Smoke & Fire Series
Sparks Part 1 - Mycale
Copyright © 2022 by Keta Kendric
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Mycale Thomas Phillips – Fire
Ten-year-old Mycale’s eyes fluttered under his lids. The subtle movements lured him from the tight grips of sleep and sharpened his sense of awareness. His lids contended with the heavy feeling in the rest of his body like he was weighed down with lead.
His mental command didn’t have an effect on his physical mobility. His arms and legs, like his eyes, disobeyed his command. A deep chest-lifting inhale only worked to coax his eyes to finally open. He squinted against the stinging brightness assaulting his eyes before slamming them shut.
He sniffed. Something was off. Smelled off. The unsettling sense set off an internal alarm that quickened his pulse.
He peeled his left eye open for a peek. Why was his bedroom light on in the middle of the night? He never fell asleep with the lights on. Had he forgotten to turn them off?
His right eye popped open, joining the other to provide him a better view. His face squinted while his gaze roamed, searching for familiarity. This scene was all wrong. Where were his race car posters? His shelf, lined with football trophies, wasn’t there either.
This wasn’t his room or even a room in his family home. The pace of his heartbeat kicked up another notch at the sight of the dingy white walls with brown water stains dripping down various portions.
The hard mattress under him, the stale, musty air he breathed, and the suffocating stillness pressing down on him were all further indications that something was wrong. He was no longer in his own home.
“Mum? Dad,” he called out. His voice was...it was…
“Mateo!” He yelled out for his twelve-year-old big brother, but no answer was returned.
Maybe he was dreaming. Yes, that was it; he was asleep. However, the chill in the air felt real, the shabby surroundings filling his view looked real too, and there was no mistaking the stale scent of dust and mildew. There was also a stench sticking in the back of his throat he couldn’t identify.
Mycale observed the ceiling tiles. The holes bored in the tile resembled black paint splashes from rats chewing through them. His gaze lowered to the walls again.
He steadied his quick breaths and focused, searching for anything familiar. He attempted to lift his hands to block the glaring light overhead to see in the distance better, but they wouldn’t budge. There were no windows and only one set of double doors within sight.
Other beds came into focus. Rows and rows of them were scattered throughout a large open bay area.
Blinking rapidly, his tortured eyes watered to combat the relentless fluorescent lights overhead. He struggled to clear his mind of all the scary scenarios flooding it. There were kids atop the beds.
Children, like him, lay on their backs atop dirty and torn mattresses haphazardly sitting atop frail metal bed frames. The sight of all those kids aided in sending him deeper into the panic zone.
He hadn’t determined yet if he were in danger, so he fought the violent urge to keep yelling out for help. His eyes darted back and forth, rapidly scanning his surroundings until a flash of movement stopped them.
His head lifted, his neck stretching and twisting to expand his view.
A boy in a bed a few feet away didn’t answer when he attempted to get his attention. He was too busy fighting with the restraints wrapped tight around his wrists. Tears ran down the boy’s cheeks as he jerked against the thick leather straps anchoring him to the bed frame.
The boy looked like he was Mycale’s age. He sported a black eye and badly bruised arms and legs. His clothes were a faded white hospital gown. He yanked uselessly against the restraints, refusing to give up his attempt to free himself.
Mycale turned his attention to the boy on the opposite side of him. This one wasn’t attempting to break free. He was pointing out something he wanted Mycale to see. The urgency in the depths of his wide eyes wasn’t missed.
His first instinct was to reach out to the boy, but the exigent expression on the boy’s face urged Mycale to glance in the direction in which his shaky finger pointed. The boy’s finger was aimed at Mycale’s body, so he glanced down at himself.
A sharp snap made pain bite into his wrist when he attempted to lift his arms. The sight of his own bound hands was one of the reasons his heart stopped. The unnatural silence surrounding him and the hospital gown he wore were a few other reasons to have a heart attack.
Panic ripped through his body and spilled over his vocal cords.
