02: Forest Fires

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"Silence, at times, is a very powerful thing

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"Silence, at times, is a very powerful thing. You can isolate yourself from everyone you know or you can make everyone listen without saying a single word."

-r.m. drake

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THERE ISN'T A LOT TO BE SURE OF in this day and age. Only life and death, and that everything else is a sort of blurry in-between. This is old news to August. This is all she's ever known.

She replays yesterday's crash in her mind until it is reduced to faint streaks and blurry faces. There is no lifeless flesh, no cracked bones or a bashed-in head. No image of inky hair bleeding onto the ground or of dirt caressing a cheek.

Impact. She sees only the point of impact.

It scares her, to say the least. August isn't fond of the feeling. She is acutely aware of something under her skin, thorned and sentient. She feels it in her trembling hands, her twitchy eyes. Feels it dig into her — dormant for now, but not necessarily for long.

She isn't very fond of that either.

"August," Grace says, knees bent and legs tucked behind her. She can't seem to stop moving. "Are you alright?"

August swallows, managing a nod. Grace's gaze is piercing, and it lingers a little until she tells August to finish her food before it goes cold (it's almost like she cares!). Thomas shifts and crinkles his newspaper.

They're seated on the floor, eating breakfast in what she supposes is the kitchen. It's hard to tell. Thomas insists it should be the family room, but Grace gives him one of her stale stares and that's the end of that.

The only sound filling the air is from forks against plates, and August uses the time to glaze over filed-up memories from North Carolina one last time before she trashes them. The odd scene of her sitting alone in the cafeteria pops up, feet propped up on the nearest chair as she sips from a Caprisun. They don't know it yet, she remembers thinking to herself, but I'm gonna be the queen of the whole fuckin' world one day. Peasants'll bow down to me, their goddamn emperor.

Ah, good times.

Back to the paper. It's damp and torn-up around the edges, probably from yesterday's rain, but that's not what catches August's attention. What catches her attention is the headline stamped across the front, large and black and in bold print. It screams, look at me, look at me!

August would rather take a bullet to the head than look at it, but her eyes apparently aren't under her control. She looks at the paper.

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