The interior wasn’t exactly what they’d been expecting. The balcony opened directly onto the unit’s living area and the only thing in the room was a ratty old couch, the kind found on street corners or the dump. Well, that and Fishy’s rock. The carpet was expensive, sure, but it was also absolutely pristine. They could even still see the wheel marks from the last time it had been vacuumed, parallel rows straight from one wall to the other. You only ever tended to see something like that when a realtor was getting ready to show a place but Rose had checked and there hadn’t been any sale notices.
Without a pause for discussion, the three split up. No one bothered with the front storage closet, right by the door that most people would’ve used to get in. The Bastard took the master bedroom while Rose headed for the guest room. Fishy went straight for the kitchen. He had a tendency to steal food whenever they were doing something like this. It irritated the other two, like a lot of things he did, but they’d also long since grown used to it. If Fishy hadn’t eaten anything in the last thirty minutes then he was hungry. It was just a fact of life.
“Hey!” he shouted after a few minutes of rummaging through cabinets, drawers and the fridge. “There’s nothing in here but a microwave and some of those cups of instant noodles! What the hell Rose, I thought you said this place was supposed to be loaded?”
“Keep it down you moron.” The Bastard didn’t even break stride to insult his friend on the way out of his room, didn’t even need to consider it. By now, it was a reflex. “Mine’s empty too but there has to be something here. The AC can’t be using that much electricity by itself. Find anything Rose?” She didn’t answer. “Rose?” Fishy and the Bastard, on edge now, crept quietly into the smaller bedroom and stopped, just behind Rose, stunned by the sight.
The room was filled with… with things that they didn’t even know the words for mixed in with ordinary, household junk. Strange growths of multicolored crystals coiled around each other and out of a coffee pot. There was a shelf with three large pots, each of them filled with a steaming mixture of pinkish goo that was slowly simmering, bubbles rising to the surface and popping despite the lack of any apparent heat source. There were LED strips all along the walls and the ceiling with even more of those weird crystals and more shelves, all of them homemade, and bags of cleaning supplies and fertilizers and- and-
“Rose?” Fishy was the first to break the silence, his voice seemed completely calm. If you knew him, that was a sure sign of trouble. Fishy was never calm about anything. “Rose, why are you smoking?”
“What?” Wisps of very faint smoke, grey with a little bit of blue in them, were rising from her skin. “I- I don’t…” She turned around to answer and paused in confusion when she noticed it too. “What is this?” The panic in her voice was far more obvious than it had been in Fishy’s. Her skin was beginning to visibly blacken and peel in a few spots on her face and hands.
The Bastard screamed as he burst into flames, fell to the ground and began rolling around. All of them were smart enough to recognize that the combination of fire and those chemicals, not to mention all the weird stuff, was very much a bad thing. Right then, none of them cared. The Bastard was covered in too-red fire that seemed to be coming from his skin while Rose was starting to leak greenish sparks from the cracks in hers. Without hesitation, Fishy had his dull green school vest off and was trying to use it to put out the red- the red-
He didn’t think about what he was doing or how it was happening, just focused on what needed to be done next. The Bastard wasn’t screaming any more and he’d stopped rolling around but that wasn’t good because Fishy hadn’t gotten the fire to go out so he turned to Rose. She was still standing but she was just quietly crying while tongues of transparent green flame licked up her arms and face. Her pink hair blackened and curled away before Fishy ran out of the room.
It wasn’t fear for himself that made him run. Despite the burning in his skin and the red haze that seemed to cover everything in his sight, it didn’t even occur to Fishy that he could leave his friends behind and maybe save himself. He was going for the closet because that was the only room they hadn’t been in and there might be something he could use-
Yes! That looked like exactly what he needed. He snatched the bright orange jumpsuit thing from its hook. Eye searing color aside, it looked like someone had stitched together a bunch of rain suits and then made a hood out of plastic wrap. There was a little metal plate that he thought would rest against the wearer’s forehead and it was covered in some sort of strange symbol. This had to be some sort of safety garment. Right by the door so whoever was doing whatever he was doing with that stuff could put it on as soon as they came in. Maybe if he got it on them, that weird fire would go out.
Fishy stumbled to the ground before he’d taken two steps. He tried to get up, determined to help Rose and the Bastard. He made it halfway to his feet then fell again. His vision was red and blurry but he took a moment to look at his hands anyway. His skin hurt. There was- was blood coming out of the skin. The blood was smoking and burning. Burning him. He couldn’t see anymore but he remembered which way he had to go to get back to them. He couldn’t walk anymore but that didn’t matter. Fishy crawled towards his friends.