puke first. I snuck into the bathroom and took a long hot shower. It didn’t help. I still felt like I was covered in shit. I snuck down the hall and started down the stairs. About halfway down I realized that not only was there no reason to sneak, but also it probably wasn’t a good idea. I could hear the normal kitchen scene from half the house away. My mom was chattering on and on to my dad, but really she was just talking to herself. He would affirm his existence every so often by giving her a rattle of the morning paper - just often enough to prove he wasn’t completely dead... just undead. I used to worry about them, but I realized a while back that they had settled into a relationship dance that they could live with. In fact they probably loved it. My mom wanted the ability to talk to herself out loud and non- stop without looking crazy, and my dad must have had some kind of background noise fetish. They were perfect for each other. I slid into a kitchen chair -I was about to sneak but I caught myself-. My mom brought me a bowl of cereal and kissed my forehead. I looked at her from under my eyebrows and said, “Good morning.” Everything appeared normal, but I felt like I was submerged in thick gel; every movement was slow and effortful. As time passed the feeling faded a bit. I looked at Dad’s paper from the corner of my eye and didn’t see anything about my trick. I guess I didn’t expect it to be front-page news. As I continued to eat my breakfast, Mom continued her ignored morning song, and Dad read his paper sealed in silence. Everything was normal. Except me, I had a huge secret and the world seemed normal. The hung over feeling was starting to dissipate, like sand running out of the top of an hourglass. The substance moving up into the top of the glass to replace the sand wasn’t air; it was anger. I should have been as happy as I had ever been. I had started living my dreams, but something still wasn’t right. It was pissing me off. With a final rattle, Dad folded the paper and set it down on the table. He stood, put on his jacket, and gave it a single two-handed down brush for good measure. He leaned over and gave mom a kiss on the forehead (which she talked through). Then he looked straight at me and said, “Have a good day son.” I had a mouth full of cereal, so I just stared into his eyes and chewed. He sounded sincere, but all I could see was plastic. He made a thumb-plus-finger-equals-gun hand gesture and pointed it at me with a simultaneous click. Straight from the “Our Children Are Our Future” parenting seminar, lesson two. Textbook fatherhood... if he had only known what that had produced. When he finally left, I eyeballed his paper greedily. I installed a last spoonful from the half-empty cereal bowl into my mouth and told Mom, “I’m done.” around it. I grabbed the paper and made my getaway. As I ran up the stairs, I heard her say, “Don’t forget about your visit today.” Visit..... She meant my weekly appointment with Dr. Ray, my shrink. They had money; they had a child with a problem they couldn’t even begin to understand; I had a weekly date with boredom and incompetence. Again, parenting by the book. I guess I really liked Dr. Ray, not as a friend or respected professional, but more as a semi-entertaining time killer, a game I could interact with. Fucking with Dr. Ray’s head had become the least boring thing in my life -- until last night. Maybe he will have heard about my artistry in arson. In my room, as I thumbed through page after page of the newspaper, my anger continued to grow like some kind of nuclear-waste-fertilized rose ending in a huge red bloom. Not one word about my fire. Come on! I know San Diego is a big area, but I didn’t think the dog show, a variety of political shenanigans, and housekeeping tips from Martha Stewart (Satan herself) warranted more ink than my trick. My fire meant a lot to me, but it didn’t seem to matter to the rest of the world. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe that was why I felt like shit. Maybe I would have to find a way to change that - find a way to make them see. -Therapy Dr. Ray never struck me as the type of psych that exuded competence. In fact he was usually kind of mousey. I think he was in the wrong profession. He was like a slobby maid or a chef with bad body odor. He usually just repeated my questions or comments back to me or asked me how I felt about something. He left me with the feeling that nothing was going on in his head and we were just spinning our wheels together. You would immediately have second thoughts about hiring him. As far as my parents were concerned, he was a good enough place to dump me for an hour a week so they could feel like they were doing something for me. Surprisingly, every now and then he would come up with something that would amaze me, - something intelligent, insightful, or cocky. In the twenty-floor elevator ride up to his office, I continued the conversation with myself that I had been having all morning. I didn’t know which I felt more - anger, frustration, or confusion. I did know I was not feeling “positive” and that I was not in a mood to fuck around. Dr. Ray seemed the same as he always did at the beginning of my “visits”: polite and tense. He also looked the same as he always did. Like a throw back to the fifties’ styles you see in your parents’ (and grandparents’) pictures (or photographs as the grandparents always seem to call them) when they blow the dust off of the old Bore Family Album. With his thick black-framed glasses, white shirt, thin black tie and dress pants, (slacks to the grandparents), throw in the stiff posture, and monotone vocal delivery, he could have stepped right out of a midnight rerun of “Dragnet” on Nick. “How are you today, Cole?” He said. For my response I tried to think of something a Dragnet “perp” would say to Sgt. Friday, but my dark mood overshadowed my sarcasm (which is hard to do). So, instead, I stayed on my “not-fucking-around” course. “I’m shitty, Dr. Ray... very shitty.” I walked right passed him and sat on the couch (does anyone ever lie on those things? That seemed way too cliché to me). “Well, why do you think that is? Is there something specific you would like to talk about?” He said. Man... three sentences, three question marks, three strikes and you’re out. Classic Dr. Ray - maybe he thought he had only so many periods and exclamation marks and he had to ration them out very carefully. That was all right, I felt like I had enough exclamation marks for both of us today. “Have you heard of any fires today, Dr. Ray?” Whoa! I wasn’t planning on fucking around, but that question surprised even me; it just sort of came out. Dr. Ray looked as surprised and puzzled as I felt. “What do you mean, Cole? What fires?” Damn! It was official. Nobody knew about my fire. That was it. My anger had boiled over, and my head wouldn’t release the pressure. It was like holding something very hot in your hand, and letting it burn your hand because you know that if you let it go something even worse than the burning will happen. So, you just hold on to it because you have to, and you just get burned because it’s hot. “How do you feel about hate, Dr. Ray? Is it ok to