After the chapel service was over, I said goodbye to Todd and headed for my…mansion. Boy, this would take some getting used to. My whole life, I was crammed into a room with a bunch of other girls. The nicest thing I ever had was a Gameboy advance that I used to play Pokémon Emerald, but even that I had to share with three other kids. Now I was like some kind of celebrity or something.
As I walked home, I realized that, again, I was not paying attention while I traveled. I was in such a hurry to make it to the chapel that I didn’t make note of any landmarks. How hard could it be to find such a large building?
Some time later, the artificial lighting was beginning to dim, signaling the end of the day, and I still had not found my way back to my room. I was getting really frustrated, and just about ready to start screaming, or just walk into a random building and ask if this town was some kind of a sick mental labyrinth. Before I did anything drastic, Mahsa spotted me, and hurried over to yell at me.
“Sera! What are you doing?! Where have you been?!”
“You know; I really don’t know.” I said, feeling hot with embarrassment. “What am I supposed to be doing?”
“It would be ideal if you would have been training to improve your powers, but I suppose that can wait until tomorrow.”
“Uh…I don’t have any powers.”
“Not yet. Nobody is born with their abilities. They remain latent until needed. Usually they emerge at a time of great stress.”
“Like what? Like a math exam or something?”
Mahsa gave me a look like I was stupid.
“Yeah. Something like that.”
“OK. And then my powers will be revealed. Cool.”
Mahsa stared at me for a moment, like she was trying to figure out if I was worth keeping around or not.
“Um, Mahsa, can I ask you something?” A silent nod was her response. “Do you…believe in me? Am I the Fiery One?”
She did not speak immediately, then she offered her thoughts.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen enough to decide either way. But it’ll be obvious soon, one way or the other.”
Mahsa turned to walk away.
“Wait! I have something important to ask you!”
She stopped, and looked over her shoulder.
“Where’s my room?”
Mahsa pointed across the street. The mansion was right there.
“Oh. Ha ha! Thanks! Don’t know how…I…uh…missed that. Yeah. See you tomorrow.”
The next morning, I awoke with a start. My body was hot and sweating again as I gasped for breath. My dreams were filled with burning, overwhelming flames.
And math exams.
I jumped off the soft, marshmallow-like bed and began to get ready. I was always too hot to use the blankets, so I just lay on top of everything. Boy, this was exciting! Today, I might be able to unlock my powers. Angelic fire powers! What would that be like? Would I be able to fly? Or throw fireballs?
As I got dressed, I noticed a uniform that had been dropped off sometime before. It was in the same style as the other Nahalore outfits, but the colored parts were a bright orange, similar to the color of my irises. I tried it on, to find that it was just my size. It felt pretty good, but there was still one problem with it…
“Well this is just p-p-perfect!” Reese grouched, teeth chattering.
“Yeah! Sent out here in the m-m-middle of nowhere with a couple of losers to f-f-freeze to death!” Bethany agreed. “What a b-b-bunch of crap!”
Those two jerks were talking amongst themselves, as we tromped through deep snow. The directors of Nahalore had sent us on a training mission to a snow capped mountain, north of headquarters. We were dropped off by a helicopter, and tasked to find a beacon that was placed somewhere near the peak. The icy wind whipped up snow, making it appear that it was precipitating, but it wasn’t really.
“How are you not cold, you f-f-freak?!” Reese shouted the question at me. “Why the hell’d you r-rip the s-sleeves off of your unif-f-form?!”
“I was hot!” I yelled back.
Truth be told, I didn’t understand it. For some reason, it felt like there was a furnace burning inside of my body. Even though my classmates were bundled up in layer upon layer of fleece-lined thermal cold weather gear, I was perfectly comfortable in my new Nahalore uniform, complete with sleeve-modifications.
I lagged behind Reese and Bethany several yards. Not because I couldn’t keep up, but because of one other reason…
“N-n-no need to W-w-wait up, g-g-guys! I’ll c-catch up!”
Poor Kyle had also been sent on this training mission. He was unable to compete with any of the others, and was quickly being left behind in the blizzard. Poor guy couldn’t move more than a few feet per hour in this snow and cold.
I stayed back with him, so that he wouldn’t get lost on the mountain.
“Hey, Kyle!” I shouted over the wind. “How’s it going!?”
“S-S-Sera! Um-I-Uh-I d-d-dunno. W-w-what are you doing?”
“I just thought I’d keep you some company! I wouldn’t want a yeti to get you!”
“T-t-that’s so nice of you. B-but y-you don’t have to w-wait for m-me. I’ll b-b-b-b-be-“
“It’s not a problem. I’m in no hurry.”
The frail boy nodded a thanks, and focused on staying alive and moving forward. I unwrapped a granola bar and offered it to him. He shook his head without a word, so I shrugged and began munching on it myself.
We continued this way for what seemed like hours, but I had no idea how much time had passed. Up ahead, Reese and Bethany were hunched over and yelling into each other’s ears. We were too far behind them to hear what they were saying, but I managed to make out certain words and phrases. Among them were “ditch them”, “get out of this freezer”, “die out there”, and “hot water bottle”.
The wind started increasing, and the two ahead of us picked up speed. They were quickly breaking away, and I could no longer see them through the storm.
“Hey! Where are you going!? Hey!” I screamed, but they didn’t respond, if they heard me at all.
