Saturday, March 24, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 21)

June 14, 2010 (3:59pm)
                Chalano and Kim were walking home from school. They crossed Lincoln Street, and stopped at Kim’s house. Kim walked to their garage as he said goodbye. “Well, Kim,” Chalano said, and then he hesitated. Chalano couldn’t control his curiosity. “Can I go to the woods behind your house?”
                Kim stopped walking, and turned to Chalano. He looked puzzled about the question, but answered, “Sure. Why not?”
                “Okay. I’ll take only a few minutes.”
                “Anyone can go to the woods,” Kim said, chuckling to himself as he entered his house.
                Chalano went to the passage beside the garage, and walked through the woods. It was a sunny, quiet afternoon. There weren’t plenty of winds. Everything was still.
Something moved. Chalano suddenly looked behind him. Everything was as still as before. He kept walking. Swoosh! It passed above him. A bird? Something white. Where did it go? He looked around him. Paranoia was setting in, but he carefully stepped forward on the soil to continue walking.
                “Good day, Chalano Marchus.”
                The deep voice came from behind the trees. It came into view. A burning ball of fire. Floating. Flying. Toward Chalano.
                Chalano exclaimed in fright, and ran as fast as he could. He accidentally tripped, and he fell into a deep, grassy hole. “Ouch,” he exclaimed, frightened about how it was the same hole that Kim had fallen into in his dream.
                Chalano’s left leg was twisted. He was unable to run. He couldn’t even stand up. Grimacing in pain, he yelled above him, “What do you want from me?! Why do you keep tailing me?! What do you want?!”
                “Your help,” the deep voice calmly responded as the ball of fire floated above the hole.
                “What are you talking about?!”
                “I am the Master of all fires in this world. I rule over the fire element. Fire is meant to warm up, light up, and fuel. Fire is meant to work well with all of the other elements. But something has been misusing fire. It manipulates fire to destroy, kill, and spread evil. I must stop it. I need your help to stop it.”
                The voice was strong, and clear. Too clear. Chalano covered his ears. He could still hear it very clearly. It was speaking to his mind. “For all I know, you are the arsonist,” Chalano retorted. “So this is how you burn your victims. You tell them that you are the ruler of some ‘element’, and you flatter them by asking for their help. Okay, fine! So how may I help you, my ‘lord’?”
                “Sarcasm is a cover up for fear. You are trying to deny your fear, and you want me to deny your fear. In the process, you deny the truth. You deny what is going on. You deny the burnings and the killings.”
                Chalano angrily yelled at him, “Get out of your delusions! Maybe you just don’t want to deny them, because you’re behind them. Is that it?”
                To his disappointment, the voice calmly replied, “No. Something else has been doing them, and I need your help to stop it.”
                “What do you expect me to do? I cannot catch a criminal. I’m not a policeman.”
                “You think of yourself as less capable than you really are. You don’t have to catch it in order to stop it.”
                Chalano managed to get up. He walked away, saying, “So that’s what you want me to do, huh? You want me to sacrifice myself. Get lost! What if I sacrificed myself without saving anyone? You’re just fooling me. I can report you to the police. So stop talking to me!”
                “You can save everyone. You are as scared as everyone in this place. Your human instincts are correct. In the coming days, more people will die. Only you can stop it.”
                Chalano reached the level ground. He was walking with a limp. The fire was quietly following him. “Stop stalking me,” Chalano yelled. “Why don’t you just get out of my mind? Do you hear me? Get out of my mind!”
                Kim appeared from behind a tree. He was staring at Chalano, and asked, “Hey … why are you talking to yourself?”
                Chalano pointed at the fire to explain what had happened. But the fire was no longer there. Kim was correct. Chalano was, indeed, talking to himself. Trying to shift Kim’s focus, Chalano said, “My knee is wounded. I think that it’s broken. I fell into a hole.”
                “Oh, I should have told you that the woods are full of unpredictable holes,” Kim explained as he guided Chalano to his house. “I once fell into one when I was eight. I got a really huge bruise on my forehead.”
                “Really?”
                “Yeah. That was why I never went into the woods again,” Kim kept talking as they entered his house.

(6pm) 
                While the sun was still visible in the sky, Chalano checked the doors of the second floor of his house to make sure that they were locked. As he checked the double doors at the back, he glanced at the windows. The sky was yellow-reddish. The air was warm, as if it was afternoon. And then it dawned on him.
                His mother ran up the indoor stairs, screaming, “The neighbor’s house is on fire! Get your school things! Bring only the things that you really need! We’re leaving right now!”
                She hurried into her bedroom. Chalano ran into his bedroom. He took his schoolbag, opened it, collected his school things from the shelves, and put them into his schoolbag. The pencil holder fell to the floor when he took his eraser, and the pencils and pens spilled across the floor. He took two pencils, a black pen, and a red pen, and pushed the rest aside. There was no time to fix the mess. Only the things that you really need, he thought as he looked around his room in search for other things to bring. He looked at the trash can.
                His mother came out of her room. She had finished packing up, but she was carrying only her shoulder bag. “Hurry up, Charlie!”
                Chalano walked to the trash can, and took the manuscript. He finished packing up, and followed his mother down the stairs. Before the last step, Chalano looked back at the second floor. Why did it come to this? He’d never thought that they would have to leave this house. His father’s house. Their home. He turned, and followed his mother. They went out of the front door.
“Carry this to the car,” his mother ordered, giving her shoulder bag to him. “Put your bag into the baggage compartment, but put my bag on the front seat.”
                She locked the front door as Chalano --- still walking with a limp --- carried the bags to the car. She walked to the garage, and handed a huge padlock to her son. “This is how you’re going to do it,” she instructed as she bent down to speak to him. “Go to that gate, and open it. Wait for me to drive the car out. Once the car is outside, go out of the gate, close the gate, lock it with this, and get into the car. Is that clear?”
                Chalano nodded. He hurried to the gate as his mother got into their car. His mother used to do both opening the gate and driving the car through the garage, but, for some unknown reason, she allowed Chalano to help her that night.
                Fire trucks were speeding by as Chalano opened the gate. Their sirens sounded so irritating in the quiet neighborhood. His mother drove the car through the garage, Chalano locked the gate, and he got into the car.
                Their neighbors were panicking. They were getting almost all of their belongings. They were going to bring their refrigerators and chairs with them, and they were not even finished packing up yet. Chalano and his mother were the only ones who brought few bags.
                As the Marchuses’s car moved to the southwest, Chalano glanced at their neighbors, thinking, “Well, this is an emergency, not moving day.”
                His father had probably passed some military discipline to his family. They lived a “portable lifestyle”. They were always ready to go anywhere anytime without refrigerators and chairs.
                His mother was driving out of 4th Project Town.
                “Hey, aren’t we going to see the fire?”
                “No,” she answered. “We cannot bring this car to that area because we might just block the way of the fire trucks.”
                That made sense, but he couldn’t bear not looking at the fire. He felt like he was in the wrong place.

                All the lights looked so beautiful in the night. It was some kind of a huge shopping center in a town that was a few kilometers away from 4th Project Town. There were lots of malls. There was a building for a department store, and a different building for a market. There were many cars and people. Chalano had gone to this place only to buy books, or birthday cakes, but he had never visited this place on an evening before. It was so strange to see that so many people were still awake at night.
                They entered the wide parking space at the back, and parked under a very bright streetlight.
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