by Jade Black
I wasn’t far wrong when I said the Mustang was beaten up. As beautiful as it
was, it was certainly scrap metal. Hilde had brought me out a sandwich about
ten minutes ago, and now I sat biting into it occasionally, while still
puzzling over the scattered pile of nuts and bolts in front of me. The body
to the car was totally out of order- but the engine was totalled too… and I
figured that with a little determination I could probably get it back
together again. The problem being that I knew it didn’t work, but I didn’t
know what was wrong with it. Not even a clue.
The radio was sitting on the roof of the car- the antenna bent, angled and
taped together so that I could get the clearest signal. It was still shite.
The fuzz almost came over louder than the music- like it always did on the
colonies. Something about the atmospheric pressure that wouldn’t let radio
waves travel clearly- you would have thought they would have tried to do
something about something so important to the people. Not only that, but
there were never any good stations that you could reach on this side of the
cluster- I was stuck with golden oldies or techno- which wasn’t really my
style of music… though I could handle it. “On a dark desert highway…” ‘Hotel
California’ by the Eagles rung out around the scrap yard rustily, carrying
on the air. “Cool wind in my hair…”
I wasn’t sure where to start- I hadn’t even begun, and I was already covered
in grease and surrounded by tiny car parts. But at least it kept my mind
occupied. My head kept wandering, for whatever reason. I kept thinking of
Heero, and what he could be doing, and then I kept thinking of last night.
No, not last night with Heero- before that. I’d always had dreams- never had
a good and sound sleep with our pharmaceutical assistance.
“Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air.”
But the dreams had been getting progressively worse. So bad that Heero had
even suggested that I go see someone about it. Okay, I appreciate his
sympathy and all, but I’m not about to go running to some fucking shrink.
The last thing I need is someone telling me about a bunch of weirdo remedies
to make me sleep- it would completely fuck up my social life. “Up ahead in
the distance, I saw a shimmering light…”
I didn’t understand how Heero managed to keep his subconscious under
control. I knew that he had been through a lot worse shit than I had, but he
never seemed to have a problem. It was almost as if it had been wiped from
his brain completely. Then again, we’re talking about Dr. J here- I wouldn’t
put anything that cruel past him. He might have had good intentions- but he
didn’t care for Heero at all. But Heero wasn’t plagued by all that- the
deceit and the lack of control that he had, even though he always has to be
in control. He was the one beaten within an inch of his life if he toed even
a step out of line. But he wasn’t the tossing and turning at night, plagued
images of burnings and solitude in his head. He didn’t wake up drenched in
cold sweat, crying and shivering and just wishing for someone to come and
wipe out all these memories. “My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.” I
was that one, and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. No matter
what I tried to do instead I never seemed to get it out of my head. And
everything was just getting worse- sometimes I thought I could actually feel
the flames touch my skin as I watched them engulf the orphanage- the world
lit up like a Christmas tree. And then, sometimes I would be walking through
the ashes- the police sirens of L2 a crescendo in my ears. The charred
corpses lying helplessly huddled in the corner by the door, some burnt
trying to get out. Some trying to protect the children by covering them with
their own bodies. I found father Maxwell reciting last rights, or at least I
think it was father Maxwell. Sister Helen was concentrating on getting the
children- following the people trying to break out. What I believe to be
Solo was trying to break out through one of the windows. “I had to stop for
There were little clues left around with the bodies. There were gold and
silver crosses that were left lying around with the parts of the bodies-
even though most of them were so badly burnt you couldn’t see their faces.
There were just piles of rotting limbs scattered around- like some grotesque
toyshop. “There she stood in the doorway.” And that sight came back to me
every night. More and more elaborate and horrific every time. I couldn’t rid
myself of it. I could remember now exactly what it was like.
The door hung off on its hinges. A couple of people must have found a way
out- but the extent of the flames was too far by then. My worn sneakers
crunched on the gravel as I approached, and my arms hung loose at my sides.
Some of the stained-glass windows were smashed, and as I stepped in through
the door I saw that some people had been piling up furniture to try and
reach them to get out. There were some red and bleeding and burnt remains of
people I must have once known by the door- leaning against it, probably
trying to get out before they were caught in the blast. I had to choke down
some bile that rushed up my throat.
I walked in further- looking on in disbelieving horror at the scene. There
was a ‘congregation’ at the top of the church, near the altar. As I walked
up the isle towards them I took in the people around the edges trying to get
out. Somewhere in the middle, there was a group of them- small people,
obviously one of the nuns trying to save them from the fire- but failing.
The pews were burnt or upturned, the ceiling caved in above me- I had to
climb over a large wooden beam as I made my way across. Smoke still rose in
places, ash covering everything, and a couple of little fires ate away at
what remained of the wood. It made me wonder why, after so many years of
having wooden churches, what it was that made them keep doing it- and not
build them out of brick as they would any other building. I continued
forward, up to the altar- and saw the group. Some were sitting down, some
kneeling- all had apparently been praying until the fires approached them.
One stood before them all- well, he no longer stood- and it seemed that it
could only have been father Maxwell- the one nice enough to take me in and
feed me and clothe me after Solo brought me back here.
There was nothing left of them that could really identify each one
individually. Nothing left at all… I couldn’t even find something worth
saving so I could remember them all- all though it wasn’t like I was going
to forget. I turned and began to walk back to the door- climbing over the
pillar again. It seemed wrong to touch anything here- it was a graveyard.
Tortured souls rising slowly up and screaming as they left their battered
corpses. I could feel- everything still had a spark of life in it- if
horrific. I wondered how many of them were still there- living in the
bodies- if any of them were still alive in there. Whether they could see me
and if they wanted me to help. I don’t think I could help if I tried.
I reached the door again- and still the cops were approaching. I wondered
why that hadn’t gotten there earlier- it would take a long time for an
entire church to burn down. There was still a mangled pile of limbs by the
door- piled up against it in a futile attempt to get past it. I looked on
for a moment- but couldn’t see it. My brain just wasn’t working- I knew I
had to leave before the cops got here. They would be looking for someone to
blame- and I was just an orphan- the only one left alive. They wouldn’t be
on my side. They wouldn’t want to help me. This was L2- no one would want to
help me. I needed Solo back. But somehow- I knew that some of those limbs in
the pile by the door were his.
I stepped over the remains of the door, and some ashes near it, and walked
away down the street. Slowly, I made my way through the labyrinth of back
alleys that I had come to know so well. Everything was a blur- spinning
faster and faster. My head wouldn’t work. Like I was on drugs or something.
I had to stop. Lean against a wall. I just vomited and passed out on the
“’This could be heaven or this could be hell’…”
They never did find out what caused the fire. I never really looked into it.
When I woke up, in a puddle of my own puke- finding that someone had stolen
my shoes –I walked straight down to the docking port and tried to hitch a
ride. I was unsuccessful- and I got stuck on L2- but I stayed away from
Maxwell Church- that was the last place I wanted to be found.
“She lit up a candle, and she showed me the way…” Since I couldn’t get off
L2- I ended up living on the streets- in the same position as I had been
when my parents died. But, by then I had enough experience to know better
than to sit around moping. I knew how to steal, how to drive and how to live
my life without the help of others. And, of course, everyone loved me (well,
except the people I stole from, I guess)- who couldn’t? I was the little
rascal victim of large fire, wearing the same priests habit every day- with
a little braid trailing down my back much like it does today. It was then,
running around stealing, that I hit it lucky. I found myself a home.