The Evening News Broadcast was airing on the television in the midst of the living area of the Mansion. The blinds have been drawn closed and light has been extinguished except for a few candles spread around and the glow of the television.
"Again, the details are still coming in but multiple sources are reporting that the first bombs were detonated in the cities of Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago… and those are only the locations in the United States. Overseas associates have been reporting other unconfirmed detonations in the cities of London, Tokyo… Moscow." The reporter shakes her head, stifling back a sob and trying to retain her composure. "The military is advising all citizens to stay in their homes… to be with their loved ones."
The living room of the mansion, filled with the bodies of a sort of nondescript mass of young ones, of adults as well, watching the screen as the news pours in. News that sounds for lack of better term, to be a description of the end of times.
Hard to imagine how electrons transmitted through the air on specific wavelengths can deliver such misery upon so many people. Broadcasts paint an apocalyptic description of impending nuclear winter and devastation, all those landmarks lovingly studied from black and white photos printed in LIFE magazine and textbooks demolished in a heartbeat. Scarlett hasn't ever been to Hiroshima, at least that she can recall, but any student of the atomic age remembers the print of the mushroom cloud, the skeletal dome that marked ground zero. She abandons whatever notebook lay in her lap, letting it slide to the ground, pen spun around in her fingers.
Unlike so many of those souls, she has a fairly decent idea of what the end times look like, at least through a cultural lens. Standing, she smoothes out her minidress and starts walking out of the living room. Too many people there for her liking, perhaps, her path weaves through the central foyer and seeks the back doors overlooking the grounds.
Logan hasn't seen a soul in ages. The harsh winter blows around him, thick snow and ice crusting in his hair. There's a fire, in the distance, a melted spot, surrounded by the carcasses of dead animals and the cold comfort of its crackling embers.
And he chops, endlessly, tirelessly. His shoulders burn, his arms ache. He can't remember when he started. He's not sure when he'll stop. The winter never ends and, as long as it comes, he'll need more wood. Something howls in the distance, lonely and broken, a wolf without a pack.
Logan knows how it feels.
'Have you finally realized yet? That there is no escaping me. There is no changing me. This is but a taste of our power. Do not smother me.' The woman speaks.
The woman speaks as she hovers high within the air. High past the clouds. High past the darkness of space as a large, fiery hand grasps a lone star. The star itself is extinguished, before the ball of fire descends upon the earth and breaches the atmosphere to become one with the clouds once more.
The Phoenix remains there, her hair tendrils of fire. The blood and gold that makes up the outfit that she dons adds a horrific aura that lingers. "It is but several. We need more. More to remake the world. More to burn it away and start anew. But first they will know horror. They will know the terror that they've inflicted amongst themselves. They will know the hurt of living in oblivion!" She cries out into the skies, streaking like a jet through the smoldering smoke, her own fists reigning down balls of fire as she begins to laugh with delight.
"Isn't it wonderful! How they scream! How they beg for a savior! I am here! This is me! I am your Mother! I shall rebuild you anew!"
The broadcast switches, the news almost seeming to follow Rogue as she attempts to leave the main living area, the voice of the news anchor calling out. "We have footage now… live footage." The images shift, in the light of a window the reflection of the screen is visible; an image of a woman wreathed in flames like a bird, soaring over the skies of a city releasing orbs of fire at the planet below. The view seems to be from someplace around the Great Lakes; perhaps Pittsburgh. The flight of flame streaking the sky and filaments of it drifting past to fly to the ground and strike with the effects of a nuclear detonation. Mushroom clouds peaking across the ground.
The mansion itself shakes then, just beyond the window that was showing the reflection of the news a brilliant glow of fire light erupts with blinding ferocity of the sun crashing to the planet.
The heat is enough to penetrate the coldest winter, the woods splintering away under the shockwave of impact followed by the rolling heat of molten death that washes over leaving a crater of ash and remnant behind.
No one stands by the doors, and turning the handle so carefully may be needless when the rain of ICBMs or whatever alien technology devises erases all of mankind's work. Still, she cares. Scarlett steps out into the fresh, cold air in Westchester County, face turned upwards to the brilliant stars obscured through the dim haze. Somewhere off in the distance, the howling speaks to a primal part of the soul Emerson never quite got on the page. Her boots brush through the dew-frosted grass, a set of prints marking her path, each taking her further from the graceful stone building at her back. It's not until she is past the pond and facing the forest that she stops, and there, the redhead salutes whatever lies overhead.
Her hands stretch towards the sky, palms pressed together, and she balances between the forward lunge of her knee and the slip backwards of her supporting leg. Asanas to greet the sun, though they may not be there to observe it, poses to salute the heavens and open her chakras one by one. A syllable trembles on her lips, held as long as her breath can possibly sustain it. For what other choice is there, but prayer for harmony and balance, when the flames come to destroy all that is?
Logan almost feels as if he hears something in the distance, like an avalanche or a world crashing down. He lifts his head and stares off into the horizon, the never-ending whiteout slowly descending into shadows and darkness.
He makes his way back to the fire at last, loops of twine tied around the bundle of wood, dragged in his wake and leaving a thick furrow in the drifts. He blinks against the blowing snow, lashes crusted with the weight of the winter. He finally falls to his knees in the circle of firelight, panting for breath as he scoops up a handful of snow and puts it in his mouth, the harsh bite of it hitting his teeth and making him snarl until it melts into icy trickles that run down the back of his throat.
