A Specter Legacy Ch 5

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We are in a mess, a danger zone. What will happen next - you never know.

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A Specter Legacy Ch 5

  1. 1. Ch 5 Music That Inspired This Chapter: “Danger Zone” by Gwen Stefani “Ghost of You” by Selena Gomez & the Scene
  2. 2. Warning: This chapter contains copious amounts of death. And heartache. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya, cuz I just did. It’s gonna be a very bumpy ride people, or slippery slope, to go along with the picture. Anywho, welcome back to A Specter Legacy. The gen one kids are FINALLY all teens and you readers will soon learn just why this family is named Specter – That’s right, it’s time for the heir challenge! Hope this chapter is shockingly good; happy reading. *****
  3. 3. “I think you all know why we’re here,” Andy began. “And you all know that at the end of the party this evening, you have to leave.” Andy paused as his kids nodded. “I know this is tough. But you all have to participate, or else it just won’t work. Take this time to celebrate becoming older, your childhood, and the good times you’ve had. And try to make amends will everyone, say your goodbyes. I know it’s scary to think about, but it’s a good habit to practice. You never know when death will come, so never leave a word unsaid, a tear unmended.”
  4. 4. “Did you make up with mom?” Aerith blurted, blushing. “I mean, it’s just… You’re part of the family, too, so shouldn’t you…” “Believe me, Aerith,” Andy said slowly, “I’ve tried. But she doesn’t understand this – she won’t accept this… So she won’t be coming to the party. You’ll have to do this without her.” “Oh.”
  5. 5. “Dad,” Asher began. “It’s just… Why? Why-” “It’s my fault. I realize that. There are things I overlooked… Things I should have done or said… They’re my mistakes and I’m sorry you’ve had to pay for them. If I had to do it all over again, I’m not sure if I would have made the same choices, picked this route for you all. …But I can’t go back. And I have to say that I love each and every one of you and… I’m glad I got the chance to know you and love you.”
  6. 6. There were a few moments of silence before Skye asked, “What will it be like? The challenge, I mean.” Andy sighed. “Tough. Very tough. Again, I don’t know if…” He shook his head. “This challenge… it’s the type of thing that can break you. And it will, unless you fight it. I don’t mean to scare you guys, but… I can’t see how you won’t come out of this angry and hurt. And hating me,” he gulped. “But you got to rise above that-”
  7. 7. “How?” Zephyr asked. “You make it sound like this thing is impossible, so how?” Andy shook his head again. “I don’t know. I just… All I can tell you is to remember that the darkest hour comes before dawn. That the closer you get to the light, the greater your shadow becomes. That-” “Okay, okay, we get it dad,” Zeph interrupted. “No more sayings.”
  8. 8. “Where will it be?” Asher cut in. “Will it be here? Will you test us?” “No.” Thank Plumbbob, no, Andy couldn’t help but think. “Someone will come. A… A proctor. That sim will come and take you to where the challenge is held. They’ll judge, score, and announce the win- the heir. You’ll learn everything about the challenge from them.”
  9. 9. “So what happens now?” Aerith wanted to know. “We wait. And we party. Try to forget everything for a few hours.” Andy was silent for a moment before speaking up again. “I just want you all to know that I do love you. No matter what happens, remember that. I tried. I did. I wanted the best for you and I’m sorry that this is what you got.”
  10. 10. After that, the group stood up. Andy said a few more words, then explained to all of them about the legacy tree. Soon after that, the very first guests arrived and they all separated. *****
  11. 11. “Liz! I can’t believe you’re here! I got so worried when I couldn’t reach you. How did you-” “It was your dad. He said today was really important and you’d want me to be here. So he booked me a flight yesterday.” “Huh. I guess he really does know everything.”
  12. 12. “I’m glad you’re here, Liz. I mean, I know we’ve talked about this challenge thing and me growing up, but… I just… I just…” “I know. And that’s why I’m here. But let’s try to put on a brave face, you know? And just enjoy the party.” “You got it.”
  13. 13. “I’m just so psyched you’re here.” *****
  14. 14. Andy knew this party had the potential to be a real downer, so he cranked the tunes and decided to try out another feature on the stereo.
  15. 15. The dance contest. All the kids lined up so that they could shake their tushies on the dance floor.
