Xi Lin looked at the banks of the lake, burnt trees sticking up like used matchsticks.
She knew better, however. Being a scholar of the trees in both China and America, it helped her understand exactly what was going on. While the Camp Fire was massive, and wiped out so much acreage, she knew that there was growth within.
She peered down at herself and clutched her hands. The lesson of trees also applied to people who burned with passion, and yet had spent the fuel of a relationship.
She was growing as well, a single spring growth hidden within.
(Author’s note: You probably noticed that I was absent for the last couple weeks. One reason was because I turned 39, and celebrated my birthday in Los Angeles. I got to see sights, have a great time, and do a lot of different things. The other reason was because I was in the middle of a big move, and didn’t have internet at the new place until I was on vacation. So now that I’m back, let’s have some good fictioneers work.)
The sands of the beach reminded Dennis of salt and pepper in his shakers at home. The fine and nearly bleached white of the sand mixed in contrast with the deep dark, almost charcoal-like black sand. Strewn in patterns like old growth tree rings, the sand was a testament to the changing of the tides.
Dennis had arrived at the beach a couple hours before sunset. He carefully laid his blanket atop the ebony and ivory sands, and pitched a bright, almost beanie-like umbrella next to him. A small, blue cooler lazed next to his arm, one side of the cooler open and displaying a tub full of nearly clear-blue ice and frosty bottles of his favorite beer. A cold bottle lay cradled in his left arm, like a newborn baby awaiting the full display of golden colored awesomeness inside it’s glass shell.
The hair on Dennis’s apple-shaped head was thinning. The years of work allowed the gray and white to start seeping in, dark wrinkles showing themselves like folds of clothing on his face. His face was leathery and aged, but he still showed the kindness in his eyes that he inherited from many generations of people. Capped off by a pair of dark blue wraparound sunglasses, his deep blue eyes pierced the skies and aimed straight for the sunset in the distance.
He shifted positions on his blanket, the white cotton of his t-shirt moving ever so slightly as he tried to relax.
The time was almost near, and as the warm trade winds came in from off the ocean, he focused on the gigantic orange orb of light and power in the far skies. Like a slow-motion play of a basketball as it approached the basket, the sun creeped towards the horizon. Dennis opened the top of the bottle of beer just as the bottom of the sun reached the horizon. He lifted the bottle upwards and flipped it, letting the light amber colored liquid flow from the bottle, into his mouth and the taste buds that awaited the moment. The sensation of cold quickly spread throughout his body as the sun continued to descend.
He looked out on the bay and saw a variety of different craft that , while playing many hours ago, were now focused on the spectacular display of light. The different colors of boats were no longer seen as the entirety of sky and sun were bathed in a deepening orange. By this time, the sun was already halfway below the horizon.
Dennis flipped the bottle again and took a long pull from it, letting the beer drain into his gullet. As he finished the bottle, he looked out at the sun. All but a sliver were gone. As the sun finally descended, he sat back and watched the last vestiges of sunlight disappear below the horizon. He sighed, knowing that the next one was merely 24 hours away.
He slowly packed up his things. Taking the bottle, he put it on the other side of his cooler and shut the lid. He picked up his blanket and folded it into very neat and tidy squares. He walked slowly up the path next to where he sat, and to his waiting car 25 feet away. Once he arrived at his car, he put everything into the trunk and pulled out a tuxedo. Attaching the tuxedo to the rear seat of his car, he got in and backed out. Taking one last look at the horizon, the orange color of the sky was starting to turn reddish and purplish.
He turned on his headlights, and didn’t look back for the rest of the night.
It was a calm day on the seas. Off the coast of Catalina, the yacht Isabelle was slowly making it’s way south towards San Diego. The drifting of the boat was enough to feel that there was movement, but yet it was slow enough that it wouldn’t go too far if someone fell off.
Mark Yulogh sat behind the helm of the yacht. He was dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt that screamed “Magnum P.I.”. Clad in white shorts, canvas shoes, and with a pair of shades propped on his head, he looked like a typical boater and tourist. Though he made his home in Oceanside, he always loved taking the yacht for a ride whenever he could.
His girlfriend Jayna was sitting on the bow of the yacht, accumulating as much vitamin D as she could as she let the ultraviolet rays of the bright midday sun beats down on her. Wearing a white bikini that hid enough, and with a white wrap around her waist, she looked like a stereotypical “yacht girl”.
The seas they were on were very calm, with very little movement happening. The currents were not very strong this day, and the water glowed a brighter blue-green color. It was as if the day was a perfect one for just laying out in the ocean with no cares.
“Honey,” Mark called out, as he walked from the cabin to the bow, carrying two more glass bottles of Pepsi, “Do you want to have lunch off Catalina, or would you like to head down towards Dana Point?”
“Catalina sounds fine for me. I’m just about done with sunning, anyways. What do we have to eat today, anyways?”
“We’ve got some turkey and cheese hoagies, some wonderful home-baked potato chips with sea salt and pepper, and our cola.”
Jayna sat up and smiled broadly.
“Did you say home-baked potato chips?”
Mark winked at her, as he started to turn.
“Made them myself last night, and put them in an airtight container. They should be very crisp.”
The couple lowered anchor off the western coast of Catalina Island and enjoyed their lunch. As they were finishing the last of the chips, a small cruiser pulled up by them.
“Hey, ahoy there!” the officer on the police cruiser called.
“Ahoy, officer. Are we not allowed out here today?”
“Nah, just got a message here. You’re Mark Yulogh, right?”
“It’s a note from your parents. They’re flying into Lindbergh tonight.”
