A close to final version.
The Night the Train Came
The door was closed, but it couldn’t keep out the voices, the tears; couldn’t keep out the wolves of fear and desperation that clawed at it, threatened to break it down and tear everything to pieces.
Not like that would do much. Everything already was in pieces; he’d knocked our world off a table and sent it crashing to a stone floor when he’d walked out the door and not come back.
Another gust of hot night wind rustled the curtains next to my wide open window; I’d hoped the wind and the night could muffle the conversation down stairs, but it didn’t. I could still hear M and Mom talking, their voices rising up to me. The door, the flimsy, fiber board door couldn’t keep out the conversation, filled with all the things that went around and around in my head and haunted my footsteps even in my dreams.
“He just left, M,” Mom spluttered, trying to hold in the sobs that I knew were coming anyway. “He was here, and acting normal one minute, and then the next he was gone and the door was banging behind him and- and I thought he would come back but-“ she started to cry, really cry now, and I shut my eyes and threw back my head, banging it lightly against the wall behind me bed
Where the heck was he? Didn’t he know that Mom was crying downstairs in the kitchen? How could have not have thought?
How could he have just walked out the door and not come back?
I flung back the thin sheet that had covered my knees and walked across the carpet to the window, and stuck my head out into the darkness, broken by the lights from downstairs spilling out the cracks in the curtains, leaving sharp lines on the lawn, like daggers.
I l leaned across my desk, sticking my head farther out into the night air, hoping to stifle the voices rising up the stairs. My hand brushed against a metal corner of a picture frame that lay face down on the desk, and I grabbed it and brought it out into the semi-darkness of the roof.
I could just see the picture in the frame- me, holding a baseball glove, proudly displaying the ball I had snagged. And there was an arm laid proudly over my shoulder- his arm- the thought made anger rise in my stomach-
How could he have just left?
I dashed the picture against the shingles of the roof; the glass shattered and the frame slid off into the darkness, but not before I could stop seeing the picture in my mind: me, me and my father.
The sharp sound of breaking glass was still in my ears, but it couldn’t keep out the voices. “He’ll come back, Samantha,” M promised. “He’ll come back.”
How they heck did he know?
A faint rumble of thunder crackled over the still air. Plenty of time before the storm broke. I could leave. I could go and walk, or go and stay the night somewhere, come back before morning-
Anything to get away from this.
Annie had a million extra beds and I knew where she had hidden the key; heck, I’d helped her do it. She wouldn’t care.
And maybe I could sleep there. Maybe.
Another faint crackle of thunder filled the sky, and downstairs, Mom cried even harder. I could hear her sobs even with my head out of the window.
My hand tightened around the handle of the drawer that held my flashlight and then I took a deep breath and yanked it out. My hand closed around the cold, heavy steel of the light and then I slithered through the window, checking my back pocket for my phone, just in case something happened.
I slid down the roof and paused at the edge for a second, above the few stray daggers of light cast onto the lawn.
I could still hear them out here.
I flung the flashlight off the roof; it made a thump on the grass below, and I reached up for the branch of the tree that grew next to the house. In a few moments, I was on the ground, feeling for the flashlight. I found it, half in a patch of light, and grabbed my muddy tennis shoes from the back step and crammed them on to my feet.
M’s voice drifted out from the house. “How are Alex and Star doing, Sam?”
And that was when I started running, really running. I sprinted out of our yard and out on to the dirt road beside the tracks, turning up cinders.
I was not going to listen to them talk about me.
Eventually, I ran out of steam, and slowed to a walk. I turned the flashlight on. It’s beam made a tiny indent in the massive darkness, like a snip in a piece of paper.
I kicked at the cinders, sending a plume of them up into the darkness.
Aside from my feet crunching on the cinders, it was quiet out here. No waring adults downstairs, no sobs. Just the about to storm air and the quiet that comes before a huge storm.
