Another week, another tale of lunacy. But I will refund your money in full if you don’t like what I’ve written today. Don’t forget to stop back tomorrow for the deviant/demented/delightful work of another of my compatriots in our COVID-19 Flash Fiction Blitz. Today’s entry is special: I do it in video format. It’s down below, but here’s the link to my youtube.com page.
Right now, that list includes Derek Elkins, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, and Joe Shaw on the masthead. And me. You’re stuck with me. As always, there’s no fee, we’re doing this to help you pass the time. We do ask that you buy our books/audio books to help pay the freight here. But that’s up to you!
Now, I present:
The Wind Is Shifting Again
Carson wasn’t pleased at all with the banner, but it did make him laugh as he drove by. “Mother’s Day Brunch 10-3” was there on the side of the bar in 4 foot letters. An optimistic splash of colors, flowers, and cheap white vinyl banner in a pathetic attempt to revive the economy. Carson knew that it was the same banner they’d used for Saint Patrick’s day, just flipped over and painted on the previously blank side.
It flapped in the breeze – a breeze that shouldn’t have been there at this time of day. He floored the pedal and rocketed up Randolph Street at almost 120 miles an hour before the grade of the hill slowed him to a mere 80 miles an hour. He got it back up to almost 110 by the time he reached Snelling Avenue, and rammed the brakes to the floor so he could take a left. He lost more speed as he headed up the hill. When he got to Ford Parkway, he’d slowed to 45 miles an hour and wheeled into the driveway. Ignoring the signs, he parked on the grassy hill and moved toward the water tower.
The historic water tower was the highest point in the city. From there you could see the airport, most of the suburbs of the southern metro, and all of the better parts of Saint Paul. He’d broken the locks on the historical monument a week before and had spent time up there with his tablet spotting locations from the top level.
Today’s gusty winds had set his fever to burning brightly. He was alone and glad of it. He had hated the city for the last twenty years. Mugged and left for dead in 1997 by a group of teenagers in a corner of the park not far from where he stood at this moment. He’d been disfigured and decided to retreat to his shop where he could work on vehicles without having to deal with people.
But now, now the city was all his except for the invalids. When the COVID-19 had turned, a week before Mother’s Day 2020 he’d been on a long bender in his house. He had booze and smokes and porn and didn’t care about his mother. She’d never cared a whit about him. People hunkered down like it was another wave of the Chinese virus – but it wasn’t. Not at all.Nobody would ever know that it was a weaponized version that had been smuggled from the lab in the pocket of a Uighur sympathizer. It had first been spread in Beijing, and then agents had been sent across the globe posing as WHO (World Health Organization) doctors. By the time the plan was discovered, the mortality rate had climbed to near 98%. A miscalculation. The Uighers had wanted to punish the Chinese for their harsh treatment of muslims, but then the Earth First types got involved and decided to cleanse the Earth. Oops.
Carson had natural immunity. The remaining two percent had to be somewhere, but not around here. He’d found a few shut-ins that had made it until his visit, but nobody healthy. Best of all, they didn’t bother to flee, just quietly died in their homes like the government told them to do.
Summer had been pretty awful. The stench of July was Biblical. And that’s what gave him the idea. Hot summers like this always had windy days that made the drought even worse. There were signs to look for, and he knew most of them.
After he finished preparing the tower, he carried his tablet down to the van and snugged it in it’s holder on the dashboard. The satellites providing GPS were still working, and the map was saved on the device. He started the van and drove west. Once he got to his destination, he prepped the first three houses, lit the fire, and moved off a few blocks. It hadn’t rained in weeks, and the rain wouldn’t arrive for hours yet – if it did at all – but the winds were here.
In a gigantic half-ring across the southwest part of Saint Paul, he lit fires every few blocks. He’d stashed fuel in the homes, and broken their windows to make sure the fire would jump. He’d spent almost 20 nights getting ready. He was efficient, and smart. He knew just where to block out his targets, and was sure to get the results he wanted so that the fire would spread.
With the fires lit, he hit the liquor store one last time. Grabbing the best booze in the joint, he headed back up to the observation tower and laid out his trails. Climbing up the interior, he left a trail of fuel behind him. Once on top, he made sure that there were pails of gasoline all around him.
Then, as though he were Nero in the days of Rome, he set up a lawn chair and watched the wall of flame come toward him while savoring a $600 bottle of bourbon. When it was still 20 blocks away he started to feel the heat. The wind was fanning it perfectly, and he could see trees exploding in the distance. The fuel in cars, lawnmowers, propane tanks, and candles on patios caused it to burn ever brighter.
When the flames crossed Snelling Avenue two blocks away, it was already too hot to face the flames. Embers flew by on the vortex of wind stirred by the heat. The noise was incredible, as it was now an actual firestorm. And yet it got much louder when the water tower, acting like a chimney lined with creosote, started to burn. Flames rocketed up the stairs and rolled out on the floor, hitting the buckets of gasoline he’d spread around the perimeter.
In his last moment of sentience, he realized that it was Satan he saw through the flames. Beckoning him, and coughing, just like the poor devils who had died from the disease. He coughed as well, and spit the thick mucus he’d until now avoided for those many months.
He never knew if it was the fire or the flu that killed him. But Satan would never tell: he was glad of the company.
I revised the post – needed to end with something light! And, of course, disco. The Trammps performing Disco Inferno.