“Let me out of these things. This isn’t funny. Let. Me. Out!”
His chest heaved from the harsh breaths he took to combat the flood of nervous energy coursing through him.
Why can’t I hear myself?
“Where the bloody hell is the sound?” he asked no one in particular.
His parents would have disciplined him for saying “bloody hell,” but he was sure this time it was justified.
The boy pointed at something different this time. At his insistence, Mycale’s eyes zeroed in on what he couldn’t comprehend. Two large men stood above a girl three beds away, unstrapping her while she desperately fought them.
Based on her open mouth, the veins protruding from her neck, and the way her body heaved, she was screaming.
Despite what was right in front of him, Mycale’s attention was drawn back to the boy next to him.
“Where are we? Why are we here? Where are they taking her?”
The boy gave no reply, but his haunted gaze was as alarming as a scream.
There were at least twenty beds, all filled with other kids.
Mycale needed answers.
A few kids managed to sleep while others cried and made desperate attempts to free themselves. No sound accompanied what he saw, making the piercing silence intensify his terror. This was his punishment for a long ago delinquency he assumed he would get away with. It had to be.
Wiggling, kicking, and yelling at the top of his lungs did nothing to improve his hearing. The sounds he made vibrated through his body, but his voice was lost in space, never reaching his ears. The sound was turned off, like it was being vacuumed from the room.
Exhaustion was all that tempered Mycale’s fight to free himself. Fear and terror fought for the right to dominate him. Did his parents know he was missing? Were they searching for him? Had his dad peeked into his room like he usually did at night? Was he going to see his family again?
His father and brother would encourage him to be a hard man. So he fought to free himself until fatigue stopped his attempts. He didn’t know he’d fallen asleep until he was shaken awake by the same men who took the girl.
They stood above him now, two soundless monsters. Mycale scratched at their hands when they freed one of his from the restraints. He kicked at them when they freed his legs. He yelled uselessly while twisting and turning his body in every direction.
“Don’t touch me! Leave me alone! What do you want with me?”
Silence prevailed. He was being taken, and none of the kids could hear his desperation. The men dragged him forcibly from the bed. He flailed about like a fish out of water, but the strength of two men made his efforts useless. One held him under his shoulders while the other gripped his ankles.
Once they pushed through the double doors and exited the room, Mycale was struck by the sudden potency of sound. His flailing came to a screeching halt. Sound was back. The beautiful rhythms of life vibrated against his eardrums, and he was calmed by the familiar blanket of noise. His body went limp as they whisked him away toward the unknown.
Stay calm and be a hard man, he reminded himself.
While being carried down the dimly-lit hall, he scanned his surroundings. The nauseating scent of cleaning products, and the sight of medical equipment and supply cabinets, suggested he was in a hospital.
They turned into the only open door and entered a large room with a high enough ceiling to house two smaller rooms. The smaller rooms were ten by ten rectangular glass cubes, providing an outside view to the inside from every angle. It was a room-sized test tube, and he was the amoeba about to be studied.
The men heaved before lifting and tossing him in through the open door of the room. He landed with a hard thud, the glass floor breaking his fall. Pain, sharp and biting, shot up his tailbone. He was too busy scrambling to his feet to keep from being locked in the room to be worried about the fall.
One of the men pressed a button on the outside wall, and the knob-less glass door slammed shut.
Repeatedly, Mycale slammed his hands against the door.
“Let me out of here! When my dad finds out what you’re doing, he’s going to kick your butts.”
The men who brought him to this room weren’t the only ones studying him. He sensed it. His fist pounded against the door until they ached too badly to continue. Eventually, he took a seat in the only chair in the room, plain white and cheap plastic.
The men took seats behind a thick desk setup about five feet to the front of the little room. They observed him with keen interest without saying a word. Their hands were poised with pens set and ready to write in the notebooks sitting on the desk in front of them.
