Two people in ill-kept white ties stood on a hilltop smoking, their eyes glazed over with boredom, their fingernails housed dirt, and their shoes through to their shins were covered in mud. The deep depressions into the hill are a clear indicator of where they came from. Down the hill, the mud was slightly drier as the fires from the marques were spreading to anything that would take their heat and cooking anything that was too wet to catch the light. They passed the one cigarette between them, taking turns with what little stimulation they could share.
The roar of the fire was nearly as loud as the screams of the people that were panicking down below, with the distant sounds of emergency vehicles beginning to compete with the orchestra of noise that was happening.
As the smoke rose into the air, the light of the fire traveled through it, creating a pillar of light into the sky that was illuminating the nearby clouds and the surrounding forest where it once lay in the darkness of night, only to be interrupted by the golden glow of small decorative lights, and now the harsh red flicker of the fire.
One of the people bit their lip, pulling the stick from it; they brought it back into their mouth before spitting it to the ground as they passed the stub of a cigarette back to their companion.
“Well, that is one way to end a night. Job well done, I would say, ae Imogen?”
“To be honest, it was the only way we were going to get any level of excitement out of this wedding.”
The two stood in a long pause, their breath visible as the night became colder.
“Shut it, Riley.” Imogen said, taking their long black hair out of the bun it was in.
“It just keeps on going; when do you think it will end?”
“I mean, it is hard to say. But I assume the small tent town will go, at a minimum. The fire department may be here before the forest catches on…”
Imogen was interrupted as there was a large explosion from one of the tents, cascading fire and shrapnel through the air, raining down on the other tents, cars, and in turn the edges of the forest.
“Well, I guess that was the kitchen’s tent. I had forgotten about all their gas-powered stove tops.”
“They had a whole restaurant in there. It was ridiculous how much equipment they brought out here. They might as well have had it somewhere in the city.”
“But then they couldn’t get all these views or experience nature.”
“Nature? They put up so many tents and walkways that they were barely outside. Not to mention all the air conditioning units and the million bug zappers. Rich people don’t know how to experience the outside world anymore.”
The two people watched as one of the guests was running in heels across the soft soil outside the tent, struggling to pull her feet up from them, sinking into the ground. Her hands held her elegant dress up and away from the ground.
“What on earth is she seriously concerned about her dress?”
“To be fair on that one, running in those tight dresses is probably impossible unless it is pulled up. However, the decision to keep the shoes on is confusing me.”
There was a second explosion as the fire spread, and further equipment started to feel the heat of the fire.
“And there goes the generators.”
There was a second explosion in the same spot, much larger than the first.
“And that is the fuel bowser. Jesus, you can feel the heart from here.”
“It is kind of beautiful, though, in its own way.” Imogen said as they tilted their head to the side.
Riley saw Imogen adjust their view and decided to try the same.
“Does the head tilt help reveal the beauty?”
“No, but I was curious if it would look any different if I tried.”
“You have an interesting brain; I appreciate it. I think I would suffocate myself in the chocolate fountain if it wasn’t for your constant stream of jokes about the guests.”
“Mmm, what a delicious way to go. I mean, with how thick that stuff is and how warm, I assume it would be horrific but tasty nonetheless.”
“Can we ask for anything more in life than a tasty death?”
“I mean, we can’t ask for a tasty meal.”
“I know, right?” Riley shouted, disturbing the low mumble that the two had going on all this time. “It was like the chefs forgot how to cook when they got to us; I guess we weren’t important enough to get any real food.”
“Oh, didn’t you hear?”
Riley raised an eyebrow, looking across to Imogen.
“Apparently, Clive heard the wedding planner talking to the chefs about how much effort to put into the meal for the… help.”
“Gross, I hate that term. Did Clive happen to describe what was said?”
“Yeah, essentially, they felt that if the food that was served to us was seen by guests to be too close to what they were getting, they would feel like they were being cheated out of good food and were just being fed sub-par food. So they artificially created a bigger divide in quality so that they did not feel like they were being encroached on.”
“Well, that is actually disgusting. I can’t believe that people actually think like that.”
“They are not people, though; rich rich people lose people status once they hit a certain point; they just become avatars of money, which is why they hoard wealth; they are trying to get their kind back together.”
Imogen let out a small life with the hints of a grin breaking the bleak look on their face.
“That is actually genius; it makes so much sense now. They are not greedy assholes addicted to endless streams of money; they are merely an inanimate object occupying a meat suit to collect their family back.”
“Oh woah, I think I prefer your description much better. I might have to integrate that into my life going forward.”
The two stopped talking as the screams of others started to change, and upon focusing on the instance below them, they could see people burning to death, rolling on the ground in desperation, or even just aimlessly walking until their bodies fully collapsed. Imogen and Riley both recoiled from the sight, their stomachs turning.
