Sascha Cinderbluff crumbled the note in her hand. A rage built up inside of her, the piece of paper in her hand suddenly burst into flames. With a jump and a yell, Sascha tossed the fire ball into the sink just as it disintegrated into black shards. It was the morning of her sixteenth birthday. Instead of a birthday card, a gift or something to celebrate the momentous day – all her mom left behind was a piece of paper stating she was working late.
Working late on a Friday night could only mean she had a date. Sascha stared at the crumbled remains of the note. She was angry, and it took all her control to keep her emotions from flaring up again. She didn’t want a repeat of the apartment fire when she was ten. With a sigh the red-haired teenager counted to ten and took a deep breath, repeating the process until most of the anger subsided.
Fifteen minutes later, Sascha was out the door and heading for school. Friday was such a meaningless day, half of her public high school ended up skipping, while the other half dazed about in class waiting for that final bell to sound. Sascha was no wanted to go back to bed herself, but forced herself to attend class.
Approaching the school, Sascha saw a bunch of her friends hanging out by ‘the tree’. A gravel and dirt pit just outside school property. It was the hangout for every smoker, drop out wannabe, and druggy. She called the group friends, but they barely knew each other. Sascha and her mom moved to Vegas almost two years ago. It was the longest they had stayed in one spot since she could remember. These people tolerated her, and asked no questions, perfect to just hang around with when bored.
“What’s up?” Niki asked, blowing a puff of smoke Sascha’s way. She was the ringleader of the group. If you could get in with her, you were in with everyone else. They stuck up for one another and covered each other’s back.
“Nothing.” Sascha shrugged. So what if it was her birthday, she won’t bore them about her morning disappointment.
“There’s a band playing tonight at the Underground.” Nikki informed her. “You should join us.”
“Sure, sounds good.” Sascha answered with a smile. A party in a bar sounded just what she needed.
“Awesome, we’ll be out front around ten.”
The bell rung and Sascha moved towards the front doors. Nobody else budged, either they didn’t have first period or were too high to even care. School was boring as ever and throughout the day Sascha longed to join her friends out by the three. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to skip class anymore. The last time she tried, the school contacted her mom. That was a yelling match Sascha wanted to avoid a repeat of. The only thing that kept her going was the nightclub that evening. This was to be her sixteenth party – even if nobody else knew.
Vegas was renowned for their parties, it wasn’t hard to find a bar or nightclub that fitted your style. Being under-aged made things difficult, but not impossible. Thanks to Niki, Sascha had a fake ID on hand that worked like a charm.
The Underground was a punk rock hang out. Full of college students, live rock bands, cheep drinks and loose security. Sascha met her friends outside. Niki work a pair of high healed boots that made her an inch taller, with fishnet stockings, a pink skirt and silver top. Her makeup completely changed her appearance, Sascha almost didn’t recognize her. The other girls dressed in the same style, high heals, short skirts and shorter tops.
Sascha wondered what she wore would be acceptable. She had to search through her mother’s wardrobe to find anything that would be sexy. She ended up wearing a one shoulder silver dress, with black boots that had a small heel to them. Niki gave her a look and nodded before gesturing her to join them. It seemed her dress was short enough.
Passing security was a breeze, it was all about showing enough boob – as Niki informed Sascha later. Once inside, the group claimed an empty table and ordered a pile of drinks. The main reason to visit the nightclub was to get wasted. The guys ordered beer while the girls ordered anything with vodka in it.
Sascha kept to drinking beer. She preferred the vodka drinks, but last time Niki took her out, she almost set the coat room on fire. Alcohol and fire didn’t mix, Sascha learned that the hard way. Still, it was her birthday and Sascha wanted to enjoy herself.
Full of beer or liquor, the group took to the dance floor. Niki dragged Sascha to the front as the music picked up its tempo and beat. The night flew by, drink after drink, song after song, Sascha and her friends went go wild that Friday night. There was flirting for free drinks, dancing with college guys, and even a fight or two between such guys.
