Friday, July 13, 2012

Crab Mentality (FINALE)

June 30, 2010 (5pm)
I got to get him out of my way to the cafeteria, Chalano thought as he clicked the light switch. A light bulb that had been hanging to the roof of the cave came to life, and revealed walls and ceiling that were made of uneven rock. Rumors had it that a frat member had dug beneath a huge part of the campus as a hobby.
Cole walked toward him, but Cole no longer looked like John. He had transformed into his real appearance; the skinny, effeminate Collifer Moneto. But he had burns all over his head and body, and his left eyebrow was missing. “Surprise, Charlie,” he said. “The kid at the orphanage always made fun of my appearance. I was so hurt, so I burned both of us. He died, but I didn’t. I just turned into him.”
Chalano retreated. “You, I don’t want to be you,” Cole angrily said. “I don’t want to be anything like you.”
Chalano was no longer listening. He was actually calculating the length of time in which Callon could find them … if he knew how to find them.
Chalano focused on Cole again. Too late. Cole had picked up a rock, and was going to bang it on Chalano’s head. Chalano instinctively avoided the blow. He could hear the rock hiss past his ear as it missed him. He stepped back. The rock was coming toward him again. He dodged. And then he realized that Cole had trapped him in a corner of the cave. There was no way for escape. Knowing that he had the advantage, Cole attempted another hit with the rock. Suddenly, Chalano went to the ground, and crawled between Cole’s legs to escape. Cole turned around to chase him, but he stopped to punch Cole’s face. Cole collapsed to the ground, but pulled his leg before he managed to run. He fell to the ground, and both of them quietly remained on the soil in pain and exhaustion. As they began to stand up, Cole took something silver from his pocket. With a click, it revealed itself to be a knife. Chalano suddenly moved back when Cole swung it toward his face. Cole kept moving the knife toward Chalano as he stood up, and chased Chalano. The blade made its own sounds as it sliced through the air.
Both of them were exhausted. Cole had been chasing him with that knife for minutes, always forcing him to stay away from the tunnel to the cafeteria. Same movement each time. Chalano could already predict him. Suddenly, Chalano stopped, grabbed his knife-holding hand, and banged him against the solid wall. Cole realized it only when he had fallen to the ground. As Cole tried to get back up, something flowed out of his pocket. Slow liquid. It spread on his clothes, and reached his other pocket. It sparked into a flame. In a few seconds, it turned into a huge fire. Cole was engulfed in flames. He screamed, and tried to remove the flames from himself. Chalano stared in shock … Shall I help? Chalano thought. Why help someone who has destroyed so many lives for his selfish reasons? But why let someone die before me? Cole stopped moving, and the flames covered his whole body. Chalano found it hard to believe that something that seemed so powerful could end so quickly. So simply. Ended by him. The devil who had menaced more than one town for weeks was gone. He was supposed to feel like a hero, but there was something about killing everyone’s killer that was … scary. He stiffly walked backward from Cole’s burning body, and then turned to leave. He just wanted to go home.
“You’re not supposed to leave me here, “ Cole yelled. He was still alive. Chalano turned. Cole was already charging at him with his knife even though the flames were burning him. He was too near for Chalano to avoid getting stabbed. Gunshot. A bullet hole appeared on Cole’s forehead, and he froze a few inches away from Chalano. Cole collapsed to the ground, and continued burning. Chalano looked behind him. Callon was standing beside the tunnel; he had shot Cole.
Chalano saw the fire finish Cole. Callon walked to Chalano, and reassuringly placed his hand on Chalano’s shoulder. As they watched, Chalano asked, “What type of chemical is it that burns someone so quickly and completely?”
“Whatever it is,” Callon calmly said as he gently pulled Chalano away from Cole’s ashes, “It got destroyed with him, and that’s better than allowing it to be taken by another dangerous pair of hands.”
Chalano and the policeman walked to the tunnel to the cafeteria.