Another rumble of thunder filled the sky, and I didn’t look back. I knew the way to Annie’s by heart and there was no way I was going back. Not to that room and the hot bed and the voices rising up the stairs.
Where the heck was he? Did he know what he had caused?
I spin around at the sound of my sister’s voice, cutting through the darkness. There she was, caught in the circle of my flash light beam. Her short, golden curls were tangled, and she still had her school clothes on. Her boots crunched on the gravel, and she had one of her hands hidden behind her back. I shone my flashlight towards it.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” she said, but I caught a glimpse of red and stepped closer. I took her arm and pulled her hand around to the light, and she didn’t resist.
It was covered in blood.
“Star, what happened?” I asked, putting the flashlight in her good and and slipping off my navy hoodie.
I wrapped my sweatshirt around her hand and took the flashlight back. She put her hand on top of the awkward wrap and pushed down, trying to stop the bleeding.
“Tell me what happened?” I said.
“It’s nothing,” she said. “Just a little scratch.”
“That was a lot of blood for a scratch,” I said. “How did it happen?” “It’s not that big of a deal,” she said. “It doesn’t even hurt that much. Are you okay?”
“What happened?” I asked.
She sighed, and said in a small voice, “There was a piece of glass on the roof, and it scratched my hand.”
The picture frame. My glass. My fault.
I looked down at the sweatshirt wrapped around her hand and a lump of guilt rose up inside my stomach. “Star, I’m sorry, it’s my fault-“
“It’s not your fault,” she said. “I heard you throw the picture and I saw it break and I wanted to do exactly the same things and I didn’t remember by the time I saw you sneak out. I’m the idiot.”
“You were watching the roof?” I asked.
“I knew you’d leave,” Star admitted, looking up at me and meeting my eyes. “I could just- just tell-“
“That’s only kind of creepy, you know that, right?”
“The point is,” she said. “You better come back. You have to come back.” There was a slight tremor in her voice as she looked up and met my eyes. “You have to come back.”
I looked her in the eyes and reached out and took her hand, the one that wasn’t covered in my sweatshirt. “Of course I’ll come back.”
“Promise?” she whispered. “Promise me you aren’t going to the tracks to hop the midnight train and get the heck out of here?”
“I promise,” I said. “Besides, if I were leaving and not coming back, it would be way cooler than leaving in the middle of the night. I’d make it something to remember.”
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Annie’s,” I said. “I could get some sleep there.”
She nodded, and then turned away, like she was going back to the house, but before she had gone more than three steps, she spun back around and faced me.
“When he- he- he didn’t- he didn’t leave like that,” she said. “He didn’t leave something to remember.”
My jaw tightened. I shouldn’t have brought it up. I shouldn’t have made the allusion.
Normally, Star would have noticed and stopped, but she plunged right on, maybe because it was dark, or maybe because she wanted this answer. Needed this answer.
“Is Dad coming back, Alex?”
I took a deep breath of the almost- thunderstorm air and then let it out again. Should I tell her the things that haunted my dreams? That he was never, ever coming back? Or should I continue the facade M was building in the kitchen, the one I wanted to throw rocks at.
I didn’t think he was coming back.
It wasn’t an if question anymore; it was more a matter of why. Why he left. Why he wasn’t coming back.
Or was I going to go the annoying adult knowing they were stepping on thin ice route, and say I didn’t know?
I didn’t think he was going to come back.
But I wanted him to like heck.
I opened my mouth, and then a whistle pierced through the air, blowing all those thoughts clean out of my head.
Star’s mouth dropped open and her eyes widened as she whirled towards the house, down the tracks.
Off into the darkness, I could see the headlight a train, just a spark in the darkness. Another rumble of thunder, this one louder, filled the sky.
“A train? Now?” Star whispered as I dug out my phone from my pocket. “It was just 10:30 when I left the house-“
My screen lit up, the time proudly displayed: 10:39.
I held it up to Star and she just shook her head.
“No,” she said. “Not now. The trains are supposed to come on time and-“ Her eyes widened and she raised her head and looked me in the eyes. “Do you think he’d come back like this?”