  16. 16. Understandably, they were nervous. Even Zeph and Aerith, the favorites with the most creativity points, as they constantly spent time in the music room, were rattled. Would they be smustling masters?
  17. 17. Or nervous flops?
  18. 18. Well, Asher would probably get the prize for most enthusiastic – he was very into the dance. He practically threw his arm out.
  19. 19. But Zephyr was just as dedicated, hitting all the right moves at all the right times.
  20. 20. Aerith tried her best, too, but got a little lost.
  21. 21. Though eventually she found her groove.
  22. 22. Skye, however… Was dancing to his own beat, doing the wrong dance. But who knows, he might still be in the game – his moves were flawless.
  23. 23. But Zeph was named the winner – and boy was everyone upset about it.
  24. 24. And by the looks on their faces, Asher was the most upset.
  25. 25. “That’s so unfair! My smustle was clearly superior to his!” “As if! I ruled!” “Please, I can beat you – any time, any place!” “Except today!”
  26. 26. “Face it bro, you lost.” “Arrgh, get off!”
  27. 27. “Why you! I can’t believe you just did that! I-I-”
  28. 28. “Aw, who am I kidding, I love you bro.” “Ditto, man.” *****
  29. 29. The rest of the party was spent hanging out with old friends and old flames. The party just didn’t seem long enough to the kids, especially for Aerith.
  30. 30. “Taz… I know that we just started… you know. And I know that I’m going to grow up soon. But I just-” “Feel like we ran out of time?” “Yeah. But even though we haven’t been… you know… for very long, I-”
  31. 31. “Don’t want to forget me?” “Well, yeah, but… I just feel like we should talk, you know? I-” “Don’t want to leave anything unsaid?” “Yes, that, but I also-” “Want me to understand-”
  32. 32. “TAZ!” “What?” “Just shut up, okay?” “But-”
  33. 33. “Just shut up.” *****
  34. 34. And as the afternoon came to a close, so did the party.
  35. 35. Soon all the kids were gathered in the foyer waiting for the one who would take them to the challenge. They were all nervous, but were reluctant to say anything. Instead, they all sat there in silence, peeking at each other every so often.
  36. 36. Andy came in soon after. “Well,” he gulped. “It’s that time. It shouldn’t be long now.” Just then, the doorbell rang and Andy motioned to open the front door. “That should be her now.”
  37. 37. “Hey K- wait. You’re… You’re not who I was expecting.” The woman in the doorway shrugged. “Yeah, she said you’d say that, but I don’t know what to tell you. I’m Raye – I got hired to handle all the eliminations.” “Could you please not put it that way?” Andy glanced back nervously at his kids. Raye shrugged again. “Whatever. I’m here to get the kids. They ready?”
  38. 38. “As ready as we’ll ever be,” Skye said solemnly. “Aw,” was the response. “Don’t be so pessimistic.” “What the hell else are we supposed to be?” Zeph snapped. “Zephyr!” Andy was a little shocked. His son seemed rattled – a rare sight.
  39. 39. “Well, it’s true,” Zeph mumbled. “Look, can you finally tell us what we’re going to be doing?” Aerith changed the subject. “Or where we’re going?”
  40. 40. “Uh, no. You’ll find out the challenge right before you do it-” “But that’s not fair!” She shrugged again. “Thems the breaks, kid. Now, is there anything else before we go?”
  41. 41. “Wait,” Asher spoke up. “We’re leaving now? Right now?” “Yeah, why not?” “Well…” “Look, you and your twin, if I’m not mistaken, are already about to grow up. The clock’s a-tickin,’ kid.” “She’s right, Ash. Best to just get it over with.”
  42. 42. And after a few mumbled protests, groans, and shuffling, the kids gave their father a hug and filed out the door after Raye. A few seconds later, they had vanished into the night and Andy sighed, knowing he wouldn’t hear from them again until the challenge was over. He was still looking outside the window when Kaylynn stepped into the room.
  43. 43. “Hey, why’s it so quiet? Where is everyone?” Kaylynn fidgeted when Andy merely looked at her. “What? I thought you were having the party tonight?” Andy sighed.
  44. 44. “Kaylynn… I- The party was tonight. This afternoon, actually. It’s over.” “So… Where is everyone?” Andy shook his head. “Kaylynn, the party’s over. The kids were supposed to leave after the party. And they have.” Kaylynn took a moment to let that information sink in.
