The fire burned them away. But it is more than that. Fire burns away all flaws. People speak about menial pleasures from fire. I don’t care about their tingling or whether they find a rush in destruction. That is trivia. I’ll admit it felt good, on a surface level. But there was so much more beyond that. So many more important things to consider. The truth of fire is that it burns away what doesn’t deserve to be here. Divinity for the True People, perversion for the pyromaniac wrongbody. As expected. My fire was divine. MOTHER and FATHER, they didn’t deserve to be here on Earth, even though the fire would’ve caught up with them eventually. They were truly sickening beings. Flawed, but more than that. A grotesque pair of beasts full of flaws, trying to pretend they passed those flaws on to me. To pretend I was theirs, when just looking at them would tell you that I was of the star. Their meager bodies; I rose above that — and them. Yes, I had help from the god Bellbrun to get to where I was then, but you must remember that gods only help the divine to recognize and represent their true divinity. And I was divine. And the two pretenders MOTHER and FATHER were profane. Sophia and Darren Leek. Profane names that must be recorded. Like bowel movements for a hospital record. They did not let me call them by those wrongbody names, even as I felt no kinship to them after my realization of my destiny. They’d forced me call them ‘mother’ and ‘father.’ It had grown from there; from mother and father to Mother and Father to MOTHER and FATHER. You’d understand the meaning of that if you’d ever been where I’ve been with the things that call you parents. But they’re gone now. I’ve purged them. The bald spots and patchy skin and blemishes and fat folded eyelids and pores and bile and wire-hair boils and pimples and and toenails and fingernails and muscles full of poison so much hate and their breath and their stink and anuses and guts and belching and growths and vomit and piss and shit and all the sickening and repugnant humanity of them. All gone. Gone to that fire years ago, but I can still feel its heat to this day. Drodden’s people wouldn’t let the heat subside. No. Even after the fire went out. Even after the firemen brought me back to the station. I remember it was raining. It had started raining well before the firemen arrived on the scene of that house I won’t call home. That building. A store is no home, and I was glad to be rid of that, too. One more disappointment from a pair of wrongbody lives. Sick disgusting lives. I was glad to be rid of the building, too. Nothing but purified ash. Fertile ground. Like the whole world will be soon. There were, of course, the well-wishers. It was easy to handle them with the choice I’d made — to simply not. Handle them, I mean. You see, my joy was so great, I knew I couldn’t contain it. I knew if I spoke to the firemen, I’d reach out and grab the fronts of their uniforms and shriek exhalations of the new world to come. It was there, at the front of my mouth, ready. So I knew I could only keep the truth inside if I said nothing. And they were everything you would expect. I was showered with sympathy, and careful hands on shoulders. They took me and cleaned me and brushed my hair and held my hand and assured me I would be all right, that things would be different now but that I had to have faith and that their god would guide me or their people would guide me or their words would guide me or their music or their machines. All of it boiled down to the idea that their god would protect me; the actual words varied, but really only depended on what was their god, and for wrongbodies anything could be a god. And, once they’d told me to have faith, then they’d begin the real purpose of their many visits to me — to ask me questions; the police, the firemen, the nurses and doctors. All of them. I didn’t speak. I left their questions hanging there, dead. To a one, their sympathetic looks gave way to worried ones. Their demands became more desperate. And when their rotting wrongbody brains couldn’t figure out the right words to ‘snap me out of it,’ they tried what wrongbodies always try. Objects. Jigsaw puzzles. Stuffed animals. Balloons. Soft things and rough things and rubbery things to, they hoped, stimulate my mind. If they could’ve only seen inside of me. They’d’ve known I didn’t things to move or manipulate or touch while I lay there in their bed in the white gown with little lavender flowers on it. They wanted me to ‘recover.’ But didn’t have anything to recover from, is the thing. And the worry gave way to concern, to people sitting by my bed asking me questions. I had no family to speak of. They were all either dead or my false parents had driven them away when my TV show and its relative wealth came. The doctors murmured — out of earshot, they thought — that I needed friends or family to get better. I had all I needed, even though the Horses were silent to me during my stay. I knew they must be watching me from afar, but wondered why they didn’t come to at least praise me for the Ritual of 1977. Over the next few days. the hospital staff tested me and poked at me, all with soothing words to accompany it all. I swallowed their food and drank their water and endured all the prodding, but I didn’t dare speak for fear that I’d tell them how I really felt. Wouldn’t you? Could you resist crying out with happiness because you were not-quite-free, but unchained? They kept me at the hospital — Sacred Union, the old building, before the switch. They kept me there from the night of the fire until the morning of July 07, 1977. I remember waking up and thinking I could smell the smoke of the fire. It might’ve been late fireworks, but I don’t remember hearing any of them the night before or that day. The sun was so bright, and so was the glow of blood. Golden paths leading to doors and even out windows and on the ground I could see out my bedside window, in big splashes of gold among the bushes that ringed