“Star- no-“ I said, reaching out for her arm, because I could see what she was thinking. She wanted to run after the train. She thought it would stop at the decaying platform and he would get off-
She must have known that I would try to stop her, because she danced around my grab and started running sprinting off into the darkness, leaving me with no choice but to follow.
I raced after her as the first fork of lightning flickered across the sky, lighting up the tracks and the woods and Star for one moment with its lurid light.
What if he was really on the train? What if he really got off?
I wanted it. I wanted it so badly, I wanted him to get off the darned thing and stop the nightmare-
But how? But why? Why would he come back now? And riding a train? No sense.
None at all.
But Star- Star was running after it too-
Star was hoping. Hoping so so so much because she couldn’t take the nightmare anymore-
Another enormous roll of thunder filled the sky, and I felt a drop of rain. I could hear the train now too, a dull roar growing steadily louder.
“Star!” I yelled into the darkness ahead of me as I stumbled over the cinders, but I forced myself to get up.
He wasn’t going to be there, and I had to be there when he wasn’t, when all the hope came crashing down-
But there was one corner of my mind I couldn’t force all the hope out of.
Just come back. Just come back.
The train’s roar came louder and louder and it began to rain, then to pour, the water soaking me all the way through.
I pushed harder, forcing my legs to move faster, scattering cinders behind me as the train got closer. I could hear it over the rain now, that nearly deafening roar of its wheels on the rails.
The rain was all in my eyes, and my clothes were all soaked through. The thunder and the lightning came closer and closer together, until they were almost in the same moment. The dirt beside the tracks was all mud, sticking to my shoes when I stepped off the cinders.
And then the train came. It thundered past me, huge, deafening, like a monster from another world. I'd stood beside trains before, but they never had seemed as scary, as huge, as that one did, in the darkness and the rain.
The train passed me just as I reached the worn stone steps of the platform. The only light was the train's headlight and the forks of lightning, as the station's lightbulbs were caged in dust and probably hadn't been touched in twenty years. Star stood at the very edge of the platform, on top of what had been a yellow line until the paint all flaked off, close enough to the thunderous train that she could reach out her arm to touch it.
The train didn’t slow down. It just kept going, tearing off into the darkness and the rain.
I stepped up to Star at the edge of the platform, and laid my hand on her shoulder. She turned away from the train and threw her arms away from me. She was sobbing, the tears pouring down her cheeks. I couldn't hear her, not through the storm and the train, but I could feel her sobs, shaking her whole body, shaking me.
The train flicked by as she cried into shirt and I tried not to.
There wasn't any more hoping to do. There was only wishing, and I wished and wished and wished that the train would grind to a stop right now, that he would leap off it and come up the steps on the other side of the platform, his royal purple jacket flapping behind him, and see what he had done.
See what he had done to my sister.
And then I wanted him to stop it, stop the tears.
Her arms were tight around me, their sharp bones pressing into my sides, but I didn't care. I looked over her shoulder as the train came to a close and tore away into the rest of the world, giving the storm a chance to regain control. The rain had reached a peek, and without the train, I could hear it, drumming against the station's tin roof.
And then out of the darkness, a man stepped onto the platform.
The man had a black jacket, a nice one, but he had a sword on his belt- not a fencing sword, either, but a huge, broadsword, like from a movie- and three scars on his cheek.
He looked like a serial killer.
Fear rose up in my stomach and my throat; and I let go of Star and reached down and grabbed her hand.
I knew we had to go, I knew we had to run.
We were all alone out here, and just kids, too, just thirteen and almost twelve.
I clenched my teeth and started pulling Star down the platform stairs; she was still crying, sobbing, and said, “Alex?”
“Come on,” I said. “Run!”
I took my other hand and turned her head, so she could see him, standing on the other end of the platform in the darkness, and sword on his belt.
She gasped and I knew she felt it too, the fear clawing up inside, as sharp as thorns.
