I run all the way through the storerooms of the basement, back to the bottom of the small staircase. I can hear people moving around up above, and hear faint shouts from outside. The alarm ha been triggered, but the fire must be strong. I can feel the warmth in this room, and the smoke is coming under and through the doors, finding every crack and slither of air to move through the building.
I have to risk it, so I climb the stairs slowly, encountering no one on the ground floor, and sensing no movement above me. I walk up the soft stairs and my head peers over the first floor hallway from the last few steps. Ducking down I move to the wall, slightly inset from the main hall, so I can’t be seen.
There he is, one of the men. Standing outside a room near the end, facing out the window and looking around down the hall every few seconds. His radio is crackling with shouts, people directing others, people advising on the condition. I must have done a good job, as I hear the whole south wing of the house is engulfed. We are far in the north, between the main house and the stables. I need to get past him and into that room. I know the interconnecting doors don’t go down that side of the hallway, and the closer I get the more likely he is to hear me opening and closing the rickety old doors.
Someone shouts down the radio, and I make out the panicked voice of Esther. This is the first time I’ve heard her anything other than placid. She sounds, well, common. All the airs and graces of her voice has disappeared, and she is dropping her t’s, as she shouts commands through the radio. The man perks up, turns and runs towards me. I’m sure he’s seen me or been alerted to my presence, but her turns into one of the rooms half way down before I have a chance to panic. I don’t know why he went in there, but I take the chance. I run forward, taking long strides down the hallway. Half way down I speed up to go past the door the man went through, but there is no sign of him. Far behind me a series of small explosions rumble the floor and walls. I look around and when my eyes return to the front I see Jules, in the hallway, staring at me.
“We’ve got to go!” I shout, motioning for the window beyond her. She takes my cue and runs the few paces it takes to the window, and climbs through. I follow her, right behind and point down the metal frame. There are staff in the area outside the kitchen, but in the panic and confusion we are just another set of people running.
I grab Julie’s hand and lead her over the grass to the tree line where I came up. We’re both panting but before I’ve fully gathered my breath I tell Jules everything.
“You see, she worked out how to create and destroy it, the ability. I’m so sorry Jules, but you have to understand I never meant to hurt you. I lost control. That’s why I have to destroy it, go back to just being me.”
Jules looks back to the house, flames and smoke blowing from the south end, people running to the north, and puffs of smoke coming out of the explosions running the length of the roof.
“You’ve lost it, haven’t you?” her straight face gives no sense of emotion or meaning.
“You come here, after I left you, burn the place down, destroy years of history, take me outside like a fugitive, and then spin me some yarn about how you did this to yourself. You know what, I believe you. Only a self centred mental case would ever concoct a reality like this. Only someone who really couldn’t see the real world would ever find themselves wrapped up in this debacle. Only someone like me would ever be attracted to you, both before and after all the shit you’ve put me through. I love you, you bloody moron.” As she told me she loved me she broke into a kind of chuckle, filled with sadness. She throws her arms around me and pulls me tight against her.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here, ok?” she whispers and I lead her down towards the road.
As we approach the gate house we stop to rest and take a lookout. Just at the moment we stop there is an almighty explosion and a fireball shoots up into the air. The sound is deafening and birds fly out of all the trees in a black-speckled cloud above us. I look over the see the southern end of the house implode on itself and collapse northwards. For a moment I regret my actions, but dismiss them as absolutely necessary. I put my hand to Julie’s head, but she is starting intently at the gate house. The men that were there, at least 4, are all running up the drive towards the house. I watch as they all go past us and carry on up the drive. As soon as they are past us we move further down, reaching the car quickly and easily.
Inside the car, we both catch our breath. I turn the ignition and pull out onto the road. I know where to go and drive at speed back towards home.