“I don’t think I was prepared for this much death.”
“Even at a distance, this is not great, or good, or anything positive. I know we talk shit about these people a lot, but I obviously don’t want them to go through this.”
Imogen half-turned, checking the ground behind them. They fell backward, staring up at the sky as they let their stomach settle. Riley smiled shyly, following suit. They felt the ick in their throat start to recede down their throat, uncomfortable in of itself but a good sign of getting better.
“Do you think that maybe we were a bit rough on them? I am feeling weird about everything we said now.” Riley said as they passed their hair through their hands repetitively.
Imogen let out a long exhale in exasperation.
“You have to be kidding me; I know what is happening isn’t great, but to be honest, I have no sympathy. They don’t even speak like humans; they don’t deserve the same kind of empathy that we give to our own.”
“Our own?” Riley said awkwardly.
“Come on, kid, this really isn’t hard, we are in a class system, and that system is ranked by finances; we are not the bottom, but we are fucking close. Those pricks down there are not even the richest, and they hold wealth that we could never dream of seeing. Why? I’ll tell you why, so they can throw these massive weddings where they spend more on one day than we will earn combined in five years.”
“Come on, it can’t be that much.”
“Really? Because I heard the wedding planner talking about it over the phone to someone, and I know for a fact that the number mentioned was ten times our wage. So if both of us wanted to throw this party, we would have to not spend any money, while working for five years each. Don’t defend them; I am sick and tired of people not being comfortable insulting people when they need to be. They talk big, then they feel bad because they said mean things, and then they make excuses for the hoarding fucks, and they continue to get away with what they are doing because we are too busy being stuck in a cycle of hating, empathizing, and arguing.”
Imogen sat up, screaming out for an instant before they started to clutch their knees close.
“Look at me go; I am helping perpetuate the bullshit system by getting mad at you. Go, team.”
Riley slowly sat up, looking back down into the carnage. They made their eyes lose focus, so they didn’t have to see anything.
“Did you know you call people kids when you think they are stupid?”
“No, I call people kids when I know they are doing something stupid. Don’t give them a second thought; they couldn’t give a fuck about you.”
“Look, I don’t like them, but can they all really be that bad?”
“Okay, let’s go through the list. There was the old man who groped everyone working on the wait team, and if anyone kicked up a fuss, they were removed in case they caused offense to our guest. Or how about the endless stream of people who ignore the parking wardens to try and get a closer park so they don’t have to walk as far, just to get angry with the wardens for having a shit system? That was only shit because everyone acted like an entitled cunt and feel justified calling us stupid. Or the collection of people that hit on us, then call us sluts and smack shit off our serving trays when we turn them down, and even talk loud enough for us to hear them talk about how they had to turn down the helps incessant advances to their friends. Or this, this one is good.”
“I get it.”
“No, you don’t.” Imogen yelled. “So listen. What about the times when we were talked about like a charity case by them, talking about how it is nice for us to find purpose, and be put in a positive environment by these generous benefactors that pay us as close to minimum wage, call us fucking idiots, slow, and trying, while half of them came from old money and have never even known what it is like having to actually budget for anything. They are not humans, not anymore; they forgot how to be.”
“Are you telling me that you can look me in the eye and say that those people down there deserve what is happening to them?”
Imogen turned to face Riley, their eyes red with rage, casting a heat from their intensity. They spoke clearly.
“They deserve this and more.”
“Well, if they deserve this, then what do we deserve? There are those poorer than us; to them, we are the same monsters.”
“We deserve a fucking break; we are not what THEY are. We do have more money than others, but the difference is if we can’t work, we die; if we donate any kind of money, there is a good chance that our quality of life will be negatively affected, while they could give away millions without anything in their life-changing so don’t pull that bullshit with me, I am sick of this conversation, I’ve had it too many times before.”
“Maybe, if you keep having this conversation with people, it means that you are a minority with what you think, and maybe you should take the time to evaluate what others have to say.”
There was a long pause as the two sat in silence; the low rumble of the calming chaos below began to settle.
“I am done with this,” Imogen said as they stood up. “I am sick of the cowards in our community letting the elite get away with what they want.”
“Oh, so because I say that I don’t want people to burn to death means I am a sympathizer and against your oh-so just cause?” Riley interrupted with a violent tone.
“Yes.” Imogen answered definitively. “I don’t eat raw meat, so my rich better be cooked well before I eat it. You do understand that eating the rich isn’t just some slogan of the poor, it is a message to those ‘above’ us that we are not happy, and they better watch their backs. So if you use it for the sake of it, you have missed the point entirely.”
Imogen trudged down the hill towards the flames that were being quelled by the firefighters.
“Where are you going?”
“To the damn police, I want to go home and get changed. Get this filth off of me.”
Riley flared their nostrils and scrunched up their forehead before releasing all their muscles and sighing as they followed suit.