And then we ran.
I let go of her hand and we leaped off the platform, skipping the steps all together. I plunged into the dark wall of woods in front of me, the ones that I knew would eventually lead me to Annie's backyard, and she followed me.
The woods were pitch black, and my flash light only provided a spark of light into the darkness. But it was enough.
I didn't look back; I couldn't bring myself to look back. Maybe I could convince myself it was just a nightmare.
But I'd been trying to do that for the last month and it hadn't worked yet.
Star reached out and grabbed my wet hand and we pulled each other through the tangle of woods, away from the man on the platform, with serial killer eyes.
At last, as the thunder and lightning faded, we burst into Annie's back yard. The rain hadn't stopped yet, and the only light in the house was high, high up, in a third story window.
I ran up to the back door and pounded on it, but there was no answer. I knocked again, and then Star shoved a key into my hands. I stabbed it into the door lock and turned.
Star and I burst into the house and I yanked out the key and slammed the door behind me. I locked it and threw the deadbolt for good measure, and then I sank to the floor with my back to the door, next to Star. My breath was ragged, and for a couple of moments neither of us said anything. Then she said, in a hushed voice, “He has a sword, Alex. A real sword.”
I shut my eyes and leaned my head against the door for a moment, listening to the rain drum on the roof, but inside my head, I saw him again, his huge sword on his belt, the black as black as midnight. His eyes were stuck in my head, as dark as his sword blade, but with that crazy light in them, like a serial killer.
“I don’t know, Star,” I said. “I don’t know.”
“He looked like a murderer, Alex. Like the kind of people you hear about on TV. Like one of those crazy psychopaths that they whisper about. He had a real sword, Alex- he had a real sword-“ “It’s okay, Star, it’s okay,” I said, laying my hand on her leg. “We’re safe. He’s not going to get us.”
“But why- why the sword? Why there? It was like he was waiting for us-“
“He couldn't have been,” I said. “He couldn't have been. We didn’t know we were going out there- he was just come crazy dude. He was just out there.”
As I said it, I realized I was saying it to myself as well as Star, trying to tell myself that it was all a dream. A nightmare. “Hello?” The call echoed through the house, and I leaped up at the sound of Annie’s voice. “Who's there?
“It’s me,” I called down the narrow central hall of the house. “Alex and Star.”
I heard a sigh and then Annie thundered the rest of the way down the stairs she had been creeping down and swung around into the hall, her braid whipping behind her. She had a book in one hand- the thickest dictionary from the library- and a heavy flashlight in the other.
She dropped the book on the floor near the door and stormed down the hallway. “Have you never heard of ringing the freaking doorbell? Or throwing rocks at my freaking window? I literally thought there was a serial killer in the house, okay? Okay? Next time-“
I cut her off. “Annie,” I said, my voice still shaky. “We met someone, out at the tracks-”
She wasn’t done. Not yet. “And you think it will be fun to scare me halfway out of my mind, Alex Peres, in the middle of the night to-“
She was right in front of me now, waving her flashlight around. Star was still on the floor behind me, her eyes closed, and I reached out and grabbed her flashlight, pulling her arm down and holding it. I met her sharp blue eyes with mine. “Annie, we were out on the platform and someone came up with a black jacket and a broadsword and eyes like a real serial killer.”
She stopped trying to force her arm with the flashlight up. “For real?”
“For real,” I said. She could see it in my eyes that I wasn’t joking, she could see it in the way Star hadn’t gotten up yet.
“Tell me everything,” she said.
“He looked like he was going to kill us, Annie,” Star said from the floor. There was no color, no emotion in her voice. “He looked like he wanted something on the other side of us and he would do what ever it took to get it. He looked desperate, beyond desperate. But he wasn’t crazy.”
“He was out on the train platform? Just- just out there?”
“Yes,” I said. “He came up the stairs with a broad sword on his belt and three scars on his cheek and this look in his eye that said he wouldn’t give a darn about killing us. And we ran like heck.”
