Colley moved to a flat area on the grass, cut the top off a flare with the pocketknife, and folded the top of the flare back, which caused a bit of yellow powder to spill to the ground. Colley took three bullets, packed them tight in the flare with the yellow powder. He took the flare and stuck it in the ground, pointed it towards the sky.
“What’s he doing?” Caroline asked. “Some kind of witchcraft or voodoo?”
Colley turned towards us and yelled, “Lay flat,” and took a match and lit the flare. He scrambled to where we laid, plopped on the ground on his belly, eyes focused on the flare. “Watch the flare.” Couldn’t figure out what he was doing but followed his directions.
The burning flare made a swoosh sound, and then burned a yellowish flame, followed by a loud whining noise that waxed and waned. The yellow flame turned a bright reddish orange, followed by a constant whirling sound and a swoosh. Big red-orange flames shot straight towards the sky, like a blowtorch. There were three loud pops, and three fiery lights streaked towards the sky. The bullets had headed for the sky as if fired from a gun.
“That was like the Fourth of July! Let’s do it again,” I shouted.
“All this trouble. Why don’t we just shoot the darn gun?” asked Caroline.
“Caroline, somebody could get hurt with a gun. This is like fireworks, much safer. Nobody gets hurt,” explained Jack.
Now, Colley had our attention. He made two flares this time, with four bullets in each instead of three. We knew the routine; except I had to help and light one flare while Colley lit the other one so they would do the fireworks thing at the same time.
We watched from our prone positions, and just as the flares reached that yellow-orange intense flame, the flare I lit tilted, and bumped and tilted the other flare towards the path that led us to the tent. The blow torch effect began. Colley yelled, “Quick, get low!”
The flares popped, the bullets streaked not up towards the sky as before, but parallel to the ground four to five feet high towards the path. Right then, a disheveled White man dressed in wrinkled, dirty clothes approached from the trail and yelled. “Get out of my—!”
Then the man screamed, grabbed his arm, his leg, his chest, and collapsed. His moaning and cursing filled the quiet that followed the burst of the bullets. The flares fizzled out and a layer of white smoke hovered low over the woodsy terrain and obscured our view of the man now lying on the ground.
Running away was a reflex. We ran until we reached the Thing on a plateau with red dirt, but it was no longer our priority. Not after what had just happened. We glanced at it, but the conversation centered on the bullet-fireworks.
Caroline’s voice trembled. “He was dead, wasn’t he?”
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