By midnight, Sascha’s head started to throb. She made her way to the restroom to shut out the base of the band for only a few moments. When she returned, her friends were nowhere in sight. The Underground had reached its peak and capacity. Sascha was tipsy and weaved in and out of people, trying to scan the faces for anyone she knew. A heavy feeling formed in the pit of her stomach, fearing they had left her behind on some epic drunk adventure.
She reached out and grabbed the bar to steady herself and tried to get her mind to think straight. A man from the crowd came up and sat on the stool beside her.
“A drink for the red pixie.” He said to the bartender. Sascha looked up at the man and around, wondering who he was talking about before realizing it was her. The mystery man had black, neck length hair and pale skin. He wore a mauve dress shirt and jeans with a dark leather jacket. He seemed older than the college guys she had been dancing with all night.
“No… just water,” the teenager slurred. She should head home, it was late. Sascha’s mind told her. Her mother would be home soon, she didn’t dare wish to have her mom catch her in this state. “I need to leave.”
“But the night is still young,” the man stated, taking a hold of her wrist. Gently at first but when Sascha tried to pull away he hardened his grip. The drink appeared on the bar next to them. A warning signal went off in her head. This wasn’t right, I have to leave – her drunk mind tried to reason.
“I have friends, I have to find them.” Sascha tried to reason with the man.
“I’ll help you.”
That pit in her stomach grew when the stranger stood with Sascha and with an arm around her shoulder pushed her through the crowd. Inside Sascha pleaded with any deity that Niki’s face would pop up and rescue her. Her legs were wobbly, and her mind still wouldn’t act fast enough to find another way out of this mess.
The man talked in her ear, small things about the nightclub and what brought him out here. Then he talked about her body, how beautiful she was and blow on her ear.
“Please – don’t.” Sascha said with force. Her heart was beating loud, even in the midst of the live band and nearby speakers she could still hear it. She had never been in a situation like this before, she didn’t know what to do. The man wasn’t paying any attention to her comments, or even the desperate attempts to wiggle her way free from his hold.
In a last ditch effort, Sascha screamed for help. But the cheers and music from the stage were so loud, nobody heard her – except for the man. His grip on her wrist tightened so hard Sascha thought he’d break it. His free hand pushed her forcefully to a side door and deserted back hallway of the club.
“Leave me alone!” Sascha shouted. She twisted her body and attempted to kick the man in the shin. The hand on her wrist just twisted, increasing the pain. He threw her against the brick wall and gripped her throat with his free hand.
There was a strange, wild look in his dark eyes. It made her feel like he had no soul, he was empty and hungry inside. Hungry for what? The dread increased and Sascha tried to scream once more.
“Shut up!” The man yelled, squeezing his hand around her throat, cutting of much of her hair supply. “No… no… no… don’t struggle… little pixie girl,” he said with a soothing tone. He brought his head near hers and stuck out his tongue to lick her check, then neck, then… Sascha had to close her eyes and try to not think of what he was doing to her. An ager was building up inside of her. She knew what that meant, and for the first time she didn’t hold back. She fought to keep that feeling going, that warmth, dangerous feeling that could explode.
“I’m warning you,” Sascha said through the crushing windpipe. “Let me go now!”
The man laughed and pressed his body against hers. He was crazy, Sascha reasoned, insane even. She warned him though… this was his fault, the teenager reasoned to herself. Closing her eyes once more, feeling his weight, the alcohol on his breath, his hands on her throat, used it all to bring the curse to its surface.
At once, the man’s leather jacket burst into flames. He screamed and jumped back, letting go of Sascha as he tried to remove the burning jacket. Sasha fell to the floor chocking and inhaling fresh air. The man was in hysterics. With the jacket off, he tossed it into a corner full of janitorial equipment. But it was too late, his dress shirt was on fire, and he could not get it off.
Sascha tried to flee to back to the nightclub when the janitorial equipment exploded into flames knocking her back. The flames were out of control, Sascha’s emotions were out of control. She watched helplessly as the fire jumped from one energy source to another, building in size and intensity.
