Heath finds himself running through the park behind hid middle school. The trees pass by in a blur and he doesn’t bother pay attention to where he’s going, he’s just running.
The boys in his class had started teasing him again. Calling him names and accusing him of burning things down that he wasn’t even responsible for. The teacher had been out of class, so there was no way to stop them.
Heath tried very hard to keep his ‘cool’. He even had a bottle of ice water with him, just in case. But then the girls had joined in.
“Pyro, pyro, pyro,” they chanted until the teacher arrived. Heath tried to block his ears.
At recess, they bullied him again, calling him an orphan and teasing him about things they at heard from their friends. Rumors and crap that they could use as ammunition.
Heath tried to tune them out.
But then, in the washroom, a tall boy started making fun of Heath’s blacked fingers, saying it was the mark of a devil and a pyro. It’s a wonder his whole body wasn’t black and Heath’s patience ran out. He threw a punch at the boy’s face, knocking out a tooth and bruising his own knuckles. The boy was bleeding and ran from the washroom crying.
The teachers would never understand Heath’s story… so he ran.
His chest feels hot, his hands tremble, and his heart races. The boy, the jeers, the bullying, it all bothered him so much! Why couldn’t they just leave him alone! Why did they need to say such things! Heath didn’t understand.
Every word they said, every joke or snide comment, hurt like someone driving a knife in his heart. He hated everything the others had to say. He had no friends, no family. He had no one.
He was alone.
He glances down at his black fingers only to find the blackness spreading, up his forearm, slowly, like ink. He stops short, staring. This has never happened before. He shook his hands, thinking that the action will make it go away, but the black continues to climb up his arm, past his elbow.
His fingers start to glow orange and a violent heat radiates from them, causing a nearby sapling to burst into flames. He stumbles back, tripping on something hidden beneath the leaves. He falls to the cushioned ground, hands in the leaves which immediately light.
Soon, the entire forest floor around him is caught with fire and Heath is at the heart of it, huddled in a ball, staring at his feet. Tears stream from his eyes and down his cheeks.
It’s happening again. The whole thing is on fire and the school will find out and someone will die because of me. They’ll send me away again and I’ll be teased by new people.
Heath’s arms glow a deep red colour now, his clothes already burnt away by the initial heat. He sits in a crater created from his volcanic heat. The earth is scorched black around him and stone begins to melt at his feet. When his legs give out from staying crouched for so long, he lays down, waiting for the flames to cool. The forest crackles around him like Rice Krispies that have been amplified.
He listens… and waits.
I can’t find the dorms. I’ve run blindly through the castle with no hope of knowing where I am, so I look for a way out. My hands are beginning to glow again, despite the cold shower Caroline brought. It’s useless. I should never have even thought for a minute that I could possibly control myself around other people, even people like me. Have I not learned anything?
I can’t control my own feelings and they just run rampant when my magic is involved. I’ve only learned to have an air of control as long as I don’t care. That’s been my secret. That’s what I couldn’t tell her. If I care, I burn up. I can’t care.
I find a large door that looks like it leads outside so I skid to a stop, staring at the iron handle. If I touch it, surely I’ll disfigure it, but I need out. I reach for the handle, the shape already morphing to my hand, and pull the door open. The cool afternoon air comes through the crack and touches my skin. I slip out and run down the steps, heading for the fields.
I don’t want to burn the place I’m supposed to be fixing. Kaitlyn and the others, they’d get mad.
And why should you care if they get mad?
Shut up! I don’t want to hear that voice again. The ground burns at my feet so I don’t feel the pain of the rock jabbing into my soles, they melt instead as I pass over them.
I run till I’ve run out of ground to run, coming to the edge of cliff with a sheer drop, maybe thirty stories into the ocean. I stare down at the water, wondering if I can manage to cool off there. I don’t see a way down though, so the idea fades from my mind.
I crouch on the edge instead, catching my breath and trying to slow my heart. I grip my head in my glowing hands, my hair, unable to be burnt like my clothes. The wind feels cold against my inferno. Soon, I begin to shiver.
For a God damn twenty-seven-year-old, I sure have the same tendencies as a preteen. I’m pathetic really. I blame it on my poor excuse for a childhood. I have no coping mechanisms. My body, it just goes from normal to burning angry.
