Meaning of the Fire
When Adan was three, he had seen a burning building. He hadn't thought much of it except that the bright red made for a fascinating contrast with the sky and that the smell was terrifyingly throat-clogging. His parents had hurried him forward and away with crinkling noses, and the last he had seen of the burning remains of what had been a lot of people's homes was engraved in his eyesight, right before he turned a corner.
He knew now, though not then, why he remembered something that had happened two years previously at such a young age (the doctors said savant autistic and hyperthymesia and eidetic memory and many other weird words whose meaning was the reason Adan knew them in the first place, though the doctors weren't sure of any of them). But there was a sort of devastating and terrible majesty to the fire, and there was a lot his still-tender mind couldn't take without scarring. He was too close to it anyway. It had been his aunt's building, and they had been there to make sure she had been okay.
She had smiled weakly from her place in the unharmed group of most of the home-owners, and Adan's mother had frantically run around the blackness that was the smoke to deliver that string of pointless questions everyone asks when panic is too confounding for logical observation and deduction skills. (It had been unsafe. Adan's mother had been pregnant, even though she hadn't known it then. Adan had done the math.) But it wasn't like Adan had known anything about logic back then anyway.
Either way, none of that was the point. What mattered was only one detail, one thing that Adan remembered and now reawakened, opening his eyes to see that there was something very, very unusual and out of ordinary about his surroundings. And it was the smell, the smell of smoking ashes and of fiery things (things that shouldn't be fiery, unlike Adan's father's coffee in the morning, black, hot, no sugar), that filled his nostrils, not his mother's rose-scented perfume she was usually already wearing when she rose him from the night and the dark.
His house was on fire.
It was burning down, all pretty-like, only this time Adan, instead of watching it from the safe outside in fascination, would burn down with it.
He wasn't sure how he felt about that.
At first, Adan didn't quite know what to do. He only woke up at seven fifty-two, normally, and he was unwilling to break routine. He could tell it wasn't after five-thirty. But there was all this black fog that made his throat itch and his eyes water, and he must get down right now. His feet hit the floor, and then the rest of his body did too, because the smoke was more now, much more. He could only breathe if he stayed down.
So he did. He stayed down and dragged himself, inch by inch, elbow after elbow, knee after knee. He had done this plenty of times, his brain showed him, calling back all those recollections. Only this time he wasn't trying to make his way through a playground tunnel someone had forced him into. (That was an incredibly stupid thing Adan had trouble finding a point to using, but it made his mother happy to see him among other children and the appalling smell they and their predecessors had contributed to make, so he did it, if only so that she'd be in a better mood for the rest of the day. Maybe she'd even give him cookies. Adan had precious few fond memories, but the smell of homemade cookies was among them.)
He found the door, far from his bed, and he discovered that it hid an inferno.
The brightly lit fire was feeding on Adan's house, on Adan's things and Adan's family's things, and it was going to leave a disorganized mess for Adan to clean up, clear for him to see. It was just like Aunt Jenny's house, like all those red-hot flames licking away at her home with dry tongues. Adan wondered if they would have to live with Aunt Jenny like she had lived with them while she found a new house (two weeks and three days) and he didn't like that, because there would be a new routine, and then another new routine after that, and it would be confusing and too bright and too noisy (new sounds and new shapes and new colors he would need time to get comfortable with enough to ignore).
Then he remembered that Aunt Jenny had had an accident, and that there was just no one left to live with anymore.
He paused a little, leaving that line of thought in favor of watching a little flame, unfairly small in light of the others, flicker and pucker and die, and then he only remembered to keep moving because there was pain somewhere from his leg. He could have looked back, but he did not, because it wasn't that important (not to him anyway), and instead he just kept crawling and coughing. The pain did not go away.
He found his parents' bedroom door when he found the reason that was making him go there. He was scared. He wanted his parents. That was relatively new. He had only recently realized that he was dependent on them, on the people that had brought him into this world of enhanced and exaggerated data for his senses to gauge.
