Rotting. Decaying. Yielding to Ash.

The jail cell was covered in hay, and drenched in dark, Jack was no where in sight, and it felt like days since I was put in here. I was going insane. I was going crazy. I was going to die.

I had shed tears until I merely ran out of them when the man in the coat, John, came to my cell and unlocked the door at gunpoint of a heavy, black shotgun.

“Now, listen to me close. Get up. Follow me. Try anything funny, you’re dead. Don’t think you can outsmart me, because we have our little tricks spread all throughout this place. So, come on!” He demanded.

I followed him down a dark hall, the smell of squid and oil returning to my nostrils, and then of blood. I could hear a strange roaring that lingered on every single second, as though it was an alarm. I wasn’t sure what it was until the light had eventually blinded me.

Adjusting my eyes, I could then see past the barbed wire gate where a flat, circular arena stood in anticipation of my arrival, but even more so eager were the people above the dusty flatland where thousands and thousands of insects sat in benches, awaiting entertainment.

“What the hell?” I said aloud.

“Your opponent is weak. Show them a good time.”

The next thing I knew, I was in the center before the endless array of fat, greasy insects who waved their chubby hands and bared their yellowed teeth at me in disgusting hope, as though they were men of idols. I was absolutely revolted, but also scared at the same time, as I saw another barbed wire gate across from the center, where a scrawny, pale boy peeped his head out, sulking.

A child?

This pitiful and emaciated creature hesitatingly made his way over to where I was and nervously peered into my eyes. He had no fire within those moistened spheres, but rather had an icy cold fear as my own reflection was made distinguishable within my eyes. To where I noticed how lifeless my own eyes were.

“So, you will be the one to kill me, eh?” The boy said with an unbalanced voice.

“I do not seek to kill you.”

“You have no choice.”

“I suppose not.”

“What choice do we have?”

“How we kill each other, I guess? How do you want to die?”

“Quickly. How about you?”

“I’d prefer the same, but whatever can be done.”

“We won’t be given any weapons, so our wish will be a hard one.”

“True, but it can be done. Though, regrettably, I haven’t a technique.”

“Nor do I.”

“Well, I do wish you luck.”

“Likewise.”

A loud, blaring horn was then sounded, followed by guards with assault rifles approaching the margins of the stands and aiming at us. It filled me with dread.

Death. Murder. Cold.

“It was nice knowing you.”

“You too.” And we then began to fight.

 

It was a sea of dirty insects trapped like sardines within a metal can. Filthy. Disgusting. Contradictory.

Though this was supposed to be New Paradise, it looked more like a rundown slum filled with unhappy, expectant people. Each glance that was passed onto the truck was of both curiosity and anticipation of something good. Perhaps they were starving, I thought at the time, but in their eyes they mainly held hostility to our presence. The man in the fur coat had explained to us that we were to meet their mayor, or supreme leader, Horace. He was to personally elaborate our sentencing in great detail for trespassing in New Paradise territory.

Jack was fidgeting where he sat, persistently repeating:

“Jack has come to bring the flame, Jack has come to bring the flame!”

I don’t know why I felt trusting of him, but for some reason, his intentions seemed to lie within my own.

The truck had stopped before a massive, dark wooden building, almost like that of a log cabin, where we parked before a massive patio and were escorted brutishly by the man in the coat and let it inside past a flimsy door on the verge of falling apart. It was the Mayor’s Hall.

Monster. Monster. Monster.

A fiery man of immense stature stood beyond a crude table where his hands were folded into his armpits. He nodded at the man in the coat and he left us be, closing the door behind him.

“You two. And Jack of all people.”

“Hello, again, Horace,” Jack nervously spat out.

“And you,” Horace said directing his exact gaze onto me, “what’s your name?”

“Vince.”

“Vince, eh? Ah, no matter.” He then approached us and stood before us in his stable posture, towering over us with his immense height and said,

“Listen, swine. You two have been brought in for trespassing upon NP territory, a very serious offense. While it is punishable by immediate execution, I have decided a more enjoyable version.”

