She waited for someone who lived there — someone with a key — to appear at the corner; she timed her walking to arrive at the steps just as they did. She was carrying a grocery bag so that they would, being polite, hold the door for her instead of forcing her to use her own, which of course didn’t exist.

Four floors up by the stairs, because her benefactor had headed for the elevator. She left the bag and its contents on the last landing and slipped through the fire door into the hallway.

She didn’t have to knock on the door; it opened to reveal an old woman, and beyond her, a child playing on the floor in front of an old tube television. “It’s not time yet.”

“That’s not up to you.” She brushed past the old woman and knelt next to the playing child. “Caroline?”

“Go ‘way.”

“You need to come with me.”

“Go ‘way.” The child looked up. “I’ll burn you if you don’t.”

She smiled. “I don’t burn, Caroline. I’m like you; I burn other things. I can teach you to—”

“Don’t wanna.”


The air jumped, and flame began playing across the ceiling. “Don’t wanna.”

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