The Sequence of Kai
“Kai, sit down. We need to talk.”
It’s been a while since I’ve heard my father’s voice. He’s sitting on the couch in the living room with a stern face. Makes me feel like I’m 14 again.
I start kicking the walls to see if any of them are hollow.
“What the hell are you doing?! Stop that right now!”
Into the kitchen now. It’s a longer walk than I’m used to, I’d forgotten how spacious our house was. There’s the cat’s bowl. Walls are solid in here too.
“Kai, I am your father, you will listen to me.”
My father goes to slap me, but I block his hand with the outside of my own then kick him back into the fridge.
“Stay down for once.”
I open the drawers to see if there’s any cracks in the illusion hidden there but I hear my father get up immediately. Never was good at doing what he was supposed to, whether that be following instructions or raising a child.
Thankfully, the kitchen has been faithfully recreated. I grab one of the steak knives from the drawer, spin and launch it into my father’s right eye.
“Maybe you weren’t listening to me earlier, or was it that you didn’t believe me?”
My father turns his head to me. He blinks, slicing his eyelid in half on the blade.
“It was that easy for you to kill your own father? You’re a monster.”
“I know what I am.”
The environment starts to flicker and the visions of my old home give way to the reality of a burning hallway for the briefest of moments. In that time, I spot where the stairwell is hidden, right behind the couch.
I reflexively close the cutlery drawer before I leave the room. Walking through the wall behind the couch feels like falling into a woodchipper but I know that it isn’t real.
I collapse onto the stairs on the other side, my eyes blinded by the smoke. I crawl my way up to the next floor, the skin of my hands burning on every step and healing between them.
“You can’t go any further.”
I’m face to face with a familiar police officer when I get back to my face.
“We’re really doing this? A greatest hits of dead family and friends?”
“Ma’am, this is an active crime scene, you have to step back.”
“This is my home, I can go where I want.”
I push the police officer to the side, and burst through the door of the apartment.
Inside it looks like it does nowadays, if a little less cluttered. We moved here after my father died. My mother couldn’t afford the rent on a full house, and it wasn’t like we needed the space.
It’s surreal to think, if it wasn’t for the police and yellow tape, my mother might’ve laid dead in her bathroom until the morning after. Unfortunately, the walls in our block are very thin, you can’t even kill yourself in private.
The scene flickers again, the flames are growing more intense. I spot the stairwell in my mother’s bedroom. It's really going to make me walk right through.
“Who do you think I am?”
I kick down the door to my mother’s bathroom. It’s not a traumatic scene I don’t think. The bathwater is clear, I can’t see the inside of her stomach. It just looks like she’s sleeping, like she got into the bath after one too many glasses of wine.
I have to step through the bath to get to the stairs. When my foot hits the water, my mother’s body snaps to life and wraps around my knee.
“Not a tear for either parent? You’re heartless.”
“Why would I weep for my mother because she got what she wanted. I cried plenty when she was alive.”
I bring my knee up sharply to crack my mother’s jaw. Her head jerks backwards and smashes against the bath. I jump through the wall before she has a chance to grab me again.
The flames are hotter now, the smoke is blinding.
Trish’s voice is crystal clear, I guess I remember it better than mom or dad’s.
The scene can’t even set itself properly at this stage. My surroundings flicker in between what I think is Paul’s house and the burning hallways.
The slipping control on my perception creates a stuttering effect on the screams. I hear plenty of anguished screams of thanks. Even though I know there was no way out for these people, it still hurts to be thanked for my services. That’s a relief I guess.
Down the burning hall or through the doorway to Paul’s study, depending on the second. Bastien has Trish on her knees. He’s holding her head up with a rough hand in her hair, the other one keeping a knife close to her neck.
“Not even trying to keep it realistic this time. How could this study be real without a moving quill or a dead body?”
The staircase is just behind Bastien and Trish, so I arc my walk around them.
“Take one step past me and I’ll kill her.”
I come to a stop level with the two when Bastien says this. It fills me with a cold rage.
I grab Bastien’s wrist and pull it towards me, dragging the knife across Trish’s neck.
“Is this all you’ve got?! Show me something I haven’t seen before, something I don’t already know I’ll witness. Why don’t you try making me laugh?!”
I pick up the pace, taking the steps in two. I need to hurry up, the screams are being drowned out by the sound of the fire now, people on the ground are going to start dying soon.
The noise is so deafening that I decide to put my earbuds in just so I can think. They still seem to work, despite the heat.
As I pass through the final few floors, I can feel my skin blistering. The screams are very faint by now, there wasn’t anyone left alive this far up. Things are getting dark again too. Even with the inferno raging, the demon retains control this close by.
As I step onto the 19th floor, a song starts playing from my earbuds. My phone must be malfunctioning because of the heat.
Memories. Memories. How long can you stay to haunt my days?
I’m sure I deleted this song from my playlist.
The 19th floor is a void. I have to feel my way along the walls to find the stairs to the top floor. Melting paint drips all over my fingers, searing the skin. The song continues to play throughout the ordeal, I’m trying to block out the lyrics.
I reach the final stairwell in about 40 seconds, which I can tell because the first chorus has started playing. A morbidly fitting one given the situation.
As I go to take my first step onto the final staircase, I feel a light weight holding me down. Not enough to stop me if I tried, but enough for me to take notice.
There’s a cat gently digging its claws into my right boot. Not just any cat. This is Delilah. This is my cat.
I don’t know why the demon is trying this, it must not be that intelligent after all. If my parents didn’t get a rise out of me, if Trish didn’t what is my cat going to do? She’s just a cat.
I lean down instinctively to scratch her ears.
She died before my dad did, way before I was involved in this side of the world. Nothing unusual about it she just got old.
She purrs loudly as she rubs herself against my shins. People are dying while I indulge this fantasy, I need to end it.
I pick her up by the neck intending to break it. It’s so small and frail, it should be such a simple task. I’ve crushed the necks of men twice my size with ease.
So why am I hesitating? Why is this so hard?
I manage to choke back the tears welling up inside me. I won’t give that thing the satisfaction.
I feel Delilah’s fictitious body fade away in my arms as I finally reach the top floor. I realize now that my earbuds had in reality stopped working because I can hear the flames clearly.
I can sense that thing from this close, even a normal person would be able to from here. It’s to the left of my current position, I’m willing to bet it’s the very last apartment down that way.
I stumble my way through the hallway towards the apartment. The door is open, so I let myself in. The demon makes no attempt to stop me as I enter the bedroom, it’s too weak now that I’ve eliminated its food source.
I walk blindly towards it, finding the bed when my toe crashes into it. I feel across the bed until I catch one of its arms. I trace my way up the body with my fingers to the neck and then:
The pressure and accompanying darkness dissipate instantly, though that doesn’t help with the visibility much.
I need to get out of here before the building collapses. If I get crushed by a burning building, there’s no telling how high the casualties could get.
I should be able to break the windows now. I kick through the one on the other side of the bed.
As I’m about to jump out, I remember my promise to Rosemary. I scoop up Jasmine’s body and jump outside with it in my arms.
The comparatively cool air hits me like a truck. I see the ground below, approaching fast, people on the ground pointing up and shouting.
Just before I hit the ground, I twist my body to get a glimpse of the burning building.
I can’t help but think how much better it looks this way.