Mateo stood in front of the shack, the smell of gasoline stiff in his nose. Behind him, he could feel Amanda waiting with her usual impatience, her eyes boring into the back of his head. He finished off the red tankard of gasoline, his gut clenching into knots, as if it were full of mating snakes. The shack had been chosen well beforehand, the location as remote as they could get in the deserts of Nevada. There wasn't another person for maybe thirty miles. They'd had to drive almost four hours to get here.
Mateo stepped back and away from the shack, his eyes glued to it, as if he felt compelled to pay witness. A part of him still wondered if he could do it. He knew Amanda had brought along ear plugs - said that he definitely wanted them, otherwise he'd turn back, run away, ruin this whole scheme - but what he wanted most was a 40 in his hand to take the sting off. No matter how much he swallowed, his mouth would never wet, the dry desert air sapping all moisture from his skin and eyes. The fire will make it worse, he thought. I should have brought lotion. I'm gonna be so ashy.
The strange things you think about.
"Here," Amanda offered, taking his hand and pressing earplugs into his palm. The blond girl pulled back a strand of gelled, spiky hair to showcase that she'd already put hers in. "You better do it quick. She's gonna wake up soon."
"Am... Amanda--" Mateo started, turning his dark eyes to the ear plugs.
"She's a witch," Amanda drew out. "A bruja. Someone who makes curses just for giggles."
Mateo drew a shaking breath and began to put the plug in his ear when he heard someone say, from within the shack, "Mateo? Baby?"
The voice was laced with terror and confusion, and he felt a panic rise in his stomach. I can't do this.
But then, as he moved his hand, the tracks across each and every one of his finger joints seemed to glare at him in the desert's unmerciful sun. The memory of his mother's knife cutting cleanly through the toddler's joints made his stomach climb up into his chest cavity, the recollection of growing them back making him feel like he would vomit. This was a small sacrifice for what he would get. That was what Amanda had told him. True, full, curse-blinding.
He put the ear plugs into his ears as he stared at the runes he'd carved into the door of the shack, and he pulled out the matchbook from his back jeans pocket. Amanda watched with green eyes as he walked forward, struck the match, and hover there.
Everything was still as Mateo let the match burn towards his finger, standing with a flat expression.
Finally, he threw it towards the shack, and it caught flame. Even through the plugs, he could hear her scream.