Fire fascinated me; the coiling flames, the plasma, the light and heat… I enjoyed the orange flames, but it was the blue ones I loved most. There was no escape from fire— it consumed and destroyed, and I found myself drawn to it like a moth. And so it was only fitting that I had the ability to produce fire from my hands. It was a talent I possessed as early as I can remember. I set fire to everything, my pyromania growing with every incident. I burned animals, shot fire at branches, and more than once set my own room aflame, however accidentally. And it made me happy to see that, in the end, everything was reduced to ashes.
No one but my brothers knew of my talent. Father would, on occasion, catch me using matches to set fire to paper towels. He would hurl insults at me, beat me, and leave me broken on the kitchen floor each time. So I made it my business to set fire to his things. Of course, he always knew it was me, and I always received my punishment for my actions. And with that punishment, my hatred for the man grew. Until, of course, the hatred consumed my every being.
Major sat beside me, drinking his alcohol along with the pills he’d stolen from town. He was known by us to steal medication from people— if it fought sleep and made him high, that was all that mattered. He’d broken into pharmacies, stolen from the most insane of them in that town, and swallowed it all down with a glass of hard vodka. I never understood him, in his endless days of escape. But he had his coping mechanism, I supposed, and I had mine.
“Dude, you’re always writing in that god damned journal,” he said, and I looked up at him. He wasn’t quite drunk yet, but he stunk of the alcohol he never stopped consuming. I didn’t pay him any mind, returning to my writings. I never wrote much, never really bothered, but I kept a careful record of every beating from my father, regardless of who it came to.
A body groaned from the bed in front of us. We sat in the basement where we often hid from father’s rage as children, but now we used it as a place to recuperate. Major immediately stood upon hearing the groan, and he bounded over to the bed in two quick strides. I sighed a little to myself, standing and placing my journal back into its hiding place. My brothers respected my privacy, but I didn’t want our father to find it.
“Shane, man, he got you good! Shit, you look awful.” I walked over beside Major, looking down at my poor battered and beaten brother. His eyes were swollen, the left one nearly shut, and his lip was split wide open. Blood coated his face from his lip, but also from the cut on his head. We were sure he had a concussion and there was no telling whether or not he would awaken. I admit, I was relieved to find him still breathing.
“Yeah thanks, asshole,” Shane spat, sitting up slowly. I could see the purple bruises appearing on pale, sallow skin underneath his t-shirt. He wiped at his forehead and looked at his hand. He seemed almost shocked to see blood on his hand.
“Fuck… how long was I out?” he asked. I hummed, looking at the watch on my wrist.
“Two hours,” I said, making the two of them turn to me for a moment.
“We thought you wouldn’t wake up,” Major said hurriedly, “But I’m glad you’re good. Just take it easy man. I don’t think you’d survive doing that shit again. Damn, he got you good.” He was peering at Shane’s many wounds, gaping at the damage our father had done. His brown hair was matted and stuck to his head. I wondered idly if now was a good time to set fire to this place, to burn my father alive and run away. I might have even brought my brother’s along with me. I didn’t care much for Major or Shane, but seeing them hurt always inspired an awful rage within me; a rage that would burn every last foundational pillar down in my already unstable mind.
“Did he get you two?” Shane asked, coughing and massaging the bruises on his neck. Major let out two solid barks of laughter, and then stopped almost immediately. He was incredibly high— had he been taking ecstasy again? It was always hard to tell with him; the alcohol and intense medications he’d steal were a cocktail of bad decisions on his part, but I wouldn’t lecture him. Not like Shane would.
“Not even a little bit,” he said, suddenly incredibly sober, “Bernard threw a glass bottle at him and he retreated like the fucking coward he is.”
“You did what!?” Shane screamed, turning to me in horror. I stared back at him, mildly annoyed at his temperament and yet proud of my accomplishment.
“Bernard, what were you thinking?” he asked, his hoarse voice finally leveling out a little bit, “He’s going to come for you now!” I shrugged, giving him a solid grin.
“When he does,” I said resolutely, “I’ll burn him to death.” And I would, he knew that much. When family bullies came to beat Major into the ground, I smashed a boy’s teeth straight back into his gums, and I burned another so badly that I believe he’s still recovering to this day. When father ran our mother out of the house and she never returned, I ripped the house to shreds and burned the barn to shambles. “Don’t,” Shane said angrily, pointing at me as he swung his legs over the bed and tried to stand. Major lent him a hand, but I took a step back. Let the bastard fall.