I sit there, trying to cool my thoughts down as I stare at the dirt at my feet. The events in the training room, Kaitlyn and how she makes me feel, and that girl, Selene, being in my head, all swirl around in my head like a hurricane.
“She knows,” I mutter to myself. She knows what’s in my head. She knows I like Kaitlyn… Wait… I like her? Is that what that is? But… I can’t! I can’t take her from Andrei.
Why not? She’s fire, you’re a substrate of fire. You’re a perfect match. The voice reminds me. I squeeze my eyes shut against the invisible voice as if that will help.
“I’m insane… I’m going insane…” I mutter to my feet. Hearing voices in my head, having feelings for someone I only just met, even when I know she’s taken, and pregnant at that. Where are my morals now? Everything I’ve tried to build, all the rules I had in place, all the things I tried to hide beneath a new way of living on the move, all my foundations rumble, threatening to crack and crumble beneath me, like a volcano ready to erupt.
Sean was right… I should have never been born. I threaten everything… I ruin everything.
Nonsense, you rebuild. You cover up the old with the blood of the Earth and create something new! The voice shouts in my head with a gleeful tone.
No… I burn and destroy. That’s all I’m good for. Wherever did I get this illusion that I could be for good, that I could help people? Oh, how deluded I was.
You’re deluding yourself now if you think you can be either one or the other. That’s how humans see us. As good or evil.
Us? Mages? Or me?
Volcanoes, mages, what’s the difference? There is no Good or Evil. There are those who are deluded into believing they are one or the other, and then there’s a bunch of other crap in the middle, undecided and unguided shit. Don’t be deluded. We can’t be deluded. No, we recreate!
I rock on my heels, my body shaking in the wind that blows against me on the top of the cliff. This voice… I don’t understand it. It speaks as if it wants me to do things, but then… it tries to comfort me. I don’t understand it’s philosophical arguments. I don’t have the educational background to understand.
You don’t need it. You got me. I’m your education, Kid.
“I’m not a kid,” I mutter to it aloud.
You are to the magic that courses through your veins. It’s millennia old. You are but a blip to this magic. You’re still a kid, Kid.
I still hate myself for what I did. It felt so good but so wrong. And the worst part, she didn’t try to stop me. If anything, I feel she pushed me into it. It’s my own fault. Maybe she wanted it as much as I did, but I should have known better. Is Andrei not what she wants? He seems nice… Why would she want something like me? I’m a wreck…
I’d be better off leaving. I seemed to have more control of myself and my life out there.
I let my thoughts die there, lifting my head to watch the waves of the ocean come crashing towards the island, the cliff, and me. I fall back, sitting on my butt and dangle my legs over the ledge. I hunch over, maintaining my balance precariously. I keep my eyes on the horizon through my curly black locks.
The sun reflects off the waves as they roll inland. The open sea looks vast and lonely, like my life, until recently. This is partially why I didn’t want to be coming here. I have to interact and interacting leads to caring, and I’m not any good at that. If I can maintain a strict work relationship with my employers then I can somehow make it by.
I exhale, tearing my eyes from the ocean and running my black hand up and down my right arm. The glowing is fading, the black, receding. I don’t know if I can stay here… but the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes that I’m looking for excuses to not be here. Which means I want to stay.
“Damn it,” I curse over the cliff. “Damn it all to hell!! WHY’D YOU DO THIS TO ME?! WHY!” my voice grates on my ears as I shout. I find myself hating everything…
No answer comes to my question, even the voice in my head seems to be quiet.
I throw my head back with a sigh, laying back on the ground, feet over the edge. I throw my arms out to either side and just lay there, looking up at the passing clouds. I focus on my breathing in order to calm myself. In and out. In… and out… In…
A dark shape enters my vision and the muscles in my neck tense. The shape shimmers blue in the sun and dips its chin till its reptilian eyes look down at me down its long snout. I inhale sharply, surprised and slightly fearful.
His eyes stare at me, unblinking, curious. He tilts his head slightly as he stares. What is this dragon, Blue, was it? What is he doing here?
