I know, I am behind. Getting caught up today as long as the internet cooperates with me.
A Family That Dies Together
By Lisa McCourt Hollar
Helen turned in circles, trying to find a way out of the room. Around her, flames danced, leaping with a wild frenzy. Her skin burned. Coughing, she knelt near the floor, but despite everything she’d ever been told, the air wasn’t cleaner.
Her eyes blurred. They stung from the heat. She saw another figure in the room now, coming from out of the fire. It was Frank. She didn’t know how this could be but her husband was coming for her. She had seen him die. He couldn’t be alive, yet miraculously he was there to save her.
Just before the fire:
“Adam, get out of bed!” Helen smacked her son’s door one last time before heading back into the bathroom to finish her hair. “Why does it always take so long to get teenagers up in the morning?” She asked her husband as he slipped past her and reached for his toothbrush.
“Why does he need to get up? The holiday break isn’t over for two more days?”
“He promised his art teacher he’d come in and work on a mural today.”
“During winter break? Sheesh.”
“It’s for extra credit and it’s supposed to be like a Christmas present for the school.”
“Careful, Helen, you can’t say Christmas. Might offend somebody.” His voice was joking, but Helen knew he was serious, at least half way. He’d gotten reprimanded by his boss for telling a customer Merry Christmas. The customer, who was Jewish, hadn’t minded and had even come back with a Happy Hanukkah, but another employee had overheard and complained. He wasn’t told who the employee was, but Frank had no doubt that it was Fenton Berryhill, a staunch atheist who hated any mention of religion.
“Never mind that Christmas has more to do with Santa Clause than Christ, these days,” he had gripped when he got home that day.
“Get over it,” Helen said, picking up her hairspray and creating a fog around her head.
“Geez Louise, Helen, couldn’t you wait until I’m out of the room?” Frank wrapped his hands around his throat and mimicked choking.
“”I could be so lucky,” She shot back, planting an apologetic kiss on his lips.
Frank wrapped his arms around her. “I don’t know why you need that stuff. You’re beautiful without it.”
“And you’re blind without your glasses.” Leaning her head around Frank, Helen yelled, “ADAM, GET UP!”
“And now I’m deaf too,” Frank joked.
A crash from the next room followed by the sound of glass breaking, wiped the smile off Helen’s face. “Adam, are you okay?”
“That didn’t sound good,” Frank said, stepping into the hall and reaching to open his son’s door. It didn’t move. “Adam, open the door.”
“Frank, break it down,” Helen said, as another loud crash came from the bedroom.
Frank stepped away from the door and then slammed into it, splintering the frame. The door opened inward and Frank stumbled into the room.
Helen stepped cautiously into the room. “Adam?”
Adam was standing in the corner of the room with his back to his parents. Hi right arm hung limply from his side while blood dripped from a huge tear in the skin.
“Adam, what happened?” Helen moved towards her son, but Frank stopped her, stepping between her and Adam and pushing her towards the door.
“Go call 911, he said. Something’s wrong with him.”
“Frank, let me see my son.”
Frank was stronger than she was though and continued to push her towards the door. She hadn’t been able to see Adam’s eyes from where she stood in the room. He could however and there was something… unbalanced in his eyes. He’d seen that look before, when he’d been a young man in the army. There was a boy he’d gone through basic training with. He’d gotten that look in his eye… just before he’d gone off the deep end and tried to take the entire platoon out.
And there were other things that Frank couldn’t explain. Things he didn’t want Helen to see.
“Just get out of here, Helen. Let me talk to him and find out what’s going on. Maybe he and Jennifer had a fight. Boys aren’t going to talk to their mother’s about it.
Adam was turning towards them. Helen looked past her husband, desperate to make sure her son was alright. She’d seen the blood. It was his mouth she noticed first.
Adam’s lips were torn off. At first Helen thought he’d been in a fight, but then she saw that he was chewing on something. When it registered that he was chewing his own lips, she screamed.
A low, primal growl erupted from Adam’s throat. Shoving his wife out the door, Frank felt cold hands grip his shoulders and then sharp teeth ripping into his neck. Helen fell over backwards, horrified to see her son tearing large chunks from the back of her husband’s neck. She moved to help him but Frank yelled for her to run.
Ignoring him, she pulled on Adam’s arms. Certainly he would listen to her. Maybe it was drugs? She never did like that Jennifer. She’d always reminded her of all the girls she’d hated when she was a kid. She must have given Adam something.
He turned towards her and lunged. When he did, Helen saw his eyes and knew what Frank already did… her son was dead. Whatever moved him, whatever force was inside of him, it wasn’t Adam. Throwing her arms up, she closed her eyes, fully expecting to feel him land on top of her. Then she heard Frank yelling, his words garbled. From her days assisting in the trauma wing at the hospital, she knew his lungs were filling with blood. Opening her eyes she saw that her husband had pulled Adam back and was telling her to run. She thought she heard him say something about his flame thrower, but that was in the basement. It did give her an idea.
Running to the bathroom, she grabbed her hairspray then back to Adam’s room. She hated that he smoked, but she knew a losing battle so she’d bit her tongue. Now she grabbed the lighter off of his dresser. Spraying a stream of hair spray towards her son she lit the lighter.
“FRANK!” Crying with joy, she reached out. His clothes were on fire and her first instincts were to make him drop to the ground. Then she saw his face… and his mouth. Frank wrapped his arms around her in one last embrace. Helen didn’t have the strength to fight him. Whatever had taken her son and now her husband, could have her.