“Why not?” I seethed, “Why should I let him torture us?”
“You have that fucking voodoo magic for a reason. A good one. Use it to keep us safe, not to kill people.” I watched him struggle to stand, and Major struggle to keep him upright. He was dizzy: I could see it from the sweat erupting onto his face. He was probably going to puke. I took another step back.
“Killing him would keep us safe,” I said, and he rolled his eyes as he finally stood. He coughed, the sound dry and scratchy, and he sighed.
“Get me a mirror or something, please.” I hesitated, but seeing that Major was holding him up, I did as asked. I turned and found a mirror hidden behind some boxes. Handing it to Shane, I waited for his reaction. His black eyes widened a bit, about as much as they could, and he sighed, walking over to the bathroom nearby. He was still unsteady, but Major didn’t have to support him on the way. Instead, he stood next to me, looking at the bathroom door even as it slammed shut. Shane was upset, and understandably so. Whenever I awoke with wounds from our loving father, I felt the same. And yet he never had the urge to murder the bastard. Not even Major, who was far more like me than Shane, wanted him dead as much as I did. No, that and these pyromaniac powers were reserved for me.
“He’ll be fine,” Major said, “Right? I mean you can’t undo being fine, right? Does that even make any sense? For fuck’s sake, I think I took too much of that bullshit medicine.” He sat down on the cot, swinging his legs over and beginning to doze almost immediately. I frowned. He really did take too much of that shit. We could only hope he wouldn’t die of an overdose while he slept.
Shane left the bathroom some time later after I had returned to my journal. I wrote of the most recent developments, with Shane waking up and his subsequent puking— I could hear it from where I was. He most certainly had a concussion, and a bad one at that. I would have suggested him to go to the hospital, but the nearest hospital was hours away, and to get the car keys would mean to confront our father. And that would not end well for him. I needed to cool off, lower the flames a bit, before I even thought of seeing that motherfucker again. I was sure that if he stomped down those stairs, I would blast him immediately with the hottest fire known to mankind. But he did not, and I did not.
Shane sat beside me as I continued to write in my scratchy handwriting.
“Major’s asleep,” he said as if it weren’t the most obvious thing in the room at that moment. I nodded nonetheless, shutting my book. If he wanted to talk, then we would talk. Shane was stubborn that way, but he was also ridiculously caring and kind. We were polar opposites in that respect. I couldn’t remember ever feeling anything but the heat of anger and the cold sadness that would occasionally wash over me. But for the most part I sat in this neutral mid-zone where I would be neither happy, nor angry, nor sad. It was not contentedness, it was hollowness.
“He is,” I said after putting the book back where I’d left it. Shane sighed, holding his head a moment before turning to me.
“Look,” he began, and I knew I’d get a tongue lashing from my ever-so-caring brother, “I really didn’t want you to do anything. I knew he was going to get on my case about the dishes, okay? I knew it.”
“So why did you let him find you?” I asked pointedly, “Why not hide?”
“He has to know we won’t hide from him anymore,” he said, narrowing his eyes “He’s not a good man. I know that. But he doesn’t deserve to die, Bernard.” I scoffed, and he frowned deeper. The blood was gone from his lip, but it was still bleeding slightly, more so whenever he began to speak. I would have asked if it hurt had I not already known.
“You don’t get to determine that,” Shane continued, “Please just… give it some time. Or we can pack our bags and leave. We can, you know. You’re an adult, and we’re not too far behind you.” I shrugged, noncommittal.
“Just because I’m eighteen doesn’t mean that you two can leave. He’s our legal guardian—”
“And you think killing him will fix that?” Shane asked, “I know I didn’t go to school, like you did. I know I don’t know all that much about the world. I mean hell, I can barely fucking read. But I know that you’ll be free and we’ll be sent to foster homes or something. And that’s not okay with either of us. If you hate him so much, why don’t we all just leave?” I clenched my fists. There was a perfectly good reason why, but I wasn’t about to divulge that to him. He wouldn’t understand, no one would. But my mother was my protector, the one person in my life who loved me for who I was. And she was gone because of that bastard.
“Hey,” Shane said, seeing my glower, “Things are going to be okay.” He tried to put a hand on me, and before he could touch me, he reeled back. His finger was already blistering from the heat I was emanating— it was a wonder why the room was still so cold. I was like a furnace. I stood from the couch and walked towards the furthest wall away from the stairs. There would be hell to pay later, but for now, things would be as they always were.