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______ "I'm glad that it hasn't rained since that storm a few weeks ago. Do you know what a pain it would be to light the houses if they were wet." Alexia said.
______ "That was such a bad time, I felt like the world was going to end." replied Gregory while painfully remembering the withdrawl he went through that week. He couldn't believe it had been as bad as it had. He still had a problem grasping how dearly he needed sine after only six months. He used to live in a walled estate in the hills, until he started using. It had drained his savings and his parents' college fund for him in under three months. Since then Gregory had been stealing and looting to get money to support his habit.
______ His anger was suspended by a rustling in the bushes. A rabbit scampered across the cracked sidewalk in front of the thieving trio, pausing to look up at their green,
yellow, and blue painted faces and shaved heads and eyebrows.
______ "Grab it," demanded Alexia, "for later. Gentlemen, we are about to secure our first torcher of the night."
______ As Kyle bounded off after the rabbit, Alexia and Gregory began to prepare for the evening's entertainment. They knew their mission. They were to break into as many houses and possible and secure valuables. If their presence was noticed or challenged, they were to do whatever was necessary to contain the situation. Then they were to report back to the meeting place to discuss which houses would be best for the burning. It was a lot to ask, but the reds knew their wishes would be carried out. None of the other paints had enough materials to set any significant fires. Until they would meet back with their reports, all the others would think about would be the fastest way to get their chores done. They were all craving fire and the quicker the houses were raided, the faster their pain would be eased.
______ Alexia entered the house first. She walked into the main room, and stepped on something. It let out a short cry. Kyle, who had successfully captured the rabbit and returned to help, brought out his club and gave the child a quick, hard hit to the head. The only sound was the shattering of the child's cranium, followed by a thud, as its head fell to the floor for the final time.
______ "Damnation,"she cursed, "for being a rich neighborhood, there certainly are a lot of little bastards sleeping on this floor."
______ The three knew they had to move fast. One kid on the floor meant there were more and as they tried to make it past the main room, several cries erupted from the bodies they trampled. Kyle silenced as many as he could before a light was turned on in the back of the house.
______ "Who's there?" asked a meek woman's voice.
______ Silence followed.
______ "You better be pretty fucking brave to step foot into my house and expect to live." boomed a man's deep voice.
______ With a quick nod of the head, Kyle gave the signal to disperse and draw the man away from the woman so they could get to the bedroom. They hoped to find money and other valuables there. Alexia and Kyle pretended to run out of the house very loudly, pleased to hear the man following them. As the man passed Gregory, he slipped past to take care of the woman. He found her cowering in a corner, and had no difficulty snapping her fragile spinal stem. If he had more time, and wasn't high, he could have found pleasure in raping her. She had a small frame and he could easily picture his bulging sex within her. But he was on a tight schedule, and could not find the time to abuse her limp body. He rummaged through her things and found $30,000 stashed in her sock. Trying not to show his joy, he turned her face down and fled to the meeting place. He hoped to find the others there, with equal treasures.
______ When he reached the spot he was glad to find everyone there. However, he was not happy to see all the lights in the community coming on. Rolf and Titania appeared to be fighting, and Felisa was cursing loudly. Gregory knew something had gone wrong, very wrong.
______ Without a look in their direction or inquiry about their findings, the reds brought out their fire setting materials and began to set everything in sight on fire. Several shots were fired and Paul the green fell.
______ This wasn't what was supposed to happen. They were supposed to be able to watch the leaping flames in peace and enjoy their high. There weren't supposed to be casualties, like Paul. What was going on?
______ Before Gregory could think further on the topic, he was forced back into reality by a shove from his left side. Alexia now stood beside him, screaming something over the gunfire and other yelling. All he could make out was that she was going outside of the wall so she could watch the flames in peace.
______ Gregory quickly scanned the surroundings for Kyle, and upon spotting him in the chaos grabbed him and dragged him to the gate with Alexia. The three felt no shame in deserting the others in their group. They only cared about getting the most out of their high.
______ The noise and gunshots must have aroused the interest of the other scavengers in the area and they were met by a screaming mob of homeless people as they left through the gate.
______ "The fun is that way," screamed Alexia as they headed for the safety outside of the community walls.
______ In the minutes to come, several other paints fled the community to watch the flames from the outside. They had accomplished what they came to do. They had instigated the destruction of another community, a process which the homeless scavengers would soon finish, and gotten high.
______ The group must have been an odd sight to see; nine young adults, heads shaven and faces painted an array of colors, standing transfixed outside the walls of a flaming community. Their eyes were wide with excitement, all the men had visible erections, and the women were clawing at their private parts, trying to release the sexual tension the fire created within them. For two hours, while the whole neighborhood burned, the group acted like this, their feeling of an intense high, better than the arousal of sex, never lessened or subsided. Those who had taken bigger hits, the reds in particular, stayed like this for four hours and more.
