~This piece previously appeared in The Florida Review (2006)
On the night they died, the Wynn family, each in his or her bed on the second floor of their house on Maiden Lane, dreamed of the children—of Tina Wynn, the girl, and Brandon Wynn, the boy—flying, clockwise, through the rooms and hallways that formed a loop on the first floor. It was the same loop the children had run when they were small, chasing one another or being chased by their father or their mother or, on occasion, both. But tonight they did so in their dreams, and they did so in the air, without touching the ground. And all the while the gas from the cracked furnace seeped up the stairwells and through the floorboards and vents, which brought the heat from the furnace’s flame to the rest of the house.
C-O, the father, Gordon Wynn, would have thought, had he been awake rather than asleep, had CO been the sort of gas one could smell or taste. But he knew, of course, that CO was not that sort of gas. He knew, in fact, if he had been conscious, that he would have become sleepy—so sleepy that he would have become unconscious, and that would have been his only clue something was wrong. And who didn’t get sleepy in the middle of the night, when all was dark and quiet?
CO. Such an innocent formula. Drop an O off a substance as harmless as carbon dioxide, and it’s suddenly poison? But, sure enough, one by one, each member of the Wynn family ceased to breathe.
But before they did, they dreamed.