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       The Chronicles of Burntown, Pt. 2, p.1
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           Peter von Harten
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The Chronicles of Burntown, Pt. 2
THE CHRONICLES OF BURNTOWN

  (PART 2)

  a serial novella by

  Peter von Harten

  All rights reserved. Copyright 2012 by Peter von Harten

  https://twitter.com/peter_vonharten

  https://petervonharten.wordpress.com

  https://poisonrationality.tumblr.com

  This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

 

  Kelsey

  If I had to describe Mark Huxley in one word, it would be dangerous. That’s not to say there isn’t anything to like about him though…I mean as far as it’s possible for a girl like me to find something attractive about a crazy boy with a burn fetish. I’ve dated far worse, though my brother Seth would probably disagree. Whatever. It’s not like I ever told him what happened the last time I went to the city, so you can’t expect him to understand. I vowed never to tell anyone. Gosh, it seems so long ago…

  Three months have passed since Hux officially renamed this place “Burntown”. I think it was a Saturday, though I wasn’t really keeping track of the days anymore. No one does. There’s no point because nobody works for anyone other than themselves, and most of the adults are either disabled or dying—a fate that’s soon to be our own. The meat from our livestock has begun to spoil quicker than we anticipated, though a couple of the older boys hunt small game every now and then near the edge of the woods. They won’t go any farther than that.

  I don’t think there’s anywhere left to go, and even the bravest of us wouldn’t be caught dead in the Outlands. That’s what we call everything past the boundaries of this town. We just don’t leave, and besides that, we have no real reason to. There’s nothing but farmland and scorched earth out there for miles and our cars don’t work.

  Even if we could get back to civilization, none of us imagine it to be pretty. They forgot about us, or at least we think so. Nobody knows what happened after The Shock, and the radio message Seth has on loop so far doesn’t seem to have reached anyone who can help. But enough with that depressing stuff, I’m honestly sick of talking about it.

  So, that day—again, I think it was a Saturday—Hux had just gotten off a bad trip or something. He said Mariah gave him some of her X. Honestly, I wish the two of them would stop. I know what they do with each other when they’re high, I’m not blind or anything. Under normal circumstances they act like friends, so I can’t say I have anything against them sleeping with each other if they’re both into it. But if Hux wants me as badly as he tells everyone else? I don’t think I could deal with that.

  Anyway, he took me to the edge of town that day to show me his big masterpiece. He had spray-painted “Burntown” over the old Kentsburg sign. As if any weary travelers needed more of a reason not to pass through here, right? He was such a douchebag. The sad part is, we’ve all pretty much gotten used to it over the past couple months. He just sort of declared himself our de facto leader one day, and that was cool because none of us paid much attention to his antics anyway. It’s kind of his own thing, nothing official. I guess he gets an ego trip off it or whatever. But the truth is that he eventually became exactly that, whether he realized it or not. He sort of gave us something to hope for once he started what came to be known as “burn parties”. At first we all thought it was a dumb idea, but I guess it was fun.

  “So me and Mariah came up with this cool new thing,” he smirked as we stood smoking in front of his stupid sign.

  I rolled my eyes. “Great.”

  “What?”

  “Is this gonna be totally lame?”

  “No, I don’t think so.” He hugged me from behind. I hated when he did that. I guess I didn’t want to admit I was actually falling for him. Everything in my mind told me to just listen to Seth, but then I always remembered I was a year older than my brother, so any advice he gave me didn’t really mean much. Or at least I didn’t want it to.

  “So what is it?” He ran a hand through my hair before answering. I hated that too. Boys always have to put on the suave moves when they want you to pay attention.

  “How many barns do you think are in this town?” he asked.

  “I dunno…probably too many,” I laughed. “And our cows are all dying.”

  “My point exactly. So…” And he flicked his lighter in my face. Naturally, I pried myself out of his arms and jumped away. Who wouldn’t? He was the only maniac in our town who was never afraid of fire, and while I guess it’d be cool to have him save you from a burning building, it otherwise freaked me out.

  “Mark, what the fuck!” I yelled, pushing him backwards. He just laughed. Typical.

  “No, it’s important, I swear!” he chuckled.

  “You want to burn down the barns? You didn’t even finish with Johnny’s.”

  “We’ll get to that. It just needs to be emptied first.”

  “Emptied…Hux, what the hell are you planning?”

  “Just a little fun,” he grinned. Jesus, why am I falling for that? “Next question,” he insisted. “How many parties do we usually throw around here?”

  “You want to kill everyone?”

  “No!” he laughed. “I was thinking we could have a party in the barns, you know, a real chill thing with music and whatever. Mike plays drums and Johnny plays guitar, I think Colton can sing pretty good, and-”

  “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I exclaimed.

  “What?”

  “Mike is a pop fanatic and the other two need to lay off the drugs, especially Colton with his sizzurp concoctions, and you…you’re into grunge. So really, go for it. I think you should do this,” I laughed.

