|From The Ashes: Come To Dust
||[Jul. 13th, 2007|02:41 pm]
From The Ashes
Title: Come To Dust
Rating: PG-13 for one brief sexual description
Timeframe: Season 1 AU, pre-"Castles Crumble"
Characters: Anna Ellsworth, Patrick Ellsworth (OCS)
Genre: angst, horror
Summary: "If she'd known it would be the last day, she would have done things differently." Prequel to "From The Ashes" series.
Author's Notes: All characters in this are original and belong to me, except one. He belongs to Eric Kripke. Quote and title come from "Cymbeline" by William Shakespeare. This story originally appeared in "Hell Quarterly" (Vol 2Iss 2, March 2007).
Fear no more the heat o' th' sun
Nor the furious winters rages
Thou thy worldly task hast done
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages
Golden lads and girls all must
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust
-- William Shakespeare, "Cymbeline"
December 27, 2005
If she'd known it would be the last day, she would have done things differently.
She'd tell herself that later, of course, but her only thoughts that morning were that she needed to clean up the remnants of their meager Christmas celebration, and that Patrick really needed to clean out the cave he called a room.
Anna Ellsworth stuck her dark blonde head into her brother's room and found him, as usual, on the computer, a stack of used paper plates on his desk. On the top one, a half-eaten pepperoni Hot Pocket was congealing in a mess of microwaved tomato sauce and cheese.
Her eighteen-year-old brother was hunched over his keyboard, staring intently at the screen, the light reflected on his glasses. His jaw was slack as he watched tiny computerized figured hacking and slashing each other. His shaggy brown hair was unkempt and getting a little stringy.
"Did you even go to bed last night?" Anna asked, as she retrieved the plates with a sigh.
"Uh . . . what time is it?"
"I'll take that as a no." She sighed and left him to his video games.
Anna dumped the mess into the kitchen garbage can and set about making breakfast. She actually had time this morning, since she didn't work until the afternoon. Tomorrow, though, she'd have all the time in the world. It was her last day at her job, due to the store closing. She wasn't sure what she was going to do, since she had to take care of Patrick.
For a moment, she closed her eyes and leaned against the counter. It would be nice not to have to constantly pester Patrick into doing his laundry, or the chores he was supposed to help her with. He was eighteen and by rights should have been out on his own, but he just hadn't been the same since their parents had died, a little over a year before.
At the sink, she filled the kettle with water, eyeing the yard outside with dismay as she did. Several inches of snow covered the lawn and driveway, and it was still coming down in big, fluffy flakes.
"Great," Anna muttered. "I so need to move out of Utah."
Pat shuffled in as she was making waffles. He sniffed appreciatively and pushed his glasses back up his nose. One pant leg was up around his knee, exposing a skinny, pale, hairy calf. "Waffles?" he asked.
"Yep. I made plenty, so have as many as you'd like." She slid a plate his way. "I know you're probably not going to, but I'd really like you to at least get out of the house today and try to find a job."
He looked at the snow. "I'm not goin' out in that!"
"I have to," she reminded him. "And since this is my last day and they're giving my severance after my shift, we're going to have to start scrimping a little more around here, at least until I get another job and get some more money coming in. You being up all night on the computer is not helping the electricity bill."
"You know I can't work, Anna!" Patrick said, in a wheedling, pleading tone. "I keep screwing up."
"What you keep doing is destroying things!" she exclaimed.
"It's not my fault," he whispered, looking at her with hurt filling his blue-grey eyes, the same shade as her own. "I can't control it."
Anna stared at her brother for a long moment, and then sighed heavily. "I know, kiddo."
The kettle started to whistle and she pulled out two mugs. "Cocoa?" she asked.
"Do we have cider?" Pat asked.
"I think we've got some downstairs. Let me go check."
She trudged down the stairs, silently wishing that Patrick could control it, that he was together enough to practice and get better, instead of getting depressed and giving up every time he hit a set-back. But her little brother wasn't "together", and he wasn't really all there, either.
Anna shook her head as she reached the area of the basement they used for food storage. "Dang it, Mom, why'd you have to be driving that day? I can't keep doing this by myself."