hate? Is it natural? Can it be healthy or positive in any way?” More surprise-speak escaped my mouth, but this time I wasn’t even sure where the words had come from. Anger was my co-pilot and had taken over the controls. “Well, those are complex questions, Cole. I don’t know if we can handle all of them that fast. Hate is an emotion - a feeling - and just like any other feeling, it is natural. We can have valid reasons for feeling hate, but the feeling needs to be dealt with.” Ok, now we were getting somewhere. “So if you really hated someone, that would need to be dealt with.” I continued. “Yes,” he said. “That ‘feeling’ would have to be dealt with.” As far as I was concerned, if the feeling was natural and valid then the hated person or object was what needed to be dealt with. This sounded very good to me. It’s exactly what I had hoped. The only thing left was to figure out how to deal with it. I was pretty sure I knew. In fact, I had already started, but I had to think on a bigger scale now. I didn’t hate just one person or one object. I hated everyone. I hated everything. I hated the world. -Drift The only things reflecting in the calm black river, other than the thin red sliver of moon, are flames - large hungry flames spitting out of five gas lamps illuminating the end of a long bamboo dock. The four men on the dock (not counting the body on the reed raft tied to the end of the dock) seem as calm as the water, but there is tension just below the surface. They are dressed in ceremonial garb, which includes brightly painted skin and contrastingly dark masks. Their skin colors are so vivid that they could not possibly be of this world. The masks are long and hellishly beautiful. Each man wears a different mask but they are all thin, made of ebony or something that looks like ebony and they are very black and very smooth. Each mask is a carved angular face depicting a negative emotion. One is angry, one afraid, one sad, and one is indifferent. They all have the same huge, rectangular, empty eyes. The corpse on the raft is mummified in oily rags with only it’s head exposed. Its eyes and mouth are both sown shut with a thick primitive twine. You can smell the water; its dampness saturates everything. That was the only smell, though. There are none of the other smells you might normally associate with a river like fish or human waste. This river is pure death. The water starts flowing faster and had gets a bit choppy. The masked men start some sort of ceremony. They each pick up a flaming lamp, dance around with it, and set it down again. They stand in curious positions in relation to each other. They put the lamps’ flames close to the dry reeds of the float of death on which my body is resting (not peacefully). The river is flowing fast enough now that the ropes holding the raft to the dock are pulled tight. Suddenly, Anger mask appears to be upset with Fear mask (I’m guessing fear screwed up the funeral dance somehow). Anger carefully sets his lamp on the dock then charges at Fear, clotheslining him at the neck. Fear drops his lamp. Fuel and fire spill out, bite off a big chunk of the dock and start chewing. None of the pyre dancers take notice as the fight between Anger and Fear continues. The river water is flowing very fast now. Drowning would seem a certainty now, even for a strong swimmer. One of the ropes on my raft breaks, and I am rapidly swept to the full length of the one remaining rope about ten or fifteen feet from the end of the dock. I’m surprised the raft hasn’t capsized yet. Fear gets up and (angrily) dives into Anger, knocking him to the dock so that his head whiplashes off of the edge and the anger mask is flung into the water. Shocked and horrified by this, the three remaining masked men remove their masks and let them limply drop to their sides. Then their corpse hands release the masks, and the masks drop to the dock with a hollow deadened sound. The unmasking reveals that none of the men have any facial features what so ever, just absence, empty blankness. Without further movement, stand “facing” each other. The water is a rushing rapid now. The raft is tossed but continues miraculously to stay upright. The men realize that the dock between them and the shore is being consumed by flame. There is no escape. I sense that they will not try to swim for it or even jump in the water - not because of the speed of the current but because they believe this river is death incarnate and there is no fate worse than having their souls enveloped by it. Thus, they all migrate to the cool end of the dock and accept that their bodies will be burned alive. One of the faceless strangers (seemingly as an after thought) reaches down, picks up a lamp, and sets fire to the last rope holding the raft to the dock. I realize I will be set adrift on the cool water. Until now, I had been a calm, curious spectator through this whole scene, but now I am horrified. The rope burns. The dock, the masks, and the dancers burn. Everything burns... except me. I am immune to my own cremation. I have to scream. I open my mouth with enough force to tear the stitches through my giving lips. Still no scream comes from my gaping, bloody, shredded mouth. I free my hands and then paw at the twine holding my eyes closed. I am a panicked, quivering mole, ripping at my Frankenstein eyes and convulsing a silent scream. I look like a fish sucking air, tossed on the shore after having the treble hook yanked unceremoniously from its mouth. The instant I free my enslaved eyes from their bonds, I know that I, too, am one of the faceless monsters. An instant later I hear screaming. It takes a minute to realize it’s me, and then it takes another minute for me to gain the control needed to force myself to stop. After that it takes me quite a while to come fully back to reality. I came to my senses in mid-scream. I looked around and found that I was in my car. This wasn’t the first time I had zoned out or blacked out, but it seemed to be happening more frequently lately. This was the first time I had emerged from a blackout in a possibly dangerous situation. I was in my car at a stoplight! Oh well, at least no one else had noticed... I hoped. Maybe there was something to this insanity stuff. I would have to talk to Dr. Ray about it. -Preparations After my visit with Dr. Ray, I felt very strange. Of course, most people would consider blacking out, psychotic dreams, and violent fantasies and plans, to be strange, but these were all things I was getting used to. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Dr. Ray had said that hate was a normal feeling that needed to be dealt with. I got home and started planning my next trick right away. Because of my lack of satisfaction with my last trick’s level of visibility, I knew this one had to be bigger. Actually, I had gotten the idea for it from Dr. Ray himself. My hate “needed to be dealt with,” and one of the things I hated most was school. The idea was perfect. Like most schools these days, mine was apparently designed to look like a prison. The building was ninety-percent cement, and the remaining ten was mostly glass shaped into these long thin windows just big enough for a guard to stick his gun through (if they would have opened, which they didn’t: wouldn’t want the students’ minds wandering towards escape. So torching the main building was out but apparently they had realized it was too small right after it was built because they immediately constructed another separate complex of buildings, away from the main structure that added another ten or twelve classrooms to the campus. I had had third period history with Mr. Wood in that complex just a month ago. