Before the End

Hey everyone! I hope you enjoy this... I've been working on the plot for some time now, and I think I've got it down. This is just the first chapter, I'm working on writing the rest. Can't say how long it will be, but I'll try to make sure it's not too short.

As always, please, please review! If you've ever written your own story, you know how helpful it is! I do own all these characters, and I'm sorry if I have gotten some things wrong, because I've never been to France...

Thanks, and enjoy!

-KatieKaty

()()()

"Before we begin, I do need to go over a few things with you."

"Oh... Um, all right."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-six."

"And your birthday?"

"Er, April."

"The precise date, please."

"I don't see how this is important. Can we just get it over with?"

"Oh... Oh, yes, of course. I just wanted to make sure... Of course."

"Well, then."

"Oh, yes. First... first question. My sincerest apologies. First question. What was your life like before?"

"Before what?"

"Before everything, I suppose."

()()()

The sun, of course, was glaring daggers down at the unassuming earth. It couldn't even lighten up for one day. And yet, in all the pictures, the sickly yellow sun is always smiling, albeit with a crooked line of a mouth and rays coming out like sticks. Nothing like the real sun.

People said that the sunset in a small city near Lyon, France was magnificent. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Spectacular. Fitting, such a dramatic sun would have a spectacular exit wouldn't it.

The sunset was, in truth, non-existent, which was very disappointing. The only reason anyone came to Lyon was to see it. They always left disappointed.

But enough about the sun.

There were the watery apples and the sour grapes, twisted up into skeletal frames and knotted onto winding sticks and branches. There were even a few strawberries poking up from the dirt like little red stars. But most had withered away.

And one simply cannot forget the miles and miles of grass, some as tall as a person, all yellow-green and alike. When the wind blew they fell against each other like dominoes and sprang up again in unison. If you were watching from above, it would look like waves.

Travel a bit further and a quite obvious house pokes up over the hill. Boasting snow-white siding and pitch-black shingles, along with shiny glass in the windows and a fancy red door. In short, extremely hard to miss and with a promise of becoming old and less bright in the years to come, along with chipped paint. Most things are sensible enough to be hidden when they become ruins, you see. But this one was a chip off the old block and quite proud of it.

Inside, after all, were people.

()()()

"Could you describe your family?"

"Well, all right. It may be a bit hard to remember, though."

"What?"

"Just... You know, this was a long time ago. I think."

"Perhaps a quick family history is in order."

"Perhaps."

()()()

There was the baby, the Grandfather, the cousin, the girl, and the brother. And, of course, the father.

But that's another story, I suppose. Of course you don't care about all that.

The baby's name was Wren, the cousin's name was Sabra, the girl's name was Candy.

And they lived in the big red house on the hill.

And Candy was running and running and running, because that was her favorite thing to do. She was quite good, as well. She was racing her brother through the tallest grasses, and they reached higher than her head and scratched at her and ripped out tangles of reddish black braid. She didn't care because she was faster, and she was winning.

The tree just came into sight over the hill, and her bare feet punished the earth, and her arms swung about wildly, and she reached the tree and cheered.

He came just up the hill then, out of breath and smiling, his eyes sparkling with delight and a bit of treachery, because he let her win.

His hair was red as the scarlet flowers. His face glistened with sweat. He put his hands on his knees and breathed heavily and exaggeratedly, even sitting down and wheezing, red cheeks matching his hair.

Candy got down on her knees and hugged him, but her arms just barely fit around his waist. He laughed. It was a big and bright laugh.

And then he scooped her up and dropped her on his shoulders, and ran back to the beginning so that they could go again. And he always promised to himself that he wouldn't let her win, but he always did.

The sun glared with all its ferocity. Why it was so angry, no one could say.

()()()

"And the rest of them?"

"I'm getting to them. Just... just wait."

"Sorry, I'm sorry."

"It's all right."

()()()

"Come on, both of you!"

He sped up and soon they were flying towards where the cousin was standing, waving the Silver Spoon and with sandy hair swaying back and forth. Her smile was wide, even though her eyes were squinting in the glare of the sun. She put her hand out to block the sun and winked at them with brightly blue eyes. They reminded Candy of water.

A quick rest stop for lunch, which was delicious and nameless and made of tomatoes. The cousin stood over them, smiling again. Grandfather didn't come in. Father sat in his rocking chair. The Wren complained loudly that she didn't like tomatoes.

Then he grabbed Candy up again onto his shoulders and asked the cousin if she wanted to come, and she said yes. Wren tagged along behind them, barefoot and smiling. And they all were running and running past the apples and the grapes and the strawberries and into the grass. And the sun glared and glared and glared but they kept on running.

