Paying it Forward.

And her scream rent the air. Why wouldn't it? Her voice was sharp and the air thick; rife with emotion, smoke and a legacy. It was a basement, two floors down. So close to where I'm headed, she had joked.

A dingy, thick-aired basement. In the corner stood an 18th century armoire on three wooden bird's claws. The fourth lay a few feet away doused in kerosene amidst a roaring, smoke-spewing fire. The smoke made the air like ice, dense but with alluring pockets of fresh air. As it stagnated another scream of exertion pierced the air.

The door was four golden lines around a black rectangle. A way out. But the smoke lingered between her and the door. It had personality. It had intent. It had a sort of malicious charm. It drifted in her direction but kept a stealthy distance.

She was kneeling. Not in prayer. Not in obeisance. But by force. The eight foot long beam on her shoulders weighed more than she did and it brought her down by an inch every minute.

And so her nose inched closer to the vat placed at her knees. The fire ants crawled over each other in a frenzy, trying in vain to escape. The walls of the vat glistened with a thick coating of glutinous oil. And every minute she came closer to the agitated insects, she wished the smoke would come save her. She weighed asphyxiation and being devoured by the pain of a thousand fire ant bite.

She really wanted to asphyxiate.

She knew what it looked like. To die that way. To really understand need; at its most primal. To need air so bad that you forget that you're hands end in ten bloody stumps that used to be fingers. You forget that you're dripping blood all over the leather seats of your precious restored Chevrolet. Or that you're about to die an ironic death; a pipe snaking its way into the car was bleeding carbon monoxide into the airtight interior.

But what you don't forget is that your daughter standing, watching you with a saw in her hand, is the one who put the pipe in. You don't forget because you are proud of her. And you can see her standing upright because she knows you are proud. If only you had made your cowardly father that proud. But you hadn't.

She ended her train of thought purposefully. She had decided to allot a maximum of two minutes to that and she had already exceeded. The time and the emotion.

And so, as she came close enough to see the rustling pincers of the fire-ants, she resolved to be content. She had given in to conscience in the end as she had been taught. She had not resisted. She had not begged, or pleaded or made it difficult. She had succumbed willingly. She was not her father.

As her face was forced into the vat and the fire-ants locked onto their fleshy escape route cum feast, she raised her face a fraction to look at her daughter. Standing tall amidst the chaos of the basement, clutching a can of oil in one hand and a can of kerosene in the other.

She had been taught to kill maim and devour human sin. And torture.

But with a conscience.

She raised the bloody stumps of her hands in acknowledgment of a final farewell before crashing into the depths of the vat, the full force of the beam behind her.

Short story by shar
Read 1279 times
Written on 2009-01-23 at 18:51

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