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Now it would burn. These buildings were a bit more conventional They looked exactly like what they were, hallways with classrooms on either side. I remembered that there was a small storage area attached to the outside of one of them and locked only with a padlock. It was summer break, so no one would be there other than the ghosts of chattel past. It sounded better than good. This would definitely be more risky than the last trick, though. The school was in the middle of a populated residential area and, even though the storage shed was on the backside of the building, I would still have to sneak to it with the supplies I needed. It would be worth it. The added risk only fed my excitement. This would get recognized. This would be perfect. I was going to need more than gasoline for this one. I went home, ignored my mom’s chattered greetings, and went straight to my computer. Aaaahhhhhh...... the Internet....... dependable friend to all pervs, nerds, and terrorists. I typed, “I want to blow shit up” into the search engine and, surprisingly enough, got about fifty sites that matched my request. Of course most of them were porn (I’ll have to remember not to type “blow” next time), but my joke actually got me some results from which I could link to many useful sites. You’d be amazed how many household items can be used to make explosives! (I thought in sarcastic quotations). I also found some help on gaining supplies without leaving any suspicious trail and on minimizing evidence left at the burn site. My storage unit would look quite a bit different soon. It felt good to be working. I felt productive. I realized I was whistling and laughed at myself I spent the remainder of my week’s free time acquiring money and supplies. The money was mostly stolen from my parents’ carrying cash (as well as cash withdrawals from their credit cards) and the supplies were always purchased with cash at a variety of locations very far away from home. I believed my methods were as safe as possible and wouldn’t be judged by any witnesses as out of the ordinary. They would think differently if they saw my storage unit. It was becoming an ammo dump. Looking around I noticed that it contained a lot more stuff than I would need for this next trick. I must have been planning something big. I felt like Santa in his workshop. The only thing missing was a bunch of evil little gargoyle elves making hand grenades stocking stuffers. As soon as I started working, that Yuletide image changed. Now I felt like Mr. Mack, my old chemistry teacher. Now the missing accessories were a white lab coat (which served no purpose whatsoever for Mr. Mack) and a horribly obvious toupee. I wanted to add explosion to this one. I don’t know why. It seemed a natural progression, I guess. The fire was still the most important thing, though. I didn’t expect to blow the whole building up. I just wanted some emphasis, some punctuation, to capitalize the “f” in fire. So here I was, playing chemist, mixing “house hold items” to make some boom boom. As I immersed myself in my work and enjoyed the anticipation of my fire, my mind wandered. Distraction led to carelessness, and a test igniter inadvertently sparked a small pile of powder. It flashed into flame and my mind caught fear. In the fraction of a second before my reflexes took over, I envisioned that little flash igniting the powder keg that I was sitting in the middle of. Then my hand, beyond my control, was on the flaming pile, smothering it. The pain was infinitely intense for a moment, and then subsided to a level I would term “interesting.” It was like when a match sticks to your finger for a second and you feel that brief searing pain. And when it’s over, you quickly stick your finger in your mouth and it still hurts, but nothing like it did a second before. Somewhere between the extreme pain and the relief you feel that you might have lived for a moment. Really lived. It still hurt quite a bit, but the pain was a welcome trade, considering what might have happened. The burn, like the event that caused it, was small on the surface, but for some reason my heart was pounding fast and hard. While I mulled this over, the pain level subsided to a dull throb, which was just enough to annoy me while I finished my work but not enough to keep me from doing just that. In the morning, after I had prepared everything I would need, and before I planned to execute my trick, I was very excited. I was surprised by my lack of nervousness. I went down stairs to play my part in the never-ending production of “The Perfect Family” and to eat a bowl of cereal. Mom said, “Good morning,” and Dad said nothing. I doubt he even had any awareness of my being there. Mom asked, “What are your plans today, Cole?” I made up some crap about hanging out at the beach and then going to a friend’s until late. I knew she would buy it. My answer really didn’t even need to be plausible. She didn’t give a shit about it. I had seen it many times, her faking an interest in me just to get a lead-in for what she wanted to say. Then, sure enough, she immediately started off on her plans for the day. Whatever, I played my part as written and tuned her out. My dad’s comment to me during the exit ritual was one of his standard variations, “You and I will have to get together and do something next weekend, Cole.” I lifted my eyebrows over a mouthful of cereal and pointed my spoon hand finger at him sarcastically, implying, “Sure thing Dad!” I knew I would never actually have to face the awful reality of that happening. His weekends were spent in the yard, or in the garage, or with friends, or watching some game where manly men live out every child’s dreams, with balls and wearing spandex pants. Anything to get away... Get away... I could understand get away. Maybe I should focus my next trick a little closer to home. Wow! How did that get in there? There were always lots of things in my head that I knew would freak people out, but this... I didn’t even want this in my head. It scared me to think about it. It was like knowing there was a fire raging in the next room, feeling the heat radiating through the walls, seeing your own death flickering through the crack under the door. I forced myself to stop thinking about the things in my head. I never wanted to think about them again, so I forced it down... way down deep. I spent the rest of the day mostly killing time, driving around, doing the minimal prep that still needed to be done before tonight’s trick, and enjoying the anticipation of the perfect flame. I had to fight to keep myself from driving by the school a million times, but I did allow one drive-by just to reacquaint myself with the area. Of course the building was just as I remembered it (I had been in it just a month ago), but I did notice something that I hadn’t known about before. Behind my target building was the football field, and behind that was a wooded area. I guess I just never noticed that before I never was much of a jock. That made me laugh out loud, it took my planning a terrorist act for me to notice that my school had a football field. I didn’t want to have to go home during the day, so that morning I brought along all the things that I thought I would need: O.J. outfit – check; bolt cutters – check; pipe bombs, gas, and timed ignition device – check. Actually, this last group had been in my car’s trunk all night. I had collected them from my storage yesterday. