Ash and Fire
October 26, 2030
The first semblance of consciousness returned as doors closed around him. Standing by himself, Mark stared at the cold metal, a space only six feet by four feet. He felt drugged and dazed but was regaining control over his senses. He became acutely aware he was in a holding cell.
The room rattled and shook like an earthquake, and Mark stumbled, clinging to the corner, and sinking to the floor. He was wrong. He was in an elevator.
A thousand fears took root in his mind with no idea where he was and nothing to him but the clothes on his back. They weren’t even his clothes. He looked over his attire to find he had been dressed in lightweight clothes, just warm enough for October. Dark slacks, a plain white tee shirt, and a black jacket accented with red. It was neither warm nor comfortable, and Mark felt the material was eerily like a uniform.
Shuddering on the floor, Mark stared into his hands. Pushing down fear as his heart started to race, his body prepared itself for anything, and adrenaline coursed through his veins.
Scared out of his wits, Mark’s hands started to smolder and smoke, and in the tiny room, he feared he’d suffocate as the smell of smoke filled his lungs. The fire followed, blisteringly hot and overpowering, but it didn’t shock him. Now, he stared at the door, feeling the elevator jarring as it rattled in whatever direction it traveled.
His hands trembled, and the fire wavered, absorbing the heat, and burning his skin. The fire didn’t scare him. He didn’t care if he was burned. The elevator reeled to a halt and Mark curled up tighter against the floor covering his head with his arms even though the flames tangled with his hair and the fire spread.
The two thick elevator doors opened and Mark froze, fixated on the sight before him as the warmth from his flames traveled out ahead of him.
Fifteen young teenagers clamored together, some bickering and entertaining themselves, others lounging on beds which lined the far side of the room. Mark’s eyes dashed about when he heard the voice of a young boy releasing a cry as he fell.
Tensing, Mark saw tendrils of light scatter out as the boy’s hands impacted the white floor. Like a prominence of the sun, bright bands of light dissipated, and the boy hoisted himself to his knees panting.
A girl stood over him, laughing uncontrollably. “You’re not a sun, Kip. Flight is just not in your blood.”
The boy jerked up, his hands consumed in light brighter than the sun. “Yeah, but fusion is!” he shouted then slipped and fell again. Wild strawberry-red curls fell over his eyes, and Mark knew what Kip was. A Shadow.
Kip glared up at the girl, seeing water flowing clearly from her hands. This water extinguished the light he had created, and he sat in the puddle, now soaked.
Scanning the others in the room, Mark got lost in how each of the fifteen teenagers possessed their own unique ability, each with a strange countenance, some appearing inhuman, and others seeming completely normal. Kip was a bit smaller than the others, and though he seemed incredibly powerful, his posture made him look like he got picked on a lot.
Suddenly, Kip tensed and fought to get away from the water beneath him. Mark saw ice spread under the boy and Kip’s shoes were attaching themselves to the floor.
Another girl watching over the argument gasped and whirled about at the culprit, “Silverstonarellena, let it off!” she shouted. She appeared like she could be the oldest in the room by the way her shoulders were set, a little broader than the rest and her chest expanded with a bossy roar. Furious, she stormed over to one of the beds by the wall and glared down at a boy with white hair.
Mark saw the hair first, still going unnoticed as he stared from the elevator. He peered closer at the sight of the other boy’s long, wild, ice-white hair. His golden eyes spoke worlds of fear into the girl’s soul as he shot a nasty glance past her at Kip. With a look of malice, he twirled a strand of his white hair, weaving it into a braid. “Just what can you do about it?” he threatened.
“Come on, Sil! What did Kip do to deserve that?” the girl snapped, pulling back her shoulder-length reddish hair into a ponytail which she didn’t get as far as tying.
Sil continued twirling a new strand of his long white hair in his fingers before brushing it back into the fray. Standing up gracefully, he retracted the ice from Kip’s form by only looking at the ice which he had created. His movements were slow but deliberate and his posture suggested he bore a heap of animosity over Kip, a grudge he refused to let go.
Sil traveled past Kip ethereally, leering over him, but the boy dolefully endured it. Staring down at the dissipating water, Kip wiped the dripping water off his face, disguising his tears, then got up to scurry away.
Sil, however, took three long strides into the expanse of the room, closer to Mark. Glaring at the girls, Sil followed them with his eyes, only briefly taunting before gazing toward the only exit from their room.
Mark’s face drained of blood the instant Sil’s golden eyes locked onto him, kneeling by the corner of the landing room, petrified.
Sil’s feet froze to the floor assessing exactly what he saw, but he didn’t move. The stubborn fire on Mark’s hands rose. Sil’s golden eyes flared brightly, shaking Mark to his core. Scrambling back, Mark pressed himself to the far wall of the elevator, panicking as Sil took one step forward.