  45. 45. “What?! How- How could you? How could you just undermine me-” “I didn’t do anything of the sort. I told you about the party - I told you to come to the party. And I certainly told you the challenge started-” “You didn’t say they were leaving! I mean what the hell, Andy - I didn’t even get to say goodbye! How could you let this happen?”
  46. 46. “Kaylynn, I told you the party would be your last chance to say goodbye. Don’t blame me-” “How can I not?!” Kaylynn shifted her weight, annoyed. “This is your fault, Andy! All your fault. How can I not blame you? How can I not be upset that you’re okay with all this-” “I’m not okay with this, Kaylynn. I-”
  47. 47. “Yeah, well, it sure doesn’t seem that way. I mean, you told me about this crazy curse and these crazy rules but you aren’t doing anything – anything – to get around it. You’ve accepted this – everything that’s going on – and I just can’t figure out why! Why won’t you fight this?” Andy just looked at the floor and shook his head. “I can’t, Kaylynn. I can’t.” She threw up her hands.
  48. 48. “Well, I can.” “Kaylynn-” “No, Andy. I’m done.” “Kay-” “Done! I won’t let you ruin our family. I won’t let you destroy our kids.”
  49. 49. “Tell me where they are.” Andy sighed. “Kaylynn, don’t do this.” “Tell me, Andy. I want my kids. I want them back home and safe.” “Kaylynn. I can’t tell you. And even-”
  50. 50. “TELL ME WHERE THEY ARE!” Kaylynn screamed, her voice echoing through the open room. But Andy just closed his eyes and shook his head. “Fine. Fine, you’ve made your choice. And so have I. We’re through, Andy.” “K-” “If you can’t see that I’m right about this, then I can’t be with you.”
  51. 51. “Kaylynn, don’t-” “I’m going to find my kids, Andy. Are you going to help me or not?” Andy rocked back on his heels, but ultimately didn’t say a word. He couldn’t. “Goodbye, Andy,” Kaylynn shook her head and stormed out the door, slamming it shut. *****
  52. 52. “So this is it, huh guys?” Zeph said softly. “I don’t know… I expected it to be more…” “More what, Aer?” Asher questioned. “Just more.” “Huh. Can you believe it? It’s really happening. Tomorrow, one of us will be-” “Don’t say it, Skye.” Aerith pleaded. “Don’t say it.”
  53. 53. The four looked out at their surroundings. There wasn’t another house around for miles.
  54. 54. They couldn’t help but feel homesick for their beds, their huge noisy house, and their parents. They couldn’t stop staring at the hills, knowing their house was somewhere beyond, completely out of reach.
  55. 55. “You think we can do this?” Skye said softly. “We have to,” Asher replied. “Okay, kids, listen up!” The four turned their attention to Raye.
  56. 56. “It’s raining so I’m gonna make this quick. Welcome to the challenge lot. Sorry for the lack of space, but there were some budget cuts this year. Anywho, this white cabin on the right is where I’m staying. Don’t go in there. It’s mine. Besides, the door’s locked.”
  57. 57. “The four colorful cabins behind me are where you all will do the challenge tomorrow, but more about that in the morning.” “Morning?” Asher yelled over the rain. “We’re not doing the challenge now?” “Nope! It’s raining – plus it’s dark. So you’ll be staying in the bunk around the corner.”
  58. 58. “That bunk will be locked as soon as you all get inside, so don’t try to escape, okay? And good luck trying to find a window to crawl out of. Same goes for the challenge cabins – no peaking! They’re all locked, so don’t waste your time. You guys should be okay for the night; there are provisions and stuff inside, but just in case, there’s a phone in there, too. But it’s only an intercom – you can only call my cabin, so no calling home or making long distance calls or whatever.”
  59. 59. “Try to get some rest, you’ll want to be in the best shape for tomorrow. The challenge will start around seven.” She paused, tapping her chin. “Hmm, is there anything else? …Nope, so okay, get going. Unless you have any questions?”
  60. 60. “Yeah, can we go home?” Zeph asked. “Hahahahaha – No. Now move it. And try not to kill each other tonight – that’s not supposed to happen ‘til tomorrow, mkay?” And with that awkward comment, the Specter kids headed off to their cabin.
