The Matchstick Boy - Finale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Finale of The Matchstick Boy.

Submitted: September 25, 2010

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Submitted: September 25, 2010

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The world took on a drab, gray hue after Tommy left the Camp; it seemed like the beginning of a new chapter that was written by another author—perhaps it was a different story altogether. Everything looked different, yet the boy felt he could now see the world as it really was. Gone was the jovial brilliance which Tommy had perceived in the world; gone was his impulsive character and his cheery outlook, replaced by a grim determination and a wooden face. Tommy had always been a benevolent child, even when he was persecuted for no true fault of his. When he had resolved to take his vengeance, he had only done so out of a childish anger. It had affected him—deeply—but in spite of all that, he had still allowed himself to hope. Now it was not like that anymore; something inside him snapped when the Pastor quoted the Bible. His words still rang in his ears—not because he was afraid of a vengeful God, not at all—but because life took on a new sheen after he heard those words. Now, vengeance had become his duty. He had been surreptitiously consumed by the desire for revenge for the past few months, but what Pastor Willis said penetrated his soul through an unexpected vein. It justified his intentions. No, not justified; what Tommy felt was far too strong for the notion of justice to be applicable. It gave him a new role. He was no longer a young boy fantasizing about payback; now he was the harbinger of wrath; he was Justice Herself.

He had suffered at Aunt Hilda’s hands; unjustly so. Even when she was in a better mood, which was rare enough, the woman treated him with scornful disdain. Tommy never realized that she did this out of a motherly attachment to her own children, destructive as it may be to others’, but he had silently endured its effect. Tommy felt irrevocably changed. Iron had entered into his soul. He could blame none of it on the Pastor or his righteous words; he was only the final straw. It was the woman; the woman had blackened his heart and poisoned his mind. Stone by stone, she had dismantled the pillars of his sanity and now he tottered before the collapse.

On his way home that day, Tommy said little. Aunt Hilda and her husband—he could not bear to think of him as her Dear anymore; that title was too buoyant for a man that had abandoned him; that had left him to suffer the whip of the malevolent woman—Aunt Hilda and her husband had come for him in the man’s truck. Although it was summer, the air was electrified by an imminent thunderstorm and the roads were colorless, devoid of life. The boy rested his head against the shuddering pane of glass and closed his eyes. After a while, it started to rain. The cold rain beat against the window and Tommy’s breath misted. He could only hear the roar of the truck’s engine and the pattering of the rain. His mind was encumbered with heavy thoughts; he soon nodded off to sleep. When he opened his eyes again, they had arrived at the farmstead, but the scene had not changed; it was still dull and cold outside.

It was still lifeless and hopeless.

***

The summer was a mild one. It rained almost every day and it was far cooler than other summers. Tommy’s mood reflected the weather, and when thunderstorms overshadowed the plains, he enjoyed the lashes of swift fire and the flooding rain. To the rest of the family, the bad weather was wholly unexpected and unwelcome. The children had to stay indoors, while their father grumbled—an unusual occurrence in and of itself—that the rain was ruining the topsoil. Aunt Hilda seemed anxious as well. Tommy bided his time; he studied the habits and routines of the woman. With her recent preoccupation with the bad weather, she spent more time praying in front of the statue of the Redeemer than before. Which was very good as far as Tommy was concerned; in fact, it was perfect.

***

One dreary Friday afternoon Tommy was sitting by the window of his room, looking outside. The fields that had so neatly been separated by short rubble walls had lost their identity and became stains of gray shades that ran into each other on one big canvas. The rubble walls were gone, and muddy water inundated parts of the fields. As Tommy looked on in silence, reflections of lightning forked in his eyes, but the thunder that reached his ears was distant and weak; more like the blunt edge of a worn knife than the crisp edge of a razor. The thunder he awaited, however, was much closer. Tommy lifted his eyes to the sky. It was an intricate, tumultuous picture of grandeur; of vigor; of fortitude; and yet it was also a picture of turmoil; of fear; of solitude. He sighed and looked down. The spot where the truck usually was was vacant. The kids’ father had left the house on some unknown business. The boy did not care where he went; his mind did not even wonder about the possibilities. Indeed, that inner voice that sometimes spoke to him had departed. His mind had become a mechanical machine whose purpose of existence was singular.

There comes the expected, dull explosion; a thud that shakes the walls of the house. Screaming. The patter of light footsteps. The kids are running down to see what happened. More screaming. The device worked. The screaming gives way to pained, throaty groans. Tommy gets up. He walks to the window and looks out. The children scream as well. A bolt of lightning lands surprisingly close. In that instant Tommy sees his reflection in the glass. He is afraid for the first time. He walks to the landing and looks down. Smoke wafts up from below. He goes down the stairs and hesitates for a moment. The stench of burning flesh—it is horrible. Tommy feels terrified. He walks to the kitchen. There. He sees her. The sight is terrible. Her hair is burning and her face is on fire. She is mouthing screams but nothing comes out. Tommy is paralyzed. He does not want to see. But his eyes would not close—he sees. He sees the woman flailing and thrashing in the wrath of the fire. The wrath that consumes her as it consumed him—he sees. He sees the ring of fire that surrounds the statuette. He sees the Redeemer. Above all, he sees that He is looking at him, His eyes burning. Tommy screams—he sees. He wants to unsee—but he sees. He sees that no deluge would ever quench this fire. No flood would ever carry it away—he sees. He sees.

***

Three days later, a drenched, trembling boy of about ten walked in the sheriff’s office at eight in the morning. Only the sheriff and a deputy were present. They hadn’t expected anyone at all—not in this weather. Let alone a boy who could barely stand on his feet. The deputy almost spilled his cup of tea but saved it just before it was too late—he did knock the chair over.

“Kid? Jesus Christ kid—what were you doing in—” he began.

The boy was saying something. The deputy went down on his knees and touched the boy’s shoulders. They were cold, very cold. But what he was saying chilled him to the bone.

“John! John! Come over here—quick!”

***


HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Matchstick Boy Murder!

A murder in the state of A— has recently shaken the country with its gruesome details and the shocking revelation that the perpetrator was a preadolescent child. Nine-year-old Thomas Rader lived with his foster parents, 42-year-old Hilda and 40-year-old Ramon Westmeyer, on their farm in S— county, A—. The body of the woman was reportedly found burned in the house Friday, the result of a bizarre incident that had investigators baffled. Prior to an interesting turn of events that we shall shortly come to, inconclusive evidence from samples taken from the site indicated the presence of some kind of incendiary device containing potassium chlorate—a chemical widely used in domestic matches and explosives. An intriguing detail uncovered by the investigation suggested that an explosion occurred in close proximity to a small religious statue. Sources have informed us that the woman was alone when the incident occurred, and that she was badly burned and died shortly thereafter at the location.

The investigation had an unforeseen development late Saturday, a day after the fatal incident, when young Thomas Rader walked up to the sheriff’s department and claimed that he was responsible for the killing. Thomas apparently admitted to stripping match sticks of their flammable material and grinding it up into fine powder, before compacting it into a dense solid by applying pressure and a binding fluid. How the incendiary device was employed remains somewhat of a mystery, but the boy claimed that he “put it in a candle”. Findings of splashed candle wax seem to confirm the boy’s assertion.

An inexplicable detail revealed during the initial investigation remains unexplained. The statue in question, which suffered external burns, broke apart when it was picked up by forensic experts, revealing an internal cavity with an unscathed note inside. Written on the piece of paper was the mysterious message “N-1-2”. The child suspect has denied writing this note, and preliminary lie detection tests to corroborate his claims have indicated perfect agreement.

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