______ Gregory, Kyle, and Alexia slipped away from the others after about two hours. They still had the rabbit to burn. Burning flesh was better than burning wood and they wanted to torch the rabbit before their highs subsided. The three made their way back to the abandoned construction site they called home.
______ "Rolf and the others won't be back anytime soon," Alexia said, "so we can use their supplies."
______ "Even if they do get back," added Gregory, " they will be thankful for the sight of this one burning. We won't get in trouble."
______ "Give me a minute." Kyle said, "I have to take care of something."
______ Alexia and Gregory waited impatiently while Kyle disappeared into the darkness with his bong. He reappeared minutes later empty-handed and announced it was time to begin their ceremony.
______ While Kyle lit the rabbit, Alexia and Gregory looked on, feeling their highs reborn. They didn't even notice or try to help Kyle, who had gotten too close to the flames and accidentally caught himself on fire. The sight of his flesh burning only increased their sensation. They smiled as his green paint turned red and blue in the heat, his scalding flesh made the fire white and purple. It was not often Alexia and Gregory got to see such a vivid light display, they could not help but enjoy it.

______ After the flames dies out, they looked at Kyle's charred remains, feeling sorry for him; after all, he hadn't gotten to watch his own show.
______ "Where did he put his bong Gregory?"
______ "I'm not sure."
______ "We had better be the first ones to find it. It wouldn't be fair for it to go to anyone else."
______ "We knew him best. It should be ours." added Gregory resentfully.
______ With that agreed, the two went in search of Kyle's treasure. Gregory secretly hoped to find it first. $30,000 and a bong would enable him to become a blue, if not a red. He felt sorry for Alexia, she wasn't bright enough to know he was about to turn against her. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Alexia's giggle. Gregory looked over to see her with bong in one hand and a wad of cash in the other.
______ "Looks like Kyle had been saving his money." she said grinning, "I'll be sure to thank him next time I see him."
______ "Me too." Gregory added, very disappointed that he had not been the one to find Kyle's hidden treasure; it would have made him a red for sure.
______ Before he could become too enraged, the sounds of the others returning were heard in the distance. Both Gregory and Alexia had the idea to make tracks. No words were needed to express the feeling that all would be lost if anyone discovered them there. As soon as Kyle's remains were spotted, Rolf and Titania would confiscate all their possessions, claiming to need to investigate the events surrounding his untimely death. They both knew they would never see any of their things again. As they slipped out the back with their newly acquired booty, they made a silent pact to stick together. They both knew that would be the only way to make it.

______ Alexia awoke to the sounds of a dog barking. She lazily brushed the sleep out of her eyes and looked over to see Gregory wrestling with a sorry looking dog. It was still light enough outside to see the two figures in heated combat. Pushing her curiosity aside, she reached for the nearest rock. Alexia silently crept up behind the two and waited until the dog was on top of Gregory. In one quick motion, she crushed the dog's skull and threw it off Gregory, hoping to find him unharmed.
______ "I never thought I would say this to you," Gregory panted, obviously tired from his wrestling match, "but, thank you."
______ "Don't mention it. You would have done the same for me." replied Alexia, not really knowing if he would have. They had not been moving together for long enough to build any loyalty yet.
______ "Let's get moving." Gregory instructed, "We have a lot of highway to cover tonight."
______ "Shall we bring the dog's body with us?"
______ "I guess, we can use it in the fire next time we get high."
______ Just saying the words made Gregory and Alexia miss the sine they had had access to when they belonged to their group. Now, on their own, with limited funds, it was hard to find anyone who would sell them any for the amount they were willing to pay. It had been almost two days since they had left the security of Rolf and the others. Both were beginning to resent their hasty decision to leave the shelter and security that Rolf, Felisa, and Titania promised. Sine was much easier to acquire in numbers and Felisa was especially good at making excellent trades.
______ They picked up their sacks and packed up their small camp. In the distance, the highway was emptying of the hopeful travelers headed north. Small groups of people were making camps on the side of the road, ready to settle in for the night. Alexia and Gregory found it easier to travel at night. When the roads were empty, there was no hostility towards them. People fear those who are different from them, especially groups who are known to be dangerous. The paint on their faces automatically classified Alexia and Gregory as "pyros", and very dangerous in large groups. Since they traveled alone, there was likely to be more hatred and violence towards them than fear of them.
______ Alexia had estimated they had traveled only five miles the night before, and their feet were still throbbing from the unusual activity. Neither one had noticed before how lazy they had become since they had started using sine. Now they regretted selling their shoes to purchase their last, meager supply.
______ By midnight, Gregory felt pressured to break the silence. But the more he talked to Alexia, the more he thought about being with her. Over the past sleepless day, he had reasoned with himself about this development. Gregory decided it must be some sort of weird withdrawl symptom. For the first time in months, he felt human desires in addition to animal cravings. He wanted the drug, but he also wanted Alexia. In the middle of his mental battle over what to say to her without sounding childish or stupid, Alexia broke the silence.
