Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The thirteenth installment is presented this week by Shone Unos.
A burning tree becomes friends with another tree, a next-door neighbor tree. And then that tree becomes friends with the next and so on, and all the tips of the trees start burning in conversation. A circle of friends. And he sits there amongst the cankerous chatter, the large crackling and splintering. The gossip of the burning wood. He sits there in the middle of it all, like a lonely sacrifice, defenseless, solemn, but more appropriately indifferent. Today it is his birthday. He is sure because he is sure, though he hasn’t a method of proving it. He starts to sing “Happy birthday to me, Happy birthday to me, happy birthdaaay dear…ME. Happy birthday to me.”
He looks up and tries to blow out the giant candles. He blows and blows but the trees keep their conversation. They are too involved with their storytelling to grant the boy his birthday wish. Their pompous laughter ignites a floating shroud of ash that lands on the boy’s head face and hands. His shoulders too. He’s coughing now, laying face up toward the sky on the driest of soils. He sees a passing moon, the bright glow of hovering embers; they live for seconds then fade. He keeps singing his birthday song in his head now; a low and inaudible hum rubs up against his lips. Everything is too loud now, the sky, the past, the trees, the fire, the deaths, the loneliness, his mother, father, his blackened fingers, and his 13 years. A lucky number. Isn’t it?
The ring gets lower and he can feel the warmth. His eyes are shutting slowly, they squint and splash smoke produced tears on his cheeks, genuine tears in addition to the ones produced by the coterie of burning friends. The boy’s head is a spiral of unwanted wreckage. He can’t take it any longer. He gets up and walks out of the circle. He brushes the fire off of his sweatshirt and walks down a pathway into the darkness.
As he walks away he sees something red and shiny half buried in the dirt. He picks it up and sees that it’s a jagged piece of metal, probably belonging to some kids broken up and abandoned toy, some kind of die-casting. Whatever it was, it is no longer. He decides he can use the jagged metal as a weapon or a tool or a spoon if he ever came across something he could eat.
He thought about his next move, and then before he could reach a conclusion, he tripped over a branch and fell to the ground hard. Once on the ground he heard a voice, either from insects or the wilderness of his own mind “the wood is dead, and though the city may have blistered over. A place with less promise than future; there is always new skin under the newly blistered.” He pushed his hair out of his face, got to his feet, breathed in the darkness, and he set off for the promise of uncertainty. This was not the way all Tuesday nights began.