That was something Adan admitted not remembering. His birth – maybe it had been traumatic enough for it not to stay (the cartoons and books and TV shows he watched – though they weren't meant for his eyes and ears, his parents seemed to forget that, even if he didn't understand something he saw or read, it'd just get stuck in his head until he did – all seemed to regard it as that, since the characters tended to react rather expressively to it), or maybe his condition (the doctors liked that word, and it was usually on the forefront of Adan's mind because of how often he heard it) just didn't go that far back. That was a nice thought, that Adan hadn't always been so messy inside his head.
But Adan really did not know. He wasn't old enough to understand just yet, or at least that's what his parents kept telling every chagrined doctor that advised them otherwise.
He had found his destination, but he stopped. He stopped far away, too, because making his way through the blaze covering the door like a primitive form of protective barrier would cause Adan pain, and being too close to it was almost as bad.
Covering it completely and thoroughly, preventing Adan from reaching anything less than two feet away from that door.
And this was a scene that Adan knew that, were his brain normal, he wouldn't forget – his brain being anything but that, he was quite sure he'd forever know with perfect clarity the exact inch of how tall the flames were, and if there was one path this sight wasn't going to take, it was the one the memory of his birth had taken. He was going to remember, just like always, but this time with a special kind of depressing terror.
Adan wasn't stupid. He could see, and he could infer (observation and deduction). The fire had started in his parents' bedroom.
They had bought candles. He remembered. He remembered most things, if that isn't clear already. They had bought candles and Adan knew that the candles were the tiny, tiny trigger for the red, the orange and the yellow that were consuming everything that Adan could had taken for granted since he could remember, like the equally tiny things that sometimes overwhelmed Adan's brain with too-loud and stunning and confounding attacks.
He couldn't be sure if the overflow of sensorial data was from the exploding mess that was currently holding him as its middle and other tiny things, or if it was just from the hard-felt fear of what he might (and did not want to) find behind that door, if he somehow found a way to get to it. He had always had trouble with that, with deciphering the signals his abnormal brain sent him. Some distant part of him registered that he was in serious danger, serious trouble (and he knew himself to be lucky that he was so aware – most people like him weren't; he could become self-sufficient one day, the doctor Adan deemed overbearingly cheerful had told his parents optimistically).
Adan was not self-sufficient. He had nothing to offer the world. He was a burden, the part of society everyone worked to sustain, to drag behind them. He didn't have, and would possibly never have, anything to contribute. It weighted on him, like those looming stress-inducing clouds that always seemed so far away until they weren't (or that Adan worked to pretend were far away – it was frustrating to him that he could be so mind-absent from almost everything but that), made other kids' words more real, sharper, and he couldn't give a name to how bad that felt inside - and he knew such emotions existed inside him (sometimes that thought was the only thing that seemed to give his mother strength to look at him), but he didn't have the faintest idea of how he could make everyone else know about them too. The rest of the world made it look so easy. It wasn't easy, not at all. Adan knew that, because, when he tried, he'd just curl up and hold himself tight and try not to fall apart.
Maybe one day he could get some semblance of a reign over his mind, and he would make it easy too, and he'd be able to do something about and of himself. Self-sufficient.
But right then, he had no control, he couldn't think over the roar of the world rebelling around him, and he just wanted to scream, but screaming was too loud too, and he didn't want to remember that forever (because he would, he would, he always did), and he was right there, right in the center of this firestorm – it was too hot to the touch, too loud to the ear, too bright to the eye, too smoky to the nose, and too filled with ashes to the taste. It was too much of everything, and he wished it all to stop.
Adan, having lost his purpose of finding his mother and father so that they could fix it, so that the world wasn't so red-bright anymore (the fire had lost the beauty it had had from afar, in Aunt Jenny's house), curled up inside himself and stayed quite still, both attempting to protect himself from harm by fire and trying to grasp some semblance of calm in the middle of the chaos.
