2010-01-16: Blazing Fury



Date: January 16, 2010


Aaron discovers that there's no such thing as normal. Oh, and someone from his past tries to kill him.

"Blazing Fury"

Six Months Ago…

Aaron watches out the window as a number of the other patients at Manhattan Psychiatric engage in a game of basketball in the court below. He used to play sports. Not that he was especially good at any of them, but he used to play them nonetheless. The rush was always nice. But none of them quite compare to the rush he gets from music. Something about it — and he was never very sure quite what — is just so alluring. He walks over to the piano, something that has recently been unlocked for him. He spent a good number of months just playing with his guitar. Although he didn't want it so, it was always supervised. Not that the usage of the old upright is any different than that, what with his therapist watching.

With a sigh of contentment, he settles himself on the piano's bench and lifts the keyguard, feeling the rough wood in his hands. It's lacquered, so isn't about to leave any slivers, but he imagines that without the varnish, it very well could. His fingers touch the keys with anticipation, a feeling he hasn't had in nearly half a year.

There's something so incredibly simple about love. It's there or it isn't. It can be love for life, for a job, for a pet, an experience… a person. I loved music long before I loved Annabelle. I suppose that was a good thing— something to fall back upon when she died.

Aaron's Apartment

Three Weeks Ago…

It's just something he does. A ritual, nothing terribly unusual about straightening things up. He keeps his socks tidy in his drawer, neatly placed in three rows of three right next to his shorts, separated by colour in short stacks. He closes the drawer and pulls on his robe, giving one last glance to the photo he keeps above his dresser— the entirety of the Lightbringers, including Annabelle, from before Tom Wilkes left. Then he walks out of the room. His hand brushes against the metal railing as he walks along the upper hall until he comes to the stairs, at which point — oddly — he releases it and walks down.

His telephone rings. His cellular phone, anyway, as he has no home phone — not anymore. It seems rather pointless to have two phones, especially when you're not at home very much. He lifts the phone up off of the coffee table and flips it open. "Hello?" he answers. Silence. "Hello?" The faint sound of breathing. "I told you to stop calling!" He snaps the phone closed and tosses it onto the sofa.

After pouring himself a glass of orange juice from the kitchen, he brings it to the studio grand piano in his lounge, and sets it upon a coaster on the closed top of the piano. At one point, it would have been Scotch or a vodka tonic. Alcohol, however, does not mix entirely well with anti-depressants.

He raises the polished black keyguard and warms his fingers up by playing scales. Only when he feels his fingers are moving their best does he press down on the una corda and begins to play Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Quasi una fantasia — the Moonlight Sonata.

Faith is another simple thing. Again, you have it or you don't. It doesn't really matter what or whom you have faith in, so long as you have it. Faith gets you through things. If you lack faith…. well, God help you.

Three Hours Ago…

Aaron holds a large paper shopping bag against one arm as he works at fishing his keys out of his pocket. He toes at his front door only to have it open in, slowly. "What the fuck?" he whispers to himself. Then his foot touches something on the carpet of the outside hallway, something that doesn't feel like carpet. He nudges the door open further and sets his grocery bag inside. That's when he spots it. A photograph, or what's left of one. He doesn't recognize it until he picks it up.

He can actually feel the colour drain from his face as he looks at it. He can still see a bit of Annabelle, but all that's left complete intact is him and the hand of Tom Wilkes, the original bassist and backing vocal talent of the Lightbringers. The rest of the occupants of the photo are charred beyond recognition. But the photograph is more than familiar to him. With it clutched in his hand, he enters his apartment. He keeps a steel baseball bat for an event such as this, and he grabs it from its place near the door. With it gripped firmly in one hand, the photo in the other, he runs up the stairs and into his bedroom. There, he finds an empty photo frame hanging from the wall.

As quick as he can, Aaron runs down to the kitchen, grabs a zippered freezer bag from its respective drawer — and everything in his kitchen has a sane place — and sticks the photograph in it. He zippers the bag shut as he walks out of the apartment, dropping the bat next to the groceries on the floor. He locks the deadbolt first and then the knob before hightailing it to a cab to get to the local police precinct.