“Version?” I said aloud.

“You may have noticed that bulge within NP, Vince. I know you’re not from here, I would’ve recognized you. Have you noticed it?”

“Yes.”

“That there, is your tomb. That is the Arena.”

“Oh, good heavens, dear Shiny God, no!” Jack hysterically muttered. I felt worried.

“You see, you will be fighting to the death in the Arena.”

My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. He continued on:

“And, you will fight every prisoner before you until you fall dead. A lot like gladiators, except no glory comes from it, only our entertainment. You are prisoners and therefore are filth. We merely seek to see the rot eat away at one another. Any objections?”

“May we just serve our time in a prison cell?” I asked. The towering behemoth then got down on his knees where he was finally at eye level and said with a smug grin on his face,

“You are a funny, boy. You honestly thought I’d listen to what you filth had to say?” Jack and I were deeply disturbed by his words. Horace rose from where he stood and said, pointing at the door that then opened where the man in the coat awaited with an assault rifle in his hand,

“John, take him to the Arena. They fight tomorrow.”

“Master Vince, eh?” Jack had said with his burnt face, which slightly twitched after each word. It was obvious that he was always in constant pain.

The truck hit a slight bump of sorts, causing us to bounce ever so slightly.

“Yes, that’s what I go by,” I responded, now refusing a gaze at his empty eyes.

“Does Master Vince like Jack’s name?”

“I guess, but why must you call me ‘Master’?”

“Jack is inferior, a servant, to those who call themselves human. Jack is no longer a person and now a slave. But Jack has only one request from his masters: that he seek flame. That is all.”

“What do you mean?”

“Jack must seek flame. Ooooooooooohhhhh!” He exclaimed in an almost orgasmic way, “Nothing pleases Jack more than flame, even if flame’s kisses sting so. Ah, but nothing compares to dearest Maiden.” I tried to avoid engaging in further conversation, but he continued on. “Has Jack bothered Master Vince?”

“No,” now feeling guilty, “I just don’t know what to say.”

“Then say naught at all. Master Vince is smart, Jack is subservient. Let two flames become one.” He brought out his hand in order to shake mine. His hand, too, was singed as his face was; however, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of determination from this zombie-like man. So, I shook it.

He jumped up and down where he sat like a child and then he peered over the side of the truck, anticipating the destination.

“Jack, where are we going exactly? You had mentioned something about a ‘New Paradise’?”

“PRECISELY, MASTER VINCE!” He unnecessarily screamed, “AS ASTUTE AS EVER!”

To be honest, it was exactly what he had mentioned earlier, but this fool seemed a little deranged, so I hesitated before responding.

“Where’s that?”

“Oh, just up ahead!”

“I guess I should’ve asked, what is that?”

“It is one of the many clans, the most powerful. Jack has dipped Jack’s toes many times to this place, but they reject the flame. Not like Jack! Not like Jack at all!”

“What do you mean?”

“They reject the flame, and punish Jack each time. Now they want to kill Jack.”

“Kill? They’re going to execute you.”

“A good guess. That’s what they tried before.”

“Before? What did you do?”

“Jack tried to show them flame, but they rejected it. Must Jack repeat himself?”

Confused, I tried to make sense of it and presume he was an arsonist of sorts. His face just detailed it all. But for some reason, every time I placed my eyes upon his horrid visage, I could not help but feel as though I had forgotten something important.

Suddenly, along the horizon, I could see it.

Giant walls of scrap metal stitched together by massive nail-like pieces. A massive dome rested in the center rising above the perimeter, as though it were nothing more than a rusty eye that sat in the dead wasteland.

This must be New Paradise.

Today, in my Oceanography class, we took a field trip to the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools. It was my first time and I had a lot of fun. Here are some of

the pictures I took.

 

If you live in San Diego, I strongly recommend visiting this national park and taking the time to explore. Mind your step, though, as it is quite slippery around here and pay attention to the tide.