Adan read a lot. Some things he read were about perpetual lack of luck and how history repeated itself. And Adan felt those texts running around his head, chasing each other and making things even louder. Everything in Adan's life just went up in flames, from the way he perceived things to all that was in his life. Aunt Jenny's apartment had burned down. Adan had had a grandmother and a grandfather whom he only remembered in vivid detail because he had seen a picture once, but burn, burn, burn, there went grandma and grandpa and the friggin' country house, and no insurance for me back then, huh, kiddo?
Kyle had said that. Kyle had been his uncle once, but he wasn't anymore, not since just a few days after Aunt Jenny's house fire, and Adan had been instructed never to call him that again. Adan's mother had never explained that quite clearly, so Adan didn't remember why. He had found he couldn't remember something he'd never been told. Kyle had always been red-faced, spluttering, and he made Adan's mother and Aunt Jenny cry, and Adan's father shout with white-hot fury. Adan hadn't enjoyed being around him much, which he had only understood later meant he disliked him.
Adan tended to get distracted. That was why all these memories were pulling him, coaxing him to watch one or the other, telling him not to pay attention to the heat, the vicious heat, and instead to watch them again, even if he didn't want to. But if he didn't pay attention to the present, the past was going to get him burned.
But the present hurt now, and, for once, maybe the past wouldn't be such a disability, a trap for his powerlessness. It pained less.
He had been counting on his father, he had been counting on his mother, because whenever he felt lost, he knew to look in their general direction for guidance, and they'd help him with gentle and ever-lasting patience. It made him sad, or what he called sad (he wasn't sure whether or not the twinge of discomforting press on the back of his mind was sadness), to know they'd never be like the other adults in the few birthday parties Adan went to, whenever pity invited him.
Adan wasn't particularly popular or just plainly liked. He didn't talk a lot, and, when he did, he tended to point out things others liked best undiscussed or not say anything of interest (to anyone else). The teachers (if you can call that to someone who runs a kindergartner) felt so sorry for him that he instantly became their preferred student. None of that held appeal. He was just there, the weird kid with his nose stuck in a book (he liked books and TV – they made for more interesting memories, better, less hurtful memories than real life) who was too smart for them and too emotionally unprepared for the older classes. When he grew up, he would be the annoying kid everyone would ignore until exam day, or surprise quiz day, or the-dog-ate-my-homework day, at which point some would be Adan's best friends for a few hours.
Adan didn't have many bright spots in his life, then. But one of them was Pink, though she wasn't really pink. Only her stuff was, all the little things a baby needs and wants, which Adan had come to find was a lot.
She was born May second, and it was a Wednesday, and it was raining a lot (It's raining cats and dogs! Adan's father had said, but Adan had found that very strange, because he had not seen a single cat, and the last and only dog he'd seen was just when they'd left home, drenched by a puddle his father's car's tires had screeched over in his panicked haste. I know your wife's in labor, but the nineteenth century was actually a couple of centuries ago… Aunt Jenny hadn't made much sense either.)
Adan had decided May second was his favorite day, though he couldn't understand quite why. There was some sort of bubble of tenderness that little Pink brought him whenever he saw her, and that bubble had filled and built up starting then. For some silly reason, humans associated happy events, or even sad events, with certain dates. The fact that he attributed a positive idea to that day just meant Adan was human, he supposed.
But he knew better, which just made the whole thing exasperatingly illogical. He knew that it wasn't about the dates, but the happenings themselves. After all, plenty of happy things happened every day, every hour. It was just a question of whether you knew about them or not. And you couldn't know about them all, not if you weren't like Adan. And Adan had found out pretty early he wasn't like many people.
For example, Adan didn't speak much. His parents had a habit of listening carefully when he did, and Adan came to understand this was their way of thinly grasping at whatever they could to make his, their, life as normal and as family-like as they could. And, when he had met Pink, he had spoken.
Adan had only said pink, but he'd said it, repeated it, even, because it was stumbling around and around inside his head. It was all he could see, really – her clothes, her blanket, her skin, her smile, it was all pink. So the word spilled from his lips enough times to become some grotesque form of a pointless prayer that he was determined to see through, because he'd already established that he was human, and humans did stupid things like that.
And little Pink was named.
