(Benjamin Lichter contiunes from The Feather of Truth)
"...hm hm hm hm hm hmm hmm hmm hmm, hm hm hm hm hm hmm hmm hmm hmm, we're gonna let it burn, burn, burn..."
Ben had been humming and singing all the way from the library, at least when he hadn't been concentrating on not being heard or seen. He hadn't been able to stop himself, really, nor had he wanted to, since otherwise he would have been thinking about Wade's dead..
"THE THINGS WE lost, the things we lost in the fire, fire, fire..."
Most of the songs ended up being about fire. That was the other major thing on his mind, and he couldn't get around it. They just kept popping back in his head, so it was either them, or...
Ben stopped for a moment to stifle a lone sob. Apparently, he just couldn't get Wade's death off his mind either. Fire and death. Fire, or death? Fire, please!
...now where had he gotten that from? Bah, probably one of the stupid youtube video one of his friends had shown him at school. He missed that. He really missed that.
He arrived at a large building with a truck in front of it. His map told him this was the storehouse, which was where he wanted to be. This was where he would pull off his plan. THE plan. For a moment he thought back to his roleplaying days, which seemed so long ago, even though he'd played just last week. There, he'd usually just wing it, let the others do the planning: It hadn't really been his forte. But now, there was no one else, and this was reality, where there weren't any goblins hiding in the floorboards or ghosts in the ale. There were just men with guns, and a bomb around his neck. Real, and deadly, but predictable.
And that's why he was confident in his plan. Because the pieces fitted.
Except one: The storehouse was made of concrete. Ben groaned in frustration; he hadn't considered that. That would make burning it down far more difficult. He hoped that there were at least wooden crates inside; "Storehouse" had made him picture a large building with wooden crates inside, but if he'd been wrong about that too... He took out his flashlight and walked inside. He hadn't, thank God.
The inside of the storehouse was a mess. Walking in, he saw crates that had been tipped over, shelves that had fallen down, and whatever had been on the shelves strewn all over the floor. Either there had been fight in here or... no, a fight wasn't likely. What kind of a fight involved multiple crates and shelves being pushed over? That would be ridiculous: these weren't superhero fights people were getting into.
He walked around the inside of the storehouse for a bit before deciding to start with the plan, just to make sure there wasn't anybody there who might get caught up in the fire he was going to make. Then he looked for the first things he needed: a camera, and a place to hide from it. He found both. The camera wasn't difficult: There were several on the walls. The hiding place was harder, but eventually he found one, sitting in the gloom: an empty crate with the lid off. He shone his flashlight inside. It wasn't very roomy, something like three feet long, wide and tall, but it would do.
Now to begin. He turned around, making sure the camera he'd chosen could see him, and sat down for a snack. He took out a food bar and munched on it for some time, then he took the shard of glass he'd gotten from the library out of the first aid kit. He started inspecting it - it was about four inches long and two inch wide at its base. It was also blackened with soot, which Ben tried to rub off on his t-shirt. The point and the edges were sharp, but Ben - truthfully - didn't know exactly how sharp. Well, he was about to find out. Gingerly, he placed the edge of the shard against the side of his wrist, and drew it back in a swift cut. For a moment nothing happened, but then it started to sting, and bleed.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, despite him expecting it. The only injury he'd gotten on the island, and he'd caused it himself. There was some irony or something in that, he guessed, but at least he knew how sharp the shard was now. He was certain it would do its job. He put it back in the kit, put the kit in his bag, then dropped it into the open crate behind him. Then he climbed in himself.
A few minutes later he climbed out again, but now he had a bandage wrapped around his wrist. A bit overkill, he knew, but he'd rather be safe than sorry. Now for the next part of the plan.
He collected everything he could find that was flammable and put it next to a crate that was in the middle of the room. There he would build a fire, and from there it would spread, hopefully to all the crates around it and eventually to the building itself, if it got hot enough. Ben wasn't exactly a professional arsonist, but he got the gist of building a fire. Just like he'd been taught in school, you needed heat, fuel, and air. He had all three.
When he had enough stuff (which included splinters from where somebody had tried to open a crate - Ben was thankful to whomever had done that) he took out the first aid kit again. But this time he didn't get the shard. Instead, he took out everything that was flammable - bandages, gauze, even the alcohol pads - and put them into a ball beside his foot-high pile. Then he took out the lighter.
At that moment he wavered. There was no turning back after this. If he chickened out, there would be no reenacting the plan, no restarting it. Could he do it?
He didn't know, but he lit the ball anyway. It burned surprisingly quick, and he panicked a little putting some of the splinters by it. But his fear was unnecessary - the dry wood caught flame quick enough, and the rest of the pile soon followed. Almost as an afterthought he took the etch-a-sketch the terrorists had given him, as well as their damn book, and threw them onto the crate. When that caught fire, they would burn too. He got some satisfaction from that.
And soon enough, the crate did start to burn. It took a while to spread from the first crate to the ones beside it, though, during which Ben watched with worry curdling in the pit of his stomach.
But then the smoke got unbearable. As much as was already burning, it was a wonder that it hadn't been a problem before then, but it was a large building. Coughing, Ben ran outside, where he would wait for the building itself to start to burn.
He'd waited for some time when a thought occurred to him. Quickly, he took the photo of his family from his wallet and gave it one last look. On this island, it had been his most treasured possession, and if he died, it might be taken as a souvenir by one of the terrorists. Ben could see them do that, the evil dicks. But he couldn't rip it up or burn it himself. So instead he tucked it into the back of his collar - few people would find it there, if he somehow died some other way than the collar. And if he did, well, then the photo would be gone too.
Then he took out the shard of glass, and waited for the signal from the terrorists to enact the third part of his plan. He didn't figure it would take long - the roof was already smoking.
It was taking longer than expected. He had been waiting for at least a quarter of an hour, and the terrorists still hadn't declared the storehouse a dangerzone. Why not? The roof was on fire, wasn't it, with all that smoke pouring out. How long had it taken them to declare the library a dangerzone? Were they onto him? Had they guessed his plan? If so, why not just blow up his collar? Yes, why not...? He gulped, then grabbed the thing with his left hand. He knew he couldn't see it or stop it, but that didn't stop his eyes from trying to look at it. But the boom he expected never came. After a while, he looked back at the building.
He noticed the smoke that was getting less by the minute. Oh hell, nononono... Ben ran to the door and glanced inside. The building was filled with smoke, a lot of it wafting out the door, but that was also gradually getting less. He waited until he wasn't sure to suffocate, then slipped back inside.
It was even worse than expected. Not only hadn't the building caught fire, not even most of the crates had burned. Pretty much just the three in the middle he had watched go up, and one more was singed, but that was it. The others had just been too far away. Ben had hoped that that wouldn't matter when the fire got hot enough, but it had.
He had failed. Utterly.
(Benjamin Lichter continues in Chokepoint)