  61. 61. “Hmm, not bad,” Zeph said, taking in the room. “Not bad?” Asher looked at him. “Well,” Zeph replied. “It’s got a fully stocked fridge and a tv.” “And a bookcase,” Aerith added, already planning to do some reading and writing. “Plus they color coded the beds. You have to admit that’s kinda cool. At least we don’t have to fight over bunks.”
  62. 62. “Guys…” Asher turned to his siblings. “Maybe we should talk. You know, before tomorrow.” “About…?” Zeph trailed off as he flopped down on the nearest bed. “Well, it’s a big day tomorrow. This challenge thing is a big deal.”
  63. 63. “I still don’t see why we have to talk about it.” “I agree with Ash,” Aerith said, perching on the back of the couch. Everyone looked at Skye, who then shrugged and took a seat too.
  64. 64. “Look bro, I know what you’re going to say. But don’t, okay? Getting all mushy and sentimental now will only make things worse for tomorrow. We all know the drill – we’ll deal.” “But we’ve never really talked about it before,” Asher insisted. “I mean, this is seriously messed up – the kind of thing that breaks up families. We’re competing against each other tomorrow. And according to Dad, it’s not just for the heirship, but for the right to live.”
  65. 65. “Yeah, but…” Skye began slowly. “I kinda agree with Zeph. I mean, I’d rather not think about it. It’s hard enough not knowing what we’re going to do tomorrow. It’s hard enough worrying about losing. …I just don’t wanna talk about one of us… well, you know.”
  66. 66. “But we need to say goodbye,” Aerith said quietly. “Just in case. I mean, we didn’t even get to say goodbye to mom… I want us to talk while we still have a chance.” She picked at a piece of string hanging from a pillow on the couch. “This is so stupid. I wish we didn’t have to do this. Why can’t we just run?” “We can’t,” Asher piped up immediately. “Dad said we have to. Besides it’s too late now.”
  67. 67. “Like you two do everything dad says. Especially you, Zeph. And what about Mom? She’d want us to run! She was against this whole thing from the start. I mean it’s four to one, we should at least try!” Skye exclaimed. “We can’t-” Asher insisted. “We have to-” “Why?” Aerith and Skye spoke simultaneously.
  68. 68. “Because of what dad said, remember?” Zeph looked away. “He was cursed and that witch gave him the ability to have kids – conditionally. If we break the deal, well, what’s stopping her from doing the same? We could run tonight and still die tomorrow.” Silence filled the room after Zeph’s statement. “We have to stay and compete,” he finished, nearly whispering. “Fight for heirship like we mean it.”
  69. 69. “Well…” Asher said after a beat. “I wouldn’t have put it like that, but Zeph’s right.” Asher stared at his twin. He had never seen Zeph so serious. Ash supposed that now that the challenge was mere hours away, Zeph was starting to face the reality of the situation. His normally carefree brother was on edge. “Look,” Asher sighed. “I didn’t mean to upset anyone or scare anyone. I-I just wanted you all to know that… Well, you know, that we’re family. I love you guys. No matter what happens tomorrow.”
  70. 70. “Let’s make a pact,” Aerith spoke up suddenly. Skye groaned. “Trust it to the girl to make this a solidarity thing.” Aerith rolled her eyes, but continued anyway. “I’m serious. Let’s promise each other that we’ll stick together. That no matter what, we won’t hold grudges.” “I-”
  71. 71. But Asher was interrupted by Zephyr. “It’s easy to promise things now.” Zeph gave his sister a pitying look. “Don’t be so naïve, squirt. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow.” “Yeah,” Skye agreed. “I think the best we can do is just play fair. Let’s just promise to be honest and give it our all tomorrow.” Zeph nodded. “Now that I agree with.”
  72. 72. Asher turned to his sister, a silent question in his eyes. Aerith met his eyes for a second before looking away. Finally Asher turned back to his brothers, nodding. “Okay.” Staring at the carpet, Aerith begrudgingly agreed. “Fine.” “Good, now let’s get the hell off this topic.” Zeph flung himself off the bed towards the tv.
