The clash of lightning cleaved the sky in half and violet magma erupted from the tear that sprayed across the sky for a single moment, before sinking back into the repressed calmness of grey. The rain gave hushed tremolos as they struck the pavement in an overture; a tranquil frenzy of sound. As the sound became too soothing, great gashes would scream so as to maintain the attention of the three men in the storm. They were standing outside a burning house, smoke creeping out of it in mutters. They stood along the trimmed yard, perfectly perpendicular to the direction of the midday sun, as decreed by the Home Owner’s Association, with nary a single patch of grass growing in defiance above the others. Every house on every street followed the same measurement. That is, save the one unruly crack den of a home that had that overgrown tree out in the front where one branch had extended two and a half inches above the pavement. Their mailbox seemed to vomit with warning letters from the Organization and other junk mail. The sidewalks were mostly spotless, small chunks of gum every here and there, but the squares of grey cement served their aesthetic purpose. The agreeability of mediocrity.
Jacob, the tallest of the three, stared as the flickers of small flames were captured in his eyes, giving life to otherwise banal orbs. His thin eyebrows cut straight across the bottom of his forehead, perched exactly at where they would best convey an expression of utter boredom. Although his eyes were granted the gift of green, there was nothing green about them. Thin lips sat waiting for the opportune moment to make an observation, never mincing energy to just make talk. His umbrella guarded the socially regulated hair on his head, the designer name polo that distanced itself from his corpulent corpse, and the tennis shoes to give false pretense of any sort of athletic capabilities. His height suggested he could be an excellent basketball player, and surely he just might have if his legs weren’t rusting pillows of disuse. All he saw in the towers of smoke as they transcended into belligerent skies was fiscal value escaping; dollar signs with angel wings floating to heaven. In this imagery, some mourning came to him.
Tyler stood beside Jacob, almost possessed by the excitement of the fire in his childish chuckling. His mutt colored pupils dilated and shot about the forest clearing of his eye with stampeding joy. His camo jacket provided him warmth. The rain patted his scruffy hair. Leather boots pulled up to his knees, he had thoughts ricocheting in his mind of doing something foolhardy or instinctive, reacting to the bonfire of civility before him. His face was speckled with small dots and wrinkles, a ruggedness afflicting his slender naïve face with the conceit of manhood. The crooked nose that hung from his face absorbed the fumes like potpourri. Tyler had hanging from his belt a scabbard. And within that scabbard dwelled a pride and joy of his, a large manifestation of alpha machismo that flirted with the darkest musings of Tyler’s conquests of nature.
Brendan, the smallest, darted his head back and forth in a frantic bid with time, hoping that the contours of shadows would reveal to him a familiar shape. His sheen hair, this curving shell of brown luster, shined in the brilliance of flames. His emerald, spotted eyes radiated equally and opposing against the rage of the flame. He too stood unprotected to the sharp chords of the storm, and his slender body quivered to the point where Jacob invited him under his umbrella. He obliged. His knife was safely hidden, tucked into his back pocket where it failed to draw attention. On occasion he would play with it, his butterfly knife, and twirl it to and fro. The masculinity of such an apparatus seemed mostly cautionary, the monstrous colors of an otherwise harmless butterfly. “Guys.”
Jacob grunted questioningly, showing Brandon his attention, and Tyler just seemed forever withheld in the vehemence of leaping colors. “Guys. Where’s Gabe?”
Suddenly, their attention snapped from the wiles of chaos and onto the reality that kills. Their minds plummeted back into their heads and one quick blink removed the lustrous glaze of fire. And there they were, a string quartet missing the viola that fed richness into the harmony of the group. Brendan’s mouth sped through obscenities, sharp and frantic, as he moved about with an uncertain fear. Jacob’s boiling blood bolstered color to his eyes, his voice booming with a giant’s reverberation for someone to do something, cursing Gabe’s name in the process. Tyler, the seedling of the inferno’s rapidly growing tree, took on the lineaments of foolishness and charged the household. Jacob burst into roaring caution, “Tyler! What do you think you’re doing?”
Brendan also let foolishness carry his feet into the flames, soaring across the yard in his sneakers in the screaming tempest in a flash of erratic thought. It was a passion that rocketed these two boys in afterburner fury into a demon’s mouth, clutching their dull knives in the dim chances that something could be done. But, as their speed failed them, there was a paralyzing crash and fate had ensnared its victim.
The roof buckled under the weight of the world’s indifference and fell into the house, shingles shattering in the cacophony of tragedy. Tyler grasped Brendan, tears leaping from his eyes, to prevent him from being consumed and crushed. Brandon fought forth, unable to overwhelm Tyler’s protective hold, and merely floundered in dejection, in failure. The flame towered, shot up in the collapse, as though to launch its bounty into the firmament above and it accepted the soul with violet cleaves.
Jacob tried to shout for the two again, but nothing could be summoned from his voice and his mouth staggered stupefied. Brendan’s face flooded and Tyler stared in disbelief. Their knives were useless mockeries in the gravity of the house that slowly subsided to the winds and flames, caricatures of a misguided rescue in a lopsided struggle. Their knives hung frigid. Perhaps if anyone but for Gabe were in the fire, there would have been a solution to this. But, then again, perhaps no one but Gabe would have remained caught in the flames, for the suspicion arose that the flames were personally set. They were the final resort, the backlash and pyre, of a man against the nihilism of his world.
Jacob, when he finally found himself in the now dying embers, uttered a baffled apology, “Shit, Gabe.” Tyler was unable to bear the burden of watching the mausoleum any longer, despite his affinity for watching things burn. He turned away, still holding Brendan. Brendan continued his outpour, babbling in brooks his belabored apologies; the guilt overcame his spine, curving and buckling until his face crashed on the icy grass. Tyler clutched his knife and struck it into the ground, again and again, until the cold blade was lodged and unable to be moved by Tyler’s shivering hands. And so, the three held their pitiful funeral pyre, the world unconcerned and throwing hot lightning onto the Earth and the rain blanketing them in pain. Forsaken of their masculine pretense, they remained broken and useless, like children.
They are were three grown children in the pouring rain watching the vicious flame die. They feared, when they would retrieve the body, how atrocious the odor of death would be to their conscious and the sight of gnarled injustice would make their minds cringe. That they apologized meant nothing anymore, for the flames of absurdity are not responsible for relaying messages.