The Guild – Chapter 158 – Heath

    After Kaitlyn leaves, I begin to shake. I can’t believe what I’ve just done! I stare down at my hands with disgust, feelings like I’m looking at someone else’s hands instead of my own. I feel so disconnected.

    ‘Don’t take all the credit. It was mostly me,’ the lava jeers.

    “I know that! That’s the problem! You taking control is the problem! You can’t do these things!” I growl at it. It goes eerily silent.

    I lean forward on the bed, hands planted squarely on the sheets. I don’t know how to stop it. That’s why I thought texting her had been a good idea. Of course, he took that as an invitation to masquerade as me! I had tried to take back control after I saw her face… but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t stop him! And the worst part is… I think I love her, and the lava knows that. That’s why he’s doing this.

    The only way I can stop this is to stop loving her. But that’s easier said than done. I know this, and yet… I can’t bring myself to stop. Our pasts, they are similar. We have so much in common. The lava was right, we are perfect for each other. What can I do?

    After a while of my thoughts churning, I decide to get dressed. I’ve given Kaitlyn enough time to get back. I slide off the bed, retrieving my clothes from the floor in the hall. I feel disgusted looking at them. I want to burn them… I look around the room with a similar desire. If I’d never thought to ask her about the damn place then none of this would have happened. Maybe I could have prevented it.

    ‘Hehe, you really think that? Kid, you still don’t understand do you?’

    “What is there to understand? You just want to fuck with me. You want to ruin me and you want to ruin her. You know she doesn’t want you. She already has him. Why can’t you leave it alone?”

    ‘Because… She took my fun away. If he hadn’t left me for him… let’s just say, the last one to host me understood, so why can’t you?’

    “Because! I’ve never had anyone who loved me back! I can’t just go around stealing whoever I want!”

    ‘Not even if they are the only one immune to your powers?’

    I struggle with what he says. It is tempting to give in and agree. The notion of not being able to hurt her is very tempting, but honestly, something still bugs me about his logic.

    I finally bring myself to leave the cave. I brood all the way to my room, forcing the voice to be silent with much concentration. I stop at my door, staring at Kaitlyn’s. Is she ok? Is Andrei awake? Does he know? These questions swirl around my head. I’m sure if he knew he’d be waiting outside. I slip into my room and lock the door behind me.

    As soon as I’m inside I burn the clothes before I even have time to take them off. I walk into the bathroom and turn on the water. I wash away the evidence as best I can, but still, my heart feels bruised with guilt. I know she said it wasn’t my fault. She insisted so, but I honestly can’t see how she can say such callous words.

    The water runs as I become lost in my thoughts. Maybe I am as weak as the lava says I am. Ever since I’ve opened up to her I’ve only become more vulnerable. I don’t like what I’m becoming. I hate myself.

    My eyes flick to the tap and I act without hesitation. I flip around to the coldest setting and I gasp as the hot water disappears, fading to ice cold. The water stings like thousands of tiny razor blades as it hits me. I fall back against the wall of the shower, fighting for air, the voice in my head calling out desperately.

    ‘Stop that! It hurts!’

    “Damn right!” I grunt.

    ‘Stop it!’

    My hand moves against my will to the knob. It shakes as I flip it back to hot. I hear a sigh of relief echo in my head. I feel drained. I stumble from the shower, dripping wet, barely managing to grab the towel as I drop to my knees. I dry off on the floor before I leave the bathroom. I find some shorts and drop onto the bed.

    Despite being dry, I still feel awful. The cold water leaves a lasting effect. I curl in on myself on the sheets, waiting for sleep to take me. I just hope I don’t have another damn dream.

~*~

    “Hey, trust me. It’ll be fine!” Jeremy sings, tapping my shoulder. I can’t help but feel nervous about this.

    “I don’t know, Jeremy… I’ve never tried to be hot before.” I say through a tight chest.

    “Think of it like a kettle or an oven. If you keep the door shut, it gets hotter and hotter, but that heat has to go somewhere. You have to let it out or you’ll just explode.” Of course, he makes absolute sense, but… I can’t help but think it will all go wrong.

    Jeremy Summers is the only boy in the entirety of my most recent school who even acknowledges my existence. They’ve all heard the rumours of how my last foster family died in a car explosion. They’ve somehow spun the tale, claiming I was trying to light a cigarette while they were pumping gas. They couldn’t be more wrong, but there’s nothing I can do to change their minds.

