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Blank Slate

By Ríoghnach D'Arcy All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery

Prologue

When someone strong is finally broken, they don't break into one or two pieces… They are shattered. They have to rebuild themselves and re-piece together their life, but the cracks from that time never disappear. Sometimes though, those cracks make them that much more beautiful. And that much stronger.


A few tears dripped to the ground, forming perfect circles of moisture, as she collapsed to her knees. She pounded the ground as more tears streamed down her reddening cheeks. Tousled brown hair curtained her face as she remained bent over, shoulders racking with sobs as she expressed her grief in the only way she knew. There was nothing left now. Her home. Her family. Her life. Everything was now being burned away in the fire. By sunrise there would be nothing left to salvage. She wanted the strength to try and save whatever she could but it was impossible. Her body was boneless and she could only remain how she was and cry; cry so hard her stomach felt as though it may revolt.

Soon enough the heat of the fire on the top of her head registered, as did the stench of burning hair. The fire had licked everything it could in the house and was now beginning to spread outwards. If she didn't move soon she would be consumed as well.

Let it, there's no point in me living if everything else is gone. A bitter laugh gurgled up in her throat and she let it. There was nothing to live for. Everything the woman loved was being destroyed, why should she expend the effort to save herself when the very things which defined her could not be returned? Let her die. She didn't have the strength anyways.

Gentle but firm hands gripped her shoulders and pull her unwillingly to her feet. Her tears and choked sobs prevented her from verbally protesting, and the queasiness of her stomach and the rubbery feeling from her legs prevented a physical protest. She was helpless as the hands dragged her from the heat of the life-eating fire. Flames were visible through the door and every window on the two floors. Black smoke was wafting skywards to mingle with the dark gray clouds that hovered overhead with the teasing look of a heavy rain. Why couldn't it have rained last night? If it had… everything, everything I love would not be burning now. Despite the coherent thoughts that were filtering through the very depths of her mind, all she was conscious of were her tears, the hands, and the fire.

"Snap out of it Karin," a voice barked as the hands shook her shoulders. The brunette, Karin, blinked her eyes to discover the face of a man close to hers. Their noses were a hair's breadth apart and his darkly colored eyes never wavered from hers. Karin sniffed before shakily inhaling a breath through her mouth. Her eyes darted about and she discovered the two were sitting on the curb opposite the wildly burning house that was now being drenched by a team of firefighters that had arrived at some point in her daze. The distant sound of barked orders filtered to her mind before everything seemed to return to normal speed and Karin could once more focus on who was in front of her.

His name was Alexander, an old friend of hers. She didn't know what he was doing here so late at night. Karin shivered, wrapping her arms around herself and rubbing the bare skin of her upper arms. The crisp night breeze was picking up and Karin was dressed in nothing but a thin cupped sleeved nightgown that barely reached the top of her knees. She hadn't thought of it before but now realized how awkward it was to be sitting on the low cement curb, knees bent and legs slightly parted. Karin pressed her knees together and blushed, though everyone was too busy battling the fire to pay attention.

"-rin. Karin!" Again it was Alexander's voice that brought Karin back to the present and out of her thoughts, "You're shivering. Here, put this on so you don't freeze." He shrugged out of the pumpkin orange sweater he had been wearing and gently placed it on her shoulders. It was so big on Karin's small frame that had she zipped it up it would have transformed her into a formless being, perhaps resembling that of a little girl playing dress up… only she had gotten into her father's closet instead of her mother's. So as it was Karin slipped her arms into the sleeves and wrapped the material so it was pulled taut across her chest, but still she shivered.

One word came to Karin's lips as her eyes focused over her friend's shoulder and to the blazing building, "Gone," everything is just… gone. Fresh tears swelled up in the corners of Karin's eyes and she allowed them to flow unhindered. What was the point in bottling up her emotions now? The only person who was paying her any attention was Alexander, and this was not the first time he had seen her cry. In truth he would have been more worried had Karin kept her tears hidden, like she usually did. This… atrocity was something you were supposed to cry over. He would have even understood had she needed to hit something. Alexander would have gladly offered to be her punching bag.

The one thing he could not allow his friend to do however was to sink into her own little world. Alexander feared that if he allowed that to happen, despite knowing it could help Karin cope, was that he feared she may never come out again. She had always been imaginative, constructing her own imagined worlds and adventures, living out fantasy after fantasy inside her mind as she withdrew from the world around her. This had never bothered him before, sometimes he even found it amusing and on the rare occasion Karin even permitted him to experience the joy with her by describing, in the most vivid and realistic detail Alexander had ever heard in his short life, the places she was exploring. He had been dragged to far-off places on both the real planet and wherever Karin chose to spend her free time.

"Karin," he coaxed once more and was rewarded by seeing her light green eyes immediately returning to his face, "Can you stand up? You're going into shock; we need to get you moving. Come on," Alexander straightened from the crouch he had held in front of his friend to regain his original six foot height, reaching out a hand to pull Karin to her feet, "let's go to my house and get you warm."

"B-but…" She tried to protest as she once more locked her eyes onto the mesmerizing fire behind him.

"No buts, start walking little lady." It was said both harshly and gently, though his final comment was referring more to their height difference than to age. Karin and Alexander were similar in age, Karin being only three months younger despite the fact that the two were born in different years. Their statures on the other hand were as different as night and day. Where Alexander was tall, though skinny, Karin was short even for a woman. She stood at a maximum five foot three inches, unless she was of course wearing heels.

As he lead her away, keeping a gentle grip on her elbow just in case her legs gave out, Alexander could do nothing when Karin turned her head as much as she could to catch one last glimpse of her burning childhood home.

The question that went through her mind as a third and final fire truck, it's lights on but no siren, pulled up was simply three letters long; Why?


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