  73. 73. And so they dropped the subject, each of them splitting up to do their own thing. Zeph flipped through channels mindlessly, while Skye read a book and Aerith wrote in her journal with something that was definitely not a pen. *****
  74. 74. Asher was right to sense his twin’s distress. Zephyr was on edge – he had a lot of pent up nervous energy and was trying hard to ignore it. So he played it cool. He didn’t want anyone to know how upset he was – he hadn’t seen his mom since that morning and saying goodbye to Liz had been harder than he’d expected. He told himself that he was okay with everything, that what would happen would happen, but the truth was… he was scared. He didn’t wanna lose. And he didn’t want anyone else to lose either. The only thing he did know was that talking about it wouldn’t make anyone feel better. So he stayed quiet and when it got late, he went to bed without a word. *****
  75. 75. Aerith was busy writing with her scalpel. It was important to her to document everything. Her brothers may not have wanted to get emotional, but she knew she had things to say, so she wrote them. She wrote her thoughts, her feelings, her goodbyes, and her regrets. She thought about the way she left home, with her parents still not speaking. She couldn’t help but feel it was her fault, that she had started that fight. She wanted them to know she was sorry. And she wanted her brothers to know that she loved them, and that she knew they loved her, even if no one wanted to say it. *****
  76. 76. Skye was pretending to read. Every so often, he’d turn a page, and now and then his eyes would focus on a word, a phrase. But he wasn’t really reading. He couldn’t. Too many thoughts were running through his head, thoughts he desperately tried to ignore. Maybe, just maybe, he thought, if he willed himself to stop thinking negative thoughts, he’d wake up from this strange nightmare and begin to forget this weird dream. *****
  77. 77. Asher was calm. Worried, but calm. He, like Zephyr, seemed to think that he needed to keep up appearances. That if he acted okay, maybe the others could be okay, too. As he stared at the ceiling, he thought about his siblings. The challenge was breaking them, he realized. It hadn’t even begun and it was tearing them all down, ripping the family apart. Asher sighed, wishing he could just sacrifice himself, if only it meant his family got to be happy again. *****
  78. 78. Bright and early the next morning, the Specter kids found themselves on the tiny patch of lawn behind the all-too-cheerful-colored shacks. Finally, they would be told what the task was, and then the challenge would begin. “How’s everyone this morning,” Raye’s voice rang out in the crisp air. “Everyone okay?”
  79. 79. “Of course we’re not okay. What kind of retarded question is that?” Zeph snapped. “Look, kid, no need to get insolent. I just have to make sure that all of your motives are green, ‘kay? Otherwise, the challenge wouldn’t be fair.” “I think it’s pretty obvious this whole thing isn’t fair,” he replied. “Actually, you all have the same chances.”
  80. 80. “And if you keep interrupting, this thing will never get started. So shut it.” “No need to be rude,” Aerith defended her brother. “I’m not here to be nice. I’m here to proctor a deadly tournament. Now, be quiet so I can start! Geez…” She looked down at her notes. “Okay, first I’m required to tell you all that this generation will be the Year of the Saiyan.”
  81. 81. “The year of the what?” Skye interrupted. “What does that mean?” Asher asked. “The Year of the Saiyan, as opposed to the Year of the Moon.” Raye scanned the notes again. “Basically, it seems to be a fancy word for tails.” “So why don’t you just call it tails?” Skye quipped.
  82. 82. “Does it look like I made the rules for this thing?! I didn’t name it, okay? Geez. All I’m supposed to do is read the instructions, got it? So stop interrupting!” “Okay, okay, we’re sorry,” Aerith responded. Raye sighed. “Now. After the year is announced, I have to tell you what the challenge is. And this generation, the task will be…” She snuck a peek at her note card. “Playing with fire – and not a word until I’m done,” she shouted before she was interrupted again.
  83. 83. “Now, you all learned fire safety before today, so you all should have an even chance. Basically, you’ll all enter your respective cabins at the same time. Once inside, the door will be locked. Then the fire jets will turn on inside each room. Your task is to not burn to death.”
  84. 84. “W-Wait- what?” Skye sputtered. “We’ll be inside a room with a fire?” Aerith questioned. “Yes. What did you think playing with fire meant?” “That’s insane,” Zeph exclaimed. “How are we supposed to survive that?”
  85. 85. “That’s why you all learned fire safety. You can either use the phone inside to call the fire department or put out the fire yourselves. Whatever you do will be up to you, completely autonomous.” “That’s not how fire safety works!” Asher insisted. “It’s not?”