______ "Gregory"
______ "Yes?"
______ "Look up. What do you see?"
______ "Stars and a dark sky."
______ "Anything else?"
______ "I think that big one over there is a planet, but I'm not sure." Gregory replied hesitantly as he looked over at Alexia for approval.
______ Instead of finding her a few feet away from him, where she had been moments ago, his face met hers as he turned his head to locate her. He couldn't help but smile at her beauty. He had never really paid much attention to her before, he only cared about getting high. But now, without the drug's dehumanizing influence, he noticed how beautiful she really was. Her blue paint glistened in the moonlight, her eyes sparkled like the stars above, and her body begged for his touch. She looked over at him and slowly raised her hands to meet his. Without any words or hesitation they lay down together.
______ For the next six hours he explored every part of her body, kissed every inch of her skin. Her body trembled as he continued to make love to her. She moved as he moved, their two bodies were now one. She caressed him, her fingers relaying her desires and passion for him.
______ When Alexia had control of her body again, she reached in her pack and produced a small pouch. She opened it, revealing a hearty supply of sine. Gregory looked at her with love in his eyes. She had waited for him to be ready to take her, to trust her. Now she would share part of her secrets with him, and he would be hers forever.
______ They were both ready to increase their arousal and peak again. After three hits apiece they lit the dog's carcass, watching the purple and green flames dance with pleasure. Long after the flames died down, they fell asleep in each others arms.
______ They awoke to the shaking of the earth. Looking over at Gregory to make sure she wasn't dreaming, fear grew within Alexia. Earthquake!! It had been years since Alexia had felt this great a tremor come from the earth. Her panic took her back to the last big quake.

______ "Mommy, where are you? I'm scared. Mommy, where are you?"
______ Alexia looked around her bedroom, searching for her mother's figure. She got out of bed, determined to find her mother. She walked out to the hall, past her teddy bears and precious belongings, all piled on the floor. The light in the hall had flickered for an instant, and was now inactive. She felt her way along the hallway, it seemed to longer than before, almost never-ending. She went past the door to the guest room where her aunt and uncle slept through the earth's anger, past the maid's quarters and towards her parents' room. The earth stopped moving when she reached her parents door. She tried to push it open, but something was in the way.
______ "Mommy, daddy!!!!"
______ She tried again to get through the door. Her ten-year-old frame permitted her to squeeze through the small crack she made. She ran to her parents' bed.
______ "Mommy, daddy, why are you so quiet? I could hardly hear you."
______ Alexia climbed onto the bed. She saw shattered bits of the ceiling-mirror everywhere.
______ "Mommy, daddy, what is wrong?" she said as she shook the bodies of her parents, hardly noticing the blood that stained their nightclothes.
______ "HELP, someone help, my mommy and daddy aren't awake. They won't talk to me," she screamed into the void of her house.
______ There was no reply. The ground started to tremble again as she curled up next to the limp, dead body of her mother.
______ She closed her eyes tightly and made a promise to herself; she would not wake up again if her mommy and daddy didn't. She felt confused, she wanted to sleep through the earthquake like her parents were doing.
______ She awoke several hours later. She tried to wake her parents again, but all her attempts failed. She knew they were dead. If they couldn't take care of her, who could? No one.

______ Gregory instinctively looked around to make sure nothing would fall on them. He reached for Alexia, who appeared to be in a trance.
______ "Alexia, are you alright?"
______ "Alexia, are you alright?" Gregory repeated, a little louder this time.
______ He now saw the tears that ran down her cheeks, smearing her blue paint. Without anymore words, he held her to him as if the world would end if her let her go. He moved with her as she rocked, hugging her knees to her chest, faintly singing a lullaby. He knew he could stay like this until she didn't need him to hold her anymore; he wanted to.
______ Alexia stopped singing and rose to her feet. Gregory reluctantly released her.
______ "Let's go see if we can find any supplies," she instructed, "I'm sure people will be too scared to notice our presence."
______ Without hesitation, she moved in the direction of the nearest group of campers. She was pleased to find a couple with a small child not too far away. Gregory followed, knowing it would be his job to take care of the man, while Alexia searched the woman and child for any cash or valuables. As Alexia lured the woman into a conversation about the earthquake, Gregory brought out his knife and slashed the man's neck from behind. Blood ran down the man's bare chest as Gregory lowered him to the ground. The woman started screaming as Alexia brought out a sturdy piece of twine. She was calling for her dead husband and pleading for her life. Alexia strangled her and searched her body for money. Finding little, the two moved on.
______ They left the child to die, perhaps prowling dogs would end its suffering. There was no question about their routine, it was almost second nature. This was how they survived. But now, they could trust each other enough to do it together.