Welcome to The Devil's Fire, a small side project while I worked on Weeping Clocks. It's not finished yet, but I will post chapters as they are completed. Please note that it will definitely have coarse language and violence. If you wish to go to a interactive finished version of this, go to my homepage, located on my profile.
We throw out our bodies on the fire and we die,
Settle into ashes as the flames keep piling high
We tossed and spread the kerosene and alcohol,
The ethylene ignited cardboard homes.
The second in a hundred and again as many years
Street signs, skyscrapers and names.
State Street, what a great street
When the places and the people stayed the same.
Winter beats the summer on the worst ones
I fall in love again on the first ones
Carbon vapor lines burn as a grid
Like the burning summer evenings like my fingertips did ...
This town is choking on our filth
Obstinate displays of wealth
Clog our Lincoln, Wicker, Rogers parks.
Here's to your health Chicago.
Fiddle as we burn.
Build it up and tear it down and never learn ...
-- The Lawrence Arms
Tokio was a small teenager with a fragileness about him. He didn't run very well, and his head swelled with enough imagination to keep his mind occupied via electronics. He ate what he pleased and, although his body stayed slim thanks to the best of genes, his stamina and health was a fickle thing that he could never predict. Worst of all, anemia was a problem in the family.
Despite the weakness in his bones and the litheness of his muscle mass, he kept his grade in physical education a neatly tucked A. And while the thought of running made his lips curve into a scowl, he still sped along and kept the ranking of 'Best Teenager'. His parents never ceased to grin big, wide smiles, because proud parents smiled quite often. His grandma used to tell him, as she too smiled, that if a person had a lot of wrinkles at the corners of their eyes and mouth it was because they were always 'so damn happy'.
What he was and wasn't always made him a target for all the characters at school--whether it was in Japan or America, he had succeeded in gaining no enemies, but friends and acquaintances. The first American he had met at school was a boy named Shaun, who seemed to drool out words whenever he got the chance. The child had a gaudy look about him: he wore tight pants, bright sweatbands, and bulky sweaters with logos stitched into the fabric. Every move he made had morphed him into something wiry and screechy. Clumsy as he was, he was what Tokio could hardly be, which was an athlete among athletes.
He felt strangely at home in America's arms, even if he did hate their television stations and their disgusting habits. It was when he noticed the country's pettiness did he yearn to escape to his homeland once more.
But he took it in stride. The place he used to live took up residence in the back of his mind, and made a few trips to the front of his train of though to say hello.
If he had only stayed in Japan, he would not have fought for his life, nor would he have had to endure such painful memories. It was that faithful night which would turn his existence into a small, pathetic thing. His grades, his friends, and his family--all of it would be no more. During this one slow Friday, he sat with Shaun and the boy's girlfriend Maria, observing the world swirl across the screen with each change of the channel. Homework was finished, and the movie store was closed, leaving nothing more than a trio of tired albeit needy teenagers who wanted something they could wrap their minds around.
"Tokio, you have any candy?" Shaun asked, spreading across the loveseat and laying his chin on Maria's thick thigh. The girl pinched his face and he hissed a little.
"Nothing really…" he replied, showing that his accent was slowly being submerged the longer he spoke English. "You know that my folks aren't too big on sugary things. You want sushi?"
The three laughed a little, curling their bodies deeper into the cool leather couches. People flashed across the TV. In one moment, there would be no one dancing across the screen. In a moment, something sinister and miserable would burn away the wires and melt the glass.
Tokio stood up and two three, maybe four steps toward the kitchen in the back of the apartment, his footfalls so soft that they were undetectable. Maria and Shaun argued over something or another, the screen of the TV danced, and then buzzed. Tokio opened his mouth to speak, a small procession of a simple sentence, but he never got to say anything. When he reached the hallway, a loud noise boomed around them.
Fire shot into the three windows of the Chicago home, engulfing Shaun and Maria and killing them both instantly. Tokio's thin but unhealthy form shot forward into the kitchen, as the explosive force pressed him onward and seared the tender flesh on his shoulder blades and back. He let out a cry that was strained and sharp. He was sure that he was dead already. He was sure why, but he assumed his death had come in that instant. His footfalls transformed into a thud, one that his stomach and head made as he hit the tile floor.