He could still hear the doctor igniting his parents' hopeful while tentative smiles, he seems to be responsive to her, even though Adan only had eyes for the pink baby girl smiling at him like she cared, like she was as oblivious to the rest of the world as he was, this is good, very, very good.
Soon the hope had faded, they'd realized that he was only responsive to baby Pink, and the strained smiles and everyday sacrifices they never complained about (and fervently dismissed when someone else pointed them out, even though the secret selfishness people pretended not to have made them mutely agree) returned. But all the while, now possibly forever, little Adan had something to cling to, and that made his parents' smiles lose just enough strain for them to relax every other minute.
There weren't many times Adan could thank his problem for his memory spiral (that was what he called it, because the way one memory triggered another and so on resembled, to him, a spiral, steadily sliding down inside Adan's very private world, the logic of which only he understood), but now he did, because, if it weren't for that, he wouldn't have thought, with his unaware mind, of his little sister.
She was alone too, just like Adan. Just like Adan, at least for now. She was alone in this world, and, more prominently and far more presently, she was alone in her room and no one knew, no one knew but Adan.
Only baby Pink couldn't get down from her crib and stumble her way away from this choking danger, like Adan had in what seemed like hours ago, because she was a one-year-old. And she was probably scared too. Only her scared would be much worse than Adan's, because baby Pink wasn't like Adan, and she had never ever seen a fire, like Adan had.
And Adan was terrified that his little sister was going to be scared. He was scared enough for the both of them. The idea that she could be too, that there was something out there mommy and daddy couldn't keep her safe from, was wrong in a very profound level Adan had even more trouble than usual explaining. There had to be something else, anything else, that could have built another wall between the wrongs of the world and her tiny, tiny but so very right and unmarred (everything he wasn't) soul, because surely, she couldn't be expected to fare on her own in this loud (so loud) universe, where everything was hurtful and unfair and hard to take. Sometimes it was too open (days in parks with silent insects, just as bothered by mankind as him, that contrasted with children who thought their every action deserved some sort of screeching soundtrack and parents who couldn't care less in their mindless laughter and littering tendencies – so bright, no protection, carelessness, no bubble that spoke only of himself and Pink and home), and sometimes it was too oppressive (fire, smoke, ash, wood falling, paint chipping, a home he wouldn't know anymore falling apart, churned atom after churned atom).
Yes, Adan thought of her, but by then he had already been deep inside his little blissful sphere of oblivion, where the senses his body had didn't bother him, because this place his sick mind had conceived for self-protection wouldn't allow the outside world's data to be analyzed, wouldn't allow the pain to be felt. And now he wanted to go back? Go back to that oppressively open universe?
Adan considered it, putting good use to the detached, calculating part of himself. Pain for him, pain for his sister. Two possibilities, two sides of a coin, two opposite poles so very different from each other, and what choice would he make? A pink future for future Pink or that child whose life and purpose no one would care about when the required care his sad family gave him faded away?
(From all the books he read, all the movies and TV show episodes he watched, he knew that, as a kid, this wasn't how he was supposed to be thinking, but when had Adan done anything he was supposed to do?)
This was the kind of situation his mother tended to involve God in. But Adan didn't want to think about that. He'd always thought religion made as much sense as cats and dogs turning into rain. There wasn't anything logical about it, nothing Adan could make a reasonable organization out of. And he didn't think his mother would be involving anything anywhere anymore anyway. And there wasn't a single thought among this particular memory spiral he wanted to think about, because, assuming there was a God, He shouldn't like the prefix any this much.
He could feel again. He started to think that maybe that protected place in his mind was derived from actual pain overdrive, a physical one. He thought he had heard Uncle Kyle mumbling something about passing out before he had lost his senses, consciousness. Maybe that was what had happened to him, then. Adan had passed out. And now he was, what, passing in? Adan didn't know, but his foot was on fire.
Not his foot, his slipper, and possibly his sock, though he was sure his foot would follow. There was something very wrong with his nose and throat, too, and his head was thinking even less straight than usual (that was what the other children his age said, that he didn't think straight, although he always thought that his thinking process was very logical and straight-forward). Maybe that was why the sight seemed so mesmerizing.
