Letting Life Lead
A crowd gathered.
Everyone kept a safe distance from the flames, their faces illuminated in an orange-yellow light. The fire jet burst ahead fifty feet and sent up billows of black and gray smoke in its wake. Yvette Barboza, dressed in her green-striped night gown, light blue house slippers, and cold cream still on her face, clicked the trigger with strong fingers. When all quieted and only the half moon lit the night, she stood still and stared at three ruined, charred bodies and the mangled corpse of Mr. Wells.
Shivering and in shock, we all gaped though some had managed to record the event on their phones. A few more bodies and we could have had a fine block party.
“Where the hell did the old lady get a flame thrower?” Len, my neighbor, asked a little too close to my ear. By the stench on his breath, he should have still been enjoying his buzz sitting in his Hanes in front of the TV.
Len, didn’t own curtains.
The cold reminded me that I was only wearing a bra under my wool cardigan. I tightened it closer to my body and pointed my chin towards the carnage. “Internet. It was a present from Jonas.”
“Mr. Wells. Yellow house with the big, bug-out camper.”
“Who the hell buys a flamethrower for their neighbor!?”
“They were dating and he’s a prepper.”
“Who was dating?” Someone asked from behind me.
“Yvette and Jonas. Don’t you people ever talk to each other?”
I had just bought the little blue cape a month ago, and it seemed I knew more about the happenings in the cul-de-sac than anyone now that Mr. Wells had been killed. Not by Yvette though. Those things did. I never expected to hear the frantic, high-pitched screams of someone being eaten alive. I’m not likely to forget it.
“Did someone call the police?” A voice wavered in the night.
“Line’s busy,” I said. “I’ve tried to call a dozen times. Emergency and the direct police –”
“How the fuck can 911 be busy!?”
I watched Yvette as she stood in a protective stance over Jonas’ body. Her salt and pepper pixie cut still looked neat and tidy somehow. People began to emerge from wherever their minds had taken them, and a hushed, confused murmur passed from one to another. The rising stench caused wrinkled noses, hands to mouths, and dry retches.
For some reason, I expected things to smell more like an autumn barbecue.
“Who are they?” Someone yelled as if expecting Yvette to know.
“Satanists!” Mr. Vincent said with smug finality. I wondered if his wife noticed he’d come out of the wrong house with his shirt buttoned wrong. The murmurs turned to high-pitched bickering
“They aren’t human. I saw them. They had huge mouths on their chests!”
“Well, that’s stupid…”
“We all saw them eating him!”
I walked off to join Yvette and put my hand tentatively on her shoulder. “I’m sorry about Jonas.”
She nodded, but didn’t look at me. We shared a simultaneous moment mourning for Jonas while we scanned the creatures’ remains. They had long, muscular spider-like arms on knobby shoulders, a concave indentation where a head should have been, and a gaping mouth full of razor sharp teeth on the torso. The sinewy legs were lanky and robust. Their black, talon-like claws on five-digit fingers were untouched by the fire.
“There’s probably more of them. We should arm ourselves. Jonas has more flamethrowers and other weapons,” I said. I hadn’t seen them, but he was a paranoid man who did not do things half way.
Yvette finally spoke as I covered the face of her lover with the old man’s robe (it had been flung aside when he’d been dragged to the middle of the street).
“I have a key.” She wiped the tears from her eyes and patted my face. I felt the strength in them. “He liked you. Had you on his keeper list.”
People huddled in small clusters around the blue-green glow of anyone with a cellphone trying to catch any news or get through to paramedics, the fire station, or police.
We heard a distant blast of the emergency city siren.
playing by my own rules
We take the heat 'cause we gotta eat.
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