They’re Afraid of Fire: Parts Nine & Ten

9

I held the torch out towards him. He didn’t seem to notice. He just crouched in the middle of the clearing, kind of purring at me and bobbing his head side to side.

What do you want from me?” I yelled at him. But again, he didn’t seem to notice – my tone, nor the question. His head just kept on bobbing. I dropped my sack, grabbed a jar pf preserves (the last one), rolled it towards him. Timmy snatched it up, tried to fit the entire top, cap, and all, into his mouth.

“No,” I said. “No.” I made a rolling motion. He didn’t understand at first, but after making the rolling motion with my hands a few more times, he got it.

He put the jar in the dirt, rolled it back to me. I twisted off the top, ate a large double-finger-full of the orange preserves (Yuck!), then rolled it back. “Try it,” I told him.

Timmy looked at me doubtfully for a second, then picked up the jar, issuing a loud vibrating growl, then tipped the glass to his mouth – then began shaking the contents of the jar out. He took at huge mouth-full, swallowed, then smiled. I’d never seen a Rattler smile before. I hoped never to see it again.
He hung out at my camp all night, not scared of the fire, but still, not coming near me as I lay close to the flames. I stayed up as long as I could, but eventually, exhaustion overtook me, and I dozed off. When I woke with the rising sun, I was surprised that, not only was Timmy still where he was when I fell asleep, squatting down, just on the other side of the pit – but I was also still alive.

What are brothers for, eh?

My torch, which I had propped up not too far from where I’d fallen asleep, was out. This surprised me as well. I re-lit the torch, then, holding it like a flaming sword, packed up my camp. I knew it’d be my last day on the trail. I didn’t want to leave anything behind.  When I finished, I bade Timmy a farewell salute, started again along the trail. It didn’t take long to realize he was following me again. I turned around – a few times, stared him down. I even waved the torch at him a few times.

“Are you friggin serious?” I even asked once, just as I came down the next hill.

He’d freeze, run off into the woods – only to appear later – farther along the trail. Eventually, I figured I couldn’t shake him. So, I turned to him. He froze in place, down on all fours, cocking his head at me. “okay,” I said. “You can come with me. But only til I get to Lincoln.” He seemed okay with that. He ran up, skittered round where I was walking, then took off in front of me. It hadn’t slipped my attention that all through the night at my last camp, not a single Rattler ever came near. I was fairly sure, even then, it had more to do with Timmy than with my fire-making abilities.  

We crested three big hills that day. Then, which eventually happens, the hills grew smaller. By the time we were half-way down the final hill overlooking Lincoln city, not only had the torch gone out, but I was down to my final match.

I stopped, half-way down the final hill, knowing the folks of Lincoln would never accept Timmy how he was.  Looking out at the large wall encircling the city, I felt safe for the first time in days. I knelt, looked at Timmy. He stared back at me, drool falling from his toothy mouth, his ball ever rattling.

“I have to go now, Timmy,” I said. “I know you don’t understand, but they’ll never accept you.” I stood then, began walking down the hill. Timmy hissed behind me. “You have to go,” I repeated. I picked up a large stone. Threw it at him. “Go on, Timmy! “Live. Be with your own kind.” But he only hissed at me louder, then knocked me down to the dirt, face first. I was pretty made whe I got up, dusting myself off. “What’s your problem?” I asked. He began jumping up and down, flailing one of his clawed hands towards the town below.  “What is it?” I asked. I felt like he was trying to warn me of something.

Then turned, and I looked – really looked, at the city below. It was over-run – by Rattlers large and small. They were running in and out of the gates nonstop. It reminded me a little of the ant farm I had when I was Timmy’s age.

“Crap,” I said.

Timmy came up beside me, nuzzled the side of his face against the back of my hand. I jumped at first, but then realized he was trying to comfort me. I ran my hand through his sandy-blonde hair.

“Okay,” I said. “I guess we’ll go home, then.”

Just then, something hit me on the back of the head. There was a bright flash of light. Then, the world went black.

10

When I came to, the degenerate I knew as Gus was leaning over me, his bent body appearing even more crooked than before.

“I got you, you little cuss!” Gus half shouted / half laughed. “You thought you were goin to get the best of ole Gus; right?  But ole Gus is smarter than you thought; eh?” He reached behind his back, pulled out Jack’s long knife. “Yes sir-eee!” He said, bending over me, knife in hand. “Ole Gus is goin to make you cry for your mama, boy!”

Then, it was he, who was screaming.

When I sat up, I saw Timmy on top of Gus, and…and I did nothing.

Scream for your mama, boy, I thought, as Timmy ripped out the man’s insides and feasted upon them. When Timmy was finished, he pulled a large piece of the Gus’s entrails free, brought them to me. – dripping blood into the dirt. He held them up to my face.

“I’m good,” I said.

I looked down the hill. What appeared to be thousands of Rattlers poured out through the broken gates of Lincoln, heading right toward us. “But – I think we should probably go. Timmy followed my gaze, grunted, then he grabbed me by the hand, led me back up the hill.

Three days later, we were back at the farm. We sleep in the shed at first (of course). But, I figured, in time, I could get the house built again. Maybe, if even for a while, we’d be able to live in peace – as a family.  At least til the next Gus, or Rattler horde came down from the hills. Then, who knows what’ll happen. All I knew was, I had my brother back, at least – in some capacity. I’d take that – over the alternative.

And if they came, he with his rows of teeth, and me, with my twelve-gauge attitude – well, God be on their side. I had my brother.

I read to him every night, by the way. Because I’d seen fist hand, that they’re not all monsters. And you know what? Last night, when I got to the finale of Moby Dick, you know what he said?

He said, “The End.”

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