Some people lose their faith. Some people lose their love or loves. Those people are tragic. Sadly, I'm one of them. I lost my deepest human love, Annabelle, and I lost faith in myself when I failed to save her from the fire that claimed her and the rest of my life. The funny thing is that I thought I needed that all. I thought I needed her. Maybe in some way I did, at the time. But thankfully, I only truly need myself. And music. Music is the one thing that keeps me going. In a way, you could say I love music, and that I believe in music. Music is my love and my faith. It keeps me running even when I can run no more, because that's the power of love. And I love music. I love myself. I love Aaron Michaels.

Unfortunately…. some people don't.


As Aaron reaches his apartment door for the second time this evening, he again finds it ajar. The hairs on the back of his neck prickle as he toes the door open. Every atom in his body screams at him to run the fuck away, but he's not about to leave his prized guitar behind. Especially so because — before he ran out for groceries and started this whole messed up scenario into action — he very nearly composed three whole measures. It's not much, but it's something closer to composition than he's been capable of since the fire.

In retrospect, I should have left that fucking guitar at my apartment and headed straight to the Hotel Pennsylvania. But you know, I have a degree in music, not logic. Besides, that thing cost me eighteen-hundred dollars. Hand-crafted with a sapphire finish. It's one of a kind and a very beautiful piece of work. I couldn't leave it behind.

I should have.

He sneaks into the apartment, seeing his baseball bat is still there. But his groceries aren't. The door closes behind him and he freezes, his blood running cold.

"Hello, Aaron."

The voice is so eerily familiar, he can feel his heart flutter and stop for just a moment. He turns, grabbing the baseball bat in his left hand as he does so, and backing away as quickly as he can when he sees the face and those dark, hazel eyes. "Tom!"

Tom Wilkes glowers at Aaron, his eyes immediately turning to the steel baseball bat. "Are you going to hit me, Aaron?" he asks, backing away slightly, though sliding his hand over the dead bolt of the door and flicking it into the locked position.

The question flies right over Aaron's head. It's unimportant gibberish in his internal monologue as he tries to make sense of this situation. "How the fuck did you get into my apartment?" Strangely, 'what are you doing here?' or any other questions just don't seem as relevant to Aaron, and so he spits out the question he most desperately wants to know: How has he just become victimized?

To answer the question, Tom pulls out a keychain with two keys dangling from it. "Don't you remember who brought you your things after you tried to hang yourself?" He tosses the keys at Aaron, clearly finding no further use for them. "I took the liberty of making a copy of them."

Aaron grabs the keys in his other hand, but then switches to hold the baseball bat in his right. Hell, screw the keys. He tosses them aside. His heart thuds rapidly in his chest. He can feel panic settling in. The keys hit the coffee table with a crack. A glass he left atop it falls to the floor and shatters. He didn't notice if the keys hit it or not, but when he looks, they seem to be pretty far away from the coaster the glass was on. But is he in a position to be thinking straight. He realizes his mouth is dry. "What do you want, why are you here?"

"I really thought you were smart enough to figure this out, what with the photo and all. Do I really have to spell it out?" His eyes go to the baseball bat again. He waves his hand at it, as though he could hit it out of Aaron's hands, "And put that down!"

Searing hot pain goes through Aaron's hands, as though the metal of the baseball bat were suddenly flame-hot. He drops the bat and reels back, looking at his hand. It's red where he was holding it. His eyes go straight to Tom. Suddenly, so many things seem to fall into place.

I used to think things were simple, that there was such a thing as normal. That there were no such things as monsters, or mutants, or whatever you might choose to call them. The supernatural for me was merely fiction. Boy was I ever wrong. People had tried to tell me. There were crazy news stories, and then there was that girl and that old African man, the one who came to my door looking for tickets to see Leno. Destiny, he said, had something in mind for me. I didn't believe him then. I didn't believe Gillian, either. But in that moment, everything changed. But, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Lighting fires is a perfectly human thing.

"You started the fire," Aaron says, "You killed all those people." It's a seriously shocking realization that this man, who had been a friend at some point, had nearly killed him when he killed everyone else. His eyes glisten with unshed tears of anger, "You murdered Annabelle."

"I told you not to date her," Tom snarls back, coming up close to Aaron even as the couch sets on fire. "I told you something bad would happen! I told you, if you got involved with her…."

"Wait. You killed a hundred and fifty-three people, Annie included, because she was dating me?" Then his blood runs cold. He can feel the hairs on his arms stand on end, strangely not noticing the fire. The panic has given him tunnel vision, and he can only seem to focus on Tom right now. "Tommy…. you killed her because I proposed?"

