The Bone Fire

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I am sitting in my living room, the TV turned on to the nightly news, but it’s muted. I made sure to mute it when I heard the sirens coming from down the street.
I’m thinking about how short seventeen years really are. So far I only lived for seventeen summers, of which I can probably remember twelve or thirteen. I wasted them. It’s funny how easily it can be taken away.
The phone rings and I jump. Reminiscing is infinitely better to do in a quiet room rather than a loud one. I answer the phone before the second ring, even though I know my parents have already heard it.
“Hello?” I say.
“It’s over. They already have Kevin and Jala. They’re here for me now. I can hear the police talking to my parents,” the answer came. Her voice was so lovely and sweet. I felt another wave of remorse wash over me. Not just for what I, what we, did. I felt remorse for the fact that none of would be together again. It really was over.
“It’s—We tried, babe,” I say. Even I can hear the disparity and resignation in my voice, though I try to keep it out. “Two months. I thought we’d gotten away with it.”
“Me too.” I hear people in the background, getting louder. I hear her mother cry out and her father cursing. “They’re taking me, Luke. I love you.”
“I love you too, Ashley.”
Ashley lives only three doors down from me. That means I have no time to run, to try to escape inevitable doom. They’ll be here, waking my parents out of their slumber, if they weren’t already awake because of the phone. I hear a creak from the stairs.
“Luke?” my Dad asks.
“Yeah?” I say
“What are you still doing up? You have school in the morning.”
“I know. I was just studying for a chemistry test that’s tomorrow.” Not an entire lie because I really was before I got word of the cops cracking down on our little group. “Listen, Dad, I need to tell you something—”.
Knock-Knock-Knock!
Too late, I think.
“Now, who could that be? Hold on, son.” He goes over to the door and opens it up, revealing three cops standing on the porch.
“Mr. Marshland?” one of the cops asks
“Yes. What’s going on?”
“Is your son Lucas home?”
My dad steps aside and I step forward.
“I’m Office Ramsey. You are under arrest for the murder of Zachary Lieb.”
“How’d you catch us?” I ask as he handcuffs me. No Miranda rights had been read to me yet.
“The best thing about this case is that we worked on it for two months with out a lead. Then, on of your group steps forward and tells us the whole thing.”
“Who was it?”
“I’m not privy to that information. Sorry, kid.”
I sighed. It had to have been Kevin. We all knew that he was taken first, but everyone else was able to call around, let the others know what was going on. He didn’t.
“What’s going on?” my Dad asks, fear in his voice.
The steps creak again and my Mom steps onto the stairs. She sees me in handcuffs and the shouting begins.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————
“It was just a joke at first,” I say. “We really didn’t mean anything by it. I mean, we’ve all been friends for ages. Why would we want to kill a friend? But that’s not the point, I know. If we were friends for so long, then how come we didn’t know? The only reasonable thing I can think of is that this is a small town and that the small towns usually have the largest secrets. Our little group, or gang as you calling it, just made a new secret. You obviously found out, though, just like we found out about Zack’s.
“The woods surround the town, you know that. You also know kids like to hang out in them, going as deep as possible. Believe me you this, they are incredibly deep.”
I sighed, “We made the plan up years ago. Ashley, Jala, Zack, Cortland, Kevin, and I. You’ve met us all before. I can’t say that I knew your name before tonight, but I’ve seen you. Jala and Cortland always dressed like they were punks but they were really just posers. I love them to death, but they’re definitely straight edge. Then Ashley and Zack are the town geeks. Ashley’s beautiful and could probably out shine any of the girls at school, but she reads. You can’t read and be popular. Zack and Ashley were most like to get into Harvard. Finally, there was Cortland and I, the town athletes. We’re a makeshift group, but we’ve all been friends since our parents had us. So, when we got to high school, we knew we’d drift. We made a pact to meet in the woods, once or twice a month, at the same spot, all because we wanted to stay friends. We wouldn’t ever become cold to each other. Pranks, petty insults, sure, but never cold. I want you to remember that, Detective.