The faint sound of footsteps on hard packed ground sound from my right and I tip my chin up to look behind me. The bulk of Blues body blocks my vision effectively.
“You trying to scare the poor kid, Blue?” a male voice laughs as the footsteps get closer. The dragon’s head lifts and tilts to look behind it.
I follow its gaze to see a man with orange hair like Kaitlyn’s, muscled arms and dressed in a loose pair of jeans and a dark blue long sleeve shirt. His attire doesn’t look nearly warm enough for the mid-March weather this island seems to experience. This is the man who affectionately greeted Kaitlyn in the cafeteria. The man whose partner was the serious-looking guy with the leather coat and short trimmed facial hair. Ceph and… Elias, I think he was called.
A low grumble emits from Blue’s chest as he stares at the man. He laughs, patting the dragon’s neck as he stops beside it. “Calm down. I don’t think she’s even out here.”
I look away, back at the clouds as he speaks to the dragon. “She’s not out here,” I mumble into the sky. If she was, I’d likely be glowing again. “She’s inside with Andrei, if you’re looking for her.”
“Nope,” the man moves to sit on the edge next to me. “I’m just assuming that’s what the big guy is looking for. He seems to have a one-track mind.”
“Oh,” I reply, not turning to look at him. “He’s not the only one,” I focus on the fluffy clouds, keeping my mind calm.
“It’s strange, isn’t it?” the redhead hums after a couple minutes of silence.
“What’s strange?” I ask him.
“The effect she has on people,” he smiles, staring out at the ocean. “I don’t think she even realises it.”
I finally turn my eyes to him. The wind blows his loose hair away from his face as the sunlight bathes him warmly. His hair seems to glow in the light, almost magically. I feel a pit in my stomach as he speaks.
“Yeah,” I say, watching him.
“I mean, you should’ve seen her when she first showed up in our time. She looked like a ghost. She even broke her ankle trying to ride a horse,” he chuckles. “Apparently, they’d had some run-in with an ex of hers or something. Merlin said he’d never seen so many wounds on one person that wasn’t dead.”
“I’d rather not hear this,” I frown, looking back at the clouds. Why’s this guy rambling on about her and her scars? I don’t need to know. It’s not helping me stay calm.
“I’m trying to say…” he scratches his stubbly cheek, “it’s not just you. I can’t really control myself either. I would say it’s the fire element thing, but, it wasn’t just me in my time either. So… Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“What do you know?” I hear the words come out of my mouth before I realise it. But I can’t hold it back. They start forming before I can stop them. It’s a side effect of being angry. “You know nothing about what I’ve been through. What I’m still going through. She… tempts me in a way I’ve never been tempted before, and the voice in my head… it eggs me on. It’s like mental torment. Don’t be hard on myself?” I scoff. “Get real.”
He surprises me by laughing. “You think you’re confused? I’ve never been interested in a girl in my life; which, by the way, I’m older than I look. Imagine how I feel.”
“I don’t have the capacity for such an imagination,” I groan, raising my hands to grip my head, covering my eyes. Why is he talking about this…
“I guess that’s normal too, for a fire element. Usually, we don’t stop being self-centered until we’re past fifty,” he muses bluntly.
“Self-centered? Where do you get off calling me self-centered?” I growl, peeling my hands from my face to glare at him from the ground. He remains staring out over the cliff.
“You just said you don’t have the capacity to imagine how a gay man feels about being drawn to a woman, while his lover stands by,” he retorts, looking down from the corner of his eye. “I’d call that pretty selfish, don’t you think?”
I grit my teeth in frustration. “I’m not gay, so how can I know how you feel?”
“That’s where the imagination part comes in,” he smirks, turning his gaze back to the ocean. “Fine then. You’re the only person who’s confused in the whole wide world. Woe is you. Your magic tells you to do things you don’t think you should. No one else has that problem. You’re all alone,” his voice gradually becomes more overdramatic as he speaks.
His words cut deep and I turn away, angrily. “I am alone. At least you have a lover,” I say, but I know that won’t help matters. I’m used to being alone. I should just be content with that and move on. Why is that so difficult?
“You’re right. I’m lucky, in that way,” he nods slowly. “I was alone for decades before I met Ceph. I killed a lot of people before that, and I did a lot of things he doesn’t approve of. He keeps me in check nowadays.”