"She was supposed to date ME!" Tom cries out. Another fire starts. This time in the liquor cabinet, which gets very little use these days. The sound of bottles popping open, liquid fire dripping out the base of the cabinet and setting the entertainment centre on fire next.

The second fire gets Aaron's attention, mainly because of the sound of the bottles, although the growing crackles of the couch and the sudden increase in the volume of smoke in the apartment — from none to what there is now — make him more than aware of the others. "Jesus Christ," he explains, backing away further to get into the kitchen, where he has an extinguisher. The other one is up the stairs, which means he'd have to go through Tom Wilkes.

He sprays at the fires, squelching them pretty good until they're little more than smoke. Then he looks at Tom, incredulously. The man just set his home on fire. Or tried. Thank God for fire extinguishers. "Oh Tom, you're crazy. You need help."

Why did I insult him? Why not? It seemed like the right thing to do. I figured I was as good as dead anyway, why not have a little fun with it first? Of course, I didn't expect things to get weird, and I still had a few more questions for him.

"What did you say?"

"Wait a minute. If you want to kill me, why the hell did you save my life at Christmas?"

"Because I want to kill you. Like I'm going to right now. I wasn't about to let you kill yourself."

And that's when things got weird.

"That's what you were doing there. You came to kill me. On Christmas Day, really?"

"I tried Christmas Eve, but you weren't there, so I waited until you were home. I was amazed when you left the door unlocked. I didn't even have to break in. And then I found you hanging there. The paramedics brought you back to and took you to the hospital, and I see they got you all better."

"Better!? You call this better?"

I heard the china rattling in the buffet. The glass of the coffee table broke. The keys that were on it fell to the floor and jingled amidst the glass. And then I saw Tom.

Aaron reels back with the fire extinguisher as Tom Wilkes ignites. He doesn't know how or why, but he caught on fire. The spectacle is such that it distracts him from the fact that several other pieces of furniture have also caught on fire. Well, it distracts him for a moment, anyway.

When he realizes that a fair portion of his apartment is on fire, he really begins to panic. The realization comes with the smoke, and he can practically hear the music that he was playing back on October 2, 2008, when the fire broke loose at the Aleston Music Hall. He continued to smell smoke for months into his psychological recovery, the smell of it burned into his brain, and here he is smelling it again. Only this time, it's real.

"What have you done, Tom? What did you do!? Oh shit oh shit oh shit." He holds up the extinguisher and begins to spray his old band mate, to try and extinguish the fire that is Tom Wilkes.

Imagine his surprise when from within the flames, a voice calls out: "Stop it, put that away and just die already!"

Nearby, something lingers just in sight, watching the fire with a curious tilt of a bird-like head. It looks like a bird, at least, but the coloring is unlike any bird that actually exists. Shaped like a blue jay, it's actually kind of purple. A purple jay? Perhaps! It's just inside the window, sitting on something, undaunted by the fire blaze, and waiting.

It's not so much what is said but how it is said that startles Aaron, and he drops the fire extinguisher as he backs away. About this time, he realizes that Tom's not in any trouble of being burned to death, especially when his hazel eyes appear in the fire, and it settles down to just a short, rolling burn over his form. That's not a sight Aaron ever expected to see in reality, an effect reserved for computer generated imagery in fantasy films.

The humanoid fire extends a finger, "You had everything I wanted, everything I deserved, and you took it all away!" More fires start. Aaron's bookshelf smolders. The top of the piano catches fire, and the heat makes the strings let out little resonant moans. Some flames begin creeping up the walls as the smoke thickens, the fire reaching out to some of the ceiling decorations — the odd hanging light fixture or large painting.

This is what she'd been warned about. Suddenly there's a voice from behind him, "You need to get out of here, Aaron!" There's nothing there but a purple bird, though, one that suddenly takes off, wings flapping. The voice is female. And familiar. The voice of a woman he pushed away meanly.

And the bird flies directly at the fiery form, completely fearless. Because the fire can't touch her at all. But there's no way the man who created the flames could know that the bird can't hurt him, either.

"I didn't take anything," Aaron says back, eyes alight with fury at this man, this monster before him claiming to have somehow been wronged. He's not entirely sure how, but he finds the fire extinguisher back in his hands. "In a minute," he says of the voice he most certainly does recognize, and later he'll feel terrible about being short with her even now. Right now, though, he fully intends to use the distraction that is the flying purple bird. He swings the fire extinguisher straight at the flaming man's head.

