The storm had subsided its torrential downpour, reverting to bursts of mists, most of which the foliage above caught and dispersed unevenly below. The sky still flashed with rolls of thunder chasing and the wind, though also dying down, still nipped at the skin. The boy sat precariously against the mossy husk of a hollowed out log. His face was cut and bleeding, small pieces of glass still burrowed sporadically into his flesh. The pounding in his head made it impossible to concentrate as he attempted to recollect recent events.
Ahead of him, a car with its front end wrapped around a tree, windshield shattered, was on fire. The flames were intense and licked upwards, offering heat in the chilled night air. The car looked familiar, a cherry red Impala, like his mother used to... In sharp waves he remembered fleeing into the stormy night with his distraught mother, barreling down whatever back-road channels she thought safe to travel, being struck from behind and the car losing control.
In a panicky fit, the young man attempted to scramble to his feet, to get to the car to make sure his mother had escaped the burning vehicle. But his legs wouldn't respond, they just sat there splayed haphazardly, one straight out in front of him, the other cocked and bent inward at the knee. A putrid smell assaulted his nostrils. His heart rate quickened and he tried crying out for her, nothing but a choked moan leaving his lips. After another try, a slow drawn out croak called out into the fire-lit woods.
There was a shifting in the flickering blaze. A response to his groans, giving him a momentary pang of hope and relief. But from around the driver's side end of the car, stepping out from behind the metal-fused tree, a tall figure came into view. It wasn't his mother. The fire created dancing shadows, but exposed enough of the individual to provide a hazy profile. A white male of average height and build, dressed in a charcoal grey suit, a dark fedora shrouding most of his face.
"Oh, hey," the man's voice was both smooth, yet gravely, "I barely heard you over there, kid. I assumed you were already dead." The boy's eyes widened, seeing the revolver in the stranger's hand. The man seemed to notice and gave a slight shrug. "I was really hoping I could avoid using this tonight. Leads to too many questions."
"Mo... My mom..."
The man in the suit turned slightly, looking over his right shoulder. "Naw, kid. I didn't shoot your mom. Again, too many questions. Now fire..." The stranger hefted his other hand into the air, in its grasp was a dark red fuel can. "Now, fire isn't as conspicuous. Natural and all that jazz. I mean," he continued explaining, "if I do... did... a decent enough job."
"Why would you..." The young man attempted to move again, but he wasn't able to accomplish anything other than reach out towards the blaze, seeking any signs of his mother through tear-blurred eyes. There was the sharp creaking of metal mixed with a blast of thunder.
"I get it. Chances are you don't know a damn thing about what's going on. Who, or what, your mother was. What she's done. I'd imagine she kept those secrets to herself. But trust me when I say that I had no other choice but to make sure she didn't walk away from this accident." The man sighed loudly over the crackling fire, reaching up and adjusting his hat some. "Unfortunately for you, I've been told explicitly that there can't be any witnesses. No loose ends. You've probably watched enough movies in your lifetime to know what I'm saying, kid. Some of them tropes are true to life, ya know?"
Hunched over in a crying fit of anger, the young man was slowly beginning to register pain building in his body. A tense, dull flaring, that seemed intent on consuming him. His face began twisting, blood and tears running.
"In your case, fire wouldn't make any sense. More questions." The kid lifted his head towards the sound of the voice, but his eyes were scrunched shut. "I'm going to do you a solid, little man. You got fucked up from that impact. Tossed like a rag doll and now you're broken. You may have had adrenaline and shock masking it all for a while, but I can tell it's wearing off. You're about to be in a world of pain." He heard the stranger putting down the can of gasoline and walk towards him. "But it's your lucky day," the man expressed, a touch of humor laced in his voice. "I'm going to make this quick. One shot. No more pain for you, and I just have to transfer and dispose of your body elsewhere. Not gonna lie, that last bit is a huge pain in my ass." The kid opened his eyes to find the man squatting down, hovering over him, piercing blue eyes staring back at him. "But it's the only solution I got. It's still a win-win."
The wind was beginning to pick up again, and the chill crept into the boy's bones, as well as returning the scent of his mother's charred remains, even stronger than before. Wet, immobile, and in his spasm he was almost positive he was coughing up blood. The pain was beginning to completely wrack against him, intensifying. At least from the waist up. He couldn't feel anything below that. Lightning streaking the sky, he thought he caught a glimpse of someone. His mother. An apparition from beyond death sent to comfort him during his transition to the other side. But when the stranger stood up and took a pace back, there was nothing but flames and darkness.
The man in the suit stretched out his arm, gun pointed in his direction. "I know it's cliche and all, but nothing personal, kid."
"Nothing personal," a deep, distorted voice echoed from behind the man.
The stranger jumped, letting out a yell as he turned to face the newcomer. "What the fuck..."
Before he could finish his sentence, a figure was on him, landing punches across the stranger's chest and face. A blur of black and red. The stranger was knocked back towards the fire, stumbling but remaining upright, bringing his gun back out in front of him. His assailant grabbed his arm with one hand and landed another punch to the gut before twisting the man's wrist, stealing the gun away. In one fluid motion, the stranger's attacker kicked him back a final time before embedding two slugs from the revolver into his chest.
The shots rang out and echoed through the woods as the man in the suit flailed back and slumped to the ground, back against the same tree the Impala was wrapped around, the fire still raging behind him.
The teen stared at his savior, who dropped the gun and came to stand in front of him. The figure was completely naked and female in form, but most of their skin was ripped away, or burnt, exposing muscle and bone. She resembled the zombie artwork that filled the pages of the comics he read. As they stood there, though, he began to notice that their bones were being covered by muscle and skin, as if it was spontaneously growing. Her charred skin began to flake away, being replaced by a fleshy tint.
After a few more moments passed in silence, his pain all but forgotten, the naked, hairless form of a woman took shape in front of his eyes. His mother, all evidence of being burned alive extinguished from the transformation, looked down at his broken body. He was unable to speak. Unable to fathom what had just transpired.
She offered him a small, soft smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. "There are some things we need to talk about. Things that you may not understand, but need to hear. Things that must be kept between just you and I."
In a pain-induced stupor, the boy nodded absentmindedly, certain he was dreaming or already dead, before exhaustion overwhelmed him.
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