Garden of Bones


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1. Fire and Blood

It was everywhere. Crimson, sticky, and oddly sweet.

My blood. Bethany’s blood. The lives of my family members ran like a red river across the hardwood floors. It clung to my hands, dripped from my hair and seeped into my eyes, as if seeing wasn’t hard enough.

I wondered how many gallons now filled the room.

I stopped thinking about it. I concentrated on playing dead. That was Bethany’s last instruction to me before she rolled onto her side, still clutching my hand in hers. She must not have been a very good actress. The intruders in the black coats shot her anyway.

And I was next. But I wasn’t scared. Not really. They would go after my mother later, wouldn’t they? And then everyone I’d ever loved would be dead. Even if I got out of this alive, what reason would I have to live? Where would I go? Who would want me? All this I thought of in the half-second before the man above my sister’s now truly lifeless body turned his gun on me. I wasn’t scared. I closed my eyes and prayed that wherever I ended up, my family would be there too.

Death, at least for the first few seconds, should be silent. After all the noise that comes with living, I think we are all owed that much. There should be silence and bright light and peace. I thought I was dead, should have been dead by now, and yet, I could hear the man above me swear quietly to himself.

“Forget to reload?” someone else was saying. “Perfect timing.”

“It’s not a big deal,” my executioner grumbled back.

I heard the scuffle of boots. “Guys, we have to go right now.”

“Hold on,” he said, fumbling with his gun. He was determined to put a bullet in my skull.

“No, James, now. Right now!” More boots shuffled past me. “Dennis, the matches.”

James dropped the bullet. I watched it roll across the floor in front of me. He swore again. I found the strength to smile.

“James,” the woman growled, “leave him. The fire will do the rest.”

She was right.

Now that I thought about it, I could smell the gasoline. All around me in puddles on the floor. When they lit the matches, the fire found me quickly, almost as if I’d summoned it myself. Maybe, I had. I think I wanted to die more than James wanted to shoot me in the head.

There was no pain. I can’t tell you why. But I felt nothing and knew nothing and cared for nothing. I let the darkness take me like it was home.

“Daniel.”

But that just wasn’t fair.

For a moment, I wanted to open my eyes and find whoever had called out to me. Even after warming up to the idea of death, there was still some will left to live.

“Daniel,” the woman calling my name sounded frantic. She was coughing and wheezing but not retreating. It sounded as though she was pressing further into the fire and closer to me. But it was too late by far. I didn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t. I lie there and let the fire consume what remained of my life.

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