"Wha?" is all Tom gets out as his attention is stolen by the mysterious bird emerging from the smoke and flames. When he sees it coming, he takes a few steps back, distracted enough to not respond to Aaron's remark and instead get beamed right in the head by what he thinks is the bird. The consequent pain and shock, however, seems to only make him burn hotter. The piano makes little snapping whines as its strings pop apart as the piano burns.

"Pyromanaics are hazardous to the health of everyone, you jack ass," the bird seems to say, flapping wings and exposing little clawed feet in a way that— honestly isn't effective at all. Visually it might look scary. The fire and smoke do not seem to affect it, but neither do the attacks she makes hit at all.

"Aaron, you need to go. It's dangerous here, you could die!" The projection doesn't have to worry about itself, but— "Use that fire extinguisher and make yourself a hole before you suffocate." Cause that's how most people die in fires, anyway.

Aaron reels back from the sudden increase in flame, deciding now he maybe should have used the distraction to get the hell away instead of exacting some sort of revenge. He falls on his ass and has his attention brought to the ceiling, where smoke has collected. It moves in a way he's not expecting it too, as though something is moving through it. Which is about when he sees the large, fluorescent lighting fixture coming away from the ceiling. A poster on the wall of the studio area curls as it catches fire. Flames sear the wall it's on, reducing the poster to fine ash that slowly drifts down to the floor in flakes.

He starts respond 'No,' but on account of the falling light fixture, it turns into, "N-oh shit!" Aaron ducks into a ball in his spot on the floor when it happens.

"Holy crap— this place is already collapsing," the little bird says.

A wave seems to expand from Aaron's position. Windows shatter, the flames are almost all squelched as they're deprived of oxygen. The burning piano shifts back even as Tom is extinguished and flipped over the burning couch onto the broken glass coffee table. The light fixture that was about to hit Aaron joins the three hanging works of art that crash into the upper hall balcony only to fall into the living room area, landing on top of the melted television and burning entertainment centre. One of the paintings lands on Tom Wilkes's downed body.

Air soon returns and the smoke redistributes itself, some moving out of the apartment windows where fresh air comes in from. Some small fires start again from burning embers that were only not burning because they had no oxygen. Aaron lies on the floor, unmoving for several moments as he slowly regains something at least close to consciousness. When he does, Gillian's words echo in his head and his eyes go to the door, which is badly dented outwards, but still firmly bolted into place. He holds his head in his hand as he slowly gets up off the ground, his head screaming at him with pain. He doesn't notice the warm trickle of blood coming from his nose as he makes his way to the door. Shouts can be heard from outside and there's no question that emergency services have been called. Another light fixture crashes down behind him as he tries to unlatch the deadbolt lock on his door. It takes him a moment to realize that it's been bent and broken to the point of having jammed into place.

Oh hell. Had to break the fucking exit. The bird that happens to have Gillian's voice doesn't say it, but it sure has hell thinks it. But being an unaffected observer has it's advantages, even if she finally loses her grasp on the fake form. The bird dissolves into a ghostly form of the woman he met in the Library, and a few other places besides. The way the smoke hits her, it distorts her form, as if it's going through her, instead of moving around her. A piece of flame licks through her ankle. "Listen, you did something to move things. You're going to need to bust down the door to get out. This fire can't hurt me, but it sure has hell can hurt you."

"No shit." This time, Aaron actually says it instead of slurring his words with the profane exclamation of 'oh shit.' He looks around. The outside fire escape is blocked by a heap of smouldering wood, ivory, and piano wire. "God dammit," he says as he reefs on the door with his hands. He bangs on it a few times, not one hundred percent aware of just what Gillian said. The motion makes his head scream even more, and he takes a moment to rest against the cool metal of the door. If only it were wooden. His eyes flicker to the downed form of Tom Wilkes, no longer on fire, covered by a large painting that is slowly burning. "Son of a bitch tried to kill me again. Burn my fucking house down…."

And then he's trying to break the door down again, this time using the fire extinguisher after retrieving it from under the couch. That is, until he realizes it's probably no smart to be bashing a pressurized canister against a metal door. He lets out what can only be called a battle cry as he throws the fire extinguisher at the door. It emits a loud clang and bounces back, rolling along the floor until it buts against the flame-resistant guitar case, knocking it over. When the case hits the ground, it emits a wonderfully pleasing tone the way only a guitar can. Such a nice sound just from being bumped around. Aaron walks over to it and picks it up, then looks at Gillian's ghostly form. "How do you do that?" he asks.