()()()

"I was... younger, then." As if to explain for her past naivety.

"How young were you?"

"About nine or ten, I think. I'm not sure, though."

"Ah."

"Should I...?"

"Yes, do go on."

"All right."

()()()

Autumn in the orchard was flawless.

Light breezes swept away all cares and worries into non-existence. It was warm but not too warm, cold but not too cold, gold but not too bright. It smelled of apples and grass and freshness.

The cousin stood nearly above the grass, her eyes darting about over the sea of green. Seeing thins Candy and her brother could not see. Her dirty blonde hair whipped about and soon she was forced to go back beneath the grasses so that it was stop covering her eyes.

The brother sat down cross-legged, the Candy still on his shoulders. Wren beside them, drawing a happy face in the dirt with a jagged stick. Stones for eyes, a blade of grass for a curved smile.

It was good to get away.

The afternoon proceeded in a flurry of races, piggy-backs, laughter, running, and talk. The brother and cousin kept on talking about things the little girl didn't quite know, and it was frustrating, but she tried to ignore it.

The brother lifted her up so that she could see above the grass, and she smiled as the wind snatched up her braid and battered at her face. The sun, just then, looked beautiful as it filtered through the leaves of the big trees, setting the golden leaves alight.

All too soon it was over and she was back where she couldn't see.

()()()

"You were very close with them?"

"Yes."

"I'm sorry."

"Please, don't... don't do that."

"I..."

()()()

Nightfall.

A bonfire, sparks flaring up like invisible rays of sun. It crackled and sparked like a machine, only it was alive. Too warm to stand near, you had to stand at least a few feet away, and even then it was hard to breathe in the heat.

They roasted sausages and baked potatoes in tinfoil, and Grandfather even produced a small bag of marshmallows. Candy grabbed a long stick and roasted a big plump marshmallow, and they had s'mores.

The Sabra smiled down at the bag, but didn't take any. Wren helped herself.

Her brother showed her how to cook them until they were a perfect golden-brown and melted in your mouth. You had to spin them around slowly in the embers until each side was perfect, otherwise it would burn.

But the girl took a big marshmallow and burned it to a crisp, just to see what it would taste like. The outside was bitter, but the inside was creamy and delicious.

Brother whispered in her ear.

"I'm going to go write. I'll be back soon."

This was something about him that always puzzled her. He would take a small notebook and a pencil, two precious objects, worth lots of money. She didn't know what he did. Perhaps he drew pictures, perhaps he really did write down words.

Why? Why write about the sun when you could see it for yourself? Surely you couldn't capture its full glory, the way it sparkles on the water, pours through the trees, sets the ground alight, and lights up the world in words. You had to see it.

()()()

"Did you ever find these... words?"

"Never."

"Did you look?"

"Of course. For a long time too. It was a fool's errand. He hid them."

"Oh."

()()()

A few marshmallows later, the bonfire was just a few smoldering embers.

Sabra picked up Wren and lugged her inside. Grandfather stood slowly, his old joints creaking, something he always joked about. Father was already asleep.

Candy stayed for a while, staring at the fire. The last few coals burned out, replaced instantly by cold shadows. The cousin called out, voices echoing into blackness.

But she couldn't go inside yet.

Her brother wasn't back yet.

She stared at the empty place where the fire had been. It was cold now. She shivered and hugged her knees. What had he said? He had said that he would be back soon, hadn't he? Soon was now, wasn't it?

()()()

Sabra came outside then. She smiled.

"He'll be fine."

She wasn't as good at hiding her feelings as she thought she was. The smile was fake.

She smiled back. That one was fake too.

She wondered if Sabra could tell.

()()()

Then the darkness got too thick, too cold. The shadows were too long when there was nothing holding them back.

Candy went inside.

For a while she stood with her nose pressed to the cold window, staring out. But she couldn't see anything at all. It scared her, not being able to see. She wanted to go back outside with a lantern and go looking for him. He had never been gone this long before. She wanted to find him and to be sure that he was all right, and that Sabra wasn't lying.

The pig snorted and snuffled.

A dog barked.

()()()

"I don't see what pigs and dogs have to do with anything."

"You weren't there."

"Fair point."

()()()

Then she fell asleep. It wasn't an easy thing. Her head was rested against the cold glass, her hair slipping free of the braid, her eyes shut. Her body curled against the wall. Her mind awake. Once or twice she looked outside, though she could see nothing.

He'll be fine. She kept telling herself. Until finally the repetition of her own thoughts lulled her to sleep.

The next day, everything changed.

()()()