Mark sighed, with the weight on his shoulders.
“Thank you for letting me know. We’ll get on our way in just a few.”
The officer saluted and zipped back towards the northern coast.
“Looks like we’re going to have to make things official with them.”
Jayna looked up at Mark, and cocked her head to the side. A couple of her sun-kissed brunette locks fell down around her face.
He patted his pockets and smiled. He proceeded to pull out a small box, and kneeled down in front of her.
“For a very long time, Jayna, we’ve been together. I was thinking about doing this tonight after we got back to San Diego, but now is good of a time as any.”
Jayna gasped, as she knew what was coming.
“Jayna Brown, would you marry me?”
She squealed and jumped up and down.
“Yes! Yesyesyes! A thousand times yes!”
She proceeded to hug him and smiled at him broadly.
“I guess we should get back to port, eh? If they’re coming in tonight, that means we’re going to have to take them out to dinner.”
Jayna smiled at him and looked out over the ocean.
“After we get married, we should think about a long sail down the pacific coast. Maybe hit Cabo or San Salvador.”
Mark just smiled as he pulled up the anchor.
The couple walked into the cabin, and with a roar of the motor, they scuppered off toward home port. Fiancees on their way to give good news.
The van that carried Brad Pershing and his fellow bandmates screamed down the 101, heading for the western side of Santa Barbara. Mackie “attempted” to drive carefully, with Brad hoping to arrive at the Seawalk Grill along the channel on time and alive. Blazing past the exit for Cabrillo Boulevard, the van started to accelerate to the point where it started to shake slightly. Brad, looking straight ahead and white knuckled, was incredibly worried at the sight of the lampposts moving quickly by, and looked over at the speedometer.
It registered a reading of 95 miles per hour.
“Mackie! Slow down!” he said, looking at Mackie with panic.
“Do you want to get there in time, or do you want to lose the money we’d be making?” Mackie retorted, with a wild laugh.
“I want to get there…” Brad started to say, before a pungent odor wafted into his nostrils. The overpowering smell of burnt sage, all too familiar to him in dealing with his pot-smoking sister, caused him to start coughing and gagging.
“My God, Mackie, how much weed did you smoke?”
Mackie laughed and groaned dazily as he drove, now starting to move across the white lines of the 6 lane highway.
“I only had a few joints.”
Seth sat up and tapped Brad on the shoulder, giving him a stern look indicating displeasure at the questions. Brad made a sideways chopping motion, silently informing Seth to stay out of it.
“What’s the problem? I can drive!” Mackie laughed, as he turned the wheel from one side to another rapidly, making the vehicle weave.
Brad was about to say something more, until he noticed a red, then a blue flash. He looked in the side view mirror and saw a police cruiser with its lights fully on, close on their tail.
Mackie floored the accelerator and started speeding around slower moving cars. They were halfway through Santa Barbara, approaching State Street, when they noticed a second set of lights joining the pursuing cruiser. This had officially become a high speed chase. Brad sat to the side, making sure his seat belt was on tight.
“Oh God, it’s OJ Simpson all over again…” He moaned, as he looked straight ahead, his face already white as a ghost.
The police cruisers behind the van stayed back behind as drivers started moving to the side of the road. Within a few moments, a third cruiser moved from behind the first two and started to gain on the rapidly moving van, already clocking over 105 miles per hour. They quickly passed the State Street exit and headed straight towards the exit for the Santa Barbara airport.
“Our exit is coming up!” Mackie exclaimed, “No mercy for SWINE!”
He passed a big rig after passing the Turnpike Road interchange, and quickly moved over 2 lanes of traffic, causing 1 car to run into the ditch. He finally reached the right hand lane to take the exit. Just as he was about to go under the underpass, the right tire of the van hit a board in the road. The nail hit the sidewall of the tire, causing the tire to violently explode and cause the van to start skidding to the side.
“Oh, hellfire!” Mackie exclaimed, “Look ou-“
The van tipped to the side and rolled over multiple times. Inside the van, screams of pain eminated as the members of the van started to be thrown in the vehicle. Their keyboardist was thrown out the window and crushed as the van rolled through the underpass.
Seth continued to be tossed around the van as it continued rolling past the embankment under the bridge and into a stand of trees. The van finally stopped as the driver’s side door slammed into a thick scrub tree with a sickening thud.
Seconds felt like hours as the van rested. Brad, still sitting in his seat and buckled up, had his eyes covered with his arms and his head in his lap. The sound of his breathing filled his ears as the sounds of the van quieted to silence. Brad pulled his head up and tried to move his right arm up to his neck. A sharp twinge of pain shot through his arm and he cried out. He tried to lift his left arm, and was able to rub his neck. He looked towards the driver’s seat, slowly.
His eyes filled with the vision of his lead singer, Mackie, with blood gushing down the right side of his head, and upside down. Brad was filled with horror at seeing his friend, dead, and he screamed. Muffled sounds coming from outside and the flashing of red and blue lights filled his vision as his door was opened and he was extricated from the vehicle by a member of the California Highway Patrol.
“Son, are you okay?”
Brad, upon hearing words, started to sob openly. The vision of Mackie, one eye open and blood streaming down his face, continued to be all that he saw as he bawled into the shoulder of the officer.
“Sanchez!” the officer called to his partner, who was peering into the van with his flashlight, “Are there any others in there?”
“I’ve got two, Benny. Both gone.”
Brad overheard this, and screamed out a scream of terror. His friends, his bandmates were dead. He was alive. His system shut down as he went limp.
Brad Pershing was the only survivor of a car accident that should not have had any.