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I had left them there. I just felt better with them close. -Trick When I woke up it was dark. I had gotten bored of driving around and parked my car at the beach to get some rest, and I must have fallen asleep. My watch said it was eleven thirty, which meant it was time to change into my navy seal outfit and head back towards the school. I could smell the gasoline in the trunk. It made me smile. Tonight would be recognized. Tonight would be perfect. As I drove, my mind wandered. I was daydreaming like a young girl with a crush. My mind bounced from issue to issue without any serious thought or feeling. When I regained full awareness, I realized I was right in front of the school. It was still a bit earlier than I wanted to be sneaking around, so I thought I would sit tight for a while. My injured hand throbbed dully. My mind settled on the last subject it had wandered to during the drive over: Dr. Ray -- more specifically, his statement about how hate needed to be dealt with positively. I hated Dr. Ray. I hated dealing with anything positively. I hated everything. How the fuck was I supposed to deal with that positively? I wasn’t stupid. I knew “normal” people weren’t compelled to set fires. I was sure there were plenty of people cruising the fast lane in their happy little state of non-hatred, but somehow I had missed the on-ramp. I didn’t care. I wanted to stop thinking about it before I got any more worked up. It was time to get to work anyway. I checked the coast to make sure it was clear, and then retrieved the large backpack and two large duffel bags form my trunk. The tools of destruction are never light. I carried / dragged my... stuff around to the back of the building, and located my target. The night was cool on my ears and I could smell a hint of powder coming from the bombs in my bag. I didn’t care about “normal” anymore; I didn’t care about hate. I cared about the task at hand. I cared about flame. I got to the storage closet and somewhat awkwardly sliced through the padlock. My burned hand made it impossible to use one hand on each end of the bolt cutter’s handles, so I had to put one on my chest and use both hands to pull the other towards it. The doors opened onto no big surprises, mostly gardening supplies. Ironically I had some of the same type of fertilizer in my storage unit. It had a high nitrogen content. I removed all of the school’s supplies and installed my own. I had ten pipe bombs and two five-gallon gas cans all pre-wired with igniters run from another alarm clock. I took a third gas can and soaked down as much of the storage shed and the building it was attached to as I could. I stopped and looked around; mostly to make sure I hadn’t carelessly left anything I didn’t need to. I was also absorbing the view of my handiwork -- well, the prep, really. The handiwork would be viewed in about half an hour. I took one more breath of gas fumes, closed my eyes, and exhaled visions of perfection. Then I quickly gathered my gear and left. I drove my car about two miles away, parked, changed into more normal (although still pretty dark) clothes, and walked back to the vantage point in the woods that I had scouted out earlier. Then I waited. Again I fantasized about the perfect blaze. The warmth washing over me in waves, the taste of soot in the air, the charred, smoldering, flattened, remains of the once useful structure. Then a strange feeling crept over me —a feeling I had never had before... doubt. What if the igniters failed? What if I hadn’t made the bombs correctly? What if the alarm clock didn’t work? There would be a shitload of evidence sitting in a storage shed just waiting for the landscaper to come along in his green pants and huge straw hat and tell the authorities about. I had followed the instructions I found, tested what I could, checked and double-checked, but... If this shit didn’t work I would be fucked, and I had no idea how..... KA-BOOOOM. It was a low guttural sound. Like a thunderous Tyson combination of god-like proportions cracking right over my head. It was followed immediately by a fireball that transformed into a miniature mushroom cloud of flame framed in heavy black smoke. I swore I could smell brimstone. I actually felt a small amount of concussion from the blast even though it was at least two or three hundred yards away. The column of fire stirred into itself circulating in search of the blackened sky then disappeared leaving a thick black and gray fog. I could see very small twinkles of light start to filter through the blackness like individual rays of nurturing sunlight blinking through a shifting interwoven canopy of leaves. Then, either because the blaze grew, or because the low smoke was dissipating, the flame seemed to get stronger and stronger. The explosion was the perfect complement to the fire. The blast seemed to spread the fire instantly. The original explosion lit most of the building right away and the fire quickly grew in intensity from there. It already dwarfed the fairly large structure. It raged, it consumed with out vision, leaving nothing but empty. I felt strange. The fire was beautiful and it was mine but... maybe I was just tired. Maybe I was just overwhelmed. I decided not to think too much about it and just tried to enjoy the moment. I would let it go for now, sleep on it tonight, and think tomorrow. Let’s see them leave this out of the paper. A large crowd was gathering and I could hear the sirens of heroes in the distance. No big surprise since this public event had been announced, with authority, about five minutes ago. I decided it was time to make my getaway and snuck back to my car. My mind was empty on the drive home, literally blank - as hollow as the space the fire would leave above the ashes. I got home, made my way through the darkened house to my room, left a trail of clothes from my door to my bed, and was asleep in all of about five seconds. -Confusion After the first trick, I had woken up with my body feeling wrecked and my mind excited, curious, and nervous. This time my body felt fine and my mind was dead. Not like brain dead, I was completely awake and alert, but I was numb from the neck up. It was perfect. It went off without a hitch. I had already seen evidence of recognition (and I was sure I would see more), and here I was, safe and sound lying in my bed unmolested by authorities. It was perfect... Wasn’t it? Why did it sound