When fires flattened the city, residents called upon the worst of themselves in the name of survival—robbing for protection, murdering for sustenance, praying for the first time in their lives. Cecil didn’t believe in God, but he enjoyed seeing families on their knees on the street, asking the sky for help and forgiveness as windows shattered above them raining glass shards and bodies. He admired those who had faith in spite of all the evidence before them that God either didn’t exist or didn’t care.
Everyone needs something to get them through. Cecil knew that as well as anyone, maybe better than anyone. Some put it in their veins or lungs and some take it from others leaving a bloody hole where the dupe’s passion lived. Those with faith, however, they didn’t need anything but a place to kneel. Cecil liked that.
He’d been one of those dupes once. The girl he met last summer while working at the ice cream parlor cradled his passion, then stole away with it like a highwayman robbing a traveler on a grim stretch of road.
Cecil imagined there were a great many dupes like him darting through the streets, hiding around corners, their instinctual survival switch permanently stuck on “flight.” They were the weak ones, the slowest of the herd.
But, not him. He didn’t flee. Cecil simply sat on the curb, waiting for the end. In embracing that inevitable outcome—the only conclusion to the journeys of fools and chumps—he felt freedom from the clenched grip of his own existence. Whether by villain or disaster, his path ended here at the base of Gardenview Towers on 27th Street.
He tilted his head up to look at the bright flames erupting from the apartment building above. To the few frightened people who ran past, it looked like he was praying. He smiled as embers lifted to the darkened sky and mixed with the faint stars.
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