It was one of those nights. Those nights happened when that thing surfaced without them knowing. Tonight, Braydon was spending the night in the backyard.

 Braydon's parents had gone on vacation. Again. They'd left him at home. Again. He was alone. Again.

 If a person spends a lot of time alone, they start to get used to it. They learn how to entertain themselves, and what to do in their privacy. Braydon had a system. He knew exactly what to do and exactly when to do it.

 One would think that coming home to six house parties, Braydon's parents wouldn't trust him alone in the house. They actually didn't trust him. But to Braydon's parents, vacations and money were more important than trust. Braydon liked it this way. God forbid he have parents who gave him a curfew and punished him for doing wrong because they cared.

 Tonight, the moon was full. It's beams reflected off the surface of the pool water. It shimmered and danced with the waves. Braydon was entranced by it. He could have sat out there for hours if sleep hadn't been beckoning him inside.

 Sighing, Braydon wobbled into the house. Ugh, he hated the place. It was like an art gallery with all the weird and grizzly paintings. For some reason, Braydon's mom had a morbid fascination with dead flowers. Wilted roses and burned lilies covered the white walls. No matter how many times he saw them, they always gave Braydon the creeps. He still shivered as he walked past a portrait of a dead hydrangea in the shape of a skull.

 Braydon sat down on the black leather couch and stared at the fire. His parents would kill him if they saw him sitting on their precious couch. When they'd first bought it, they'd strictly told Braydon not to sit on it, ever. It was one of the few times they had payed him any attention.

 The flames reminded Braydon of the moonlight outside. They twisted and danced in patterns that could only be seen through the imagination. it was almost as if the fire was alive. It breathed, it moved, it hungered and it could die. All living things could die. Just like the fire, they would eventually burn out.

 Braydon stood up and approached the fire. He placed his hands atop the mantle. The nearby sunflower lamp was on. Braydon clumsily flicked the switch. He rested his arm on the now black lamp.

 His head was pounding. It was always pounding on those nights. He rellished in the subtle pain. It meant he hadn't exploded yet. Braydon knew that he would someday explode. He waited for that day unthinking, unfeeling, and completely detached from the world.

 The fire reached out to touch him, but he did not flinch. Braydon didn't fear its merciless rath. There was nothing to fear but fear itself. Braydon challenged the fire to prove that he would not be shaken by it.

 Inside the flames, pictures started to form. There was one of his parents laughing. His mother was hugging him, and his dad was teaching him how to ride a bike. Back in the old days. He also saw the smiling face of a little boy. The little boy gazed up at Braydon in adoration.

 Then, the pictures changed. His mom was crying, and his dad was pulling out a gun. He could here the sound of gunfire then deadly silence. But worst of all was the little boy on a MISSING poster, blowing in the wind, unseen by anybody. The poster drifted into the ocean, and boy's smiling face sinking to the bottom, disappearing from the world and from memory.

 Braydon's eyes widened. The fire was unraveling the most deepest parts of his inner soul. He gaped at it in horror. He quickly stepped back, trying to erase the painful memories. In his haste, he tripped over the edge of the carpet and fell, bringing the lamp with him. There was a loud crash! as both the glass and his back shattered to pieces.


 Someone was holding his hand and whispering soothing words. Behind the words was the steady beat of some type of machinery.

 At first, Braydon thought it was his mother. But then he remembered how cold she was. She didn't have any tenderness left in her.

 His next thought was Carmen. She was his girlfriend, so it made sense that she would be holding his hand and whispering to him. Braydon smiled inwardly.

 Though he couldn't remember how he'd gotten there, he was obviously in the hospital. He could tell by the way the steady beeping sped up when he thought of Carmen.

 Braydon was glad Carmen was there to support him. Nowadays, she was always doing other activities which were 'vitally important'. Braydon couldn't think of the last time they'd had some quality time, just to themselves.

 Her hand was so soft and warm. She gently held his hand. He involuntarily squeezed the hand he was holding. Suddenly, she stopped whispering. Braydon frowned mentally. He didn't want her to stop. The whispers had been soothing and relaxing. They brought him peace, which was something he hadn't had in a long time

 He squeezed her hand again, urging her to continue. She did, and this time he could hear what she was saying.  Wake up, Braydon. Get up. You've had enough sleep. Wake up.

 Hmm. Her voice was off. Braydon was sure he had never heard Carmen's voice so low. Now that he thought about it, her voice wasn't the only thing different. Her nails weren't digging into his skin, and her fingers felt too short. The palm of her hand was hotter than it had ever been. This person didn't feel like Carmen at all. But, if it wasn't Carmen, then who was holding his hand?

 He cracked his eyes open to see the girl looking down at him. Her soft brown hair was slightly tousled, and her cheeks were blushed with a faint pink. Her unusual yellow eyes were deep with worry. Worry for him. Braydon. A guy she barely even knew.

 "What are you doing here?" he croaked.

 She smiled sadly. "Making sure you get to live to see another sunrise," said Topaz.

The End

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