“Oh no… not again.” Sascha mumbled and turned back to the hallway. The man who had tried to rape her was on the floor, screaming and burning. A horrified look crossed her face. She never had control of the fires, they always just happened, but nobody had died. Sascha realized with a sinking terror what she had done. Paralyzed with fear, she watched the man die in front of her – because of her. She wanted to throw up, to scream and run. It wasn’t until the fire alarms sounded and the sprinkler system activated that her survival instincts kicked in. Sascha ran past the remains of her attacker with tears in her eyes and pushed on down the hallway looking for a way out.
All the doors she came across her locked, no windows either that she could climb out of either. Desperate, Sascha pushed herself forward. The hallway was full of dark charcoal black smoke, the flames kicking at her heals. At last, a neon exit sign glowed through the smoke a head of her. Running with all her remaining strength, Sascha threw her whole body weight against the door – only to have it open on her as she fell to the ground.
“Got a live on here!” A voice called out. Sascha gasped and looked up. A fireman helped her to her feet then passed her down a line of others to the street. A blanket appeared around her as nearby paramedics searched her for burns. The street was full of flashing emergency lights, firetrucks, ambulances, and police. The paramedic offered Sascha an oxygen mask which she accepted and took deep breaths of fresh air into her body.
Someone was trying to talk to her, maybe get medical information, but she couldn’t hear them. She took out her iPhone and began texting Niki. There were other patrons of the Underground gathered on the street. Some were getting medical attention while others talked to police officers taking statements.
Sascha knew she couldn’t stick around any longer. The police would be down her throat in no time and she could feel guilty radiating off of her. She took the oxygen mask off and threw it back at the paramedic before joining the throng of people.
“Hey wait!” The paramedic yelled. “You’ve just been in a fire – aren’t you burned?”
“No, I’m fine.” Sascha said before dashing off.
Still no news from Niki. Please deity, don’t let her be in that fire. Sascha prayed a second time. She tried calling, no answer. She texted Niki again. Still no reply. Sascha couldn’t afford to linger about any longer, cops were questioning everyone. She spotted an opening in the distance, void of cops or ambulances. Her chance to escape without getting noticed.
“Where are you going?” A hand landed on her shoulder, gripping tight to pull her around. A middle aged detective with a strip shirt and brown jacket stared at her. “Who are you? Have you been questioned yet?”
“Ah… I need to find my friends.” Sascha said, unsure what would get her free now.
“That’s not the questions I asked. Name.”
“Cinderbluff – that’s weird.”
“You’re telling me. I had to grow up with it.” Sascha replied. She tried to put on an innocent face, maybe they would just let her go.
“How old are ya?”
“Old enough to be here.”
“ID.” The detective was not playing any games. Sascha hesitated, but the look she received made her fork over the fake ID. “Sarah Cinder?”
Sascha groaned. How could she have forgotten the mix up Niki made when she created her fake ID. Like a fool, she gave up her real name prior to handing over the ID. The detective looked at her suspiciously.
“You’re the one they found at the back?”
Sascha said nothing. Always better to say nothing.
“Did you see what happened, how the fire started?”
“You know it’s a federal offence to withhold information from the police?” He glared at her, evaluating her reaction and behaviour. “You don’t have a burn mark on you… they said that flames filled that hallway. You should be burnt to a crisp.”
“I outran the fire.”
That made the detective laugh. “Alright Miss Cinderbluff – or whatever your real name is. You need to come down to headquarters. We’ve got some questions to ask.”
Before Sascha could protest, the detective escorted her to a nearby police car and locked in the back seat.
“Am I under arrest?”
“Not yet, missy. Not yet.”
Sascha’s heart pounded again, faster and louder than before. She took three deep breaths. No more fires, no more fires – she told herself. Sascha let out a cry of despair, some sixteenth birthday.
Part 4 of 4 Prequel series of 2015 NaNoWriMo story: Silverleaf Academy – Cinderbluff