Her hand had just closed on the can of cider mix when a muffled shout and swearing came from the floor above her. Abandoning the can, Anna dashed back up the stairs, arriving in the kitchen panting and out of breath.
Smoke was billowing out of the waffle iron, and Patrick was waving at it frantically. That only seemed to encourage the fire, which had sprung from the cooking waffle and waved angry fingers from the seams between the plates.
"Out of the way!" she ordered.
"I didn't mean to!" he wailed.
Anna gritted her teeth. "You never do."
She mirrored her brother's motions and waved a hand over the waffle iron. The flames that had been greedily consuming oxygen from the air sputtered and winked out, leaving the kitchen full of smoke.
She turned and glared at Pat, who looked at her apologetically. "Stay away from cooking. How many times have I told you that?"
"A couple billion," he said in an off-handed, I-don't-care way. "I know, I know, just use the microwave."
"Fire is not your friend," she muttered.
Patrick huffed. "You think I don't know that by now?"
He grabbed his plate of waffles and stalked back into his room. Anna eyed the two solitary waffles left, then the ruined waffle iron. She felt tears pricking behind her eyelids.
Lovely. Okay, so, after work, when I cash my paycheck at Wal-Mart, I'll just . . . pick up another, she thought.
Anna poured syrup over her waffles and ate them in solitary silence at the table, wondering if this was what the rest of her life was going to be: lonely meals, angry silences, and an unstable pyrokinetic brother destroying the house around them.
Her brother emerged from his room about two hours later. He washed his plate and fork off and put them in the dishwasher without being asked, an obvious attempt at making it up to his sister, who was sitting at the table with another mug of cocoa and a romance novel.
"I don't sleep," he said suddenly. "I mean, I do, but I have nightmares."
She didn't look up from the book, where Captain Desmond Montoya was in the middle of ravishing his young, beautiful captive, Lady Elizabeth Albright of the flaming red hair. "Yeah? What about?"
"A man," Patrick whispered. "He talks to me. Tells me that all those things I did right after Mom and Dad died were good, and that I should do more things like them."
That made her put the book down. "He what? What man is this?"
Her little brother shrugged. "Don't know. I never see his face. Just his eyes. Glowing eyes. They're yellow. He scares me."
"They're just dreams," she said automatically, though a chill ran down her spine at her brother's words. "You don't have to listen to him. In fact, you just tell that creepy guy where he can shove his ideas."
That got a laugh out of him. "He's a guy in nightmares, Anna."
"Exactly. And it's your head." She checked her watch. "Okay, I gotta go catch the bus. I'll probably get a ride back with Carrie, so I'm off at seven, should be home by eight or so, depending on how long it takes me to get through Wal-Mart."
Patrick watched as she grabbed her bag--the one with her laptop and other random things she took everywhere with her. "Can you get some bologna at the store?"
Anna pulled a face. "How can you eat that crap? Yeah, I'll grab some. Try not to burn the house down while I'm gone, huh?"
"Funny," he responded sarcastically. "See you later."
"So, Patrick almost set the kitchen on fire again," Anna told Carrie as they wandered through the store that evening.
Carrie, who wasn't quite in the "friend" range for Anna, but was one of the closest she had to the definition, raised a dark eyebrow. "Again? That's, what, the second time in a month?"
Anna shrugged. "He just can't cook."
She tossed a package of bologna in the cart with a new jug of milk, the new waffle iron, and a loaf of bread. "Okay, let's go."
In the check-out line, Carrie asked, "You got another job lined up?"
"Not at the moment. I figure I'm gonna take a couple days and just feel things out. Hope for something after the holiday help goes away. You're lucky that you got hired on by the people buying out the store."
Carrie eyed her sympathetically. "I've got managerial experience. You know that's the only reason why."
"That, and I didn't apply for the new store."
"You didn't? I thought Zack told everyone to apply."
"He did. I didn't. End of story." Anna stepped up to the cashier and took care of her purchases and the check cashing. "I'm glad this happened just after Christmas, though, 'cause it means I got all those hours."