    Well, all except Jeremy. I think he has a kind of death wish. He keeps following me around, calling me out from the crowd and even going as far to walk home with me through the park. He seems fascinated with me… or with my fire. I’m not sure what to think, really.

    Today, we’ve stopped by the damn in the park, overlooking the creek. I have a small pile of stones sitting next to me that I occasionally throw into the creek, watching the ripples grow ever wider till they vanish.

    “Come on! Don’t chicken out. Don’t you trust me?” Jeremy insists.

    It’s not that I don’t trust him. I mean, other than his questionable intentions, I kinda like having a friend, one that doesn’t get made when I melt his game consoles or destroys his homework while copying it. Besides my last family… he’s the first real friend I’ve ever had. He even believes me when I tell him what really happened to my previous host families.

    I pick up another stone, rolling it between my fingers as I think. “I do, I’m just… I’m worried,” I admit. I don’t want to cause an accident. I don’t want to hurt him. Or, better yet, I don’t want to lose him like the others. If I let it go like he says to, I’m worried I might not be able to reign it in before it goes too far.

    “There’s nothing to worry about. You won’t know unless you try,” he stands up, brushing the sand from his shorts. I look up at him as he stands back, gesturing at me to stand. Slowly, I comply.

    He backs up to the opposite end of the bridge from me, hands out wide. “Now, imagine you’re an oven like I said. Start to get hot,” he smiles gleefully. I look down at my feet with a sigh. I don’t want to do this, but… I don’t want to disappoint him either.

    I picture the oven, staring down at my gloved hands, despite the heat. I don’t feel them getting hot, but I can see the leather shrinking. I pull them off quickly to find my hand turning deep red, then shifting to bright orange. The colour rises quickly, consuming my arms and eating my black shirt. I shift in my shoes, feeling uncomfortable in the jeans.

    “That’s it! Great! Keep going!” Jeremy encourages.

    I shake my head, the feeling of being out of control already sure in my chest as the heat I make starts to scorch the ground beneath me. I look at my arms to see waves of heat rolling off them. The tree to my right catches fire spontaneously, just from my proximity to it.

    “Jeremy!” I croak. “I can’t make it stop!”

    “Don’t try to stop it, let it go!” he calls back, taking a step back as he wipes his brow.

    “I- I can’t! It’s too dangerous!” my voice falters.

    I look down to see my whole upper body nearly white with heat. My skin starts to drip like molten lava, just like that first day when I crawled out of the volcano. I feel an intensity in my chest peek and I throw my arms out wide with the surge of pressure that explodes from my chest. Heat bathes the bright, melting the metal railings and it starts to sag. The trees blowback, all aflame and crackling. Jeremy gets blasted away from the bridge, tumbling along the ground, his clothes burning.

    He starts to shriek, but I can’t go to him. If I do, I’d only make it worse. The sounds of his screams pierce my ears as I melt a crater into the ground around me. I want to cry… I want it to stop! My eyes flick to the melted bridge and the murky brown water below. I leap forward, crashing into the shallow creek as the water seers my skin. I smoke as it cools me to a soot black colour.

    Once I’m put out I race up the bank only to find Jeremy, his face melted into a mask of blisters, eyes staring wide, looking out at death.

    I’ve killed my only friend…

~*~

    I groan as the sun comes up. I have no energy to move. I dread what will happen today. It’s becoming a regular feeling the longer I spend here. I was foolish to think I would fit in. My own magic is determined to make things miserable.

    I sit up in the bed, looking at the pile of clothes on the floor that needs to be washed, and the pile of ashes from last nights… mess. I seriously have to clean this room. Usually, I bunk in a motel and don’t have to maintain any level of cleanliness. It’s the first time I’ve planned to stay anywhere. I still haven’t gone back for my things. Maybe I should cancel training today and retrieve them.

    Will she even come to training? Part of me wants her to, but then, part of me hopes she doesn’t. I’m not sure if any of these feelings are influenced by the lava’s intentions or not. I just can’t tell anymore.

    I rummage through the closet and find a clean shirt and pants, then I look for my phone. Seems I tossed it on the floor last night. I find it under the bed and check the Guild Guide Kaede installed for me to see where the laundry facilities are. Looks like each wing has one at the end of the hall. I grab my dirty clothes and slip out of the room.

