I don't want to die! Whether I screamed it or just thought it didn't matter, as I was going to bite it here, regardless. Shit, I didn't even make it to Tilly's divorce. Also, some more irony: Diego, Sal, and I spent the last three years killing weeds, and weeds were just about to be the death of us. That's some circle of life bullshit, that is. Also, if, by some miracle, I survive this, I'm going to throat-punch a vegan. Or vegetarian. I'm not picky. It's pretty fucked up, the things that cross your mind when you're about to die.
As I was making peace with the Goddess, eyes squeezed shut, a voice called out from the street. It wasn't a shout or a scream, but a commanding voice. Even I felt a twinge of obedience flow through me. "Stop!" the voice exclaimed. It was a familiar voice, but I could not place from where. I braced myself for strangulation by thistle, as that was how I had always killed them, but when a minute had passed since the voice commanded this murder scene to stop and nothing happened, I peeked open a wary eye.
Diego and Sal were huddled on the stoop, the dickheads. If we got out of this, I was going to have to give them a punch for not including me in their death huddle, and leaving the burn victim to fend for himself.
The thrashing weeds in the front yard were now simply swaying in the breeze, which reminded me why I was so eager to get outside in the first place. I spun on my heel and saw the thistle vine snaked along the wall, like some sort of demonic hanging creeper. I reached up to touch it, because it seemed like the thing to do, and it shied away from me.
"What the-?" I spun back around and nudged my friends, who looked up, then around. Sal gasped out a laugh.
"We're alive! Sweet Jesus, we're alive!" he screamed before dropoing to his knees and kissing the ground. Diego, on the other hand, whipped around to face me, then buried me in a big, happy hug.
"Ack!" I barely managed to get out. "Can't....breathe...Di...e...go...can't...!" At this point, he let me go, grinning from ear to ear. I put my hands on my knees and bent over to catch my breath.
Before I sucked in my third deep breath, however, the voice from the street began talking again.
"Imbeciles, why is this lawn in such disarray? This neighborhood? Do you not know where you are? Who you represent?" Why was that voice familiar?
Unable to look up, as I was too busy regathering my composure, I answered him between gasps.
"Whom, actually. You meant to ask us if we knew whom we represented. It wasn't correct in my context, but-"
"Silence, moron, and answer my question." I looked from the ground to Diego to Sal, and eventually to the source of the voice, once I finally regained normal breathing patterns. Then I lit up a smoke. As did Diego. We can be stress smokers.
"Mr. Marsailles? You can barely talk without your breath mask! How can you summon up such a commanding voice?" I asked. And how can you control these demonic plants? I'll save that one for later. He looks pissed.
"You will answer my questions first, custodian, and then, if your answers are satisfactory, I shall answer yours." Diego and I shrugged at each other while Sal just sat down on the edge of the stoop with a stunned look on his face.
"What were your questions again, Mr. Marsailles?" Diego asked. I couldn't remember them, either. A near-death experience will jar the memory a bit.
"Explain the poor condition of this neighborhood. Quickly, as you are trying my patience," Mr. Marsailles stated with a subtly nervous air about him.
"Uh...putting aside the fact that you already know what's going on, but just in case dementia has finally wrapped its icy claws around you, a week ago, Jim was almost burned alive when our lawn caught fire. The fire marshal declared it arson, but no one from the community will come forward to claim responsibility, so Sal and I went on strike while he was in the hospital, and we're going to continue the strike until someone comes forward."
"You fools!" Mr. Marsailles bellowed. "Do you know what you're a hair's breadth from doing? You truly are every bit as moronic as Edvard Marsailles believes you to be!"
"What?" I shrieked. "Edvard? Diego, Sal, did either of you know Mr. Marsailles' given name?" They both shook their heads. Sal then stood up and held up his index finger to our crotchety neighbour in the symbol of 'wait a minute,' and huddled with us.
"A Frenchman with a German name? At his age? Guys, Mr. Marsailles has always been grumpy because his side lost the war!" Sal hissed. Diego and I looked at Mr. Marsailles, then back to the huddle. "What war?" we asked simultaneously.
"The war! Think about it! He's the perfect age! Mr. Marsailles is a goddamn Nazi!" Diego and I took a step back, like we were punched. It did make sense. After the three of us took a beat to let this new information sink in, we turned back to face him. He sighed.
"Okay, crash course time. Edvard Marsailles is dead. I am inhabiting his body. Invite me in so we can talk in private. Time is of the essence."