  86. 86. “NO!” Four voices exclaimed. “Oh. Hmm.” After a beat, Raye shrugged. “Oh, well. Not my problem.” “What?” “Wait a minute-” “You can’t-” “That’s not fair!”
  87. 87. “Enough! The purpose of this challenge is for the heir to be chosen randomly – so it is fair. Whether you catch on fire and die is still up to chance. Now I know you’re all bummed you guys got the violent challenge first, but I didn’t make the rules, so stop your whining and get to your places already, okay?”
  88. 88. After much shouting and debates, the teens finally lined up outside their challenge cabins.
  89. 89. “Now, on my mark… get ready… get set…”
  90. 90. “GO!”
  91. 91. The teens entered the cabins.
  92. 92. Asher looked around the blue windowless room. He couldn’t help but think of it as his coffin.
  93. 93. Nervously, Aerith opened the door. Besides a cheap phone on the far wall, there was nothing inside except two fire jets on either side of the door and several rugs scattered across the room. Their task was to avoid fire, but it seemed whoever set the room up was determined to make them burn.
  94. 94. Zephyr was pissed as he entered his room. He knew he was doomed. There was no way out of the room. The only door would be locked and there were no windows. Sure he had a pocket fire extinguisher, but hell if he would actually think to use it. He’d watched enough tv to know that sims lost all reason in the face of a fire.
  95. 95. Skye tried to be optimistic as he entered the hell box, or so he had heard Zephyr call it under his breath. He tried to stay focused on his task: not catching on fire. And there would be a fire. Everyone knew using fire jets indoors started a blaze and with the rugs all over the place, it would surely spread. So he had to make sure he was far, far away from that blaze and stick it out as long as he could.
  96. 96. “Okay, challengers,” Raye projected her voice over the intercom. “The doors have now been locked and the fire jets are turned on. In a moment, you’ll see so for yourselves. Good luck.”
  97. 97. Screwed, Zephyr thought. We are all so screwed.
  98. 98. Aerith closed her eyes as the flames came on. Okay, it’s okay, she told herself. Don’t panic. Just stay calm and keep your head.
  99. 99. Asher was losing it. The fire jets came on and about a second later, the fire spread, latching onto one of the rugs placed next to the jets.
  100. 100. “Who the hell would place rugs next to the jets?” he couldn’t help but yell in frustration. He backed up as far as he could and willed the fire to stay on the far side of the room.
  101. 101. “Holy crap!” Skye yelled. He had known the fire would spread, but didn’t expect it all to happen so fast. The room was already on fire and as much as he would love to just give up and start counting down his minutes, he knew he had to focus.
  102. 102. “Crap… what do I do again?”
  103. 103. From the yells outside, Zeph could tell the fire had spread in other rooms. For him, though, there was several minutes of calm, as the jets were working as normal and nothing was spreading. Then, suddenly: “Is that a spark?” Zeph leaned forward a bit. With the bright tiles, he was unable to tell for sure if the rug on the opposite side of the room had caught fire.
  104. 104. But a moment later, he could. “Yes. Yes, it most definitely is a spark- crap! Okay, sparky, you stay over there, okay? Please?”
  105. 105. Aerith breathed in and out slowly. She knew she shouldn’t stay so close to the door – a fire could start any moment, but she couldn’t move. It was almost like she was frozen with fear. As long as I don’t move, nothing will happen, she thought irrationally. Yes. I’ll just stay here and breathe. Then the fire won’t spread. I’ll be fine. I just have to breathe. She inhaled. In and out, Aerith. In... And out.
  106. 106. Asher shielded his face from an ember. He was trying to stay calm and remember his training, but he couldn’t focus. All he could do was stare at the fire and feel a fresh surge of panic rise through his chest. He was so focused on the flames on the opposite side of the room, however, that he forgot about the other jet.
  107. 107. And the highly flammable rug he was standing on top of. Asher felt a sharp pain around his right foot. Opening his eyes and looking down, he saw the flames surrounding his feet.
  108. 108. And that’s we he lost all reason and started to scream for real.