like I was trying to convince myself in what should have been my moment of triumph? The injury from my little mistake during prep the day before yesterday had become a low surging pain. It was a welcome distraction. I felt better focusing on that and getting away from thinking about last night, much better. My mind was bright but the shimmering shadows endured. I went down to the kitchen and joined the zombies. I felt neither my normal disdain for them nor the fear of being caught that I felt after the last trick. I felt like one of them. As soon as Dad saw me, he said, “Looks like your school burned to the ground last night, Cole. “Good thing it’s summer or you might have missed a day or two.” Apparently his attempt at a joke. Mom rushed over, rustled my hair, grabbed me just under my jaw with both hands, lifted my face until we were staring eye to eye, and said, “You look tired. How late did you stay out last night? Did you get enough sleep?” They were zombies - oblivious to the darkness they were immersed in, oblivious to the passion staring them in the face. I thought about helping them, trying to save them, trying to snap them out of it, but of course I’m pretty sure that would have been impossible, and would have meant a fundamental change in me. It was obviously far too late for that. The fires... and the madness had developed lives of their own... I was a helpless ash caught in the superheated air current of the updraft. I ignored them and found the section of the paper containing the article about my trick. It was the front page of the local section –not too shabby- I skimmed it while my mom brought me a bowl of cereal. The authorities suspected arson. Ppphhhhfffffttt, no shit, but they suspected it was some kind of prank that got out of hand.... Out of hand? Not in my opinion. In fact, logistically it had gone perfectly, even if I hadn’t found the satisfaction I sought. I skimmed down some more, small complex of buildings, -bla bla bla – total loss, -bla bla bla – five hundred thousand dollars damage, - bla bla bla – no suspects, - bla bla bla – two janitors suffered minor injuries... hhhmmm. I guess there were people in there. I assumed that because it was summer ol’ “Combustion High” would be empty. The janitors were treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns and released. This new added element was something that had never occurred to me before: human destruction, to hurt a person or take a life... more to think about... more confusion. “WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR HAND???” Mom screeched as she noticed the bandage I had put on my powder rash. “Oh it’s nothing” I scrambled, “My car overheated and I burned it trying to take off the radiator cap.” “You should be more careful,” she said. “Should you go to see a Doctor?” “Nah, it doesn’t even hurt.” I lied... well sort of lied. I don’t know if I was becoming some kind of pain freak or if I was still into the distraction or if I had just gotten accustomed to the constant throb, but it actually felt good to me. I suddenly had to get out of there, not because my parents were bugging me (that would be normal) but because I was freaking myself out. I ran out so fast that Dad didn’t even have time to shoot his gun hands at me. I had to get out of there but I had no idea where to go or what to do. I got in my car and stood on the throttle. There was too much crap in my head. I drove as fast as I could, but I couldn’t drive it out. My hand, the fires, destruction, hate, injury, recognition, death. This fire got recognized and that didn’t satisfy. My hand was killing me, but I didn’t seem to mind. There was no way the last trick could have been better but still I found no satisfaction in it. Hate - how was I supposed to deal with all this hate? I couldn’t even think straight with the pain in my hand. It wasn’t the fact that it hurt that was killing my concentration. It was the fact that the pain didn’t seem to bother me. Death... Did I have to kill to satisfy? Was that it? FUCK! I hated Dr. Ray. FUCK! My hand was killing me. I looked up and realized I was parked in front of the house I had burned for my first trick. I got out and walked around in the cinders. I could see some evidence of the way the house used to be, standing and whole, pieces of glass melted and gnarled like a troll’s arm, metal heater grates warped, rusty, and black, whatever could withstand the heat and still survive in some form. There wasn’t much that could survive. And everything that did “survive” was transformed into a small amount of shrapnel scattered in gray dust. I noticed, kicking around the ashes, that my hand didn’t hurt anymore. I missed it. I took the bandage off and looked at the wound, poked at it. It wasn’t like the blackened ruins of the former home I was standing in. Unlike the houses charred reminders of a healthier past my hand showed evidence that it would be healthy again fairly soon. It was healing... healing. -Degeneration I looked at my watch and saw that it was time to go to my appointment with Dr. Ray. As I drove downtown to his office, my mind was blank. Apparently the little visit to the sight of trick number one had sterilized it. On the elevator ride up to Dr. Ray’s floor my hand started to throb again. The pain was slow and constant like a smoldering coal. I welcomed it. “Good day, Cole,” the shrink said. Yeah, maybe for you, I thought as I walked past him and sat down on the couch that had probably cradled countless incurably unstable asses. “Is there anything in particular you wanted to talk about today?” He asked in his Joe Friday monotone. I just stared at him, God I hated him. I wished he were dead. THAT WAS IT! I needed the ultimate destruction for satisfaction. I needed total control. I needed to take a life. Dr. Ray had sparked the idea for how I was to deal with my hate; now he would pay in the only real currency... death. “Yeah, Dr. Ray, lets continue on the topic of hate.” I spit the words at him through gritted teeth. “Ok, that sounds good. Have you thought about or explored any healthy ways to deal with hate?” “Oh yeah,” I smiled. “Look in your paper and you’ll see the ways I’ve been exploring.” I didn’t care if he could figure out what was going on, he would be dead soon. “Um..... ok,” he said, looking confused, which wasn’t far from how he always looked. “And I plan on doing some more ‘exploring’ real soon,” I laughed. “Well, I’ve been thinking about our last session all week, and I’ve been somewhat troubled by your demeanor and questions. Have you thought about the fact that your problems may be internal? You seem to focus all this emotion outward on external things beyond your control. Maybe you should take a look at something you have more control over, maybe you should internalize your search for the source of your problems.” What the fuck was he trying to say? “Are you saying I hate myself?” I hissed. The smile was gone. “Well, that’s one possibility,” he stuttered, “or maybe you just need to think about the way you deal with the external sources that stimulate all this negativity.” I barely even heard his last statement; I had recoiled into my own world. Could I possibly hate myself? I had never