    There’s a door at the end of the hall with a shiny sign on it that reads laundry. I head it and switch on the light. The room’s empty. I claim a washer, dumping everything in at once and adding the soap. I lean against the machine as it washes the stuff, letting the humming fill my mind. I don’t want to think about anything anymore.

    The door swings open and a short girl with short bob-cut black hair glides in with a bag of clothes in her arms. She stops as she turns and sees me leaning against the machine. Her Asian eyes grow wide as she takes me in.

    “Eee, sumimasen,” she squeaks. She looks at the machine next to me without moving her head. “May I use it?” she asks with a bit of an accent.

    “Oh, yeah. Go ahead,” I say, sliding a little to the side, waving a hand to the free machine. She watches me carefully as she opens the lid and dumps her clothes in. I recognize her from the movie night. I can’t remember her name though.

    She stands across from me, pulling out her phone as the machine starts. I watch her curiously as she taps away. Glancing at the screen I see she’s using an app called LINE. She seems engrossed in the conversation with someone. I glance over my shoulder to see how much longer until the cycles finished.

    When I turn back, she’s staring at me.

    “You are Heath?” she asks.

    I nod. “Yeah, I can’t remember your name, sorry,” I say.

    “My name is Hitomi,” she says.

    “Right,” I nod. I should remember that. She’s the quiet one.

    “It’s nice to meet you. You are a Guardian, yes?” she asks slowly, fumbling over the last word.

    “Yeah, Lava,” I say. “You?”

    Her head tilts to the right. She taps at her phone as she repeats the word under her breath. “Lava, lava… Oh. I am Wind,” she looks up. That’s when I notice her eyes. Double rainbows stare back at me, framed by her short black hair. It’s… fascinating. I feel drawn in. I’ve never seen eyes like that before.

    “How long have you had your magic?” I ask.

    She lifts her head in thought, glancing at the ceiling. “From when I was born, maybe. I have always had it,” she says, glancing to the left.

    “Oh. Wow. Was it… tough?” I ask. That’s longer than I can claim, though I don’t know her age.

    “Tough?” she tilts her head, pulling out her phone again

    “Umm, difficult?” I try, realising my use of the word.

    “Oh, yes. Difficult. Always difficult,” she says. “And you?”

    “I’ve had it since I was nine. Got it when… in an accident,” I stutter. Not sure if I want to explain the volcano part or not.

    “Nnn, that is difficult,” she hums.

    “How do you manage?” I ask, not thinking about the language. “Like, growing up, did you have friends, a boyfriend?”

    She blushes red at the mention. “No, no friends. Only priests and… Kaze sama. He is always together with me. Now I have one friend, no… two? Kana?” She looks again to the left and frowns, shaking her head.

    “Well, I guess it’s similar maybe…” I say more to myself.

    “Do you have a friend?” she asks, leaning forward into my line of vision. I’m captivated by her eyes again.

    “Maybe…” I say slowly. “Kaitlyn says she’s my friend, but I don’t think we can be friends,” I mumble.

    She hesitates before answering. “Kaitlyn is a good friend. She is beautiful and strong. She is… she is… kind! And… and… able to help,” she says with a small smile. I can tell she admires Kaitlyn.

    “Yea, you’re right. She is all those things. But…” I roll my head to the left with a sigh. “I’m not. I make a bad friend.”

    We’re interpreted by the machine beeping. I turn around, switching the clothes into the dryer. It’s not long before her machine finishes too, but she takes them out and prepares to leave.

    “Aren’t you going to dry them?” I ask curiously.

    “I am wind. I will blow them in my room,” she smiles, then leaves. Guess that makes sense.

    I wait for the dryer to finish and take my stuff back to my room. I dump it on the bed and head back out, running into Nik.

    “Hey, good morning!” Nik smiles wide.

    “Morning. So, training?” I ask, feeling glum.

    “Absolutely,” he nods. “If you’re ready, let’s head out.”

    I shift, stepping in line behind him. We head down to the rooms, not bothering to wait for Kat. I’m sure if she intends to come she’ll find us. I really don’t want to pressure her into it, not after last night. To be honest, I’m kind of nervous to face her. I don’t know what will happen…

By Kayla West

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