She turned to the center of the room, the fire searing her back. Fire trailed the edges of the bookshelves, licking up the spines of the leather-bound books.
A shadow drifted across the room and left her with no escape route. Books lay scattered on the floor, fire had already turned most of them to ashes; a testament to what they were before.
Smoke clung to her as if she were a magnet and it her opposite. Staggering, she dropped to all fours and crawled. Carbon monoxide made it hard to breathe.
Distancing herself from the pile of incinerated books in the middle, she made it to the heavy mahogany doors. Using her last reserve of strength, she pushed the doors open, just enough for her to fit through. Knowing that feeding the fire with more oxygen was always bad, she shut the door.
She followed the trail of sooty boot-prints when they stopped outside of a door. A door she knew; the one that led to the attic. Pausing for breath, she coughed for a moment but continued up the stairs, careful not to touch the creaky portions of the wood.
The footprints turned left and right, swerving around cardboard boxes long forgotten by her family. Turning right, she encountered a dead end…and her brother.
"Billy, what did you do?" she asked frantically. He smiled. A smile she had never seen before, as it was cold and unfriendly.
"Oh, naïve little, Leila. Whatever would I do without you?" he mocked. Leila turned towards her brother.
"Billy, what did you do?" she repeated in a slower, more forceful voice. He shook his head and gestured for her to sit next to him. She did as she was told but sat farther away than she normally would.
"I did what I had to do; I burned the books. Nothing good comes out of them. Mom and dad were crazy about something they never knew anything about."
She was scared to speak to the arsonist beside her. "Why did you leave me there? To burn with the books we both grew up with?"
He thought for a minute. "No. To burn Mr. Poe's books was really my goal. He had too much hold over our family. He needed to go."
"He's dead, Billy. Mr. Poe is dead! Gone! Is it because you burned Mr. Poe's books without really reading them? Physically and mentally. His books meant something. And you tossed them off and set them on fire as if they were common pieces of wood. What is wrong with you?"
"Nothing is wrong with me," he responded coolly. He pulled a gun from his waistband. "But something is about to be wrong with you."
"Billy! No! Don't do it!" she cried, truly afraid for the first time in her life. The gun clicked and he pulled the trigger. The bullet zoomed towards her head, its shrapnel burying itself in her brain.
She fell with a thump against the dusty floor. Blood pooled around her head. Billy looked down at his now deceased sister. "Told you so."
He stepped forth, into her blood and made his way downstairs. He lay on his bed, waiting for the fire to come and turn him into nothing. Just like Mr. Poe's books.