Author’s Note: So today I decided (almost at the last minute) to use something from my side project for the collaboration, a story detailing Alik’s childhood. This unauthorized side project came out of my obsession with Alik, and it is almost a novel in of itself. I do not know if much of it will surface in the finished version of our collaboration, but this fits mayhem, and it is Monday today, so here goes.
He’d just set the whole place on fire.
Alik looked at his hands. With the storm passed, he’d done his best to practice getting rid of the energy, and he’d thought he’d started to understand—if he took energy in, he could purge it back out, sending it through his lamp or something else electronic, shifting it down the wire, getting rid of it. That discovery had helped.
He could manage his pain, manage the aches, as long as he was able to touch the electronics and rid himself of the energy he seemed to hold onto, and that was a relief. He was starting to understand what he was and how to use it.
At least, that had been what he thought he was doing until a few minutes ago. He had purged the energy before, several times, enough to make him think that he would not have trouble with it, ever, but what he had not thought of was that he’d done it in a rather controlled setting, only a bit at a time, and he hadn’t factored in his emotions, either. This might have been nothing more than the simple flickering of lights he got when he touched his lamp.
Except that was touching his lamp and sending the energy through the power line.
This time, he’d just touched the outer wall of the store, hadn’t directed anything with the energy, hadn’t even thought that he needed to, and the energy had flowed out without him intending it to, arcing across the building with a sudden ferociousness that had left Alik with nothing to do but stare as the building was consumed in flames.
He knew it could be worse—they’d finished the going out of business sale the day before yesterday and the remainder of the store’s stock that hadn’t sold was loaded on a truck yesterday, so that wasn’t an issue. They wouldn’t have to pay for what hadn’t sold.
He would have to check the papers to see if they still had insurance on the building. This could actually help them—they’d been told that the structure wasn’t one that people would want to buy, not as it was—no one had been interested in the month it was on the market, but now, perhaps, they might be. The insurance might even pay out, giving them something to start over with, something that could help cover their bills until they were able to sell the house. He knew they had to move, had to reduce their expenses.
He needed a job of his own, too.
He’d have to spend the rest of his life trying to atone for this mistake. He hadn’t thought he was capable of this kind of destruction, but he was. He had a feeling he could do a lot worse if he was doing it on purpose. He had not meant to do this, but that did not mean that he had not done it. He had.
He had destroyed the store.
The store that had stood for generations in that same location, the one that had been founded generations ago by the first Kallases in Holteshire, the one that had been passed down with pride from father to son until his grandfather had abandoned his family. The store that was his father’s greatest love, what he’d devoted his life to, the same store that he had poured everything into—that was now burning to the ground.
He blinked, turning to look over at the person who’d called his name. Had he been seen doing that? He should have run, now that he thought about it. He should have left. They’d accuse him of setting this fire—and he had—but he didn’t want to go to jail for it. It was an accident.
Something worse than jail would await him, though.
He’d seen it. He knew exactly what would happen to him if he admitted that he’d caused this fire. He could see the tree, could feel the rope around his neck even though that part was not of his memories, only his imagination.
He’d get lynched.
He had said that he would fight back, that he’d kill them before they could kill him. He looked at the fire. Yes, he probably could do it, but he didn’t know how he’d done that. If he tried again, he didn’t know that he’d be able to do it.
“I thought your father was selling the store.”
Alik nodded. That was what was supposed to happen. They were going to sell the building and the lot. They didn’t have any choice. They had no way of starting a new business there. “He was. He is. He was. I don’t—This shouldn’t have happened.”
“I think you’re going to need to come with me.”
He looked at the sheriff. He couldn’t object—if he did, all he would do was incriminate himself, and if he did that, he would meet a tree and a rope and a fate he’d sworn wouldn’t be his. He could hear his sister in his head, telling him how much they needed him, and he couldn’t let himself get lynched.
“Come on, kid,” the sheriff said, pulling him away. “Are you trying to get yourself burned up? I know your family isn’t thrilled about losing the store, but don’t go getting yourself caught in that thing. You couldn’t save the store if you tried.”
Alik blinked. Had the sheriff actually assumed that he was there to put the fire out? He hadn’t assumed that Alik set it? Why not? Why wouldn’t he think that Alik had done this?
“I’m afraid I’m going to keep you in my office for a while, Alik. I don’t know how long it will take them to prove that this wasn’t arson, but I hope they can, or you are going to be in a lot of trouble.”