He sat deathly still, soaking in the shock and agonizing feeling snaking through his body. While he did, he heard crackling flames and people screaming. He wasn't quite sure who they were, but it scared him to the point where his body trembled. At least, he was sure that was the cause of it. A long shrill noise rang in his ears for a long time. It must've been some sort of death rattle. He was sure of it. Tokio kept his eyes squeezed shut for a little while longer, until he realized he was not the only one in the apartment. Slowly, his heavy eyelids slid open, and he saw red. He looked back behind him, where his friends would be sitting, playing, teasing each other, and saw a burning inferno that engulfed the windows and the couches and the tables. Smoke trailed up to the ceiling and hovered there, momentarily trapped until it could find the destroyed windows and filter out. A huge chunk of the wall was gone, exposing other burning buildings.
He coughed. Of course--the smoke was trapped, not able to dissipate into the night sky. He was in a trap that would suffocate him.
"Shaun! Maria!" he managed. His voice barely jumped over the sounds of screams and snapping noises. The figures on the couches weren't there anymore, but splintered onto the floor, the blood not rolling out of their bodies, but evaporating in the heat of that tore into the room. Tokio's stomach flopped in a way that he deemed impossible before, and he vomited on the floor, trying to piece together what was once not even a puzzle.
Fire, dead friends, burning house, screaming people.
The roof above him came down without notice. He saw the blackened ceiling as it fell across him and around him, and he screamed out and threw his hands forward. Hot, fiery things slipped through his fingers and into his eyes and mouth, burning tender places. The entire building came down below, over, and around him. The threads of the three-story building snapped, it crumbled boneless in a heap of concrete, wood, and people's things… and people.
Tokio tried in vain to blink his eyes. Tears ran down his face--not from sadness, no, because he had no time to weep for anyone yet, but because hot cinders of gray and red had sizzled their way into his eyes and throat. Every breath he took brought with it something searing. He gasped and cried out, warm oozing blood rolling down his face. He was trapped in-between floor 1 and 3, his movement halted by something large that crushed into his back, his ribs. The sharpness of the things around him made his skin break and bleed at contact. A sound of gunfire and a thick, hearty smell of fuel made him nauseous. The gas line must've been a sitting time bomb. There he was, wedged between concrete and wooden slabs, as flames continued to rage all around him.
He gagged at more black specks that managed to infiltrate his lungs. He still heard a low buzzing noise, but now it rang so loudly in his ears that he couldn't even hear himself think, if he was at all.
"Somebody help me!"
He couldn't even recognize his voice, it was so torn and raggedy. Swollen and burning with tears, his eyes opened and he strove to see anything at all, and he was made frantic by the sound of perpetual ringing and crumbling. He raised a freed hand to his face, feeling wet and slippery flesh at the touch. His eyelids were thin film that were torn at until they were gnarled with burn marks. He whimpered and pulled away.
He couldn't say he remembered how long he had sat there and remained so terribly still, so helpless and sightless and immobile. He called for my friends, but they did not reply, and he knew they wouldn't. Wiry Shaun was dead, as well as thick, short Maria. The hours ticked by him, and he thought about his parents and his other friends, and his new-but-old town. Chicago was screaming in agony, and he could hear to far too easily through the destroyed apartments. Something was burning Chicago and was listening to its pleading cries to stop. It was probably smiling wide. Maybe it was the devil who had done this, or maybe radicals. But they were probably smiling.
"Is anyone out there?" something human finally called out. Tokio's head weakly lolled. His ears felt as though they were deceiving him, as the voice called again, "Hello? Hello!"
His damned voice croaked, and the other voice, a male's, responding immediately. There was another hour of silence, and then Tokio saw red light filter through a newly formed hole in the debris he sat in. A blurry figure's hand reached into the opening and grabbed Tokio's thin hand. The man was hard to see, but he was large and powerful looking. Tokio's pained expression melted into mild relief. He was no longer alone. He begged this stranger to stay.
"God," this man managed, squeezing Tokio's fingers compassionately, "Don't you move, kid. You're pinned pretty good. I've got guys coming with some more help. We've got you. Don't worry, because I've got ya'."
Chicago's screams dimmed into long moans of pain. It was then that Tokio realized all of Chicago was burning.