licked the bright blue sky above the small mountain town of South
Park. The townspeople watched as another jet of water was aimed at
the inferno, but privately they all knew the truth: there was no
hope for South Park Elementary School. Everybody started at the
sound of an explosion from inside the burning building.
"Look!" someone shouted.
The crowd turned to see a couple of paramedics wheeling a badly burned woman away from the school. There was a general murmuring and shaking of heads as the woman was gently lifted into the back of an ambulance.
"Poor Miss Claridge," a woman said. "Who'd want to do something like that to her?"
"Three guesses," a man standing next to her said, thumbing towards a teenage boy with an unruly crop of dirty blond hair being dragged towards a police car by a couple of officers.
"Trent Boyette?" the woman said. "I didn't even know he was out."
"He got out a few days ago," the man replied. "But he just had to try and finish off his old pre-school teacher. Again." They watched as the tall, muscular Trent wrestled with the two cops trying to restrain him. One yelled into his radio for backup. "That's the third time he's tried to kill Miss Claridge," the man continued. "Some say he's got an obsession with her. All I know is, she'll never be safe while he's around. They should throw away the key."
There was a murmur of agreement in the crowd around him.
Another police car pulled up and a couple of officers got out and jumped on the struggling Trent. After a few minutes, and some surreptitious punches and kicks, they pulled him to his feet.
"No! It was them!" Trent shouted as he was hauled towards a car.
The cops stopped and turned to look at where Trent was glaring. Behind them, just in front of the crowd, stood four anxious looking teenage boys. One of the cops signalled for his colleagues to wait, and headed towards them.
"Trent claims you started the fire," he said, looking at them one by one.
"Trent Boyette is a liar, sir," one of them, a fat boy wearing a blue and yellow poofball hat, replied.
"Not us! We're good kids," a redheaded boy wearing a green ushanka added quickly.
The cop nodded, and strode back towards the handcuffed boy. "Alright, Trent, you're going away for a long time."
"Nooo!" Trent yelled as he was dragged towards the cop car.
Just before he was forced inside, he shouted at the four boys: "You better pray I never get out! You better all pray!"
"So long, Trent!" the fat boy, Eric Cartman, shouted mockingly.
The car sped away with Trent staring out the back window at the boys who'd condemned him to yet another spell in juvenile hall. His murderous glare pierced each boy, chilling their very souls. It said: I will find you, and I will kill you.
After the car had sped away, the boys stood, motionless, each one thinking the same thing: Third time lucky. Three times we caused something bad to happen to Miss Claridge, and three times we've gotten away with it. Holy shit.
If anyone had been observing those four boys closely when the cop had spoken to them, they would have seen a glance – just a tiny, fleeting glance – between the four of them which told a whole different story to what they told him.
The redhead, Kyle Broflovski, was the first to speak. "When he gets out, he's gonna be really mad.”
"Dude, whatever. That's like 5 years from now," Cartman replied.
"Yeah, who cares," the third boy, Stan Marsh, chimed in. He pulled his blue and red poofball hat on a little tighter.
The fourth one, Kenny McCormick, a thin boy dressed in a tatty orange parka with the hood drawn tightly around his face, just smiled enigmatically.
The boys looked at the crowd, and the school, which was now just a blackened shell.
"What do you want to do now?" Kyle asked.
"Anything. Let's just get away from here," Stan said.
"Let's go to my house. I feel like ice cream," Cartman said.
"Dude, you always feel like ice cream," Kyle chuckled, poking his fat friend.
"Ai! Don't touch me with your dirty fucking Jew hands!"
"Shut up, fatass!"
Cartman and Kyle headed off down the street, continuing to bicker loudly. Stan and Kenny smiled at each other, and followed them.
A sense of relief washed over Stan. Finally, it was all over – for now, anyway. He shuddered as he remembered Trent's parting glare, then he pushed it out of his mind. They had five years before they would have to face Trent again, and five years was a long time, especially in South Park, Colorado.
Days became weeks, and weeks became months. As the time passed, Stan and his friends began to forget the boy they had condemned to prison.
But he never forgot them.
Trent Boyette stared at the calendar on his cell wall, then carefully added another cross to it. He stepped back, unable to take his eyes off one last, unfilled square.
One day. Just one more day.
For the first time in five years, Trent smiled.
"Lights out, cons!"
He threw himself with almost boyish glee onto his threadbare prison bed, pulled the covers right up to his chin and sighed.
As he drifted off to sleep, he carried with him one thought. It was the same thought that had cheered him when he was depressed, soothed him when he was angry, and healed him when he was sick.
I will find them. And I will kill them.