the hospital. So much blood, everywhere, in the hospital, glowing white the way the sun goes white sometimes. Pure sunlight, like we had that morning. One of those mornings where even the wrongbodies can see how artificial things are. The kind that gives clarity. Where even wrongbodies notice the flaws in things. Where they feel insecure just by being under the sunlight. Uncomfortable. Squinting their eyes but unable to really look at anything. Using glasses and visors and hats and anything, really, to block out they can’t deny it. Where they try to blot the truth from their eyes, because that discomfort is the truth. Of course, they don’t want to admit it. Admission of worthlessness must be painful, in some way, inasmuch as they feel pain. But they know. It’s why they work so hard to hide it from themselves. True sunlight hurts wrongbody eyes. It was a cold morning, I remember. I had the window open. One of the nurses was already waiting in my room when I woke up, sitting in a chair with that plastic upholstery that was all torn-up on the sides so you could see the white stuffing coming out. The sounds of the hospital were everywhere; moans and grunts and endless coughing all around me. The pinnacle of wrongbody science at work. Keeping what should just die already alive. It was disgusting, thinking about how many people died on the bed I was on. I couldn’t let myself look at the blood tapestry for too long. I had to look away, like they say to do with an eclipse. There were limits to my skills, I’d learned how to tune it in and out, yes, but not surrounded by so much. It hurt my head. Which made my being silent easier. I didn’t want to hear any sounds, let alone the sound of my own voice echoing in my skull. Yes, the rituals I’d performed had given me greater control. But I still had limits, then. The Horses keep their mysteries. Sacred Union hospital glowed with so much blood and death, though, it was like I couldn’t escape cold golden light no matter where I looked. Which was why it was a relief when the nurses began to jabber about a move to somewhere else for me. Somewhere very nice, she assured. Somewhere to help with machines or god or whatever their nonsensical poison was. She went on about the green grass and the beautiful views from all the windows. I barely heard her. At that time, I only knew that — wherever I was going — I’d survive it, as I survived every buffeting I got from the wrongbodies. I remember just looking out the window, letting my eyes burn as I faced morning sunlight. I remember how it made tears and how that waiting nurse had brushed them aside and told me that it would be all right and that I needn’t cry and I just needed to have faith that their god would see me through. So often, their god. As nameless and faceless as the nurse in my memory, a white blob at the edge of my awareness that was powerless to effect real change like I knew I could with a thought. I could sense that there were mice in the walls. For a moment, I thought about forcing them to split themselves into new shapes and gnaw out of the wall and into the eyes of the nurse. I imagined her running down the hall, screaming, and it made me smile and the nurse said that my smile was a good sign. Then, the nurse got me dressed and moved me into a wheelchair. Moving from the bed to the wheelchair, even with help, felt exhausting. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like feeling so tired. My mouth opened on its own, out of my control, and a little sound came out. I brought the whole of my palm up to my mouth to stifle a choking sob of elation. The nurse shook her head and said I should be ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’ because of how long I’d slept. She was smiling the whole time. I wanted to knock out her teeth for her arrogance at thinking she was the kind of person who deserved to smile, ever. Crooked teeth and fat cheeks do not deserve to smile. They deserve to crackle and burn. Well, if teeth burn. I don’t know if bones burn. I’ve never gotten that close to check after the fires do their work on wrongbodies. I remember I’d been thinking about all that, until that wrongbody nurse had started pushing me, as I sat in the wheelchair, down the shiny hallway, past the open doors of the other patients, but I didn’t want to look at their diseased nothingness. A few must have seen me go by, because I could hear them twittering and whispering like hoarse birds about me and how I was a poor dear and how I hadn’t spoken and on and on in their way. I hated the pity of wrongbodies then as much as I do now. And then the doors of Sacred Union opened and I was wheeled outside and I felt the cool breeze and I remember realizing that, yes, I could smell gunpowder and that some people were still setting off fireworks — illegally — even now, out in the world. That made me smile bigger, imagining wrongbody fingers popping from firecrackers and wrongbody eyes burning from sparklers and the cool breeze blowing and making their wrongbody lungs choke. They didn’t know it, but their whole world was a firecracker — and I would set it off, one day. I think that was the day I truly appreciated my own importance. I think it was because they were dead. The two imposters, burned up by the truth. I don’t even really want to name them any more, to this day, even the hateful names I’ve used for them up until now in this book of blood. I remember a car, shiny like it had just been washed, even though the car itself looked worn and weathered. A sign on the side of the car said the words Marigold Grove in beautiful calligraphed words that made each letter look like flowers — colored in like marigolds, of course, all pale orange and red and yellow. I’d later learn that Marigold Grove used two cars — one for the adults, and one for children. I didn’t know much about Marigold Grove. Only two things, really. First, that it was an asylum for the insane. Second, that Cameron Stye had been committed there since the Fourth of July, 1975.