In Flames

By Mike Albanese

Hard eyes peered from the tilted slits onto the linoleum hallway floor. There Will waited, waited for a familiar face. Rather, the familiar face, that of the chess club's leader, Charles Anuka. He often passed Will's locker this period on his way to the fountain.

He tapped the inside of the steel frame.

Charles let out a breath of frustration. He paced to the locker and grabbed the lock and rotated it lock to its satisfaction. Click

Will hurried to the floor and towards the exit farther down the wing. Charles began to call out to Will, but stopped. He turned his own way, muttering "loser" under his breath. The irony did not escape him.

Will's pant cuffs hugged his shoes as they hit the ground of the soft gravel of his driveway and finally the cheap stone that led to his stoop. He hung his head and probed his front door for the handle with his hands and pushed it open slowly once he found it. Dragging himself towards the staircase, he slipped the door shut behind him.

The attic gave contradicting warmth for a place so cold and dark that Will embraced. The frayed tips of his black hair drifted across his eyes and he brushed them away

Soon the heavy yet balladic melodies of even heavier hearts filled the room.

"From green to red our days pass by,

Waiting for a sign to tell us why.

Are we dancing all alone…"

The lull of the bassy instrumentals invoked a steady thump in Wills chest, and the lead singer's voice strained to release curdling screams which would shock the majority but comfort the misguided. Will pumped up the volume until his thoughts and memories were a subtle whisper. He fell to his knees in a pathetic heap of depression and bottled screams. Sleep overcame him shortly as he lay, sprawled cross the floor in a silhouette of tears.

He woke only to the sound of the doorknob of his door smashing its neighboring wall to pieces. "Turn that shit off!" He stepfather roared.

Will did not move or speak.

"Stupid kid." He walked past the corpse-like form on the floor and yanked the stereo's plug from the wall and stormed out the way he entered.

Will descended down the stairs into the kitchen, where his stepfather was making dinner for the two. Will slumped onto the couch and stared at the claw-mark like scratches on the wall. They'll found you out, you bastard. Evidence all over the damn place. You'll go down even if I have to take you there yourself.

"Dinner."

Will got up and hovered to his setting. He dined without making a sound but his heart raced as fast as it always did when he shared space with the grotesque grease ball that was now part of his life. He heard his stepfather flip on the television in the other room. The news. He heard the words loud and clear as the newswoman spat them. "Adriana Long is still missing from her home in Ockshot, Colorado. Our field reporter has more…"

Will could feel the bastard smirking from the other side of the wall facing the television. A deep and familiar burning grew within Will.

"Sell me the infection, it's only for the weak,

No need for sympathy, the misery that is me.

Sell me the infection, it's only for the weak,

On bleeding knees, I accept my fate…"

He suppressed his feelings beneath the massive boulder that was his fear. He finished his meal and scraped his leftovers into the trash like so many pieces of his life left without complements. He returned to his room.

Will's many fantasies seemed too real to be fiction. The heavy bass and the precise fret board riffs of Hell's army narrated his manifestation. The blade of the dining knife. And the climax: the helpless eyes begging his "son" for forgiveness. Then the final thump as the tyrant's chest hit the floor, lifeless. His adrenaline coerced through his every muscle in his body until he felt able to shake the Earth from its axis and set everything that had ever oppressed and intimidated him to shard into ruins.

"Wish I could rape the day,

Just something radical

Who was sent to glorify,

Before we injected this common pride…"

"Get the phone!"

Will had hardly noticed the ringing, what with all his fantasies of the apocalypse. He held the receiver to his ear.

"William? Is that you?"

Will's eyes lit up. "D-Dad?"

"Will, I'm very sorry. I never meant to…" the voice on the other side of the receiver faded and from it a sob emitted. The glint in Will's eye remained, even as he spoke to the rich man who had left his mother with nothing and to die at the hands of an inexplicable evil.

The voice came back and Will lent his ear out of love, for the very first time. "William, I know what happened. The evidence from the scene that those cops destroyed- it didn't matter, Will. We found her body… I wanted to tell you."

Will's nose began to run at the thought of his mother's dried, pale corpse persevered only by the soil which the Beast threw upon her to conceal her.

"There's enough DNA to pin the murder to that bastard you've been forced to live with. The police have a warrant; they'll be there soon." There was a long pause Will, I want to be a good father. I want to be there for you. I just talked to social security; we're going to live together again once he is convicted." Another long pause. "I love you."

Will's face cracked into a smile. His lip bled a little. The smile only grew longer as he hung up the phone and heard the skeleton song of the sirens as they drew closer.

Amongst the blue and red fluorescent lights that gushed in through the windows, he danced.