Black Sun: The Orphaned 4
November 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
It was simple. She held out her hand, and he took it. One of the burning trails on his skin slithered down onto her, and as it wrapped itself around her wrist it left him. With it came pain, as the skin on her arm registered the intense, fluid heat and for a moment began to burn.
Then she knew how to not burn, as thoughts, memories, lives upon lives showed themselves to her. She did not live them. they merely clawed their way into her and were there in her mind. She didn’t even scream, just shuddered as the shape on her arm melted and resolved from a tendril into a chain. Many chains, thick red and black shapes, lashing around her limbs. She could feel raw heat climbing down the skin of her back and could hear hundreds of voices explaining that the path of flame was a metaphor. A means to an end. A way of using force, of approaching the cosmos. She didn’t care. In that moment only the body on the ground staring up with dead eyes held any reality for her.
A black stone body pushed itself up through the ground, dust and grit clinging to the spinal lobe in the center of its elongated disc body. She imagined the chains on her arms lashing out, and that’s exactly what they did, crashing down on its body and cutting it in molten halves. Her teeth were bared, her swollen lower lip bleeding and staining her teeth. She’d bitten it. Her hair whirled around her head in the updraft from her own body, and she knew she was covered in fire. She was fire. She hated, and the hate was a bright burning up and down her spine.
More of them were coming out of the hole that had been tunneled out of the ground near her feet. She could vaguely feel something from the grey man who had touched her hand, but she wasn’t focused on him. He could do whatever he was going to do. She was going to burn.
And so were they.
The wall of flame in the shape of a wave came down from the mine entrance as he pulled all he had left back into himself, allowing himself to contract and her to expand. She was younger, and still fresh in her hate and fear. Her fire banked hotter, his needed fuel. He watched her as the instruction became integral to her, saw with a faint smile how she mastered it rather than allowing it to master her. She would use the memories.
It was better than he had done, but he had been given a path incompatible to himself. She was not incompatible with fire. Had he found her before, she still might have burned. Now there was no doubt.
Her will scourged the very ground with a snarling, burning beast out of her mind, a creature of flaming hair and crushing, searing claws. He watched the monstrous creature, easily ten times his size, crash into the mass of black stone segmented creatures and destroy with jagged swipes and teeth that melted through stone. She didn’t even seem to feel it, maintaining the beast while lashing out herself with the lashing chains she’d called up as manifestation. Several of them were pulverized or divided by the constantly waving, sweeping, smashing links of chain called up out of fire.
She had lifted herself up off of the ground, without even bothering with any sort of wing or edge to hold her aloft. He took the time to observe how she was working, what he could show her to improve, and what would require better teachers. Most of it, she was already beyond his skill to teach, meaning she’d absorbed everything he’d imparted. Perhaps it was due to growing up on a world where the zero point was so difficult to contact.
He felt more static welling up around them. They were moving again. He was out of time. He turned to her, driving her monster of fire through their ranks near the opening into the earth.
They’re going to try and tunnel up again. We need a way to destroy them all at once, we’re wasting time.
“Gas.” Her voice was ragged, harried by the need to gasp for air from the exertion of pulling fire into being. Her mind and will knew what to do, but it was all unfamiliar effort to her. She was glad she’d been thinking about track, the weeks of running meant she was capable of enduring. “There’s gas pockets. Underground. My mom…”
I understand. Hold them just a little longer.
She felt grief cutting at her mind, trying to drag her down to cry on the ground again, and it simply could not be. She could not cry again. The anger she’d felt before at the black bugs collided with the grief and roared in the pounding of her heart and the panting exhale inhale rhythm, like some idiot camper dumping gasoline on a wood fire. She’d wanted to kill them before, but now she felt wounded. She couldn’t even mourn.
They burst out of the ground, a fountain of black stone. Adhering to one another, they poured themselves into a coherent shape. The smallest ones like scales, larger ones near the bottom, forming a giant segmented three lobed creature out of aggregate. It was bigger than a building and growing. The static they emitted was now a single hum, a unified distortion that clawed at the brain. It turned ‘eyes’ that were hundreds of smaller bodies to look at her, tried to push that static right into her eyes.
She laughed. It was hate made sound, barks from burning lungs. The pain in her chest only drove the fire higher in her mind. It shifted position, tried to force that static past the hate.
She imagined talons the size of barns, wings that blotted out the night sky, and that sky was blotted out. Flames exploded across the air above them, taking the form of a great reptile made of fire. A neck that coiled in the air, a smashing tail with spines, a monster out of stories read years before. She screamed, and it screamed, joined by the hate she’d used to call it into existence. The width of its wings eclipsed the quarry itself.
It crashed down on the mass of blackness and struck, and slashed, and breathed the fire it was made of in huge gouts. The heat was so intense that paint bubbled off of the scattered equipment, and the lighting towers started to sag as their struts weakened. Flames washed over Elizabeth, burning her clothes, but she knew no fire could harm her now. She was the fire. Her eyes blazed orange and red as her will drove gigantic claws down again and again and again into the black stone, shredding and burning.
Prepare yourself. I have found the gas you spoke of, and it will explode now.
She lifted herself up off of the ground and hurled upward in a trail of flames, still focusing her hatred into the huge yellow-white blaze of a dragon when she heard the first thud under the earth. Then another, and another, followed by the shattering of the ground. It was like seeing a whirlpool form in stone and soil instead of water, with jagged cracks and collapsing ground pulled back. She watched as jets and plumes of fire roared out of the ground, and then all was covered in dust and obscured from her.
She didn’t even feel herself land. When he landed next to her, she was crouching on a stump, looking downhill at what had been the mine. Now it was just a vast collapsed trench, and she could see it extend uphill to where the town had been. Edgersall had fallen into the same giant hole. There was no trace of her life.
“What … happens … now?”
“You can stay here. The mineral your people were digging up is a fuel that will keep the fire burning underground for years. No one will ever live here, and those things will be melted and destroyed. If you stay here, once the zero portal closes you will find yourself unable to call to fire. Everything I taught you will be wasted.”
She didn’t look at him, her eyes swirling pools of orange and red, her naked body covered in glowing, searing chains made of fire crawling along her skin.
“Or you can come with me. I will take you to those who taught me, and they can teach you to walk the path you chose tonight, and you may find purpose in it.” He turned to look skyward. “The zero portal is there, if you have had enough of this place.”
“It doesn’t look like I’ll ever get to.” She stood up, still light headed and short of breath, and looked down at the blasted, burned hole where her mother’s body was likely burned to ash, and swallowed once. She wanted to cry. She’d never cry again.
When the helicopters arrived hours later, there was no one left to tell them what had happened.