Mycale didn’t expect to hear anything while trapped inside the room, but when one man leaned closer to the other to speak, his muffled words sounded. Immediately afterward, his voice projected loudly inside the room.
A quick search of his surroundings revealed a honeycomb-shaped button embedded in the glass wall above the door. It was an intercom.
“Mycale, if you show us your ability, we will send you back home.”
What were these people asking him to do?
“We know you have an ability. There’s no need to be afraid to show us. We specialize in finding children like you. We’re here to identify your ability and send you back home as quickly as possible.”
He shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I want to go home.”
“If you listen to us, and do what we say, the sooner you’ll be able to return home. We can make you forget this incident. As a matter of fact, one of our rules is to make sure you forget any of this happened. It’s easier to think of this as a dream. You can do anything in your dreams, right?”
There was no convincing him. He knew he wasn’t dreaming.
“Just like you don’t remember most of your dreams, you won’t remember any of this either, Mycale. We promise.”
He didn’t know how to respond. The man didn’t speak with an English accent like he did. He sounded American.
“Can I go home? I don’t know what you want me to do. Can I go home…please?”
The man speaking to him had the nerve to smile. “You need to show us your ability first, Mycale. The only reason you’re here is because, at some point, you showed the potential for manifesting or having an ability. You actually may not even be aware of it yet.”
After a moment of silently observing him, the man continued with his questions.
“Have you done something amazing that you didn’t think possible? Have you done anything you saw a superhero do?”
He was ten years old, not an idiot. Mycale was smart enough to know he couldn’t do anything he saw superheroes do.
“Az if. I can’t do anything like a superhero. That’s stupid.”
The other man addressed him now. “That simply is not true. You wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
He wanted nothing more than to give these people what they wanted so he and the other kids could get out of here and go home. His movement captured the men’s attention when he stood, making them sit up straighter in their chairs.
Since he always did well in his karate classes, he decided to show them his best moves. The men didn’t stop him as he wore himself out, showing them jabs, kicks, and spins.
Winded and out of breath, he flopped down into his seat.
“Was that good enough? I also know how to fish and hunt and catch insects.”
The two didn’t appear impressed, although he was pleased with himself after taking home a brown belt a few weeks ago. He was even more impressed after snagging his first spotted plaice from the Liverpool Marina.
The man’s next round of questions put a quick end to his mental reel of accomplishments.
“Can you fly or make objects hover in the air? Can you move faster than a person’s eye can see, shift your body into animals and objects, or have you walked through walls? Do you have dreams and visions of things before they happen?”
Mycale’s eyes moved from man to man, unblinkingly wide. They asked him things he knew were impossible.
An hour later and exhausted from the constant mix of unusual questions, all Mycale wanted to do was go home. When the men approached the room and entered it, he ran around the tight space like a wild trapped animal. Caught, he was dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the room with no sound before he was tossed in and strapped to the bed.
The scent of dust and mildew invaded his nose once more. He shut his eyes and prayed he would wake up in his own bed. Too tired to fight any longer, he drifted until exhaustion lured him under.
When his kidnappers approached to unstrap him this time, it was two different men. Had he been asleep for minutes or hours? Thirsty, his scratchy and dry vocal cords refused to project the words he attempted to spit out. Remembering that words didn’t matter in this room, he remained quiet despite his thrashing attempts to avoid being taken again.
He fought the men the entire time they were carrying him back to the glass room. This time, the boy from the bed next to his was seated in an adjacent glass room. The boy’s head constantly swiveled. The men stood outside the rooms pointing and whispering to each other about him and the boy.
The two original men from before joined the newer ones. The team of four wore black military-type fatigues and combat boots. Mycale took his seat and the other boy remained standing near the door inside his room. They waited. What did the men have planned for them now?
Sitting there with all those eyes on him made Mycale’s body pulse like it was one giant heart. His hands squeezed and released against his knees, the action automatic.
The men stared. And waited. Having constant eyes on him seemed to make time move along with the stride of a one-legged turtle.