“So… What?” I press, not seeing his point.
“So, being alone is simpler,” he nods. “But being around people… That’s what keeps us human. You’ll never learn not to hurt people if you don’t spend time with them.”
I jutt my lower lip out, trying to process what he means. “But… When I spend time with them I hurt them. I ruin them. So it’s better if I stay away.”
“Ruin them?” he turns with wide eyes. “You think you’re that powerful?”
“I bring out the worst in people, just by being there,” I cut in.
“The only way to ruin someone is to turn them to ashes. People always bounce back. That’s the thing that makes humanity so endearing,” he shakes his head. “You haven’t brought out the worst in anyone here yet.”
“She kissed me back…” I whisper. “She has him, yet she kissed me back…” my throat constricts painfully as I swallow.
He looks down at me with a soft, knowing smile. “If you think that’s the worst she’s capable of, you’re very sweet.”
“And what’s worse than that?” I ask, looking at him hurts, but I force myself to glare. “If making her cheat on Andrei is not bad enough, what could possibly be worse?”
He shrugs. “Well, making her murder someone is pretty bad. That happened, in Camelot. She tried to kill Arthur.”
“That would have ruined history,” I groan. “But she’s said she’s already hurt people. So it’s already been done.”
“I guess to be fair, that one wasn’t totally her fault, she was influenced by Morgana,” he sighs. “Still, to influence someone to do something like that, they have to be willing on some level. It wouldn’t work otherwise. Besides…” he moves to stand up, brushing the dirt off his pants. “I don’t think you have the whole story.”
“Don’t you get it?! Whether she was willing to or not, I felt compelled and I acted on it. I gave her the opportunity to do something less than virtuous and in the process began to ruin what she has with Andrei. If that’s not ‘bad’ in your books then whoop dee doo, but that’s still how I’m ruining it for other people. I don’t need the whole story to understand that,” I bolt up, glaring at him beside the cliff.
He stares back at me, lips curled into a frown. “If you took the time to find out what’s happened, you’d know they’ve been through much worse than that. I’ve only been here a week or so, and from what I’ve heard… I don’t think you could ruin it if you tried.”
I turn away, staring at the ocean as the blood in my hands boils from the things he’s said. I feel angry again, a burning anger and when I glance at my hands, they appear to be going full black again. Shit… I just can’t keep it calm! Why! Oh, God, why?
Elias, or whatever his name is, clears his throat. “Well, I can see you’re having some trouble… So, I can either go over there and wait for you to calm down; I assume you don’t know your way around this place yet. Or… We can blow off some of that excess energy you have there.”
“I can’t fight. I’m no good at it. Kaitlyn’s been trying to teach me,” I groan, clenching my hands into fists on my knees.
He howls a laugh. “She’s not the only one who’s been in a few scraps. Come on, I’ll give you some pointers. Maybe you’ll even surprise her next time,” he winks.
I look at him, standing behind me, encouraging me to stay and still I look for excuses not to. I know now… I want to stay, but I don’t know how. I look down, twisting my torso and placing a hand on the ground to turn around from the cliff. I carefully stand, stepping away from the edge and finding it hard to meet Elias’s eyes. “Fine, you can show me. If I get too hot though… I might lose the only clothes I have left,” I say, dropping my hands to my side.
He looks over me and tilts his head. “Well… You can take them off and leave them out of the way. Just take your elemental form, like you did before. It’s fine.”
“Sure,” I answer hesitantly, walking to the other side of blue to undress. Bet he’d like it if I actually burnt my clothes off. I let the heat burn, the magma flow and exhale heavily as the blackness spreads, covering my body until it glows, molten orange. I step from behind Blue, joining Elias a ways from the cliff.
We spar in our elemental forms until the sun sinks below the horizon, and then some, glowing in the field like twin fires. The use of the fire helps ease all my pent-up anxieties. I haven’t worked in almost a week and I guess it was getting to me. Eventually, our fires go out and he leads me back to the Guild, helping me find the dorms. If I’m going to stay, I’m going to need to draw a map of this place. I don’t want to have to be relying on others all the time to take me places.
By Kayla West