John had always known he’d die by fire, ever since he was a child. He had a fascination with it, one that didn’t quite tip over into unhealthy, but was well inside the borders of unusual. It filled his dreams sometimes, always caressing and playful, never dangerous. It would twist and dance around his body, licking and teasing, leaving strokes of ash across his skin in intricate tattoos. He knew, intellectually, that fire was dangerous, that it was painful, that it would burn, but emotionally, he knew it wouldn’t hurt him. Sure he had been burned, every has, but it never changed his thoughts. He knew that one day, it would end in the warm caress of the flames.
John had woken to find the room engulfed with fire, but he didn’t feel fear, there was only acceptance. He knew this was coming and that there was no stopping it, a distant part of him had decided that he was already dead. The smoke was what usually killed, but he knew that wouldn’t take him. That would be too easy.
He lay there, watching as the flames moved across the ceiling, dripping down onto the carpet, he didn’t move from bed as the sheets caught fire. The flames curled around his body, cocooning him in liquid flame, he didn’t struggle, he didn’t scream. John closed his eyes, a grin burning into his face.
The boils were worse today, but that didn’t surprise her. Annie knew they were going to keep getting worse for a while yet. The creams she had were not working, they didn’t soothe as the labels claimed. Her face itched and ached with every movement, sharp bolts of pain occasionally flaring brightly, then receding to nothing. The sickness had hit her a week ago and since then she’d been under house arrest. There wasn’t much point now, everyone had it and it wasn’t like it was fatal, just annoying as hell. The boils would continue to grow for another few weeks, then they’d pop and recede, leaving her face permanently scarred and swollen and, in some cases, with paralysis. She hoped she wouldn’t be that unlucky, but she wouldn’t stand out too much for it. It would be a long time before humans looked as they once did. They didn’t know where the infection came from, scientists were working on that and a vaccine, but Annie didn’t really care about that, after all, she was already infected. She had been assured that it wouldn’t affect fertility by her doctor and once there was no danger of that, she was happy. Those who were fertile would get special compensations once they had children, as incentives. Once she popped out a few, she wouldn’t really have to work, or do much of anything she didn’t want to. She didn’t really know what kids were like, she had babysat briefly, but the mother had been too nervous to stay away very long. Annie had basically been paid to sit on the couch for an hour while the kid slept upstairs. She didn’t have anything against children, she just didn’t have anything for them either. Some women had maternal instincts and she had none, Annie hoped that once she gave birth those instincts would kick in, but if they didn’t, that wasn’t too much of a worry, there were plenty of women out there who would be perfectly happy to help her out.
Once the boils went away, she’d probably have kids, being under house arrest had made her nervous, sure they were giving her food and making sure she didn’t have bills to pay, but what if work didn’t give her her job back? There was nothing stopping them doing that and god only knew how long it would be before she found another. She had savings, but not enough for an extended job hunt, she didn’t want to move across the country to her parents house, and a house share would be almost unbearable now. The last one she lived in had fifteen people crammed in.
She looked at herself in the mirror, tempted to pop some of the angrier looking boils, but she kept her fingers away, that would just make things worse. Sighing, she took a dollop of cream and smeared it across her face, gently massaging it in. If she used enough of it, perhaps the scarring wouldn’t be all that bad.