The house crackled and popped around them. Wild flames clung to the walls and licked the ceiling. It was the smoke and the subsequent coughing that woke Vicky up. She sat up in bed, covering her mouth with her old Care Bears T-shirt–the same one she’d been wearing to sleep for seven years, since her father had given it to her for her tenth birthday. It was the only thing he’d ever given her.
Matt sat in front of her, on a white wooden chair that was already covered in soot. Matt’s arms were coated in something red. He seemed unperturbed by the fact that the house was burning up around them.
Vicky jumped out of bed as soon as she mustered the consciousness to do so. “Matt! What’re you doing? We have to go!” She immediately slipped on shorts and shoes.
Matt shook his head. “I can’t. Dad’s coming.”
“Dad’s dead,” said Vicky. Their mother had always told Vicky that their father had left. He was a medic in the Army, and he was very busy, but he was a hero. When Dad had come for Vicky’s tenth birthday, her mother looked like she’d seen a ghost. But they were happy. Until he left again. Matt was born nine months later. Vicky was sixteen before her mother admitted that their father had died. She couldn’t say when. She didn’t know.
Matt shook his head. “Yours. Not mine. Mine’s coming.”
Vicky held out her hand, still covering her mouth and nose to keep the ash and smoke and heat out. “Matt, we have to go!”
Matt smiled. He licked his fingers. “I wanted him to come. So I called him. Mom helped.”
Vicky’s blood froze. “What? Where’s Mom?”
Matt held out his blood-soaked hands. “I needed her to call Dad. He’s gonna be here soon.”
The house shook violently. Vicky heard footsteps that sizzled louder than the fire’s roar.
“He’ll like you,” Matt said. Her bedroom door opened.