  109. 109. “Ow!” Skye had stepped back to shield his face from the fire jets, but doing so made him smack his head against the wall. He couldn’t stop the tears forming in his eyes as he rubbed his head. It didn’t help that he was starting to hear yells. A chill crept up his spine as he silently begged the fire to stay away from him.
  110. 110. Zeph’s room was only a few feet from Asher’s, so he heard when his twin started screaming in panic a few moments before. And when his pant leg caught fire soon after, he couldn’t help but think it was extremely ironic that he and his twin would be going down at the same time.
  111. 111. He banged his fist on the wall, but he knew he was screwed. But he wouldn’t give up, he vowed. He would fight it as long as he could. And for the sake of his siblings, he promised himself, he wouldn’t scream.
  112. 112. Asher couldn’t say he was thinking the same. He was having trouble thinking straight at all, too busy fighting the sparks of flame that seemed determined to consume his body. He didn’t even realize that he was making a sound; he was losing consciousness rapidly.
  113. 113. “Arrgh!” Zeph willed himself to keep quiet, but couldn’t stop the grunts and moans from escaping. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on his younger brother and sister. He couldn’t hear them – he hoped that meant they were okay. This was for them, he thought. If he and Ash died, he believed, then those two would be okay.
  114. 114. Aerith was not okay. The fire had finally spread and though she was doing her best to stay away from it, it was hard to fight the sense of panic. Suddenly, she heard a noise and she whipped around as a loud, agonizing scream echoed across the lot.
  115. 115. Tears stung her eyes as she gulped, but she forced herself to turn around. There was a fire in here, too. She had to focus.
  116. 116. “Why the hell can’t I get out of here?” She cried as she started to feel a tingling in her legs. “No. No, no, no, no, no. That is not what I think it is.” Tears streamed down her face now, as she fought the urge to look down.
  117. 117. Zeph couldn’t take it anymore. Kneeling down and succumbing to the flames, he allowed himself a howl of pain. It was all over now. All he could do was hope the end would come quickly.
  118. 118. Asher’s body practically spasmed when he heard his twin’s cry. “Why?” He couldn’t help but shout. “Why did have to be like this?”
  119. 119. “Stop, just stop! Please, stop!” Skye yelled at the flames. But they ignored him, growing stronger with every second. He tried to back up again, but hit the wall once again, forgetting there wasn’t a way out. “Crap it! How the hell am I supposed to get out of this?”
  120. 120. “No.” Aerith clutched her head. “No, no, no, no, no.” She was practically sobbing now.
  121. 121. And she had good reason to. “Why me?” She whispered.
  122. 122. Soon the flames were out of control, sweeping across the room and taking over her body.
  123. 123. Skye was frozen with fear as he stared at the flames. For the moment he was fine, but for the first time in his life, he had felt the cold creep of death.
  124. 124. And it had come for Asher.
  125. 125. “NO!” Zeph couldn’t help shouting. But it was pointless. He knew his turn was next. He could only hope that someone would make it. That someone was still safe.
  126. 126. But they weren’t. Not anymore.
  127. 127. “Arrrggghhh!” Skye jumped as the flames hit him. It was his turn to ask why.
  128. 128. He had heard his brothers and sister and now he knew what they felt.
  129. 129. A sick, twisted hope had filled him. A hope that he would fare better than they had; that he would be saved now that death had already been there. But it seemed they weren’t to be saved. *****
  130. 130. “This has to be the place,” Kaylynn muttered to herself. She had been searching the outskirts of Crystal Springs all night and it was morning before she spotted signs of life on this part of town. She had been relieved when she finally laid eyes on the houses before her, but something just wasn’t right. She could see smoke billowing from several of the buildings and smell something burning. Suddenly, her memory flashed back to something Andy had said – something about the challenge having to do with fire. Panicked, she started running as fast as she could.
  131. 131. She came across an odd sight. The buildings were definitely on fire, but there was a woman in front of them, seemingly unfazed by everything. She kept looking at her watch and every few moments she wrote on a note card. “Hey!” Kaylynn yelled. “What’s going on here? Is this place on fire?” she asked as she came to a stop in front of the woman. But the woman ignored her questions simply saying “You’re not supposed to be here. You need to leave.”