Finally, two of the men, built like American football players, approached, stepping closer to his room with their eyes dead-locked on him. At the last minute, they changed directions, marched past his room, and headed toward the other boy’s.
They entered the boy’s room, but their evil eyes remained on Mycale. The boy cowered while the men stood on either side of him. His small body tightened into a ball before he dropped his chin to his chest, too afraid to glance up at the men. Mycale prayed they weren’t planning to hurt the boy.
The men began the process of the unthinkable when they withdrew weapons. Mycale’s lips parted and his eyes bugged. He couldn’t breathe. Fear flooded every nerve ending. The men held metal batons they drew from their waistband.
His head shook in an attempt to call off the impending attack, but for the life of him, he couldn’t drag his voice up from the deep well of fear it had fallen into. The boy’s body jerked with the first thumping blow the men delivered. Mycale flinched and drew back with each additional lick delivered.
The merciless sight of the boy’s beating caused his anger to build so fiercely, his breaths heaved, making his chest rise high before falling and restarting the process. The boy’s haunting cries penetrated the exterior walls of his room and found Mycale.
The sound was like nothing of this world, hurting down to the bone. The boy’s attempts to fight back were futile but he was determined to defend himself.
Mycale pounded the glass wall inside his room facing the boy’s room. Screaming for them to stop didn’t work, but his aggressive actions drew the men’s attention instead.
The voice of the man he refused to give his attention to continuously flowed through the intercom inside his room.
“Show us your ability. Just a small demonstration, Mycale.”
He ignored the man’s requests. The edgy ache of his desperation made him scream louder and pound harder against the glass.
“Stop it. Stop hitting him, please!”
The incessant demands of the man requesting a show of his ability never stopped.
“Mycale, show us your ability, or they will continue to use Ivan’s pain against you.”
Hearing the boy’s name made the incident more personal. His brother could have been on the other side of that glass getting beaten for a reason he was unclear about. He yelled toward the speaker, but his gaze remained locked on the violent act taking place.
“I don’t know what you want me to do. I don’t have any ability. Please, make them stop. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
Ivan’s beating continued as the man’s demanding voice became nails on a chalkboard. Mycale pounded the wall hard enough to make the room vibrate. The heat level inside the room began to increase, causing him to sweat.
The glass shattered and Mycale instinctively protected his face. The shards rained down on him, scraping painfully over his forearms. He felt as if he were stepping outside his body when he took the first step forward through the space where the wall used to be.
The men who sat observing in front of his room, as well as the one whose voice came from the intercom, continued yelling their loud demands. His anger burned so hot, the men’s voices were no more than a hum in the background. Nothing else mattered other than helping Ivan.
The men monitoring him didn’t approach or stop him from approaching Ivan’s outer wall. They kept their distance, yelling and demanding he stop. He didn’t have time to think about what he did to the glass in his room. It hadn’t stopped Ivan’s beating.
A few more steps took Mycale to the outer wall of Ivan’s enclosure, where he began slamming his fist against the glass.
“Leave him alone, you monsters!”
The men continued to pommel Ivan, raining down thrashes that intensified Mycale’s anger.
Mycale’s relentless pounding shattered the second glass wall, and he didn’t think twice about running toward the men attacking Ivan. However, he was stopped in his tracks and slammed to the floor. The hard glass floor met the side of his face with a flesh-smacking thump, sending shooting pain to his brain and throughout his body.
His aching head was pinned under one of the attackers’ boots, making the groove of the sole press hard into his cheek. Through his own discomfort, he fought to see if Ivan was okay. The men backed away from Ivan, and all eyes were now cast on him with a boot in his face.
“We’ve seen enough,” one of the men said. “Wipe them and bring in the next two.”
Mycale didn’t know what the statement meant, but when the man removed his boot from his face and stared down into his eyes, all the aches and pains he was experiencing disappeared.
