Wendy came into the living room that next morning. She hadn’t slept. None of us had. Her parents, my brother and his wife, were lying awake at that sad hour, searching more tears, trying to crawl into one another. The sunrise was just a suggestion in the dark windows. She shook me and I pretended to wake. She asked me if I still carried a gun and I told her yes and showed her my ankle. She stared at it long enough I felt compelled to connect the two. I asked her if she wanted to hold it. I removed the magazine and cleared the chamber and placed it in her hands. I’ll never forget how it puzzled her as she searched it for the source of its power. She thought it was ugly. She asked me if I had ever killed anyone and I told her I never even removed my service weapon from the holster, had to unsnap it a few times but never drew. I had friends who did but I had a lot more friends who didn’t. I also knew cops who quit being cops because they could never find a reason to draw their weapons. She asked if I had talked to the cops who killed her sister’s murderer. I told her yes, I had. I told her they looked like hell. They had to shoot a kid that night, a child no older than Wendy. She asked me, if I had been there, would I have killed him? I told her I would have if he forced me. She told me she wished they hadn’t killed him. She wasn’t looking at me. She was looking at that kid. She was staring straight into his eyes again through the pleated smoke seeping from the barrel of the rifle. We sat for a long time at the edge of the cot as morning crept into the room and changed the color of the walls. She finally handed back the gun and asked me to show her how to use it.
It's like a hemorrhage. It's an artery bursting and the chemistry takes over. Just think about the chemistry and physics involved. All that smoke is carbon molecules bled from the fuel. Fuel like wood, petroleum. Oxidization is basically the loss of electrons. The very atoms of the burning material bleed essential parts and cease to exist. And then there's the more philosophical aspect of people's lives bleeding out. All those possessions gone. All those heirlooms, all those investments, those particles of what people call their lives bleeding from a wound.
I'm twelve and my father stops the car to watch a high-rise fire. I see the teamwork of the crew. I see men carrying axes walk through flames. I see rescues. Small children. Elderly folk wrapped in blankets by soot-faced titans. And they are huge when I'm twelve. They tower over everyone around them. There's no real consideration of the possibility that I might become one of them. I have no clue one could ever become a firefighter. These people are superhuman, born this way. But from this point on, unlike other boys who know about guns or cars or science fiction, I know firefighting.
FINDING ROMULUS’ ROME
by Skitz O’Fuel
This begins in a warm leather chair of a neurologist’s office in Odessa, Texas. Alex Randal is recalling the day he saw One-Armed Billy get his ass kicked behind the grocery store down the alley from his school. He never talked to One-Armed Billy before or after and he has often regretted it. His bloody eye and his fucked up nose and his bloody broken smile and how he laughed at Shawn Baker. Laughed at him. Alex was awestruck. Don’t feel defeated Alex, the neurologist tells him. He tells him there are smart people working on treatments and procedures, making progress. He reminds him of his youth. He lists medications designed to relieve any symptoms he might experience. He tells him to call his office the moment he feels any strange pressure or nausea or experiences any prolonged headaches. Randal begins explaining—again—that he hasn’t experienced any symptoms but he stops himself and instead conveys his respect for the doctor’s profession, his respect for science, interrupting the neurologist several times to clarify his point. So all that being said, doc, you understand what kind of shock this is to a person—to me—so I’m going to ask you one question: how long? I don’t have an answer for you. I could fall out of this chair right now, is that what yer saying? The doctor stares into Randal’s eyes past his threshold of confidence until he finally relents. I suppose that’s what I’m saying. I appreciate yer honesty, doc. Randal rises from the leather chair, noting the sound of it, like slingshot tubing gathering energy. The receptionist is a tall unobtainable beauty who projects an aloof air which dissolves the moment he approaches her. He is abrupt and far too direct for her taste but she indulges what she will later describe to a friend as his cold cordiality. She follows him from the office onto the stone floor of the main hallway and within minutes they are sweating and naked in a men’s restroom stall. He’s arrested within the hour. Randal won’t remember what initiated his encounter with the cop, only that he relished every second of it.
River of Blood, a novel about anarchism, atheism, racism, violence, family, and corruption.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.