thought about that. Was all this shit nothing but a way to hurt myself??? I could feel reality start to slip away. It faded in and out in waves. I dug my thumbnail into my injured hand “AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” I screamed. It was good. The world swam back into focus and I was staring at Dr. Ray’s face. I’m sure he was confused but again it was hard to tell. I couldn’t stand the thought of continuing to talk to him. My hate for him raged and like the pain in my hand....... it made me feel good I liked them both. I got up, collected my head, and calmly walked out of his office for the last time. Thanks to the clarity bestowed upon me by me barbecued hand, I had a very focused elevator ride down to the garage, and by the time I got to my car I knew what I had to do. It’s amazing how easy it is when you let go and totally open yourself up. I was going to burn the building Dr. Ray’s office was in. I would do it at peak time - when it was as full of people as possible. WOW! It all seemed so simple now, so easy. Destruction on about the largest scale possible, including the taking of lives... lots of lives. Yep, that was the best session I ever had. I think that’s where I started to loose track. From then on, it seemed like I couldn’t remember small chunks of time -- not like the long blackouts I had had, but every now and then it just seemed like my mind blinked. I’d be walking in my front door then suddenly – blink – I’d be sitting in front of my computer. I’d be taking a shower then suddenly – blink – I’d be in bed. It wasn’t a big deal, and it didn’t change my good mood, now that I knew that my search would be over soon, it would be very hard to darken my mood. -Momentum The next morning I woke up feeling very calm and focused, almost peaceful. Then – blink – I was in my storage unit planning and preparing for my next trick. I guess I survived the morning ritual at the zombie house, even though I couldn’t remember a moment of it. I’m sure I didn’t miss much. My storage unit was already full of explosive and combustible materials, but there were still a few things I needed to run around and collect for my next trick. I spent most of the day doing that and playing with my toys. I was very surprised and happy with the results of my last trick. The explosion was much bigger than I had expected for the amount of explosives I had used, and I now had ten or twenty times that amount collected for the next trick. Not to mention some new stuff I hadn’t even tried yet. And, of course, I had to save a dance for the girl I came with... yes... my old friend... cheap and available... tried and true... gasoline. I finished up at the storage shed and was pretty much ready to go. The only things left to do were to find something to hold all my volatility so I could transport it downtown and to research the Internet a bit more on buildings and their soft spots. I was driving and thinking about which one of my favorite terrorist sites I would hit first when I turned on to my street and saw a police car parked in front of my house. I freaked... I had been aware of the authorities and their possible contribution to my life, considering recent events, and I had worked very hard to avoid them. But, in spite of the fact that crime and punishment had been on my mind quite a bit lately, I had never really thought about actually getting caught. Now that reality was slapping me in the face. My hand (which I hadn’t noticed since I left Dr. Ray’s) started hurting again. I turned my car around; I had no idea where I was going. Then –blink- I was sitting in my kitchen with my mom and dad in the middle of an agressive interrogation. “Dan McDowell,” I said. I didn’t know why I was back to freaking out, but at least there weren’t any cops to be seen. Naturally, the moment I had closed my mouth, Mom opened hers and would run it until someone cut her off. I rarely paid much attention to her, but I needed to know what was going on, so I had to fight my natural instincts and listen. Being about a spark away from total overload wasn’t going to help either. I tried to calm down. -Bla bla bla- “out that late” -bla bla bla– “phone number” -bla bla bla- “talk to his parents.” I wasn’t catching everything, and even if I had been, I doubt she was making much sense. Still, I think I got the gist of it. Somebody had seen my car in the neighborhood the night I roasted the school and had reported it. The cops were doing some routine checking and wanted to know what I was doing in that area. My parents had told them that I had been staying at a friend’s that night and the cops left -no big deal-. Mom was freaked because she felt she needed more information on my whereabouts now (That must be why I had blurted out Dan’s name. He’s a friend of mine that lives over by the school.) I was freaked because I was “Arsonist Boy” loose on the streets of San Diego and wanted to keep it that way (not to mention I was beyond the fringes of sanity). Dad didn’t seem too freaked out, and from what I could tell, neither were the cops. So I waited for Mom to run out of gas and walked up to my room. As I left I heard her say to Dad “He’s all right. He’s our good boy, and he’s all right.” I lay in bed in the dark staring at the ceiling. I could still feel the adrenaline pulsing through my veins. I tried to think of nothing but thought of everything. I even thought of putting a stop to it... ending the whole thing right now. I guess thinking about the possibility of getting caught had really messed me up because I had never even come close to calling it off before. I closed my eyes and pushed my thumbnail into my wounded hand. I slept or blinked out or whatever. The next thing I knew it was morning and I was sitting at my computer looking at a general description of large buildings and instructions on how to recognize their weak points. Since I woke up working, it was easy to focus on the job at hand and slip back into the momentum that had developed before my little mental hiccup yesterday. I don’t know if I was enjoying the prep and anticipation of the trick (as I had in the past), but it didn’t matter. At this point there was no turning back. When I say there was a momentum, I didn’t just mean the momentum of planning this trick, but my whole mental state, my whole life. I wasn’t in control anymore. I couldn’t stop it, and that seemed to make it very easy to forget everything else. Once my research was done, I rented a van, drove it to my storage unit, filled it with goodies, and headed down town. Driving the van full of explosives made me feel better. The smell of powder, chemicals and gas fumes was very powerful; it made my eyes water. It was a very emotional experience. I felt very comfortable surrounded by destruction. Once I got to the building’s underground parking, it didn’t take long before I found some of the weaknesses I had read about on www.boyterrorist.com. So I parked the van / bomb in the most vulnerable spot I could find (to the best of my acquired knowledge), locked it up and left it. I took the same elevator that I had taken many times. It had never led me to sanity before, but this time I think it was helping me achieve some closure. I