August 25, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

It was a cool, crisp night. Playful breezes whistled past me. It made me feel so alive. Around me were empty tents -- their tenants busy readying a hearty meal for their small troupe. I was lounging around, staying put. Everyone left me to my own devices, as usual. It was an understood rule, you see. The other folks prepared the meal; I cooked it to perfection.

I had never met this particular group of campers. The camping area I frequented was in an area deeper in the woods than most hikers generally go, so I rarely got visitors. When they did show up, I’d be nothing but excited. New people! New stories! Getting to live vicariously through people more adventurous than I. I never told stories. I had no stories to tell.

This particular group of campers were a rowdy bunch. Teenagers. Oh why couldn’t they have been Boy Scouts? Just a Boy Scout troupe, full of eager young men braving one of the more difficult sides of the mountain. Good for them, I would say, and I would happily listen to all of their ghost stories and watch the delight in a boy’s eyes when he scared his fellow scout. They would clean up the campsite and leave no trace.

Teenagers are a different story. Never, in all my time outdoors, have I seen anyone more irresponsible! After they leave, they leave everything. Beer cans, cigarette butts, and who knows what else. All of the teens’ stories followed the same vein, all involving drugs or alcohol fueled stupidity. They usually had already entered an altered state of mind before story time. This always led to disjointed, rambling, and trite stories.

I was positively starving when the boys were collecting their rations. They gave me a snack before I got to cooking and thank God for that; I was beginning to feel faint. As much as I complain about teenagers, they help me out just like anyone else would.

When the boys had finished their dinner, they drank. And drank. Someone smoked something and then everyone joined the circle, passing around a joint. I felt bad for the little guy, burning away to nothing. And for what?

It turned out to be a boring night but I was so starved of contact I listened to every word of the senseless stories that slurred out of the group’s collective mouths. Finally, late into the night, the boys were dreary-eyed and ready for bed. I knew what that meant. Then came the moment I dreaded.

They were going to poison me.

They always do. I stopped minding some time ago. I got used to it. I don’t blame them. They don’t know what they do to me. How could they?

The teen tasked with my attempted murder drew the short stick, genetically speaking. That was no surprise; with boys, the weirdo gets the dirty work. Man was this kid odd, though. Poor guy. I couldn't imagine the kind of torment he must go through. He limped when he walked. His ears were noticeably misaligned. He had a hunch but it was obvious that even at his full height he was shorter than the other boys. He was skinny and frail and had a face littered with acne scars. His hand tremored often as it held a brown pail. Even then, I could not pinpoint exactly what it was that made me so uncomfortable with him. I think it was his eyes. Something in them that made me just... know. There was something different about this person. Something unnatural.

It was then when I saw the contents of his bucket. It wasn't the poison I expected. It was something much, much worse. The poison never kills me. What he had in the pail would, without a doubt, do just that.

He was going to bury me alive.

I took a long shot. I don’t know why, but I got a strange feeling. Maybe it was desperation on my part. Maybe it was the look he gave me. Maybe it was that odd twinkle in his smile. Regardless of the actual reason, I somehow I knew he could hear me.

I said, out loud, in English, "No!"

The boy stopped in his tracks, eyes wide, bucket tilted towards me. "What the hell? Who's messing with me?" He flipped around looking every which way, making it rather obvious that he was the standard ‘scardey-cat’ that couldn’t make it through a few creepy stories around the campfire.

"No! No one is messing with you! Look, I'm down here!"

"Which one of you jerks knows ventriloquism? There is no way I'm falling for this!"

"Please, look down. I'm down here. Everyone else is already in their tents," I said, "It's just you and me now. I have a favor to ask."

There is one thing about teenagers I did like. It was their quick acceptance of strange phenomenon. Maybe it’s drugs. Maybe it’s gullibility. Whatever it is, it made the encounter progress a lot smoother. The boy shrugged his shoulders, signaling for me to continue.

"If you pour that on me, I will die," I told him. I was desperate. I had to live.

"That's the point," he said.

He stood there for a moment, staring at me. There was a long silence. I was the one to break it.

"I'm not ready to die."

"That's too bad."

He poured the pail of dirt over me and left to fill another. I gasped and tried to scream as I was suffocated by the dirt surrounding me. It hurt so bad. It hurt so bad. It hurt so bad but no one could hear me. I couldn't cry out. No oxygen. No breath. No sound. The teen kicked me a few more times, making sure I was broken to pieces. No more. I’ve suffered enough. Please.

My embers now dull and my wooden body burns to ash. I hope someone new comes along and makes another fire. I hope that fire lives on to meet as many people as I did.

The sky darkens as the last of the warmth of my body burns away. It's time to sleep.


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