“Ashley and I were the first to arrive. We always were. So, we started up the fire. Not a small, dinky one, but a large one, that towered over us. We loved it, loved knowing that we controlled the fire, but only just barely. Now that I think about it, it reminds me of how we lived our lives. ‘Cept, of course, we lost control of it, didn’t we?
“Jala, Kevin, and Cort all came next. We weren’t worried about Zack; we knew he’d show up. His parents jut treat him like he’s fragile so getting out of the house for a few hours is a huge deal for him. But, see, everyone treated Zack like he was made of glass. That’s what pissed Cort off so much. Cort is this town’s football star. Zack, well, he plays on the tennis team, but everyone loves and treats him with more respect that Cort.
“So, after a few jokes and pranks, Cort comes up with an idea. ‘Let’s scare Zack’ he said. We all looked at each other and just shrugged. Why not, right?”
I pause and take a sip of water and then continue. “I suggested throwing Jala’s blanket over his head. See, Jala is always cold. She’s always wearing two hoodies and, even with a blazing bonfire the size of a shed, she still had a blanket to cover her legs. No one had any ideas on what to do after we threw the blanket, but we decided to ‘go with the flow’. We knew that throwing a blanket over a kid while he’s walking towards a fire in the middle of the dark woods would scare him, but we didn’t know how much. Or…” I look down at my hands, intertwining and breaking apart, “maybe we did, but wanted it to be worse.”
“We heard him coming through the woods. For being such a scrawny kid, he made enough noise to wake up hibernating bears. We quickly walked away from the fire, splitting up and going off into the darker woods. Ashley wrapped around the fire and managed to get behind Zack. I was standing in the opposite direction and saw the look on Zack’s face. Pure confusion. My guess is that he knew we were somewhere, since none of us would leave such a big fire going. I remember laughing to myself about how funny this was gonna be.
“Ash jumped from her hiding spot and threw the blanket over Zack’s head. We all charged, carrying sticks, out of the woods. Zack fell to the ground, trying to get out of the blanket.
“We weren’t cold. We didn’t bludgeon the kid. We poked him and not even that hard! It was right about then that I realized this was wrong. But – the group’s excitement carried me, overrode what I really wanted to do, ya know?” I ask, expecting an answer, but the Detective just stares at me, nodding. I guess that is my cue to continue.
“We stopped after he quit thrashing around. We thought he was giving up, that he knew we’d stop if he stopped. ‘You okay, man?’ I asked. Then I took the blanket off of him.
“There was so much blood. So much! We all looked at each other, more confused than Zack probably was. On his body were tiny pricks, scratches, scrapes, and chunks of skin missing from where we poked him. ‘Oh, god man. Talk to me!’ I yelled at Zack. It was useless. We all knew it. His eyes, man, his eyes stared at us, but they weren’t seeing anything!
“ ‘Is he dead?’ Kevin asked. No one answered him. No one needed to. ‘We weren’t even beating him!’ Cort yelled. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say, really. ‘This can’t be happening. I just got into Harvard. This ruins it.’ Ash said.  She always though of herself, never anyone else, not when it really mattered. I love her, but she can be a total…”
I cut myself off, not wanting to blame this one everyone but me. “So, what do I do? I come up with the story. ‘He ran away. We never even saw him tonight. Someone grab his body.’ I picked up one end and Cort picked up the other. We gagged, but managed to throw his body onto the fire. I went around and grabbed all the sticks too. We stayed there, all night, watching the fire and body burn and become nothing but smoke in the air. We cried and screamed, but when the fire burned out, we grabbed the charred bones and buried them throughout the woods, as far away from the pit as possible,” I finish.
The Detective looks at me across the interrogation table and says, “So, you and you’re friends didn’t know that he was a—”
I interrupt him, “A hemophiliac? No, not until after. I was curious as to why he died so easily. I found out and told everyone. He was fragile. It all made sense after.”
“You just confessed to murder, son.”
“Have you ever killed someone?” I say and smile. “The worst part about this, even more worse than killing one of my best friends, is that after dwelling on it for two months, reliving it every day, over and over and over again….”
I let me sentence drop off.
“What?” the Detective asks.
“I kinda liked knowing that I was able to end life. I kinda liked killing.”

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