They had burned the diner. Her parents had burned alive. His, too. I liked him. We made each other laugh. Andy wanted to end it, said it had gone too far. But I wasn’t going to take that. None of us were.
They had taken up residence in an abandoned warehouse, one of a thousand in the area. We broke into every liquor store and gas station we could find looking for anything flammable. They all celebrated at their headquarters, knowing it would take time for us to come up with a real plan.
We started the fires on every side, leaving no safe exit. We threw them into the windows, soaked the doors with gasoline, lit trash cans and threw them in. It was an inferno within the first minute. Just before the roof collapsed, a few of them made it out.
We waited at either end, just in case. Most of them were on fire trying to put themselves out. Andy and she beat the few that emerged, breaking bones and letting them burn a little. When they were sure no one else was coming, they found me.
Her brother just stood there, not moving. She screamed. Andy tried to stop me. When the first had run out, I slammed a metal pipe into his face. That metal on bone sound, reverberating through my arm and into my skull had shocked me, but it didn’t stop me.
They never had a chance. Even after they were dead, I kept going. Nothing else felt like the first time. There were still cracks, lots of blood, but no sound like the first time. No smashed face, stretched by fear and shock.
The voice started after that night, at first speaking in a voice of metal and bone. The more I listened, the clearer it became. It helped, told me what to do, how to stay on top of things. But it screamed, yelled and accused.
It always insulted. It became the voice of my mother for awhile, piercing and nagging. After my father died, it became his voice. That’s how it stayed for awhile. Never good enough. Always so stupid. Always causing my own problems.
But it wasn’t my father or my mother. It wasn’t her either. I’d learn who it was after I met her for the first time, face to face.
The only voice now was my wife’s. It wasn’t always pleasant either. Especially not when I was drunk. Not after the day I’d had. No, I wasn’t going to listen to that voice anymore.
The booze I used to drown out the other one only gave it a megaphone. It shouted my wife down. All the horrible things it had told me it spouted at her, but she didn’t back down. She was braver than me, trying to shut it up for good. But we wouldn’t have that.
I slugged her, hard, in the face. Still no cracking. I had been out of practice. I hadn’t had a fight or had the thrill of being chased in years. Had it been a decade? My fist hurt, but there was still blood. It had shut her up, but it wasn’t enough.
I slugged her again in the stomach, just to feel good. And it did. She was still conscious. That was better than most had done. I finished off the last beer and threw the bottle against the wall. I had to sit down to stop the spinning. It wasn’t just the booze, it was the thrill. After so long...
Her open eyes were staring at me. I wouldn’t to stop them. But I couldn’t. She had been pretty good to me, after all. I couldn’t part with her. At least, not with the routine she represented. Maybe if I took a little of her away at a time, I could bring myself to be without her. But it all went black before that...