To Spark A Trend

David Kirstein

             “Ouch!” yelped Martin. A viscous stinging sensation swamped his left hand. He stumbled back into the dewy field and began rubbing his palms against one another, but his discomfort persisted. “Alright, your turn Pete.”

            “Ouch!” mimicked Peter, who began flailing his hand in anguish. “Holy spirit! Damian, have you tried this yet?”

            “I already told you guys. Mallory showed me this last –” His speech cut off as he clenched his teeth. The pain seemed to wipe his train of thought clear off its tracks. “It’s intense, isn’t it? Now, let’s do it together on the count of three. It’ll be cool. One… Two… Three!” The shock sent the boys reeling backwards while the fence clapped loudly in amusement. Their convoy tripped onto a wet patch of moss where it laid watching the graying sky for a long time.  The friends later agreed that they might have laid there forever had Martin’s voice not broken the silence.
            “You were right, Damian. The shock from an electric fence does have a euphoric afterglow to it. It sure does hurt something fierce though! Are you sure it’s safe?” Neither Damian nor Peter produced a reply. He hadn’t really expected one. After all, they would never let a little thing like danger get in the way of their excitement. He took a deep breath before making a recommendation. “Let’s go again.”

            Talk of more electricity must have greased their gears, because everyone was on their feet before Martin had finished speaking. To the surprise of the other two boys, Damian agreed that they should touch the fence at their own pace rather than connecting simultaneously. “Let your intuition be your guide and you will know the spirit,” he instructed. “Just don’t hold on too long. Mallory says she’s seen current turn a live body into a corpse and then into a marionette before anyone could do anything to stop it.” Martin and Jeremiah shuttered at the sheer possibility of electric puppetry, but fear has no voice of its own.

            The boys’ hands quickly darted in and out of the electric field, like coy minnows mingling in a sea of reeds. For almost half an hour, shrieks and sighs rang through the once serene countryside, blisters bubbled atop fingertips, and the stench of burnt flesh permeated the crisp autumn breeze. The farmer could even hear the fence’s echoing laughter from his porch, but he told Mrs. Johnson that he was too tired to interrupt Darwin’s morning lecture. It appeared that the posse finally had the absolute solitude it had been craving.

            “What are you doing here?” asked a big voice. No one answered because their backs were turned, but the boys knew Mr. Johnson’s voice well enough to know that he was not their secret inquirer. “I’ve been watching you idiots, and I know what you are doing. You’re electro-shooting.”

            “And!?” demanded Damian crossly.

            “And with blisters like those, I’d imagine that you must be ready to call it quits.”

            “I love the way this makes me feel. We all do.” Each lie pierced Damian’s lips like another frozen arrow. “Besides, what’s your name anyways?”
            “It doesn’t matter what my name is. You shouldn’t lie to anyone, especially strangers, and you shouldn’t be here.” The tall man’s once entertained tone now sounded bitter and short. He turned to Martin and Peter and fearfully probed, “You two don’t actually like this, do you?”

            The boys looked at one another. Peter’s eyes locked in on Martin’s fingers which looked twice as bad as his own ragged appendages. “No,” said Peter. “We don’t.” Martin did not correct him.

            “Well then why are you out here with this manipulative, masochistic lunatic?” Offended by this valid attack on Damian, Martin stepped in on defense.

            “Because he is our friend,” he stated bluntly.

            “Oh, is that so? A friend? Why would a friend introduce you to a bittersweet pleasure such as this? Nourishing friendships should involve sanctity, not endless risks.” He twisted his neck to include Damian in his address. “Have any of you fools even experienced true friendship? Of course you haven’t!” By this point, the stranger’s voice had grown deep and wrathful. The boys huddled together as he thundered over them, but the man’s glare became affixed with Damien’s. “And what’s worse is that I know you never will!”

            “ME!?” barked Damian. “I have known – I will know that friendship one day!”

            “Don’t get your hopes up, kid. That can be dangerous around these parts.” Without any warning at all, the man reached out and gripped Damian’s left bicep. As Martin and Peter watched in awe, he thrust Damian’s chubby forearm through a gap in the wires and swiftly bent it back through another. At first Martin tried to beat the man into letting Damian go, but Peter peeled him away when he saw how trivial his childish efforts were. “He brought this upon himself,” the killer reminded them. “And you kids shouldn’t have let him bring you here in the first place. You wouldn’t have to bear this secret together, but you do. Now, go tell Mr. Johnson to call the police. Tell them that your friend has gotten himself in a terrible accident.”

            By now Damian’s lifeless heels had begun carving into the soft dirt. As the boys witnessed the scene, their faces flooded with disappointment.  The minor muscle movements were nothing compared to the spectacular spasms he had promised earlier that same morning. No longer fascinated by Damian, the friends turned around to notice that the man had vanished amidst their fascination.

            Without another moment’s notice, Peter and Martin bolted up the sweating meadow towards the farmhouse. The steep incline alone was breath-taking but when coupled with the ensnaring grass and the sun’s blinding gaze, the ascent became stuff of legend. The two later decided that run was far more spiritual than anything Damian had ever offered them.