Carrie finished paying for her own groceries and they headed out to the other woman's grey Nissan. Anna spent most of the ride home listening to Carrie talk about her boyfriend, their manager Zack. Truthfully, the thought of this job ending and not knowing what to do or where to go from here had a hard, cold ball rolling around in Anna's stomach.
She didn't confess this to Carrie, though. There were a lot of things Carrie didn't know about Anna, things Anna told no one. had, in fact, told no one since the day her parents had died in a car accident. Like the fact that when Carrie had handed Anna her bags to put in the back seat, Anna had seen rather clearly what Carrie and Zack's "meeting" had consisted of that afternoon: Carrie on Zack's desk, skirt around her waist, the manager between her thighs. That was not a visual Anna had needed.
Carrie dropped her off at the house and drove off with a wave. Anna eyed the dark house and trudged wearily up the driveway. She dug for her keys, the door just as locked as she'd left it that afternoon. Patrick had probably stayed inside all day and was probably up to his ears in orcs, or whatever it was he was fighting in that game he was obsessed with lately.
Anna checked the mail, relieved for once to see no bills in the mailbox, just junk ads and a postcard from Janet Evanovich, announcing the title of book twelve in the Stephanie Plum series. She let herself into the house and dropped her bag by the door, her coat hung up in the closed. She set the waffle iron on the counter in the kitchen. The bologna and milk went in the fridge, the bread by the toaster.
Grabbing a granola bar, she went to knock on Patrick's door. "Pat? I'm home. You eat dinner?"
He didn't respond, but he rarely did. Shrugging, Anna headed down the hall to her room. The lamp flickered when she turned it on. Glancing out into the hallway, she saw the Mickey Mouse nightlight her mother had installed years before was also having technical difficulties.
"Stupid old wiring," she muttered.
Her laundry basket sat on the bed, waiting for her to finish folding it. Her green hoodie was right on top. The house was a little chilly, so she slipped it on.
Anna had an armload of clothes in hand when the smell reached her. Smoke. She went back down the hall to Pat's room.
"Pat? Are you burning stuff in there?"
She looked at the door; smoke was curling out between it and the frame, just little wisps, but too much for a simple PK exercise. The doorknob was hot, which was her first warning, but since she was a pyrokinetic as well, it didn't burn her when she grasped the brass fixture and opened the door.
Smoke and flames billowed in the room. Anna stared in horror for an eternal moment, taking in the burning walls, the ceiling that was completely gone, the contents of the attic above scattered around the floor.
Patrick on the floor. Or . . . what was left of him. His glasses lay nearby, broken and covered in blood. The incongruity struck Anna a moment before she registered the pool of blood on the floor, and that her brother was dead.
She gagged, her stomach rebelling at the scent of charred flesh, and she reeled backwards from the door. A wave of heat followed her, sucking at the fresh air in the hallway. Out. She had to get out.
Shaking from the terror and shock, Anna missed the place between the living room and the hallway where the carpet had pulled up, and she went down on one knee.
Get up, Anna!
She wouldn't question the command until long after, but now she blindly followed it, struggling to her feet with the clothes still clutched to her stomach. Her hand slipped off the latch on the front door, and her foot tangled in the strap of her bag.
Her bag! Anna grabbed it and threw herself out the door, shoving the screen door open with her elbow. She reached the snow of the front lawn just as a tremendous roar exploded behind her and the concussion of the gas lines igniting knocked her flat on her face.
It also knocked free whatever had kept her from making a sound, from breathing, even. She sucked in a huge breath, coughed as she inhaled snow, and choked. Then she began to sob as she struggled to rise from the icy drift. All she could manage was a crawl, dragging her things with her as flaming debris crashed down. She was soaked through in moments, while the heat of the blaze nearly singed her back.
Neighbors were pouring out of the houses all along the block. One figure, tall and dark, caught Anna's attention for just a fraction of time, before he melted into the gathering crowd. Firelight reflected in his eyes as he looked her way, seeming to make them flash a deep, sickly yellow.
"I never see his face. Just his eyes. Glowing eyes. They're yellow. He scares me, Anna."
Hands grabbed her, helped her to her feet. By the time she had her things out of the snow, she'd completely forgotten the man. Anna stood on the sidewalk, listening as the sirens drew near, and watched her life burn to ashes.