  132. 132. “What’s going on here? There’s a fire! Why aren’t you doing anything?” The woman looked at Kaylynn as if she had two heads. “Of course there’s a fire. That’s what the challenge is all about. …Or did you not get that memo?” Realization dawned on Kaylynn. “You… You’re the one who took my kids away.” Suddenly, Kaylynn snapped. “Tell me where my kids are! What have you done to them?! And I want answers – no more mysterious crap. Tell me now.”
  133. 133. The woman stifled a yawn. “Look, you’re not supposed to be here yet, okay? You can’t be here until everything is over; no outside influences. And the challenge isn’t quiet over yet, there’s no -” “Screw the challenge! Where are my kids, damn it!” “They’re taking the challenge.” The woman gestured to the houses.
  134. 134. “What?” Kaylynn looked at the houses confused. “Look, tuts, I’ll explain later – like I said the challenge isn’t over yet. The loser hasn’t been announced-” “I don’t care who wins this stupid thing! Explain now! Just what exactly is this challenge?” The woman sighed. “Playing with fire. Didn’t your husband tell-”
  135. 135. “Playing with… Wait you mean my kids are in there?!” Kaylynn pointed to the burning houses. “Well, duh. Just what do you think playing with fire means? Geez, you people-” “ARE YOU CRAZY? What kind of sicko are you? My kids are really in there?!” Kaylynn made a dash for the nearest house, but was pulled back.
  136. 136. “You can’t go in there! No interfering! Besides-” “Screw you! Screw you and screw your rules. Those are my kids!” Shoving the woman down to the ground, Kaylynn turned and ran for the nearest door. Discovering it was locked, she used her ten body points to kick down the door. Busting it open, she dashed inside, while the woman muttered ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you’ behind her.
  137. 137. But Kaylynn ignored her and ran straight into the room, not realizing how small it was. To her dismay, the room was only filled with flames and ashes. She gulped, trying not to think about what that meant. Turning around, she was horrified to realize that the fire had spread and blocked her way out. Worse, she seemed to be surrounded by highly flammable carpet.
  138. 138. “Crap!” Kaylynn yelled. She went further into the room, trying distance herself from the fire and realizing there was a phone on the far wall.
  139. 139. But she didn’t get very far. *****
  140. 140. Aerith heard a woman scream. Mom, she thought briefly, but barely had time to think more than that. Everything was getting really fuzzy, really fast.
  141. 141. Her last conscious thought was that she had hurt her mom once again.
  142. 142. And then the flames took over. *****
  143. 143. If Kaylynn had been capable of conscious thought, she might have been able to feel her daughter pass away. But she was too focused on the pain, on trying to escape. But every which way she turned, there was only more flames and more pain. She couldn’t reach the phone. She was surrounded. *****
  144. 144. “Andy! That was fast!” “You said there was an emergency? What is it? Did something go wrong with the challenge?” “Oh, the challenge is going fine.”
  145. 145. “Just fine.”
  146. 146. “Then what is it? And why are there still flames?” “Oh, well, like I said, the challenge is still going.”
  147. 147. “All of the flames haven’t been put out yet.”
  148. 148. “Why not?” Raye snorted. “Look, the flames will just have to put out themselves – I’m not dumb enough to run into a burning shack. …Which sorta brings me to why I called you here a bit early. “Yeah?” Andy made an impatient gesture. The place was creeping him out. “Your wife. She found the place. We had words. And she…”
  149. 149. “Well, she wasn’t so smart.” “What?” Andy looked at Raye. “You mean… she… Where?! Where is she?” Raye pointed to the red cabin and Andy bolted for the door. *****
  150. 150. Skye was backed up into a corner next to the jet. He was the last one left. He hadn’t seen it, but he had felt it. It was just something he knew. But he couldn’t figure out why his body was still crawling with flames. He kept waiting for it all to stop. For the door to open. For someone to save him. I don’t understand, he kept thinking. I don’t…
  151. 151. Understand… *****
  152. 152. “Kaylynn!” Andy screamed. He had run for the door as fast as he could, but was only horrified when he opened it. “No. NO!”
  153. 153. He was too late. ***** The End.
  154. 154. Yeah, I’m ending it there, and I know what you’re thinking – everybody died so who’s the heir? Will it be Asher, Zephyr, Aerith, or Skye? And what about Kaylynn? How’s Andy gonna deal with all this mess? Well, you’ll just have to find out next time. Later simmers and happy reading.

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