walked through the lobby and took a bus back to retrieve my car. Then I went home to wait for the fireworks. I had known it would be fairly late in the day before I would have everything set up, and I wanted the building to be at maximum occupancy when things went boom, so I had set the trigger for about ten a.m. tomorrow. Show time! I just had to survive until then. I wasn’t used to having to wait so long for one of my tricks to erupt. I had no idea how to occupy my time. I ended up lying on my bed staring at the ceiling again - probably not a good choice. My mind was free to run. I tried to stay focused and positive. I wondered how the trick would look, how big the explosion would be, how a building that big would look consumed by fire. Then –blink- I was still lying on my bed; the shadows made by the horizontal blinds had shifted down the wall a couple of inches. I was still thinking about my trick, but the bad thoughts had crept in again. I had thought about how the trick would look, but I realized I had no desire to go downtown and watch it. I just wanted it to be done. I wanted Dr. Ray to be dead. I wanted to go to sleep, wake up tomorrow, and watch everything on the news. Then, as if beyond my control, the questions I had tried to fight off earlier screamed to the front of my mind and took my full attention. This was wrong. I was fucking killing people here - a lot of people, innocent people. I was confused about my feelings of hate. These were questions I not only didn’t want answered; I didn’t even want to think about them. I couldn’t stop. I was losing control of my own thoughts. I felt disconnected from my own mind. It was like the long blackout dreams I had had, except I wasn’t sure what was dream and what was real. I couldn’t stand it. I only had one place left to hide. I had to find the momentum again and let it carry me away. I had just enough consciousness left to ram my thumb into what had become my panic button: the lifelong reminder of how I had forever scarred myself with my own tool of mass destruction, my own obsession -- the place where I had burned myself. -Nightmare It is the ultimate peace. I sense the stars. They are the only things contrasting the infinite darkness. Billions of stars, each a distant sun constantly burning with the violent fire of countless nuclear explosions. The ultimate peace. Movement catches my mind’s eye. A miniature monolith tumbles calmly end over end through the vacuum. It’s perfectly black, completely void of color; invisible against the vast backdrop of space until it’s lazy summersaults happen to carry it in front of a star. It’s my sealed coffin. Actually, to say “sealed” gives the wrong impression. This is one piece of material: no lid, no seams, and no joints. It is hollowed out and that cavity holds me, holds my mind body and spirit. There is no escape. I am indifferent. I am calm. This container of darkness spins for what seems like eternity without distraction until finally a sun’s gravity finds it. Holds it... holds me. I am pulled to my blinding grave. My coffin accelerates towards the giant star, but the star is also dying. It is super nova. I race to it cranking faster and faster. I’m still calm. The star is in the final stages of destroying itself. I welcome the inevitable. Finally, as I get closer and closer, the star gives off more and more energy, so much that it’s hard to believe it is just the ultimate fire. As I get close, the star dies, and its heat reaches the point where it would be impossible for anything to exist. I’m so close. I have impacted the sun. For less than an instant I feel empty, consumed, then nothing... I’m on the other side, and nothing... No light no dark, no heaven no hell, no joys no sorrow, no love no hate. Then nothing... I cease to exist. -Gone My room suddenly came into view. It seemed like I had just landed on my bed from a long fall. I could still feel my bed bouncing from the impact. My eyes were wide open, but I couldn’t see a thing because my all attention was stolen by the whisper in my head. “This is wrong... Don’t do it.” I strained to understand. It seemed a bit louder “If you hate yourself, then all your judgment is fucked... You’re the problem.” In that instant, the time it takes for a small igniter to become an immense fireball... I understood. I used to try to hold on to my sanity. I would use things like music, friends, fantasy and other distractions. At times all I had was pure effort and will power. I was doing pretty well, all things considered. Then, in a moment of weakness, I found myself asking “Why?” (Don’t try that at home kids). A moment later I knew it was over: floodgates torn from their hinges, I had given in to lunacy. Ever since surrendering, I had pretty much felt better... until now. The voice went from a whisper to a mind-ripping scream. “GET HELP! GO PUT A STOP TO THE MASS DESTRUCTION OF INNOCENCE YOU ARE ABOUT TO CAUSE!” I didn’t think about the radical change in momentum. I didn’t think about the origin of the new voice. Now it was the urgency that swept me away; that was all I could think about. I jumped out of bed, still wearing nothing but the shorts I had been sleeping in, and ran out to my car (). My watch said it was about three a.m... there was still time. It was dark as hell. The roads were soulless. I blew stoplights and ignored speed limits; I drove as fast as I could. I thought of nothing but what the new voice in my head had said. I repeated every word over and over in my mind, like a mantra, hoping the voice’s words could heal. When I got downtown, the streetlights scared off the darkness, but it still seemed like hell to me. Now there were a few souls on the road, probably lost. There always seemed to be taillights in my rearview mirror. When I arrived at the building, I crashed through the fragile security gate and drove straight to the rented van that I had transformed into a large scale Molotov cocktail. Of course I had loaded the triggering device into the van first, so I started unloading all the stuff that was in the way so I could get to it and disarm it. My hand hurt to the point where it was basically useless, and the nervous rush I was feeling wasn’t helping either. I had fumbled a few containers of gas out and set them on the parking garage floor. One of these containers’ caps had come loose and my awkwardness had made quite a mess of it. Some fuel had splashed out when I dropped it to the ground a bit earlier than I had intended to. Gasoline splashed on the ground, splashed on the other containers, and splashed on me. It didn’t matter. Once I got to the trigger and turned it off, I could deal with all of the other messes I had made. Just then a car came into the garage through the hole I had made in the security gate and charged towards me at a high rate of speed. The car’s brakes locked, and it screeched to a halt about twenty feet from my volatile collection. The driver got out and walked calmly in my direction. This was interesting enough to distract me from the most important task of my life. When he got close enough to be distinguishable through the dream-like waves of gas fumes, I realized it was Dr. Ray. I was surprised. He had a different air about