Welcome to part fifteen (the final installment) of the current long story cycle (Cracked Windows). The links will be laid out in sections to cut down the total number we see on each post. You will be able to follow from week to week as needed when new sections appear.
Cold Fire Consumes Us
Panic again threatened to consume him. He couldn’t connect the thoughts of what he needed to do and the thing edged closer to him with each breath. There was no rush in its movements, no hurry in its gait. The thing had all the time in the world while Jerome rapidly ran out of what precious moments he still had left.
He grew conscious of something in his hand, a fragment of his plan to rid the neighborhood of the thing. He tore his eyes away from the thing approaching to gaze upon the flaming bottle of gas in one hand. The flame grew quickly, faster than he anticipated. He near dropped the bottle to the floor in front of him as the heat became unbearable. The steady thump of the thing approaching him caught him up. He threw the bottle at the creature, though not quite a throw. It rolled from his hand in a spray of liquid fire.
Flames danced through the air as the bottle tumbled into the dead woman. It didn’t break, there hadn’t been enough force in his fumble. But the gas spilled out none the less. It’s dribble spread the flames across the walking corpse, as it continued its progress toward Jerome. The acrid stench of burning flesh assaulted him as it drew closer and closer. The thing’s passage through the dining room spread flames across the carpet.
Jerome watched the tapestry of flame build as it came within reach. Burning claws scraped at the air in an effort to clasp his flesh. Smoke billowed out behind it as the flames consumed the house’s flesh with abandon.
As he dodged away from old lady Marebelle, he felt a weight in his coat he had forgotten in the confusion and fear. The gun, not that it would do much, but maybe just maybe it could still help him. But it wasn’t the gun that his hand clasped from inside his coat.
The old can of hairspray. It had survived. More than he could say for himself if he couldn’t find a way out of the house. Jerome did the last thing he thought he might ever do. He pointed the nozzle at the billowing flames and pressed down.
That is to say that nothing sprayed out of the can of hair spray. The beast shambled toward him still, smoke still choked the air around him, and his eyes still watered hiding the nearest exit. His time had run out.
He shook the can, sloshing the chemicals inside, then flung it at the mass of creeping death. After that his mind disengaged from the scene as he sprung away in the hopes of finding a doorway or window and a chance at life. None of that mattered when the can exploded.
The burst of chemical and metal shook what had been left of his tenuous grasp at life. It threw him through a picture window onto the back lawn. Glass and blood covered him as he lay on his back looking up at a cloudless night. The stars remained hidden by the light of the burning house. The flames had magnified in the rush of oxygen when he smashed through the window.
It had only been moments when the darkness claimed him. He slipped into oblivion, unable to hear the sounds of sirens.
When he awoke in the hospital, he could still smell the flames. The burns in his throat where super heated air had threatened to consume him from the insides, ached with each labored breath. He had fought his eyelids to see the world around him. His hands though, he couldn’t use them to clear the sleep and pain from his eyes. They had been secured beside him. Jerome couldn’t move them from the bed.
“You’re awake.” The detective that had detained him when Ariel died, stood at the end of his bed. “I was beginning to wonder about you.”
Jerome mouthed the words, “the fire” but the air scraped his throat without collecting the vibrations needed to make sound.
“No, it’s okay. The doctor said you wouldn’t be able to talk for a bit when you finally woke up.” He had circled around the bed to stand at Jerome’s side. “You did a bit of damage there, didn’t you? The house had been there for quite some time. Didn’t know that did you?”
Jerome opened his mouth to say something then closed it as he remembered it wouldn’t work. Instead he turned his head to the side in contemplation.
“There weren’t any bodies left in the house. Nothing to be found at all.” The skin around the man’s hands had gone white as he gripped the bed’s railing. “You should never have gone there, never crossed the street. Mother never would have let anyone into the house.”
The cold consumed the bed, a little at first, spreading from the rail in the man’s hands. By the time it had reached Jerome’s exposed skin it had filled him, a bone chattering chill he couldn’t fight against. He tried to scream, fought against the bonds at his wrists. But none of it mattered as he felt his skin crack under the weight of ice. His heart had slowed as his blood could no longer pump through his veins. The last thing he saw were the red-fire eyes of the man looming over his hospital bed.
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