On Foot In The Snow



Scene Title On Foot, In The Snow
Synopsis Some people will set a building on fire, just to watch it burn.
Date January 23, 2011

New Jersey

There's a very distinct sound that aluminum kerosene cans make when they're sloshing full with liquid and spilling it out everywhere. It's the first time Howard Phillips has ever heard it, but the smell of fuel and the sting of cold air on his cheeks makes him feel more alive than he has in months.

Snow is soaked a pale amber color behind a two story metal-walled warehouse perched on the harbor in Jersey City. Just three blocks from where one of the Vanguard once held an outpost, the offices of Hudson Electronics is a Spartan manufacturing floor where personal computer circuit boards are constructed by hand. On a Sunday, no one is here.

No one except Howard.

Kerosene stink fills the back lot behind the factory, where is drips through the drainage holes in the bottom of a dumpster filled with cardboard, broken down wooden crates, garbage bags and other incendiary items. Throwing the empty can aside with a clunk, Howard wipes his brow with the back of his sleeve. Breathing in deeply, he exhales a lungful of cold air as a heated gout of steam.

"Ain't never gonna get nothin' done lest I do it m'self," Howard grouses to himself, turning around to pick up a five gallon plastic gasoline container, carrying it by the handle as he pushes his way in through the back door propped open with a brick. The window on the door is smashed open, security alarms have already started going off, silently. He doesn't much care.

Inside of the warehouse, the stick of gasoline and flammable fluids fills the air. Some purchased at a gas station, others siphoned out of cars. Howard had to learn at a young age how to get gasoline out of automobiles, how to find fuel wherever it could be scraped together. He learned what things burned, how they burned, at what temperature they ignited. It was all necessary, he was a living ignition.

Walking into the middle of the warehouse, Howard's sneakers track gasoline in each footstep as he sloshes some out of the yellow nozzle of the gas can. It's sprayed up some of the machines, poured down onto the carpet, sloshes up the sheet-rock walls. Walking into one of the offices, Howard pours gasoline out onto a desk, pools it around the base of a copying machine, then throws the empty plastic can at the computer monitor with a grunt of effort.

The monitor is knocked off of the desk, swinging around on the tether of its cables to smack into the desk's legs.

"Fuck you!" Howard screams to the air, his voice ringing off of the office walls. "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" His voice cracks, throat hurts, breath jets out of his mouth as a visible puff of steam on the chilly air. Whirling around, Howard curls his fingers beneath the lip of a folding table laid out with delicate computer components, flipping the table upside down with a clatter and crash.

He rages past the table, stomping down on the hardware, his scream rising in the back of his throat and irises glowing a soft blue for the barest of moments, right up until a spark becomes visible between two of his fingers. Howard stops, all but freezes in place save for the rapid rise and fall of his chest in heavy breathing.

Gasoline fumes ripple in the air, Howard's throat works up and down into a tight swallow, and his fingers clench into tight fists. Trying to calm himself down, Howard sucks back a wet sniffle, blinking tear-filled eyes open and closed before he starts to walk backwards out of the machine shop, blue eyes flitting from one piece of machinery to the other, sneakers squeaking wet with gasoline with each step.

As he hurries out of the building, Howard's pace picks up as he feels a heat burning in his hands, feels a tingle running down his spine and behind his eyes. His chest begins to shudder, eyes wrench shut, fingers curl tightly closed and another spark ignites off of his arm. Rushing to the door, wedged open as it is, an arc of electricity leaps off of Howard's clenched right hand, striking the gasoline with a whuff of blue-tinged flames that race across the floor in a rolling carpet of fire.

Flames catch carpet, crawl up curtains and burn paperwork and upholstery without prejudice, hungrily. Getting out of the warehouse door, Howard's knees quake and his muscles burn. Steam vents out of his mouth and electricity leaps from his hands, irises now glowing a vibrant blue. A keening, frightened noise squeaks in the back of his raw throat.

Collapsing down onto his knees in the snow, Howard slouches back to his in his heels, muscles twitching and arms shaking, snapping bolts of electricity dancing up and down his shaking arms. Blonde hair begins to stand on end from a static charge, and Howard slouches onto his side in the snowbank, even as flames become visible through the windows of the warehouse.

Tears well up in his eyes as he rolls onto his back, legs kicking and back arching, fingers curling at the air as another jolt of electricity leaps from his body to the snow. Howard's mouth opens to scream, but the only sound that comes out is an electric crackle and a digital buzzing sound. His skin lights up as electricity courses beneath his flesh, eyes wrench shut, and wires that look like veins are dark beneath back-lit flesh.

From two blocks away, a pillar of lightning is visible blasting upwards towards the sky like a beacon. Multiple bolts twisting together unnaturally, accompanied by no sound of thunder. There is only the blue flash, the arcs and forks, the snap and crackle too localized to be heard from far away.

Howard's scream, however, will haunt the homeless that live in Jersey City for days to come.

Nothing human could have made that sound.

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