But he took it off, because it hurt. And when he did, his hand hurt too, and his pajamas borrowed the flames. He didn't think he would be cold, so he took off the shirt. His movements were sluggish and strange, and Adan didn't think he was okay. The fire ate the shirt when Adan let it fall to the floor.
Adan noted with some surprise that he was in a practically perfect circle of flames, the same flames that were bright and loud everywhere else. It was a near miracle that he was only suffering from serious burns and possibly toxic gas poisoning, and not just plain dead. Like he was being given a chance to do this one contributing thing. This one good choice, take this one good path. Become that barrier between that wrong of the flames and that right of his sister. Maybe the lack of luck wasn't so perpetual.
And he heard. His sister's wails (no matter what anyone said, her voice was distinguishable, because Adan knew it), calling for someone, calling for help, someone who could help, and Adan could. He could. He could do this for her. He could be something that wasn't completely a burden. He could have some form of purpose.
That wasn't something Adan had much of. But he remembered a lot of things (that was called self-depreciating sarcasm, Adan knew), and all those tiny tid-bits of little moments in his life that swirled around his head in beat with the thoughts of his sister, everything, everything, about her, everything he knew and had learned along his short five years of life.
You're gonna be a big brother, sweetheart, and wasn't he? He had done well, he thought. As well as he was allowed. You're going to be her protector, honey, against all the bad things that could make her cry, and he had looked at crinkled skin and blue eyes and he'd decided he was okay with that task, though he was worried that he'd screw up as he screwed up in PE, because he never knew what to do, and he didn't want to take part in all the loud screaming and screeching and running and please, make it stop, because the pain in his leg was insistently grabbing his attention, and it was partnering up with the pain of the past, all the pain of the past he had ever suffered through, every old memory and every new experience coupling up to crash all the unfairness in the world on him.
(Adan knew what this was called too, and it was self-pity. Adan was thinking a lot about words that started with self. Was that why he was hurting this much? He knew a word for that too, karma. Adan knew a lot of words.)
The source of the redoubled pain in his leg turned out to be a tiny little piece of cackling wood, maybe a beam, maybe a former part of furniture, which had chosen him to play target-practice. It was as if what had once been Adan's house was telling him this was no time for self and karma, because it was time. And Adan didn't know was it was time for, but there was something definitely terminal about the tiny things he saw everyday being carefully engulfed in the almost gentle cradle of the fire. And his mind gave way for this strange sense of not-quite-oblivion, adrenaline-fueled (though Adan wasn't fueled by adrenaline the way other people were) awareness that, for the first time, wasn't tampered with by every similar situation that had ever been in his life. Though, admittedly, of this kind, there hadn't been very many.
Adan crawled away from the little imperfect circle (imperfect enough for an opening Adan took advantage of), feeling frightened for his life, which was new. Because right then, Adan understood the concept of consequences, something that had never been present before – not a year ago, not a minute ago. He had not screamed once since he had woken; in fact, he hadn't opened his mouth at all, not even to give himself a better attempt at breathing. But now he thought that, maybe, there was some nagging part of his brain that was starting to shed light on the point of view of the rest of the world, the point of view they stood from, watching this world Adan found so hurtful. Some part of his brain that was starting to understand why people thought of something as senseless as screaming in this kind of situation.
But that did not mean that Adan did it too. He had something in his to-do list that required a far greater deal of logic than that of witless expression of fear and frustration.
In the end, it wasn't much of a choice for Adan at all. Because of bright spots, and pink smiles, and unaware yet attentive eyes, and little baby sisters, he couldn't choose her pain over his. It didn't make much logical sense either, and he decided he could take another shot at thinking about religion once he had time to stop running from the fire.
Somewhere inside his mind, the somewhere that was more connected to reality than he was, Adan knew religion wouldn't have its turn in his permanent mind-record.
So Adan made his way through the flames, like he was one of those men who walked on fire without pain, only a man who walked on fire wasn't supposed to get burned, and Adan was. And it hurt, but Adan was a little boy to whom pain didn't mean much anymore. His existence, and everyone else's experience, was built on pain, but it didn't seem as though most people saw that the way Adan did.