"I'm not really here, I'm somewhere else," Gillian explains, casting a cautious glance around. Not worried for herself at all, there's someone else here who doesn't seem to understand what she meant by break down the door. "You're going to have to do something else— Maybe you can kick it hard enough." She half disappears through the wall, peeking out into the next room. This whole place will probably go up. But he's the only one trapped. When she pokes her head back in, she adds, "You have to get out of here. In case that guy wakes up. If he made that fire he's likely immune to it— he's probably only knocked out right now, so you gotta hurry."

Aaron lets out a groan and rubs his face, "Great. I'm in the fucking Twilight Zone." When he retracts his hand, he notices the blood. "Great, and I'm bleeding to top it off. I feel like someone cracked me over the face with a baseball bat." The proverbial light bulb shatters when Aaron sees the baseball bat managed to get crammed under the heap that was his piano. That leaves his guitar and its case, which he looks at and then looks to Gillian. "Oh Hell no, this thing's too expensive to break. Guess I will have to kick it." Which he does. He walks up to the door and he starts kicking right beside the deadbolt. Hard. Jarring his body like that hurts like hell, though, and he stops after two tries. He sets his guitar case down next to the door.

The voices he heard earlier are gone. The building's been evacuated. His head swims. The smoke is getting to him and he finally starts coughing from it. It doesn't help that he is starting to feel the other cuts and abrasions he got from bits of broken glass flying, not to mention his not-quite-burnt but nearly-scalded skin in spots. No permanent damage, though. One more coughing fit and he actually falls to his knees. One fist shakes at the door and it breaks out of the frame, right off it's hinges, and falls in the hallway. Aaron looks up from the floor at the hallway. "I feel dizzy," he notes, lamely, as he grabs his guitar case and crawls out of the apartment into the hall. He kisses the floor, and then gets up slowly to try and make his way to the stairs. "Don't suppose you could go for help, could you?" He wobbles uneasily as he moves down the hallway and has to stop to shake his head every now and again trying to shake away the weariness, only to wince from the pain.

Go for help? There's a moment of worry, right up until the door flies outward, opening him up to safety. It's enough to make her breathe easy, or at least seem to let out a held breath. It's a mimic of the motion she's making far away, in her wheelchair, as Gillian watched this mess through her avatar. Yeah, she's appreciating that movie a bit. Though she's not attempted to make herself look like a giant blue cat person. Not yet. Maybe someday.

"I don't think I'll have to. The building's probably evacuated. The fire department is likely already on the way, with paramedics. I can go downstairs and say you're up here in the hall, and to hurry, though.

"That would be nice," Aaron mutters as he nears the stairwell. He pushes the door open with some effort and rests against the stair railing, stupidly look down the well. "Oh yeah." He backs up a bit. "I get the sense I might fall down the stairs if I try to go like this." He closes his eyes, trying to will away … not consciousness— he needs that. His eyes pop back open and he starts coughing again. "Paramedics would be good." He holds up his guitar case and takes a few tentative and unsteady steps down before taking a seat. "I think I'll wait."

"Just wait here, I'll make sure someone comes up and finds you," Gillian says, though she knows it's not safe to drag whoever she finds up on her own. He'll just have to sit there and stew until one of them makes their way up. "And maybe next time you should call me back before you start accusing me of craziness," she adds, hands on her hips for an instant, before she vanishes from site. To go down and be all 'there's someone up in the stairwell oh god I think he's hurt' before vanishing from sight to spy in another form. But for now, he gets to wait.

And wait. And wait.

"Hey son, you know there's a fire, right?"

Aaron blinks his eyes open and shakes his head to clear out some of the cobwebs. "Yeah, I kinda noticed when some guy broke into my apartment and set it on fire."

"No shit," says the firefighter as he comes up the stairs, another man right behind him. "Come on, let's get you out of here."

"I think I have a concussion, or something. Hey, watch the guitar, that thing's expensive," Aaron snaps, as the firefighter picks it up willy-nilly like it were any old thing. When they finally get outside and Aaron catches the fresh air of the evening, he breathes in deep and passes out.

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