It'll Find You

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Another midnight alone by the fire outside, the darkness surrounding me worn thin by the flames like an old tire. Brandy in one hand. Pistol in the other. Nothing but thoughts of the day's work done. Nothing but the spasms scrambling along my muscles like dying rats. Nothing but the dry burn stinging my eyes from the heat of the blaze. I refuse to blink. Because someone has sat down across from me. Someone I didn't invite.

Someone with eyes as vacant as mine. Someone with white orbs suspended between the flames like fleshy marshmallows. Someone with eyes almost human. Almost not. Almost my imagination.

"Who are you?" I say. "Why are you here?"

The eyes blink and squint in response. I detect a grin in their posture, but it could be my mind filling in the space.

I don't care for games, except the ones I play for myself. No company allowed. My thin patience shifts attention to the pistol dangling in my lazy hand.

"I have a gun," I say. "I can use it."

"I know," says the voice on the other side of the fire.

The voice is like a child talking down to her feet. I scan the night. No child. Only eyes.

There are no other words after that. Maybe it was the brandy talking.

"Speak or I'll shoot," I say.

I hear nothing except the rusting of the night.

So I do what I normally do to things that annoy me. I aim the pistol between the eyes and pull the trigger. That ought to do it.

The gun goes off, but nothing happens to the eyes. The orbs just stare at me. They look like two teardrops from the full, pale moon, tugging at me with the steady hunger of gravity. Like how I stare at my life on fiery evenings such as this one.

"What is it you want?" I say.

"I want you to die in a horrible way," the voice says. "I want you to suffer terrible things. I want you to feel the pain you put me through. I know your secret."

One of my victims, no doubt, found my sanctuary in the woods. The place I go to light fires at night outside and think. Think about why I do the things I do, and to once again receive no answer. No reply from anyone or anything. Just a fire. And me. And brandy. And this pistol. And the grand indifference of the universe churning above my head.

Until tonight.

"So we've met before, have we?" I say.

"Yes. I was the homeless man you killed. The one you said no one cared about. You told me this before you killed me. About how I don't matter," the voice says.

"And no one did. You may as well not have existed at all. Bums like you are a penny a person, if even that," I say.

"That's right. No one cared about me. But I was also the prostitute you strangled, that runaway addicted to meth. Remember her? She grew up so fast in that home, then left too young. Never enjoyed a happy moment her entire life, save for the brief lie you told her to get her into your car," the voice says. "No one even reported her missing. No one cared. Not even her so-called family."

"She should be grateful to have served a purpose at all," I say. "I suppose next you'll tell me you're the crippled drunk I pushed off the bridge. Or the mentally ill man at my job in the nursing home I cut with a knife just a little each day until he died. At best, they were a burden to the world. At worst, they were underutilized by people like me. I should've been more creative in how I killed them."

"Yes, I am all of them. No, nobody cared enough about them, not even to organize funerals," the voice says.

"You're just telling me things I already know, though," I say, unable to tell if the heat on my face is coming from the fire or the drink or my irritation. "How about filling me in on who or what you are. A ghost? Or my imagination?"

"No, I'm not a ghost. You've been coming out here at night, lighting these fires and wondering why, if these impulses are wrong, that no one stops you. You wonder, is it right so long as there are no consequences?" the voice says.

"Shouldn't it be right so long as I enjoy myself?" I say. The words slur from the brandy.

"If you have to ask the question, you're not so confident."

I shift in my chair. "I suppose you're here to give me a better answer?" I say.

"It's your unlucky night. I do," the voice says.

"Great. Then tell me. What's my answer, oh, spirit of the fire?" I say.

"There is no good or evil. There just is," the voice says. "But nature, for all its indifference, abhors a vacuum. Everything must be in perfect balance. You can't get away with killing people forever, even if no one cares they're dead. Not even if you never get caught."

"What do you want me to do then? Drop to my knees and beg for your forgiveness?" I say, chuckling at the absurdity of this conversation.

"I am not a god. I don't love you. I don't hate you. I'm only here to correct the vacuum you've created," the voice says.

"Good for you. Can't say I'm too worried, though. It's not like you're going to walk over here and beat my ass or anything," I say and sip brandy once, then twice. "You're just a pair of floating eyeballs."

"You're right. I can't do anything to you," the voice says. "But I know something you don't know."

"Oh, yeah? What's that?"

"If you can't find justice, it'll find you."

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," I say.

Then the eyes blink and are gone, dissipating into the smoke.

Good. I've had enough bullshit for one evening. Must've drank too much. Time for bed. I pour a fresh cup of brandy, then rise quickly to leave. Too quickly.

Between the alcohol and the late hour, my feet trip as I stand. I tumble forward onto the fire. The brandy spills and douses my body in accelerant, cocooning the flames around me.

I try to lift myself up, but my hand digs into the hot coals for support. I shriek in pain as my other hand scrambles for something cool to grasp, but it too finds only blisters.

"Someone, please, help," I manage to say, the words dissipating with the smoke.

No one hears my cry. I'm alone in this night. No one cares.

I try desperately to stand, but my balance is all off. My body only digs deeper into the fire. It feels like I'm wrestling the mouth of hell.

The flames burn away my clothing and flesh the same way it does the tinder and the wood. The air escapes from my lungs to fan the flames. The fire does not stop because it torches the sanctity of human flesh. It is what it is, and I am who I am. We are both indifferent and dead by the morning.

The End

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