When I woke up the following morning, it took me a moment to process why I had this sickening fear pressing on me.
And then it hit me.
The bonfire. The sparks. Screaming. Running. The cow—the disgusting, disfigured, burnt corpse of mammoth proportions in the bonfire; our bonfire. A tradition sacred for years in this hellhole of a town, but a tradition nonetheless. And someone had screwed with it.
All I had wanted was an escape. Albeit a mental one at that, but simply an escape. I had thought the fall festival would give that to me, but apparently not. The town had still been in shock after the unexpected murder, but everyone had still been excited for the festival. I think they had all been looking for an escape too.
Maybe a walk would be good for me. Yes, a nice long walk through the streets (and far away from the site of the festival) would suit me. Some fresh air would certainly clear my mind.
I stepped outside into the early fall day and the sun greeted me with its sparkling rays smoothly gliding over the earth. Normally happy scenery only evoked the opposite feeling in me, but after the past couple of days I would take anything happy.
It was just a little stroll through the neighborhood. Nothing much; I planned on returning home very soon. But although I had only been dealing with this weirdness for two days, somehow I wasn’t surprised when I heard the scream.
It took me a moment the realize the scream was directed at me and it wasn’t much of a scream of fright…more of an exclamation to get my attention. Of course when I saw the expression on my neighbor’s face, there was definitely fear there.
“What?” I asked, slightly annoyed. If I had to hear a recounted experience of last night’s bonfire I swear I would strangle someone.
The woman who had called my attention and now answered was certainly one of my neighbors, although she lived farther down so unlike the closer ones she had never had a reason to call the police on me or my mom before. We were still on good terms, in other words. She was middle-aged, lived alone, and I could never remember her name.
“Eli, h-he was h-hanged in Farmer Harris’ barn!” she exclaimed, fear making her voice tremble.
Now this took me a moment to process and also to remember who Eli was. Before the shock had even fully consumed me, I allowed it to take hold of my voice as I cried, “What?!” So very profound, I know, but there really wasn’t much of a response one could give to this news.
She nodded quickly and stammered out the next words. “He was found this morning with a—with a bouquet of roses at his feet.” She looked about to burst into tears.
“Roses?” I asked, confused.
My kind, (yet clearly mentally unstable at this moment) neighbor nodded again. “Didn’t you hear? Last night at the bonfire a note was found. I-It said, ‘Enjoy the fire. Stop to smell the roses. It won’t last long.’”
I stared blankly for a moment. Why was I always receiving this information second-hand? “Who found him?” I asked.
“Ophelia,” she said and the woman finally burst into tears.