Burning Rage, Part 1

The acrid smell of moldy, decomposing wood filled the air. Savine breathed deeply, welcoming the scent. Noise from the crowd escalated as stragglers tossed the last of the decaying timber onto the voluminous pile.
Tonight, the siblings would perform their own ritual.

Savine Marek studied the open matchbook in her hand. Twenty red match heads atop flat cardboard sticks stood straight and even in four perfect rows like slender soldiers—small and fragile, yet powerful. One swipe across the striker and each one of the harmless strips would combust. With one tiny match, she could create a raging inferno.

In front of her, as twilight descended, a hulking pyre grew toward the heavens. Outstretched fingers of fetid, rotting wood reached higher and higher as students and alums piled on discarded lumber and other combustible debris to create the traditional homecoming bonfire at Lake Jackson Technical College.

Savine’s twin brother, Wallace, stood next to her. As he gazed at the burgeoning pyramid, his tongue flitted out of his mouth to dab his lower lip. His right hand clenched a bottle of lighter fluid. His grip was so tight that the sides of the plastic container flexed in and out beneath his fingertips. The result was a staccato tattoo that Savine could hear despite the chatter from the throng.

The acrid smell of moldy, decomposing wood filled the air. Savine breathed deeply, welcoming the scent. Noise from the crowd escalated as stragglers tossed the last of the decaying timber onto the voluminous pile. The October sky had darkened to deep blue, and the brightest stars in the southeast Texas sky were visible. She rubbed the back pocket of her jeans, checking for the folded parchment. The petition was there. She knew it would be. But fingering its slight bulk comforted her, assured her they made the right decision. Tonight, the siblings would perform their own ritual.

“Are you ready?” she asked him.

“Oh, yeah,” Wallace replied.

She appraised her brother. His straight black hair, disheveled and greasy, touched the tops of his brows and drooped over his ears. He grinned, and his lips quivered. His dark brown eyes exuded a brightness that lapped at the edge of hysteria. He shifted from foot to foot and flexed the lighter fluid bottle even faster. His tongue darted in and out of his lips. She thought of a lizard, lurking and ready to leap in an instant. Like her matches, one strike would release the conflagration within him.

Savine heard the high-pitched squeak of a loudspeaker system. The congregated mass parted, and someone carried a crude effigy to the mammoth tower of wood. The macabre caricature, wearing a helmet and a midnight blue and tangerine jersey, represented their opponents, the football players from Brazoria State University. Affixed to a tall pole, it hovered over everyone, then floated upward as its bearer hoisted the figure to the top of the wooden assemblage. At the peak, the effigy became a pinnacle that represented an unnamed adversary, relegated to a fiery demise.

An ache filled Savine as she observed the procession. It brought uninvited memories to her consciousness. Her chest contracted, constricting her lungs. She turned toward her brother.

“I really don’t hate them all, you know.”

Wallace nodded. “I know. I don’t either. Just him.”

Around her, the horde of students chanted in unison, spurred by the single amplified voice that floated above the din. Their mantra reverberated in her skull. “Beat Brazoria. Beat Brazoria.” Wallace compressed his bottle of lighter fluid and then relaxed his fingers—over and over, faster and faster—until its flexing rhythm synchronized with the mob’s vocalization. Savine heard him shout his own intonation in unison. “Burn the asshole. Burn the asshole.” Her gut heaved, stricken by the same hurt that provoked Wallace’s grim words, and bile seared her throat.

In mid-August, at the start of the fall semester, Savine was sitting with Wallace at the local coffee shop when she spotted the tall, muscular blonde wearing a Brazoria football jersey. He walked over to their table and slid into an empty chair.

“Savine! Wallace! I’m surprised to see y’all here.” He grinned as he set his paper coffee cup on the table and settled in.

The young athlete from Brazoria State wasn’t a stranger. He grew up in their small east Texas town of Shipton. They attended the same schools and knew the same people.

Savine sucked in air, willing herself to appear nonchalant, and smiled at him. “Hi Skip. We didn’t expect to see you, either.”

“It’s like a high school reunion,” he said. “I don’t run into many people I know. Brazoria recruited me for the football team, and practice keeps me busy. Way too busy, if you ask me.” He leaned back in his seat and focused his attention on Savine. “So, tell me, what’s going on? Y’all go to Brazoria, too?”

“No. Wallace and I take classes at Lake Jackson Technical College,” Savine said, answering for the both of them. “We share a two-bedroom apartment here in town.”

As Skip eased into a light conversation, Savine’s mind wandered. For her, sitting with Skip Denton felt surreal. He had been their high school’s superstar: the winning pitcher on the baseball team and the football team’s celebrated quarterback. He wasn’t someone who joined the Marek twins for coffee.

No one knew his given name. For as long as Savine could remember, everyone called him Skip. It fit him. He gamboled through life as though it were easy. Their lives, in comparison, were complex and difficult. His playfulness drew people to him, and they found solace in his effervescence. He made existence bearable.

Like everyone else acquainted with Skip, Savine was lured by his free spirit. She yearned for more than a sliver of his attention. But her brother, she knew from his occasional comments, idolized Skip. To Wallace, he was a superstar—gifted, revered, and as unattainable as a god. For him, being in Skip’s presence was to transcend the mundane world and enter utopia.  

Later, Savine would realize neither she nor Wallace really knew Skip. The Marek twins had trusted their familiarity with him was enough, but it wasn’t. And when the realization hit them, it was too late.

Wallace stared up at the conglomeration of wood, his features contorted with savage fierceness as he shouted in tandem with the crowd. His body radiated waves of fury. As she stood beside him, Savine felt the heat from her brother’s anger and sensed the pressure rising within him, like a volcano on the verge of eruption. Fearing the consequences from such an explosion, she leaned toward him and gripped his arm.

“Even though he hurt us, we both need to move on.”

Wallace ceased his shouts, and his features hardened into a scowl. Savine shuddered. “We both agreed casting a spell is enough,” she pleaded. “Please Wallace, you promised me.”

He spun toward his sister, then remained motionless as he studied her. Wallace’s brown eyes were black in the waning daylight. The steady tone from the lighter fluid bottle ceased, and Savine sensed resentment building within her brother.

“My request is reasonable,” she persisted.

“You think throwing that piece of paper into the fire and reciting a verse will punish him?” he responded. The flatness of his voice belied his outrage.

Savine rubbed the folded parchment in her back pocket. “We’re petitioning for a powerful consequence. He will always feel desire, but won’t be able to ease it. The curse will break him, emasculate him.”

She paused, contemplating Skip Denton’s offense.

“No one will ever want him again. Ever,” Savine continued. “It’ll gnaw at him, frustrate him, until he dies. A living, never-ending hell for someone like him.”

“So that’s all we do, the curse shit?” He flexed the lighter fluid bottle.

“We’ve petitioned for curses before. It’ll work, Wallace. Otherwise, there’s no justice for what he did.”

To be continued.

Check out Part 1 of “Burning Rage.” The acrid smell of moldy, decomposing wood filled the air. Savine breathed deeply, welcoming the scent. Tonight, the siblings would perform their own ritual.

Written by Allorianna Matsourani
Copyright 2022

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