“What do we have here?” Sil whispered over him, his voice scarcely resonating as he took another step closer, then another, and with each step, Mark’s heart raced faster causing the fire to burn hotter.
Crying out, Mark’s hands crumpled in pain as his skin cooked. “Get me out of here!” he shrieked at the ceiling, certain no one could hear him, no one would listen, and there was no way to make the doors of this elevator close and take him out of here.
In an instant, the fifteen teenagers drew near, curious of the new voice, but the crowd did nothing to lower Mark’s heart rate. With his hands before him, the fire raged even more, attaching itself to his clothes.
Sil’s cold gaze locked onto the flames growing higher around Mark and as the others rushed past him. He smirked. “Fantastic! As if one Shadow of fire wasn’t enough!” Whirling about, he glared at Kip who rushed from the back to see what everyone was looking at.
Kip hesitated long and hard before passing Sil, his hands forming into fists before he, like everyone else, crowded the elevator. Mark only saw this silent exchange before a third girl got into his face, getting far closer than anyone else in spite of the flames overtaking Mark’s form. “Are you all right?” she asked, forcing Mark to look into her Irish emerald eyes.
The light in her eyes blocked out everything for a second, but Mark still shuddered, staring blankly at the girl’s pale skin and thin red hair. All their eyes were unnatural, attempting to draw him in, and for a second, Mark was able to make out thirty inhuman eyes all staring at him. “G-get away!”
Thrusting his hands out, he tried to push them away. He had no desire to burn them and that alone contained the fire to his hands. “You’re Shadows?” he breathed, unable to summon his voice, utterly bewildered by what he saw. Shadows were horrifying monsters, creatures with endless powers they could never control. These were kids his age.
Suddenly, in a flash of green mist, a Shadow appeared next to the green-eyed girl with another ginger who could have been her sister. “A human?” she wondered with a foreign accent in her voice. “What’s he doing here, Elise?”
“No, not human,” Elise said, then gestured at him. “See his eyes?” His gaze met with hers, but he cowered, staring to the side as tears flowed from his eyes, which burned with crimson.
He couldn’t look up at them. Drawing his knees closer to his chest and pushing himself away, he tried to convince himself he wasn’t surrounded by Shadows.
One of the girls neared him, pushing past the others with a gentle fluid motion. Her thick brunette hair flowed in waves around her face, her oceanic-blue eyes mesmerizing Mark for they were far less inhuman other than the fact they seemed huge.
He sank into those eyes like deep water, oblivious to her smile and her kind gestures as she murmured, “What’s your name?” A sweet touch spread cool water over his hands, the orbs of water enveloped the fire, enclosing it before putting it out.
He still shuddered as he struggled to take his gaze from hers. His mouth dry, he found he was able to speak only in a hoarse breath. “Mark Halo…but I’m not sure anymore.” He attempted to wipe away a few tears but they kept coming and he lost interest in trying to stop them.
She placed a tender hand on his shoulder, asking, “Why aren’t you sure?”
Mark stared down at his reddened hands, observing what he thought would be severe burns, but instead, it felt as if he had dipped his hands into ice-cold water for an hour. He was not truly injured but he was shaken up, for sure.
“Where am I?” His voice cracked. Placing a hand on the floor, Mark tried to stand but feeling dizzy, he fell back. Just as quickly, the two ginger girls comforted him, unafraid of his flames despite how Mark hesitated to contact their hands for fear the fire would resurface. He felt like he had a fever.
“Fire?” Kip drew closer, wide-eyed and pushing his unruly curls out of his face.
With unnecessary help, they hoisted Mark to his feet and guided him out of the elevator into the room. Not sure if he should feel nervous or accepted to this strange group of Shadows, Mark lost focus, feeling dizzy still, until Kip took his gaze once more, pulling him close. “I’m Kipling. My Shadow is plasma. We call it Shot, and you?”
Just a first name, Mark thought. But the following mention of a Shadow name startled him. Then it occurred to him everyone around him had a different power. He had only scratched the surface of knowing what these kids were capable of. The worst part of the return question was he didn’t even know how to answer. “Shadow?”
Kip drew his brows together. “You don’t even know what a Shadow is?” he puzzled, his expression disbelieving anyone wouldn’t know.
Mark’s brows knitted in sheer confusion before he frowned, reverting to sarcasm as a defense mechanism. Letting loose his hotheaded, spitfire nature was the only way he could make himself feel comfortable. “Of course, I know what a Shadow is!” he snapped.
The girl who created water laughed heartily. “We are all Shadows,” she said. Finally, the others crowded around Mark, rolled their eyes, and turned away. As if they had heard it too many times to count and didn’t want to hear it again, but Mark remained eager, yet mystified by her phrase. She seemed good-intentioned, and her four simple words intrigued him.