He noted the fire had grown. It wasn't important. There was enough space for him to crawl through later, space that would allow little Pink's safety (he didn't think to consider his own).
He reached her. He found her crib. She was crying. Adan had seen her crying before, but now really wasn't the time for him to think about that, or to remember those times (Adan didn't like the memories of her wailing anyway). He had never been able not to remember before, but… that was before. And, apparently, before was different from now. Adan preferred now.
Little Pink looked different in the light of the fire, and maybe she looked different because of it too, but she was still his little sister, and she was stretching out her tiny arms (before she had been born, Adan had had the smallest arms of the family) to him, and Adan took her – he clutched her tightly to his chest, he didn't know why, but he did, because he was going to make sure she was going to leave through the front door. Adan was autistic, but right then baby Pink was more important than hindering illnesses. It was up to Adan, then, to un-hinder them.
Adan had never been brave. He was the five-year-old who knew what courage was supposed to mean but not what it meant. But then there was Pink, and she wasn't brave either. Well then, who was supposed to take up that role in the center of their very own version of Hell?
It wasn't going to be Pink. Adan had already taken up that place he had mused upon, the place of the mighty barrier of protection. He assumed bravery came with it. And that was all he was dwelling on, regarding the subject.
Pink didn't seem to know that Adan wasn't brave. She didn't seem to know that he couldn't be trusted with responsibility. He was the one thing she could trust right then, possibly forever now. It was a very animalistic and raw instinct. Anything bigger than his little sister's body, which visibly lacked any self-defensive abilities, was either protecting or attacking. And she needed the protecting part, since she obviously couldn't do it herself. While she didn't know him to be her big brother (and Adan was suddenly wishful for a time when she would be thankful and would look up to him because he was her big brother and would never let her down or let any harm reach her or so God help him; and these thoughts were scary because they were eerily normal), she knew him to be someone that was there since the day she'd been born. That was good enough for her.
Adan knew that. He was still oddly warm inside because of it (it had nothing to do with the fire).
Baby Pink was just this little pixie that would grow to attract plenty of attention Adan wouldn't like. And, right then, in the middle of that fire, she was making herself tinier, snuggling into the warmth of a human body, so different from the flames going on around them in the comfort it offered. Little Pink was a baby, and so she needed the comfort of familiarity as much as Adan did. Adan was the only familiarity that was coming out of this fire with her (he just wasn't sure in what condition yet).
She was clutching at his arm, and she wasn't crying anymore, which was maybe worrisome (Adan didn't know), and she was yawning like she was sleepy, and that was definitely not good (Adan sometimes read things that he wasn't supposed to, like carbon monoxide poisoning, and no one needed reminding that he didn't forget). Adan dropped to the ground and dragged, dragged himself and his little baby sister, and, if it was too much weight for him, well then, it was because Adan was too heavy.
Adan got to the door. He got so close. So close, but it proved to be as far as he was supposed, fated, written, meant, everything and then some, to go.
Every second of Adan's waking world had been filled with pain and Pink, two things that mixed like water and oil, and now, one way or another, it was coming to an end. And Adan was adamant that it would be another. Adan had done his part. It was time for someone else to do theirs. Right now, in this house, Adan's house, there was a lot of pain, what, with an autistic child and ominously absent parents and a screaming baby, but Adan just took comfort in one thought he had had earlier (that he remembered, of course) – the whole entire world was too big, too full of people, for this second, this tiny moment where everything changed for Adan and Pink, Pink and Adan, to matter that much. This could be a tragedy right now, right here, but, with any luck, the rest of this world Adan was born in, much to his painful grief, would maybe be celebrating a birthday and a birth, and a wedding and an engagement, and good for them. There were good things happening every hour, every minute. Maybe this was actually a good day – just not for Adan.
And there, there were those brave people ready to take upon their shoulders his duty. He was supposed to help Pink, and he had. He had helped her the little he could. He had done what he was allowed, he had brought her to semi-safety. And now it was over, and Adan was happy to let others relieve him of his job to do it themselves as long as they did it right.