  “For real? No jokin’ around?” he spit.

  “Yeah, for real! I want to see you guys fail miserably, it’ll be funny to watch. I mean if that’s not a party, I don’t know what is. We could sure use some entertainment around here. But…fill me in on the part about the barn again?”

  “We end it with a bang,” he replied, taking a drag off his cigarette. “I got a nice stockpile of shit at home, plus with your dad and my aunt’s supply of booze, we should have enough to make a shitload of Molotovs. Burn the place to the fuckin’ ground,” he smiled sheepishly. My eyes went wide. What the hell was he thinking?

  “Hux, why! What is it? What is it with you and fire all the time? Everything has to involve your stupid lighters, fireworks, alcohol, gasoline, or a combination of whatever you can find that blows up! Can’t we ever do anything normal? You know, without fire? Come on. Have you ever had a single idea in your head that doesn’t involve watching something burn?”

  “Not really,” he sighed, stamping out his butte.

  “You scare people, I get it. I know it doesn’t exactly make you feel wanted around here, but most of us have hobbies. Don’t you?”

  He shot me an angry look. “Know what, Kelsey? Of all the people in this shitty little town, I always thought you’d be the only one to understand me. I remember when you first came back from the city-”

  “Don’t even go there!” I snapped.

  “You looked like your eyes were opened, like something crazy happened out there that just had the potential to turn you into this really kickass girl. But after a month or so, you just let it die.” He put a hand to my face and rubbed my cheek. “I only wish I knew why you did it,” he whispered. “What happened to that version of Kelsey?” My heart was pounding, and all of a sudden I felt my chest tightening. I couldn’t
breathe anymore if I kept looking at him, so I shoved him back.

  “YOU STAY AWAY FROM ME, MARK!” I yelled. I couldn’t take the memories of that weekend exploding through my head. Not again. “You have no idea what happened to me out there! Nobody around here does, so stop acting like you’ll ever get it! None of you would understand!”

  With that, I turned away from him with tears in my eyes and stormed back toward the town. It was a good mile or so walk and I hated going it alone, but this time I had to. Most people knew by now not to ask about what happened to me in the city several months before The Shock, but it didn’t matter.

  Every time I thought about what I saw, what I felt out there…it hit me in a way I can’t even describe. I must have made it too obvious the day I got back, because I was freaking out for the next couple weeks and everyone could tell that something about me was different. Seth had tried asking me only once, and never again. I ended up pinning him against the wall in so strong of a chokehold that he nearly passed out. He said it felt like I was crushing his neck to pieces. After that, I stayed holed up in my room and didn’t eat for an entire week. When I finally came out, he gave me the biggest hug and promised never to bring it up again.

  I felt bad for turning into such a monster. If it wasn’t what happened, then it was the huge shadow of guilt that followed me everywhere I went about how I treated people every time they asked. I lost a couple friends over the whole thing because the fights were so bad. For some reason, I developed this love of knives just because I thought I needed protection from something. Suddenly, it wasn’t even that people were asking. It was that they looked at me wrong, and I wanted to stab their throats out just for being curious. Suddenly, I wasn’t the same innocent little Kelsey everyone had known and loved. I was a complete psycho bitch.

  Two months passed before I was able to get a good handle on myself. It took some therapy, a lot of lying, a lot of fake smiles, a lot of burying everything as deep down as it would go, but I did it. I had to. And still, there was that bottomless black pit of hopelessness in me that I couldn’t fully explain or let go of. To tell the truth, I’m still terrified of it to this day. The things I’m capable of scare the shit out of me. I saw it with Seth, I saw it in the city…and I never want to see it again. Nobody would understand.

  But more so, I’m just scared. I’m scared because I know that Hux and I are actually perfect for each other, and I can’t stand the thought. Seth doesn’t like it, but I don’t expect him to get it. No one does, and they never will because I can’t tell them anything. I wish I could though. God, I wish I could.

  They say everyone in this town has their own reasons for not wanting to leave. Well, that’s it. Hux is my reason, and even though he might seem completely out of control and it’s probably the worst idea on the planet to want to be with him, I don’t think I care anymore. And that scares me too. Because I knew that if he had his way, he’d burn himself alive along with this whole damn town. At this point, I’m fairly certain I’m the only one who keeps him from doing it.

  There’s something unspoken between us about that, I can feel it whenever he’s around. Plus the danger of it all gives me a rush, and so I tolerate his fire antics and his constant flicking of lighters and all the other bullshit he does because I know he’s the only one who will ever understand me, and I’m the only one who could ever understand him.

  But one thing he’ll never know is what happened in the city. That’s why I have to write it down now. I want to understand. I want to have hope because this is my last chance, swear to God. I’m not leaving this town, and I’ve known that ever since I returned. I’ll die here sooner or later. We all will. It’s only a matter of time.

  So just in case I’m gone sooner than expected…here’s what happened.

 
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