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Vol. 2, No. 1

Public Burning
by Joseph Clark

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Nov. 20@2:09 PM Size: 26K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  Iris broke her pattern and failed to turn up in the bedroom at 1:45 PM. I panicked and searched the entire house, the usual rooms and angles, but found nothing. I used the motion sensors and found her alone in the basement packing boxes with clothing and photo albums. It signaled a catastrophic event, or a possible run from her family with Chet Moritz. Something big is about to happen and I feel helpless to keep my study subjects in their places. She and Gabby have been taking load after load of boxes away to some secret location. I will put a Landsat receiver on the minivan tomorrow to track her exact location.

 

~

 

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Nov. 20@6:35 PM Size: 27K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  Gabby and Morgan meet secretly in the garage. They are whispering.

  "Where are you and Dad going?" she asks her brother.

  "Away in a submarine. The kind that stay underwater for years and years."

  "Be serious!"

  "It's true. That's where Dad says they can never find him."

  "You mean the IRS?"

  "Um, yeah.... Where are you and Mom going?"

  "She won't tell, but we have a motel room full of clothes and stuff. I'm sick of moving."

  "You didn't take any guns?"

  "We don't need any guns."

  "Girls can be so dumb. Of course you need guns. When you go on an adventure, you always have guns."

  "You're a TV head."

  "Am not."

  "Are too."

  "Am not."

 

~

 

POWERBOOK ENTRY:
Time: Nov. 22@5:30 AM Size: 43K Type: Microsoft Word doc. [Meachum Notes]

  Iris arrived at 9:00 PM in a white rental car. I used the GPS device to do a Lo-Jack search and traced the car back to a motel on the outer interstate loop. She and Gabby left after telling Ted and Morgan they were going to a movie and have yet to return. It's almost dawn. Ted has been up all night running around the house with a device that he keeps pointing into the corners where my cameras are hidden. I never see him do anything, but five different cameras have stopped working since he began his sweep. His face is distinctly canine, a terrier or one of those inbred English ratting dogs. He's been set in motion, is smelling blood and baying at the trees. The smelling tongue and the bird are gone, but the insect eyes remain. Could be some cheap store-bought device he's using, but my cameras were supposed to be impervious to detection. I don't know what to do and frankly I'm getting scared by the look in Ted's eyes. Tomorrow his face will certainly have lost most of its human qualities.

 

~

 

  NOVEMBER 22ND

  The Meachums's minivan idles in the driveway with its sliding door open, lights off, and wipers snapping back and forth in the mist. Out of twenty monitors only three show any images. The three cameras that are still working show a house brightly lit but everything is now at weird angles and disheveled looking. The shelves are empty of knickknacks, and books, bits of paper, and debris litter the carpets and hallways. A pile of cornflakes sits in the middle of the kitchen where the dining table used to be. For a second Carter flashes back to the image of Gabby lying naked and alone on the table. At the edges, just out of camera range, the periphery whirls with the sounds of violence. The figures with the gas cans are veiled with sport-logo bandanas, and it's painfully obvious who they are. He turns up the volume but there is only the sound of gasoline sloshing against the sheetrock walls. A low humming noise comes through the speakers, which turns abruptly to a hissing, like a soft rain is falling inside the house. The screens show a jump-cut slice of flames racing throughout the house, taking unexpected turns, jumping furniture, and following the haphazard line of liquid. Carter's room echoes with snapping and sizzling static. He can see out his own windows that there is nothing strange going on with the cameras, no sabotage or Mission Impossible-type trickery--the house is really burning down. The largest of the masked figures raises his fist and shouts at the camera mounted in the foyer.

  "Fuck you, IRS and FBI! And those ATF and CIA motherfuckers can kiss my lily-white ass. Same goes for the NSA and NSC and all of the rest of you watching out there in TV land."

  The bandana has fallen down and Carter can clearly see the bird trying to fly out of Ted's mouth. His skin is red from rage and he clenches both fists and throws them toward the camera.

  "And fuck JF-fucking-K!!"

  The wall of monitors in his basement room shows bright orange-and-red, just-like-on-television flames. A suburban dream in a dog-barking peaceful republic. Tomorrow morning will dawn with a crater in a cul-de-sac, a smoking cinder-block shell with melted aluminum and plastic shapes. There will be completely intact consumer products, free of soot and ash, which neighborhood boys will carry off as talismans of the real and unfathomable world of chance. There is a bright flare and the sky from the windows illuminates his dark basement like daylight. When he opens the curtains to look, the real flames have broken through the roof and reached the tops of the trees. There are silhouettes running into and out of the darkness. Carter sits down on the floor, closes his eyes, and rubs his hands over his unshaven face.

  The sound of sirens begins to come through his speakers.

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