Right in front of him, one of them, the only one who'd noticed him. He had noticed him and he had noticed Pink (Pink mattered more).
Adan knew his next step. It was easy, it was his last one.
His armful of crying Pink lifted, and the baby trashed and reached for her brother, her source of safety, the one thing she seemed to be able to count on right then, but she was snatched and gone too soon, holding onto some other hero's bicep, larger, less comfortable, and she was safe. Adan knew that. And it was all over.
The fireman took her and made a hopeless gesture with his free arm, as if he had some sort of miracle touch that could mend him, and Adan almost laughed. Didn't he get it? Adan was only to be in this bad, bad world long enough to make sure his sister stayed in it the appropriate amount of time. Because the time Pink rightfully spent here was the time she'd use to make it better, so it wouldn't be bad anymore. He understood now. No God would be happy or would wish that he suffered through a lifetime of this. Just enough that he could do some good. It made perfect sense, because, for the first time, his path was clear.
It wasn't about him, not really. It was about Pink and her role in this universe. Whatever it was, Adan didn't know, but his baby sister was so important that he could feel it seeping into his bones and his blood, the blood she shared. That was the point of being here with her, of taking a year of hers for himself. In the end, he protected her, disabilities be damned. It was all about his baby Pink, and Adan was quite happy about that.
He could see blue eyes staring at him from a pit of deep misty nothingness, two beacons far too still and too focused for her age, little sister, his little sister, pale skin, squirming arms and squirming being, swaying, no, it was he who was swaying, his vision, and he could see, could tell, everything she was going to do, baby girl, someone's baby, every laugh and tear and blood drop and hurt and pain and good and lively, lively life, years she was going to live without him, years she was going to live because of him, little Pink… little, baby Pink… Until she wasn't little anymore, and she could give the way Adan had, could give someone else what Adan had given her too.
She had something ahead of her. Adan didn't. That was okay.
As far as last thoughts went, that wasn't one Adan disagreed with.
"Pink." He told the man with the wasting man's dying breath, as if that was an intent and important thing he needed to know. (He didn't disagree with his last word either.)
The little boy blinked up at the horrified fireman with a small smile he tended to guard for his little sister and crumpled to the ground with the sure belief that his heart wasn't going to drum another beat.
"… burns in ninety per cent of his body!"
"… neighbor called 911…"
"… this kid, didn't even look like a kid, carrying a baby, and, get this, not a scratch on her, though the boy was burnt enough, comes trippin' over himself to us…"
"… heard him say his sister's name…"
"… blood all over the floor where he dragged himself, at least the parts not consumed by the fire…"
"… shouldn't have been possible, not in his condition…"
"… Bradley was the one that took her and saw the kid die right in front of him, and he ain't talkin', like he's traumatized or somethin'…"
"… levels of monoxide poisoning far, far above humanly possible…"
"… there was simply no reason for him to be alive, well, other than his sister…"
"… accident, candles with no support in the parents' bedroom, which was just careless…"
"… no foul play…"
"… died so his sister wouldn't…"
"… kind of case that'll leave you in tears for months, no matter what channel you turn on…"
"… breaking news, a house-fire claimed three victims, one of whom is revealed to have been a five-year-old child…"
"… she's got no family left…"
"… 'fireman'? I say it was more of a 'fireboy'…"
"… authorities informed the press that he- he brought h-his sister out- out of the house while walking thro- through the fi- I'm sorry, I can't-"
"… burned to the ground…"
"… strangers to the family depositing flowers with heart-breaking messages…"
"… the one-year-old girl has been placed in foster care…"
"… funeral had a great attendance…"
"…'Fireboy', the five-year-old that rescued his younger sister from a house-fire two days ago, had autism, a particular type named savant…"
"… challenges didn't stop him from leaving his bed to ensure a baby didn't lose her life that day…"
"… the baby girl who lived through her own personal Hell recently is already in the process of being adopted…"
"… won't forget Adan easily, that's for sure.”