“Not an AK-47 or a grenade launcher or a nuke?”
She looked at me again, meeting my eyes. “Why were you out there in the first place?”
“There was a train.”
“It’s not even 11:00.”
“I know,” I said. “That's why we were out there.”
“A train came- unscheduled?” Annie whispered.
She could see the reason in my eyes. She knew exactly what Star- what I- had hoped would come from that train. I knew she understood, understood better than anyone else in town, which was why ever since he had left, they had pushed away because they didn’t know what to do, and Annie had come closer. Because she knew. She knew what it was like to not know, what it was like to hope.
She had just had to live with it a heck of a lot longer.
There was a long moment of quiet before Annie spoke again.
“You do realize how epic this is, right? Swords, trains, murderers? Always make for fun,” Annie said, no longer trying to keep the light out of her eyes.
“This is not an adventure, Annie," Star said from the floor, her voice like ice, cold and deadly. “This is not just another one of your games."
“I know," Annie said sadly. “It’s probably not real.”
“You want it to be real?" I asked quietly. "You really want there to be someone out there in the woods trying to kill us?"
Annie looked at me for a moment and then turned away. “Maybe you should sleep now. Grandmother is up visiting her sister in UpperGate-“ I waited for the pun that I thought she was going to make but it didn’t come. “- so can have any bedroom you want and you don’t have to be really quiet, either; I can wake you up in time for you to get home at eight. Or I can call your mom. Or something.” Her voice was too high, too fake.
I nodded and looked down at Star, and held out my hand to help her up. She took it and I pulled her to her feet. Water dripped off her clothes and her hair, and Annie started down the hall, calling behind her, “You can borrow some of my clothes, Star, Alex, you're kind of stuck. You can use the dryer in the suite, if you want.
She started walking down the hall, but then she turned back and looked at me for one moment, her braid swinging, her eyes sharp bright blue, and her voice was normal again, not fake, and she said, "Alex, anything would be better than this. Anything would be better than all this waiting and wondering and hot night heat- someone to fight against-" She sighed and added, “What I wouldn't give for a real enemey."
She sighed again and turned back towards the door, heading up the front stairs, when a knock echoed through the house.
It made me jump. It was much louder than anyone could have produced with a fist- you’d have to use metal-
A sword hilt.
Annie brandished her flashlight and scooped up her dictionary from the floor near the bottom of the stairs.
“Annie!” I yelled, but she was already at the door, up on her tiptoes to see through the peephole.
She dropped abruptly from her toes and turned, flinging her arms across the locked and bolted door, as if that would keep the door closed.
Her eyes met mine, sharp scared blue. “He’s out there,” she whispered. “A sword and a black jacket and three scars and serial killer eyes-“
Star gasped and her breath turned shallow and panicked. I reached over and put my hand on her arm.
“Is there somewhere to hide?” I asked, trying to stay calm, though the fear was welling up in my throat, nearly choking me. “Somewhere to run to?”
I wasn’t going out in the darkness again.
Annie’s eyes were locked with mine. “He’s outside, right?”
“We need to go,” I said. “Isn’t there somewhere? Isn’t there somewhere safe?” My voice was choked with fear and desperation.
“The library,” Annie whispered. “There’s the room behind the bookcase-“
And then I saw the flame, licking along the door, burning though the wood, snarling closer to Annie. It burned bright, not orange and red, but brilliant white and gold.
“Annie!” I yelled. “Run!”
She tensed, and then felt the heat of the flame burning close to her face and bolted, charging down the hall as the fire consumed the door.
As she fled past us she grabbed my arm, dropping her flashlight and book to the ground with a clap. She dragged me and Star down the hall and up the back stairs, until we reached the library on the second floor.
I could hear the fire below us, roaring and cracking. Annie ducked into the library and I followed. Star halted outside as a thunderous voice filled the old house.
