City in the Wound
By Michael Buckley
In the middle of the night Eztli decides to burn The Mothers. He’s a block down and they’re visible through a sliver of space between two corners, drapes of light kelping back and forth slow in the darkness.
Eztli runs, safe for the moment ‘cause it’s his street, Da is watching, but then off his block, out into the middle of the road.
A brick flies past him. He hears shouting in the rooms above The Mothers, but their boys and girls don’t make it out in time. Now it’s just him standing in front of The Mothers. There’s three in a row, their dresses shimmering and lovely, and they stare down at him, so kind and gentle. The one in front is actually crying as Eztli sprays stolen gasoline in a wide arc across them. Eztli hates her for it. He could burn her a thousand times.
The lit match hits the wall and The Mothers go up. The children scream from the second floor. Feet bang on the stairs. Eztli runs, the warmth of the fire behind him, listening to the other screams, the ones coming from beneath the flames.
That night he sleeps next to Da, the composites moving about slowly behind him, lulling. And he doesn’t dream at all.
Da wakes him the next day. The composites reach finger-like to brush his cheek. Feels like lizard skin, or what he’s heard of The Native’s hide.
“Wakee,” Da says. His voice makes Eztli’s lips go cold. “Wakee. Food for the others. At the farthest pit.”
Eztli stands in the morning light. The street is dead quiet and Da behind him moves across the wall, ticking and groaning and hissing.
“You slept close to Da last night for burning The Mothers,” Da says.
Eztli gets it: But today you gotta work.