Now we were abandoned out in the middle of a frozen mountainous wasteland, alone-ish. I had no idea where to look for a beacon, which would be the only way to contact Nahalore for help. I thought about turning back, until I looked around.
The worst part of the storm was immediately behind us, where visibility was about 6 inches, and the icy snow was painful to the skin. I wasn’t sure if Kyle could make it through that. Up ahead, it actually appeared that there was a break in the wind, blocked by a peak to our right. If we could make it there, maybe we could find the beacon, or at least catch up to Reese and Bethany.
“Come on!” I beckoned to Kyle. “Just a little further!”
I plodded beside him up the slippery incline, willing him to keep trying. To his credit, although he was a bit weak and fragile, there was something forcing him on, keeping him from giving up.
After an arduous trek, we made it into the wind shadow of the peak. Once there, we could finally see the sun. Kyle fell to his hands and knees, breathing heavily.
“Good job! I knew you could do it!” I congratulated him.
He half-laughed half-gasped in response, and took a few minutes to recover. While he was sucking wind, I held my hand up to my brow to block the sun, and looked out across the dazzling snow. No sign of the other two anywhere. Although they were bullies, I couldn’t let them freeze to death. We had to find them, and stick together to find the beacon. That way we could summon the helicopter and complete the training as a team.
Here in this calm “oasis”, the howling winds were soon forgotten. The bright sun and blue sky made this flat patch of the mountain actually feel like a sort of peaceful haven. I breathed in the crisp air. It was exhilarating.
I turned to see how Kyle was doing. He was just getting to his feet, when we heard a deep bellow.
“What was that?” He asked.
I immediately shushed him. There! It came again. It was definitely different from the howling wind. The sound reminded me of the roar of an animal, like a lion, or tiger, or a-
I whipped to my left to see a white beast standing a few yards away. It stood over six feet tall, with a white pelt like a polar bear, and a pair of horns like a big horn sheep. It was hard to make out the face, but it looked vaguely simian, with dark grey patches around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Not long ago, the very notion of a monster like this would have made me laugh. Right now, though, anything goes.
I started backing slowly away as it watched me intently. Suddenly it roared and began lumbering toward us. I grabbed Kyle’s arm, and started running away from the creature. What was this thing? And where were the others? Did it get them already?
The yeti wasn’t very fast, and we quickly outdistanced it. I led up the snowy mountain path, toward the top. If there was any chance of finding the beacon, we had to get to the peak as fast as possible. I looked back over my shoulder at the creature. It was still a ways behind us.
Just then, Kyle shouted.
“Watch out! Another one!”
Up ahead, another yeti had appeared, blocking our path. Now we couldn’t go up, or down, and there was a rocky wall to our right. That only left left.
We ran that way, trying to escape. It didn’t take long for us to run out of road. The level surface abruptly ended in a sheer cliff. We were trapped!
I turned around to face the monsters. They had us cornered against the edge, with nowhere to go.
“Kyle! What do we do?”
But he wasn’t listening. He was hyperventilating. Almost at the point of crying, an oozing purple liquid started coming from his palms. What was that? Was it some kind of purple sweat?
The boy stopped hyperventilating, but still breathed slowly and heavily. Then, one of the yetis roared again and took a step forward. Kyle’s eyes rolled back into his head and he fainted face first into the snow.
The attacking creatures stopped for a minute, and looked at each other. Then, they turned to me. I seemed to be completely out of options. One of the yetis slowly walked toward me, while the other lifted Kyle’s unconscious form out of the deep snow.
My heart beat so hard that it hurt. My breath was gone. The horrible creature came closer and closer, and my feet were on the very precipice of the mountainside. I felt a burning sensation in my chest, like the ever-present fire in my soul was being kindled. Slowly, I could no longer feel my heartbeat, with the blaze being the only thing I was aware of. It felt like I would explode at any second. The pain!
I fell to my knees, trying to fight back the fire. My vision was as though I was looking through a curtain of flames. The inferno consumed my heart, and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t even remember the approaching yetis. All I could think about was that Kyle and I were about to be killed. The horrible fire crescendoed into a burning climax, and I screamed with a cry from within my scorched soul.
In an instant, all of the snow within a 30-foot radius was vaporized by some kind of sweeping flame. The two yetis, Kyle, and I fell several hundred feet toward the inclined surface of the snow-covered mountain below. Just as we were going to crash, we were all caught up by an avalanche. It had been started when the patch of snow was vaporized.
The four of us went careening down the mountain for a great distance. Kyle had regained consciousness by this time, and I caught his hand. After tumbling for some time, we crashed into a snowbank near a patch of pine trees. The yetis were swept farther down the mountain, until we could no longer see them.
My body and senses were completely consumed, and I passed out there in the drift, surrounded by complete silence.
The next thing I knew, I was airborne in a helicopter, heading for Nahalore. My senses and brain were foggy, but I could tell Kyle was leaning over me, and I could hear the complaining voices of Reese and Bethany. Good. Everyone was safe. With that, blackness enveloped me again, and I didn’t fight it.
“Did you find them?”
“Yeah. They’re a little cold and pissy, but they’re alive.”
“And the footage?”
“We recovered all of it, from both men in the suits.”
“…What do you think? Is she the Fiery One?”
“…I believe she is. We’ll know the extent of her powers tomorrow.”
“Fine. Everything is in motion. …The end is coming.”