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The Best 4th of July Ever!
And brilliant flashes of gold burst with passionate cries. Once spent, they bloomed, shimmering shrapnel falling gently, lingering in the night sky. The crowd, tourists and locals alike gave admiring gasps. The blasts were so vibrant. And so close to the ground! Little children wiped away their sniveling tears (well, golly, those things were loud!) and watched, quietly impressed. It was the most spectacular Fourth of July. The audience remembered it for the rest of their lives.
So did those setting off the display, but for a very different reason. There were six people on scene. Some are important and shall be named. The rest shall be numbered as that’s all the story requires.
One and Three were screaming. The flames licking up Three’s trousers as the inferno devoured One’s face, starting from his collar. His rolling about proved fruitless, and One’s cries turned to garbled moans soon enough. Three was still dragging himself along though, tears drying swiftly in the heat.
At the far end of the tightly shorn field, Two was running, her orange hair flying out behind her. She hiked her skirt up above her knees. The light blue dress had been special, for this occasion. For Four actually, not that she actually called him Four, or that anyone other than you and I call him Four. But I said I’d number the unimportant ones, and I stand by that decision. The dress, her (previously) intricate hairstyle, her (now abandoned) elegant shoes, even her (mud covered and chipped) scarlet nail polish and matching (smudged) lipstick, had been for him. She’d fancied him, in a very past sense. She’d fancied him before he’d turned into the vile thing that was currently chasing her.
Two could hear its labored breathing and smell its hot, smelly breath on her heels. Even as she ran, she began to cry. Her overflowing eyes blurred causing a misstep that earned her a rough hello with the ground. Two curled, tucking her head, covering her eyes, sweat and tears running down her face. Surely the end was coming.
Salvation came as a soft thunder, rising until the sneakered feet were flying over her. Emily leapt between Two and Four, grasping her blade. Had she been in times when swords were used conventionally, her dull dagger would have been useless. But this was modern day, and the edge was still sharp enough if one drove it home with enough strength. Emily possessed the appropriate muscle and the beast’s head went flying. She slid the weapon back into its scabbard and offered her hand to Two.
Two did not take her hand. Instead, she screamed, “You b****! Y-you killed (Four)! You're psychotic!”
Emily’s heart rose into her throat, a deep breath sent it back to her chest, “I didn’t kill (Four), I killed what killed (Four). Now please just come with me, I’m trying to save you.”
The, understandably, upset woman got to her feet, ignoring Emily’s outstretched hand, “He was still in there, I could see (Four’s) face. His eyes.” She broke down crying again.
“No, you don’t understand, he wasn’t human,” Emily was trying to be patient.
“Yes he was! You probably want to hold on to the illusion that you’re the hero, that you’re going to save us all and earn the love of the entire town. But you’re really just selfish and a murderer.”
“Look, please shut up. I’m just trying to help you.”
Two would not shut up, she could tell she had struck a nerve and she wanted something she could fight to blame for this traumatic event. Emily presented a convenient target, “You’re deluded. You are a pathetic, deluded, blood thirsty-”
“Shut up!” Emily shouted, balling up her fists as she advanced on the, frankly, off-kilter Two. Almost no seventeen year old who has just been thrust into such a harsh world can handle being called vicious and evil. Emily was not an outlier in that category.
Self-righteous passion overwhelmed any sense in Two and she lashed out. Her slap struck Emily by surprise and she jerked back. Cornered, cheek stinging, instinct to over. Emily’s fist shattered the woman’s nose. As Two stumbled backwards, tripping over that same rock for a second time, word’s spilled from Emily almost of their own accord.
“I didn’t kill (Four). He was already dead. I killed the monster that was going to rip you a new one! I! Am! Not! A murderer! You ungrateful b****!” Curse words, previously only used in jest felt odd to apply seriously. Emily’s voice still trembled a little, but anger wasn’t paralyzing like guilt. Her lower lip was quivering, but Emily clung to her belief stubbornly. Heart still pounding in her ears, she grabbed Two by the arm and hauled her along behind her.
“I am not a killer,” she muttered, “I’m not. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not....”