The street that used to be full of kids at that time of the day was suddenly full of adults who had unique occupations. The firemen fixed their equipment. The policemen kept everything in order as the blinkers of their cars kept blinking. Somewhere beyond the roadblock, the reporters and their cameramen were trying to get into the area.
Callon guided Chalano out of the ambulance as the boy struggled with a pair of crutches that the paramedics had given to him for temporary use (“Your knee just needs rest to heal,” one of them had said). His mother had been waiting outside the ambulance. She looked like she had been crying. She hugged him very tightly. “Thank God, you’re alive,” she said, and kissed her son on the forehead.
After a long hug, she finally let go of him. He was surprised to see Emma walking to them. Emma happily told him, “You’re lucky; Kim told us everything! He told the police about the water wells and the tunnel beneath them.”
Chalano asked, “Where is he?”
“He’s in their car,” Emma replied, motioning to a black Toyota Vios that was parked nearby. “His mother drove your mother and Douglas here, and they’ve been waiting for you.”
“Thank you,” was all that he could say as Callon told him to hurry up, guiding him to Kim’s car. They passed through the groups of rescue personnel and investigators. One of the paramedics had his TV phone tuned in to the news, “The whole school was burned, but no one died except the arsonist.” Another man had his radio tuned in to an AM station, “A 15-year-old boy named Chalano Marchus, the arsonist’s former member in his gang, Coal, tried to negotiate with Moneto, causing Moneto to retaliate, and eventually burned him by accident."
    Chalano glanced at his mother, who was walking with him. She gently patted his back, calmly saying, “Don’t worry. That was 3 years ago. I always had the feeling that you did something very, very bad, and that you absolutely regretted doing it.”
They reached the car, and Callon helped him to the backseat beside Kim. Chalano’s mother and Callon stayed outside, talking with Kim’s mother. Chalano asked Kim, “Are you alright?”
Kim, who had a wounded back, asked back, “Do you think that I could help the police make a map of the tunnel if I wasn’t alright?”
Chalano didn’t respond. Kim seemed annoyed.
   “I always thought that we had a lot in common,” Kim said. “I trusted you. I never thought that the person who I went to school with everyday was like that …”
“I’m sorry. I’ve always regretted all those things. I just wanted to have a friend. I thought that people would ostracize me if they knew who I was.”
Chalano opened the door of the car, and took his crutches. “Hey,” Kim said. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“My mother and I can walk home,” Chalano said as he went out. “I understand you. You’ve never been this serious.”
“Get back into the car. Since when did I become serious, Chalano?”
Chalano peered into the car to look at Kim’s face, and then both of them laughed. Chalano got back into the car, asking, “Friends?”
“Friends,” Kim replied. “The only thing that I’m asking for is that you become honest. I tell you my secrets; you tell me your secrets.”
“Sure. From now on.”
“Also, have mercy on dogs. Did you know that they are actually ---“
Chalano’s mother reached into the open door of the car. She handed Douglas to Chalano. He took the soft creature, hugged him, and told Kim, “Man’s best friend?”
Kim smiled without saying anything. Chalano’s mother and Kim’s mother went into the car. Callon leaned into the car through the open window beside Chalano’s mother, advising, “Take the route to Manlo Street on your way home, so that the media will not find you.”
As the car left Callon, Kim saw Emma leaving with her parents. “Emma actually chased us when we hurried into 4th Project Town High,” he explained. “She was in the campus when it burned. She found me when you left me lying on the burned door. She helped me go to the gate without getting hit by the debris.” Kim watched Emma walking away as he said, “She has the makings of a great leader.” He turned to Chalano, chuckling, “She’s brave, boy. Now, I understand why Cole never dared to touch her.”
As the car moved through the crowded street, Chalano looked at the people who they passed by. He felt new. For the first time in years, he felt like he was just like everyone. He felt like he really achieved something good.
When the car moved farther away, Chalano looked back at the school. One of the buildings had not been burned down. Flames appeared around it, but it didn’t burn. The flames turned into a huge ball of fire. Chalano felt an overwhelming sense of peace. “Farewell, Marchus,” Master said. “To kill an innocent animal like a loyal dog is an irrevocable sin, and you were supposed to live your whole life paying for what you did. But you paid for it whole on this day. You can live anew. Use your second chance wisely.”
The flames began to fade around the building. Chalano held his pet dog close to him. And Master turned into thin, white smoke.
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