“Anyone home? I don’t want to hurt you.” It was the man’s voice, it had to be, but it was cracked, broken, filled with guilt and pain and sadness. It didn’t sound like a serial killer’s voice. “I really don’t want you to get hurt. I’m just here for the key.”
Annie whirled on me and her hand went up to her neck, feeling for the necklace that wasn’t there.
“He can’t mean-“ she whispered.
“It’s made of glass,” the man yelled. “It has three words on it. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you don’t stay out of my way.”
Annie’s eyes widened. “He can’t want- why would he want-”
“Where is it?” I asked.
“I don’t have it! I lost it, about- about a month ago-” Her mouth opened and her eyes widened as she realized the same thing I did.
“He left a month ago,” I whispered.
“I know,” she said. “I know.”
“Why?” Star asked. “It’s just- just- a glass key. An old glass key- right? We found it in your basement- looked nice on your necklace-”
“I don’t know,” Annie whispered. “I don’t know anymore.”
I tried to think through the details, but they just made me dizzy. A man with a sword, burning a door down, looking for a key that could have been the reason my dad left? Too much. A dream. A bad dream. An unrealistic TV show plot twist.
But this was all real. Sharply dangerously real. So real it would kill me if I let it. I took a deep breath and made my choice.
“We make a run for it,” I said.
“What if he sees us?” Star asked, nervous, desperate.
“He’s probably in the basement,” I said. “And if he’s not, we just tell him it’s down there.”
“He’s in my house, Alex. He’s downstairs- he wants my key- what the heck is going on? What did you bring?” She looked at me and shook her head. "When I said I wanted someone to fight, I was thinking of someone I could beat."
“We’re going to run,” I said. “We can make it.”
“And where are we going to go?” Star asked.
“What if he comes up here?” I countered.
“There's the secret room-“
“And what if he finds it?” I said.
“Where the heck are we going to go?” she asked again, and I met her eyes. She was trying to hold it together, but I could see she was on the verge of cracking, crying.
“Star,” I said. “We have to go.” I grabbed her hand and pulled her down the hall; I started running, and so did she. Annie followed, her braid swishing in the dim hall lights.
We reached the top of the sweeping front steps and crept down them, only to halt at the sight of the inferno of gold and white flames filling the front hall, clawing their way up to us, beam by beam, panel by panel.
We scampered back up the stairs and crouched on the landing, looking at each other as the heat rose up the stairwell.
Annie’s phone rang in her pocket, and she yanked it out and answered it.
“Thank God, M. There's this guy in my house-“
There was a pause as M said something and Annie nodded and said, “Yes, I’m in my house and yes I know it’s on fire and I’m trying to get out but what I’m trying to tell you is that there's this guy-“ Her words were fast and nervous, but M cut her off on the other end of the phone.
“What does he look like? I didn’t see him very clearly before he set the front door on fire and charged in yelling about a key-“ M said something else on the other end of the phone and Annie nodded again. “Yes he yelled about a key- I think he was talking about my glass key but I can’t find it- M, what they heck is going on- what do you mean you’re coming in, it’s a wall of fire at the front door- M he looks like a serial killer- he’s got a sword- yes, I can see it-”
Annie was almost yelling, and then she pulled the phone down from her ear. “He hung up,” she said. “He was talking crazy- something about coming in the door-“
I glanced down the stairs, at the roaring inferno consuming the front door and the hall.
“We need to get out, Annie.”
She looked back at me and took a deep breath. “I know.”
We turned together, but Star didn’t fixated on the inferno, and then she said, “Alex, look!”
I spun back around and looked down the stairs, and the hall wasn’t filled with bright white and gold flames burning with no smoke. They had been pushed to the sides, and in the middle of them stood M, his white hair sticking up and his green eyes flashing.
But other than that, he didn’t look like the doctor at all.
He had on his brown jacket, but it didn’t look like a jacket much any more, more like a great brown cape. And he was holding a sword, a great white blade that reflected the brilliant light of the gold and white flames crackling in the edges of the hallway.
