Chapter 1b [Edward]

The coffee was brewing. I woke up early, before the others. I never need much sleep. So I went to the kitchen to see if I could find coffee, and there was a machine in a cabinet. I set it up and started it, then started searching the kitchen to familiarize myself with its contents.

The refridgerator was well-stocked, and the cabinets had plenty of stuff as well -- pots and pans, as well as cereal, pasta, and canned foods.

When Sola and Kadin woke up, I was already cooking breakfast. French toast, scrambled eggs and bacon.

"Good morning," I said. "Breakfast? Coffee?"

"Yes, please," said Sola. "Although, is there tea?"

"Far left cabinet," I said. "I'll start the kettle. How about you?" I said to Kadin.

"I'll have tea as well, if that's alright."

"Sure," I said, and I started filling up the kettle in the sink. "Where's Perdita?"

"She's waking up Jennifer," said Sola. She had pulled a chair over to the cabinets and was balancing up on it on her toes, searching the very back of the top shelf. "Aha," she said, and pulled out and dropped down a rectangular green box of tea bags. "What kind of tea do you want, Kadin?"

"Earl Grey, if it's there."

"Oh," she said. The box of Earl Grey was at the front of the next shelf down, so she pulled it out and dropped it next to hers. Then she dropped airily down from the chair onto the floor.

Perdita came in then, with Jennifer hanging onto her, an arm around her shoulder.

"Come on, Jenn," said Perdita, and she brought her over to a chair at the table. Jennifer shifted herself off of Perdita and onto the table and chair for support.

"What's wrong?" said Kadin.

"I didn't sleep," said Jennifer.

"She's not feeling well," said Perdita. She crossed the room, and pulled the window curtains shut in front of the window over the sink. "To be honest, I think she's reacting pretty normally."

"Do you need to eat?" I said.

"Yes, please," said Jennifer. I made her a plate, with two slices of french toast, a big serving of eggs, and three slices of bacon. I brought it over to the table and put it down in front of her, then grabbed her a fork and knife.

"Is that tea?" She said. The water was boiling.

"Yes, did you want some?"

"Please."

"What kind do you want?" Said Sola.

"I don't mind, anything."

"Ooh, I know what to get you," she said. She climbed back up on the chair, and fished around in the top shelf again. She returned with another box, then got mugs out and started putting tea bags in. She left another two mugs out, and asked, "Perdita, did you want tea, or coffee?"

"Coffee," she said. So Sola poured the water into the cups, and passed them out. Then she and Kadin joined Jennifer at the table, and I made them plates and brought them over.

"Oh, I don't eat bacon," said Kadin. "Thank you, though."

"I'll take it," said Sola. And she did. Kadin spooned some sugar into his tea, and they started eating. Jennifer switched from pushing her eggs around with her fork to staring into her cup of tea.

Perdita prepared our cups of coffee. "How do you take yours?" She said.

"Milk and sugar," I said. "Although, there's honey in the fridge. So I'll use that."

"Alright," she said. "I'm taking milk too. I normally take it black, you know." She was staring at her coffee. "It's just so black, and there's so much black today."

"Jennifer, you haven't touched your food," said Kadin.

We all looked at her, and it must have made her self-conscious, because she ducked her head down and said, "Maybe it would help if I just had some water."

Perdita got a glass and filled it. She brought it over to her, and said, "Here, let me check your temperature." Before she touched her, she said, "Your dress seems to have gotten very frayed."

Jennifer said, "No, it came that way, when I showed up here."

"Really?" Said Perdita. "That's odd." Then she put her hand on Jennifer's forehead, and said, "Oh my god, you're burning up." "It's nothing," said Jennifer. She took a sip of her water, but seemed like she had to force herself to swallow. Then she looked up, and we were all still looking, and she looked back down into the glass. "You know what? I'm just going to go take a cool bath." She got up and strode around the table, back through the main hall and towards the bathroom.

"Do you think she's okay?" Said Kadin.

"She doesn't seem okay," said Perdita.

"I'll go check on her," I said. I got up and walked through the living room, but the door to the bathroom was shut. Perdita followed me, and Kadin and Sola shortly after. I tried to open the door, but the handle burned, and I pulled back.

"What happened?" said Kadin.

"It's hot," I said.

Kadin stepped forward, and put his hand against the door. "Oh my god," he said. "There must be a fire in there."

Smoke started rolling out from underneath the door. But it wasn't smoke, it was steam, and I could hear the water gushing from the faucet.

"I'm going to try to break down the door," said Kadin.

I just stepped back. We all did. And Kadin did, then he ran and threw himself at the door.

It cracked, but it didn't crack like wood. It cracked the way a scab cracks, leaving a more wounded flesh exposed between the crags. And in those cracks, the door was red, like burning embers.

Kadin threw himself at the door again, but he staggered back from that lunge. The force of his body against it seemed to cause it to flare up, briefly flaming, and the door started to burn or rot away from the brown it had been, towards the charred black of the front door. There were other noises inside, like crackling flames, all distorted by the hiss of the gushing pipes.

Then the water stopped, and so did everything else. The door went black, the embers chilling themselves. Then, as we all stood and watched, the handle clicked and the door drifted open under its own weight.

The shining white floor was marred, at the door, by a black stain of soot. I touched the door gently at first, but it was cool, and I moved it to examine the back. The same sort of cracks had emerged, but here they were long, straight, and tightly grouped streaks, like nail marks clawed down the inside.

Perdita ran from the room. Sola moved to follow her, and Kadin stayed with me.

"Why do you think it was her?" He said.

"I don't even know what the fuck happened," I said. "Sort of puts me off my breakfast, though."

"Come on," said Kadin. "I don't think we should be in here."

He left the bathroom, and after a moment, I followed, heading for the kitchen. But I stopped, in the hallway, where Perdita, Sola and Kadin had all stopped. Because the door at the end of the entry hall was hanging open, and there was a staircase leading up.

Sola looked back when she heard me come around the corner. Then she ran up the stairs.

And I followed.

Chapter 2a →