him. He looked sure and confident. I didn’t care who it was or how they seemed. I welcomed any warm body that could help me move the gas containers out of the way. “Hey, Dr. Ray! I’m glad you’re here! Could you give me a hand?” “I know what you’re trying to do, Cole. I know what you’ve done,” he said in a voice I had never heard from him before. It was some Vincent Price voice from a cheesy, fifties horror flick -- the type of movie you laughed at even as you realized there was something very eerie about the monologues, something hiding behind the words and the voice. “I’m glad you’re here. I know this looks bad, but it’s not. I’ll explain later, but there is no time now. Could you please give me a hand?” I said. Our roles seemed to have switched. I felt like a cowering hopeful puppy, and I had no idea what was going on behind his eyes. He was still calm. “I’m putting a stop to this right now, Cole,” he said as he pulled out a large, shiny chrome revolver. “WHOA, DR. RAY... NO... I’M TRYING TO FIX IT! I’M TRYING TO STOP IT! I NEED YOUR HELP! I SWEAR!” My plea fell on deaf ears. He seemed possessed by his own momentum. “I started to piece together clues from the hints you were dropping. I got nervous, so I dug this out of my closet.” He gestured with the pistol. “I thought about just calling the cops, but I didn’t have any solid evidence, and I wasn’t sure about doctor / client confidentiality laws, and I didn’t think I had time to consult my lawyer. I saw you in the building yesterday, which elevated my suspicions, and I’ve been following you ever since.” I tried to calm down. “Really Dr. Ray, I’m trying to make it right. I need help. I know that now but we can deal with that later. FOR NOW, JUST HELP ME UNLOAD THESE FUCKING CANS!” He continued his monologue unfazed. “All the times you tried to fuck with me, all the games you played, you think I didn’t know? You think you’re better than me, you and all the others? I’m tired of all the bullshit. None of you will ever fuck with me again. It’s all over now, Cole.” He chuckled, still in that mellow Vincent Price voice. “You have given me a way to end it all without consequence, without repercussions. I’ll be a fucking hero.” That was the last intelligible thing he said. He started screaming maniacally. I had begun screaming for help again, but I hadn’t gotten more than a handful of words out before the gun flashed and barked thunder. It was deafening. I couldn’t hear anything but the miniature explosions that were sending the bullets down the barrel until the gun was empty. Then I heard a combination of shots echoing through the garage like a faint memory, a huge ringing in my ears, and the vocal chord ripping screams of a madman. He obviously wasn’t a great shot. He must have yanked the trigger with his eyes closed until the hammer fell on dead chambers. Most of the shots missed anything of significance, but he had been effective enough to accomplish his goal indirectly. The second or third shot hit one of the gas containers, splashed some fuel around, and proceeded to drain the container into a puddle on the cement. Then a shot went through my right foot, immobilizing me. I fell to the ground instantly, numb from the knee down. The last shot, that mattered, hit the ground and sparked, igniting the puddle. The garage was an inferno almost immediately. There was a wall of flame between Dr. Ray and me. It was expanding quickly in all directions: towards Dr. Ray, towards the van, and towards me. It was over. I screamed at Dr. Ray with little hope of at least keeping the building from demolition. “DR. RAY!!! PLEASE JUST UNLOAD...” It was useless. His continuing scream blocked my words. How I hated him still! He threw his empty gun at me through the flames. Then he turned and started running, apparently trying to escape, but the direction he was running in was not getting him any closer to that objective. He was still screaming when I gave up on him. He spent the rest of his life screaming. I gave up on everything. I was drenched in fuel and the flames were fast approaching. The van may as well have been a nuclear warhead, considering my close proximity to it. The fire burned closer. It got closer to the van; it got closer to me. Death was rapidly closing the gap between it and me. That was certain. The only question was whether I would burn to death or be blown up. The fire was almost on top of me. The heat-soaked air burned in my throat. The garage was filling with the kind of thick, dirty, black smoke that erases souls. Flames were on the van now. Flames were on the containers full of gas. It would not be long before all the explosives in the van detonated. The fire had gotten so close that the heat was unbearable. I felt a searing pain in my left leg that was as intense as is physically possible to withstand. I looked down and saw that most of my leg was actually on fire. The pain was brutal. It was blinding, I closed my eyes, and it felt like I’d been staring into the sun or the white light of a stick welder for way too long. I smelled gas, toxic smoke, and barbecue. The pain was blinding, yet there was something I could see through the pain... feel through the pain. A calm came over me as I watched and smelled my own flesh burning. I realized I was finally experiencing perfection... I was living perfection. I was dying perfection. My search was over. I had found what I had been looking for... satisfaction... self-destruction... The perfect fire. Looking back, I realized I had been screaming towards self-destruction since lighting my first fire. I only wished I would have had the foresight to do something about it then, to save those around me, to save myself. The last thing I heard was Dr. Ray screaming like the mad man he was. I looked at my scarred hands, my own hands, the bitter hands of destruction, but before I could shed my first regretful tear... The explosives in the van blew. Then... as if in a dream... Nothing... I ceased to exist. -Epilogue Cole’s parents occupied their normal positions in their breakfast routine, his mother at the stove, his father at the kitchen table absorbed by the newspaper. The woman was, as always, delivering a dramatic monologue. “I’m serious! His car isn’t here, and he didn’t say anything about staying anywhere else!” She sounded genuinely worried. “And he’s been acting strange lately...” His father rattled his paper, still only half interested in what his wife was saying. The paper’s front-page headline was written in big block letters. “DOWNTOWN SKYSCRAPER DESTROYED BY LATENIGHT EXPLOSION AND FIRE, THIRTY SEVEN DEAD, TERROISTS SUSPECTED.” “Don’t worry dear,” Cole’s father said. “He’s just going through one of those rough growing up stages. It happens to everyone. I think his therapy is helping, and I’ll spend some time with him this weekend. We’ll talk. He’ll be fine.” ********Thanks a gain to Kirdas, another author featured on this site. He helps me make my stuff readable. All the mechanicle stuff that is screwed up, is probably stuff he tried to talk me out of. Most of the stuff that isn't screwed up, is probaly stuff he helped me fix. He's like family to me.******** Tweet
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