The bowling alley was on fire, but it was really just collateral damage as the rest of the town was on fire as well. I felt shock more than anything as I looked over the damage. I jumped back with a shriek as it felt like my foot had come into contact with a white hot poker. I looked down and only saw a ninepin that was on fire.
I shook my head, trying to clear it. “Marty,” escaped my lips, and I turned and ran. I got to the edge of town in half the time it usually took me, but it seemed like I was too late when my eyes took in the sight of the smoldering house I had spent so many hours at as a child.
“Marty,” I cried as I dashed around the house looking for any sign of life. I called his name over and over again for what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes. Then I heard it, a soft groan and what sounded like my name.
I whirled around and I finally saw him lying in the bushes. I rushed to his side, the tears falling unbidden from my eyes. “Marty,” I gasped as I fell to his knees, “What happened here?”
Marty was barely recognizable as my childhood friend. Partly due to the years I had been away but also due to the fact that his entire body was covered in burns. “Get out,” he said his voice no more than a whisper, “Not safe.”
“I don’t want to leave you like this,” I said, my tears falling onto his burnt face as I leaned over to hear his words.
“I’m dead,” he said, his eyes not blinking as he looked up at me, “And they will be back.” His eyes glanced up to the sky for a moment and then went back down to me. “Get out,” he said again, attempting to move his destroyed limbs to get me to stand up.
I stood, knowing there wasn’t anything I could do. “I’m sorry,” I said, mostly because I didn’t know what else to say to the dying man. I turned and fled, running as fast as I could to the edge of town. I wasn’t too far out of town when I found an abandoned car with the keys still in it.
As I drove the car far from the burning town, I made a promise that I would find out what happened there. It was something I had to do, for Marty and everyone else who had died in the blaze.
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