Lilac Fire This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 13, 2011
I am sick, because behind my house smells like spoiled eggs and pond scum. My stomach feels like things are inside it, worms or crawly spiders spinning webs. The storm moves the branches back and forth. I mash my teeth together at the sound of it, my front tooth pushing into a gap where my old one used to be. In my head, the forest is a billion shiny forks scratching across empty plates. It hurts too much to think.
But I can’t stop. I’m choking on nothing. I sit down in sticky mud and kick off my shoes into the grass. The lights that save me from the unknown dark are the white zigzags in the sky, real loud and real fast. The storm reminds me of my dog, shaking my sister Maggie’s ten-cent dolls in his drooling mouth. I push my shivering feet into the lake with the all the unseen rotten smells. I am sick, and this time, mom can’t kiss my bruise or give me cola for my stomach. Something huge is stuck in my throat and makes my body squish into a tiny blob. Through the diamond space of my arms and knees, I watch flowers get pulled into the lake. Lilac, my mom’s favorite flower, mixed together with fall leaves. My arms pull myself in as tight as I can.
It had happened less than an hour ago, when the sun was just setting. I was sitting on the sidewalk outside of my house with four kids from the neighborhood. Mom and Maggie had gone for groceries. I wasn't friends with these kids, well, not really. They were the kinds you saw at school and stayed away from in the lunch line. When they asked, I couldn't say no.

Tommy, the leader, he was the one that started it. He pulled them out of his shirt pocket with a mean smile.
“Well, what else is there to do?” They said, almost at the same time. Inside the three plain white boxes were rows of thin sticks with blood round ends. They were a different kind of gun Mom said.

When I slid the little drumstick across the pad for the first time, my eyes widened. I flicked one by one into the open street with the others, staring at the ball of fire that I made come and go. On the third round, I watched Tommy stick a match in an ant hill. Slide, light, and flick were now my breakfast, lunch and dinner. My hands moved without thinking. I threw the match into the air and didn’t see her. Nobody saw her, until it happened. A girl about six or seven was walking down the street, too close in. She carried a white heart-shaped box with a Happy Birthday balloon tied to it. She hadn't noticed me either.
Then she must have felt the heat on her legs. Fire bugs crawling. She dropped the box, glanced down at her lilac flower print dress burning through to her milky legs and shrieked with a ghost voice. The dress was paper thin. The fire moved like liquid. I was silent, stood still, stuck watching her fight this thing. When I remembered, I yelled in the boys’ faces, taking their matches and waving my hands at the burning girl. They took one look at the battle and saw that the girl would lose. Tommy’s permission wasn’t needed to run away.
It was traveling up her legs and arms now, because she had tried to pat it out with her hands. She ran in circles like the kinds of animal’s I’ve only seen in zoos. It wasn’t until after I had gone inside for water, only to realize that I didn’t know where Mom kept the bucket, that I saw from the kitchen window her face in the flames: reds, browns, the black skin of her body while she cried. The neighbors had run outside and were soaking her cigarette hair with water, but it was too late. She was flat in the middle of the road, some parts still on fire. I remember when I ran away to the woods; her body was the same color as the thunderstorm sky.
Sitting in a ball at the lake, I watched the leaves fall from trees like parachute army men, dropping down into the black water. Did the leaves know that there was no reason to float down? Did they know they were already dead? The lilac petals drowned at my feet. It was the wind, the wind, the wind. Not me.

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