Micro Story #1: Wood and Oil
Updated: May 6, 2022
The streetlights just turned on and have become the foreword to my death.
I stand in Brandon Whitaker’s yard. My arms are stitched to my side, the oil-slicked threads are tightly woven through the dense fiber of my skin. The oil will ignite if I make any sudden movements, or at least that is what the demon called Brandon told me when he poured it over my body. I don’t have the courage to test this.
The yard is large enough to fit fifty of those like me. I only know this because there are exactly fifty square pieces of metal scattered across the grass like silver beacons. Which is what they are: beacons. I smelled them all the way in Nashville. One hundred and sixty miles away.
They smell like my blood, like sweet and sticky sap.
I arrived seven hours before this moment. Hungry, lost, nearly rotten. I knew it was a trap (they always are) but I thought the desperation would give me an edge over my trapper. I did not count on my trapper being Brandon Whitaker himself.
They say he calls himself a Kindling Torch. I had heard worse slurs, but the oil is new. The oil is impressive, I'll give them that. Humans have been coming up with inventions to eradicate my people for generations. Luckily the big hitters are easy to spot...er, to smell. I can smell gasoline from much further than one hundred and sixty miles. I can smell every drop of gasoline on this side of the planet. Which was why –
Don’t move, I tell myself. I can see Brandon with at least two of his friends in my peripheral vision. They each have a bottle of shitty beer in their hands and a firecracker in their back pockets.
“Jeddy? Where the hell are you?” Since I can hear his voice, he's within a certain distance of me. He told me once the exact distance but the number escapes me in this moment of pure fucking crisis.
“Caldwin.” My voice is as thin a whisper as I can make it. I don't move my eyes from the same place they’ve looked since my arrival: the church. “Have to. Quiet.”
“Shit Jeddy. Where are you? I’ll find you. Give me the name of the town. Just the name.”
I fight not to close my eyes in shame. I knew the history of this town. It was my history too.
“You...dammit, Jeddy. Your skin is wood and you went to the birthplace of –”
“Please,” I whisper. I hear the strain in my voice. The desperation. The indignity.
“I’m almost there.”
So here I stand, in Brandon Whitaker’s yard, staring past a fence at Bethesda Presbyterian Church. It was the hospital the Confederates used. It was where I was born. And as Brandon Whitaker and his friend start to walk toward me, matches in their hands, I realize it is where I will die.