Is Something Burning? - NaNoWriMo 2020
I was nineteen years old the first time I branded a live human. My father is a meticulously talented metal fabricator. He is also one of the craziest, most fascinating and intelligent people I know. So when he called me one Saturday afternoon and said he had hand crafted a brand and trusted his one and only daughter to do the deed, I was in. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity I just couldn’t past up. How many people do YOU know that can say, “I branded my dad!”
Now I have to admit, I was definitely apprehensive at first. There is a lot of pressure involved with being responsible for pressing a scorching red hot piece of sharp metal against someone’s skin, which will leave a permanent mark on their body for the rest of their life.
We cracked a few beers and took a few shots with my best friend and a few of his roommates while the brand rested in the flaming coals. It took about an hour for the brand to get legitimately red hot. After one last shot for luck, he braced himself up against the back deck, I gloved up in some heat resistant gear, and lined up the brand ready to sear the deed.
It was an exhilarating feeling, and I really wasn’t anticipating that fact. When I pressed the brand to his skin, I moved quickly and swiftly, because any faltering in my movements would leave scars that would show - for life. I let the brand rest there for maybe three to five seconds once it landed, and pulled it away just as quickly as I had placed it. It all happened so fast, but I was seeing it in slow motion. The smoke rising from his skin. The sizzling sound reminded me of bacon on a Sunday morning. Honestly, it kind of smelled the same too. I didn’t hate it. Actually, I loved it.
I’m thirty one now, and in the years since, it healed alright but has admittedly faded over time. It’s never perfect the first time. But that was by no means the last time I branded someone. I have had countless people ask me to brand them, and even got into the hobby of fabricating personalized brands. People who have paid for my services describe their fascination with branding the same as those who get tattoos, piercings, or scarification. It is a form of art on the body. Their body is my canvas, and I am happy to be the artist that decorates them. I am equally addicted to the art of branding as those who ask me to do so.
As we are all well aware, COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, hit this year. This put a MASSIVE hit in my branding business. So much so that the last client I had was in September of 2019. By April of this year, 2020, I had the itch to produce another brand so bad that I felt like ripping my hair out.
In the fashion of social distancing, I had picked up the habit of daily walks, to avoid the cabin fever. I had a few different locations I would frequent, and one of them was the local cemetery. It was always silent and solitary, and I liked it. Once when I was walking through the cemetery, I noticed a funeral in progress, and kept my respectful distance. As I was leaving to head back home was when the thought of the century occurred to me. The cemetery. It’s FULL of fresh...ish bodies that were ripe for the branding. And it’s not like anyone would ever see them again, they’d just go back in the ground when I was done with them.
I hatched a plan. I waited until around three thirty in the morning to head back to the cemetery. Just enough time for the drunks to be off the road, so easy for me to avoid the cops, and just a little too early for the morning workers to have headed out. Incognito at it’s best.
I got to work and was able to dig through the fresh dirt to the body underneath fairly quickly since it wasn’t even fully buried yet. While I was busy digging away, I had set a handheld blowtorch aflame to set the blades aglow on what was now my signature brand. Literally. It was my signature, as a brand.
Finally, I reached the coffin, and cracked the lid. I ALMOST felt bad. But it was too perfect. I just couldn’t pass this up. I gently lifted their shirt. I gently lifted the brand. I quickly turned off the torch. And I just as quickly pressed the brand to the corpse's skin. The sizzle. The smoke. The adrenaline all rushed back to me. And it was glorious.
I continued this pattern of behavior for a few months. I would scout the local cemeteries for new burials each day on my walks, and then at night I would make my night runs to brand and dash. I had decided to exclusively use my signature brand. It was sad - I had created the brand in October of 2019, hoping to really kick start my business taking off. But because of the ‘rona, I had yet to be able to use it. Now I was getting to use it over and over and leave my mark everywhere. My body count was up to thirteen.
A major problem arose this past week. I was doing my daily scouting, when I saw a person approaching me from the opposite direction. The first thing that tipped me off that there was a problem is that the person wasn’t wearing a face mask. It’s also late October in upstate Ohio, and the person was also wearing a dress. As they drew closer, they pulled out a pair of scissors from seemingly nowhere, cut a slit into the dress where their stomach was, and it hit me like a nuclear bomb. My signature brand was on their stomach.
This was not possible. No living person had that brand. I had only used it on the dead.
The next day, there were two people who walked past exposing my brand. The day after that, it was four. I recognized their faces. I couldn’t look them in the face. They never approached me or attempted to interact with me in any way, but they always made sure to show me my brand - regardless of where I had placed it on their person. I stopped scouting that day, and I haven’t returned to the cemetery since.
The next night I heard banging at my door for a few hours. I was terrified to see what it was. I never left my bed. Yesterday, the banging lasted all day and all night. I sat stone still on my couch, eyes not leaving the television, hoping that eventually I would wake up and all my terrible deeds and everything resulting from it would turn out to just be a dream.
Now we’ve arrived at today's events. Just before dawn, the banging on my door began. Suddenly, the door burst open, and they rushed in. All thirteen of the deceased whom I had branded made their way into my door, brands and torches in their hands. There was a large struggle between them and I. But I’ve been chained by the ankles to this steel metal chair since morning. It’s dark outside now. It has been dark for a long time. The chair has slowly been heating up, and it’s starting to get uncomfortable. But I can’t get up. They have all taken turns one by one emblazing me with their own personal brands. I don’t know how long I’ll be here. I don’t know how many times I will be branded. I don’t even think I’m recognizable at this point. What goes around comes around, I guess.