Annie looked at me with her eyes wide and her mouth slightly open and we shared an unspoken thought of what they heck was going on?
M looked up the stairs, meeting our eyes with his sharp green ones. “Get out,” he said. “Get out.”
We were frozen for a moment at the top of the stairs, and M spoke a sharp word in a language I had never heard before. The flames at the bottom of the stairs retreated, leaving a clear path to the door.
I looked at Star and Annie and then charged down the stairs, brushing past the fires and behind M, out the front door and into the fading rain. Annie and Star were right behind me.
I would have kept on running, in fact, I would have kept on running forever at that point, if M hadn’t yelled out a loud word that made Annie gasp and spin. I spun too as M shouted, “Lordia!”
And I could see, looking through the house, beyond M, at the end of the long hallway, the man from the platform. He seemed to be holding flames in his hand- but how-
“Mordrid-“ sputtered the man in black, backing away from M as he advanced.
I couldn't see M's face but his tone was as hard the blade of his sword as he said, “Get out, Lordia.”
Lordia seemed to draw himself together and he said, “M, I need the key. It can all be over, just give me the key-“
M laughed, a dark, bitter laugh that echoed through the hall of Annie's house. “Like I’m going to give you the one things that’s standing between you and the universes? Hell no.”
The rain was fading but I didn't know what was going on; the rain and the yells were too real to be a dream, but they had swords and the man in the dark jacket- Lordia- had seemed to control the flames- if it hadn't been M standing in the hall I would have thought it was some elaborate trick, but M never would have played any kind of trick-
And I could hear the hate in M’s voice-
Star took a deep breath beside me, trying to understand, like me, and Annie said something under her breath that I couldn't quite catch, but I didn’t think she wanted me too.
“M-“ Lordia said, backing up again, and for a moment I thought I saw something like a flame flickering in his hand, but I couldn’t have. People couldn’t hold fire, anymore than they could control it- this all had to be some type of game except M didn’t play games, at least, not games like this, and I could hear the hate-
“Get out, Lordia, and don’t come back. I don’t have the key, and if you come back, I swear I’ll kill you. You’d better get back to the tree before I change my mind.”
M advanced down the hall and raised his sword, and Lordia clenched him teeth and his fist around the hilt of his sword, undrawn in his belt. yelling something behind him that I couldn’t hear, but made M paused his step and yell something back.
The flames on the front door ignited again as Lordia fled though the back door, letting it bang behind him. The bolts and locks Star and I had thrown just a little bit earlier seemed to have no effect on him.
M turned back to us and slipped his sword through his belt, and started running as as the flames grew more intense at the front door. Annie and Star and I stepped back, away from the flames that were clawing into the night again, untouched by the pouring rain.
M fled down the hall and ducked through the flames, his sword banging against his knees. The flames closed in around the door, and I could feel their white-hot heat from where I stood down the driveway. Fear stabbed through me, as hot and burning as the flames licking up the outside of Annie’s house.
“M!” yelled Annie as the flames closed around the door. “M!”
She started forward towards the house, but I grabbed her arm and held her back, and she didn’t resist.
“M,” she whispered.
I thought for a moment I heard a shout among the flames, a word in another language, but what would that do? The flames were burning far faster than normal fire, clawing up the house, consuming it.
Annie’s face cracked, and she slumped, my arm holding her now.
Star bit her lip.
There was an awful, everlasting moment when there was nothing, nothing except the murderous roar of the flames, calling for blood-
And then he charged out of the house and stumbled on to the lawn, his jacket singed.
Annie drew a enormous breath of the night air and let it out in a relieved sigh.
The fear inside me slowly faded away as M turned away from the inferno and reached us on the driveway, where halted.
Annie took a deep breath and Star said, “What the heck is going on, M?” M looked back over his shoulder at the gold and white flames licking into the sky, as the roar of fire sirens filled the air, and then back at us.
He took a long, deep breath of the night air and looked down at the white sword blade slipped through his belt. “I need to tell you a few things.”