'What do you think is worse? Living a life of domestic women? Going to school. Coming home. Washing the dishes. Making dinner. Walking the dog.' The woman whispers.
'Only to do the same thing over. And over. And over.'
The shrieking laugh allows the woman in red to fly in circles, dragging the clouds in the trail of her, in the wake of her. The lake. The lake that is soon manipulated, Michigan, drawn upright by her world breaking telekinesis and spread and split like the river Jordan. Tidal waves sent in each direction, arching fifty miles high in the sky. While that would not be enough to murder all who surround her.. but it would be enough to cull and leave the chosen few.
Who'll die either way.
'Now you're just having fun.' She speaks.
'Even while they pray to you, you'll laugh and tell them no. Isn't that what gods do? Shall we answer?'
The woman ceases her flying as she considers this, her brows furrowing as she slowly.. comes undone. Undone as the bird itself flies from the middle of her chest, beating off into the distance in one direction.. while the body flies in another..
The flames erupt everywhere, further and further engulfing more and more. Lives that had been reaching the century of duration, the family with the children, all of them extinguished away as they are evaporated. The cleansing, purifying fires continue to fall over and over again wiping away everything.
Around Rogue develops a small area of dying grass, smoldering black at the edges with the red hues of fire about it. Where the mansion stood is the burned out husk of what once was a building of hope and the future — now gone. All the plant life in the area around her is gone, burnt to a crisp and the last vestiges of it smoldering. Nothing is left around her, but herself; unscathed.
What is it like to survive it all? The forest, the lakes, all of it being evaporated under the holy fires, burnt away until it is gone. The wildlife. The hunt. It is gone now… now it is just a ruined burnt mess that these two survivors; separate apart, are standing in.
Somewhere beyond the grim woods, trees vaporize into their component atoms, blown around by a fell wind. Smoke doesn't carry any scent while the embers and cinders blow past, radioactive hot, and something to take shelter from if only there were shelter to seek. The pinnacle of her fingers points to a sky gone blinding hot and stars bleeding out, and the arc sweeps all the way down to the dying earth her feet are planted upon. But death does not come, at least not stalking past on raven's wings or the rustle of a black cloak. Why do I remember leather gloves? A question fleeting in part, descending into the cracked fault lines of the soul.
Scarlett's eyes open slightly, taking in the full scope of devastation, and then she shifts into a second position, hands pressed to the ground, gloved nails — are they still gloved? Maybe — digging through the top layer as she comes to rest on her heels. Taking stock is altogether impossible, even as she stares at the other who made it through this. "Why?"
There was nothing left but the three.
A barren wasteland.
The air was cleaned of all the fossil fuels that burned within the air. The cigarette smoke. The aggression of man, woman and child.
The bird clips upon the ground with a hop, hop, hop.. its long tail and flames near mimicking the hair that sprouts from the tip of Scarlett's scalp. Why. She asks. Why.
"Because I loved you once." A voice came..
A voice that appears before Logan, the woman in red.. with the hair.. with the green eyes that were green no longer but filled with fire. "There could have been something there." Jean states, kneeling before Logan as he coughs, a hand raising to lift upon his shoulder, drawn away to look at the sweat upon her fingers. Her nose wrinkles, and soon was wiped upon the very suit that she wore. "It's too bad that I wouldn't have survived it. You always had a habit of getting the women you happen to love, killed."
The bird hops along around Scarlett, its head dancing back and forth as she murmured. "I watched you sleep once. And I compared our faces into the mirror and I near thought us sisters." The birds wings fanned out.. "But what would be the point? If I hug my sister, I would be dead. If I grab her hand to pull her from danger.. I would be dead. If we take a picture cheek to cheek.. I would be dead. Who would want a sister that you can not hold at night when the bad things come?"
The fires of the world continue to smolder, slowly starting to die as they dim. The sun itself, drained of its energy has fallen since into a darkened orb with cracks of red appearing across its broken surface. Even the stars overhead begin to lose their twinkle, their luster.. as not just the world, but existence, continues to die… except for these.
Luminous plumage contains the secrets of the stars, the brilliance of every dawn experienced on every world since nebulae and dust coalesced into balls of plasma under their own mass. She's the Big Bang in a microcosm, and somehow disturbingly charming in those stagger hops, like any of the birds in Washington Square going about their diligent routines to seek insects, seeds, and the odd French fry. Scarlett's braids coil around her shoulders and skim down her back as she stands, hands clasped in front of her. Opalescence races over her mirrored gaze, throwing back the fire in paler and richer detail, upon beholding magnificence in a woman's frame.
"I love you still," her voice comes, soft, lilting through English. "Whether you took the skin from a man or kept us up night, worried for your welfare. When you smiled, and it was a good day, then that would be the point. The times we laughed and breathed and lived, discovered whatever secrets we did — how you mortified Moira with her ludicrous notions of coursework? Always worth it. When the bad things come, I will always do what I can for you. Her. No matter how awful the cost, because my friend, Jean, is worth it. If I am not enough, so be it. I tried." The dark shadow of her laughter traces a smoky curl into the night. "For love. For a friend. That is all I can give."
It all fades away with a laugh that seems to emanate from everywhere and then the Jean/Phoenix fades away leaving just the burned up husk of the rock that once was Earth, that once was the Galaxy. Across it stars continue to blink out until all that is left is just Scarlett, sitting on the rubble of her world. What is a life without anything? Some may want solitude, but to be the only entity left in the universe…
And so she remains, as time ticks by. The dilation of these minds stretching what may only be minutes into years…