His body felt weightless, but his mind raged on. Despite the man’s hypnotic stare, Mycale held firm to the rage burning through him at the speed of light.
“Do you all see this shit?” the man yelled across his shoulder to his friends. He stared into Mycale's eyes once more before his face became filled with deep creases of frustration. He turned back to his friends again. “He’s stopping me from wiping him. This is a first.”
The man leaned in so close, his hot breath blew in Mycale’s face. The weightlessness returned, and this time, an aching throb tore at the base of his skull and caused him to shut his eyes against the pain.
“I can’t wipe him. He’s using his anger as a sort of shield to block me. And I’m not sure he knows he’s doing it,” the man told his friends.
“Leave him. We’ll get Padre to wipe him when he comes. He should be arriving in a few hours.”
Mycale listened to the conversation, but he didn’t comprehend most of it. Were they going to erase his memory? Had they done it before? Was Padre their leader?
This was just the beginning of Mycale’s nightmare. He was returned to the soundless open bay and strapped to the bed. Exhaustion consumed him, and he blanked out within seconds.
Mycale didn’t know if it was a day later or hours later, but he and Ivan were returned to their glass cages. However, this time he and Ivan switched places. Their plan was to torture him to trigger Ivan into showing them his ability. The glass walls he shattered earlier were replaced.
This time, only one of the men entered his room. He drew a taser and charged it to maximum strength, aiming it at his forehead. All Mycale could do was bury his head behind his shaky arms and silently call out for his parents. He begged for his life.
“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
His pleas were ignored and yelling came from every direction.
“Ivan, show us your ability or he’s going to pull that trigger and hurt Mycale. Are you willing to take a chance of getting your friend hurt or even killed because you’re afraid to show us what you can do?”
Ivan was too busy pleading for Mycale’s life to fulfill the men’s request.
“Please let him go. Please.”
Mycale found the courage to peek from behind his arms. The sight of the Taser and the man’s finger sitting on the trigger was what filled his view. The man’s lips rested in a twisted smirk like he was getting sick pleasure from this deadly encounter.
Mycale caught a glimpse of Ivan, who pressed his hands in the prayer position, begging the men to stop. He, like Mycale, was ignored. The men’s interest resided in one thing. Seeing Ivan’s ability.
“I’m counting to three and pulling this trigger, Ivan,” the man standing above Mycale yelled out.
Mycale dropped his head behind his knees before he drew himself into a tight ball. Each second in this intense situation added fuel to the rage coiled inside of him like a snake readying itself to strike. His anger was building into something dangerous, and he feared it would destroy him if it kept growing.
At some point, the man decided it would be better to start kicking him. After what felt like hours, Mycale found he could no longer distinguish pain from anger or ache from rage. Ivan never stopped begging on his behalf. He even closed his eyes to attempt to show the men the ability they wanted to see, but nothing happened.
Mycale jumped. In the midst of him being attacked, Ivan just…appeared. One moment he was inside his own room, yelling for the man to stop hurting him, and the next, Ivan was right next to him and his attacker with his small arms wrapped around the attacker.
The next thing he saw was Ivan and the man disappearing and reappearing inside Ivan’s room. The rest of the men all ran in that direction, leaving his door open. Mycale needed to find a way to escape this place. He would find a way to help Ivan and the rest of the children.
He didn’t know what to do first. He ran out past the men gathered at Ivan’s door attempting to open it and get inside. Mycale’s bare feet screeched along the shiny white floor. The thick double doors leading into the soundless bay filled with beds popped opened with a loud swish from his hard shove.
He stopped at the first bed with a boy asleep atop it. Mycale started undoing the boy’s restraints. After getting one of the straps loose, his efforts to free the children came to a screeching halt. He was grabbed from behind and dragged by the arms, kicking and yelling before he was slammed into his bed.
His left arm was so forcefully twisted, his shoulder popped, but pain didn’t register. His hard, determined yanks ripped his right arm free of one of the men’s tight grip.
The men scrambled to keep him down, yelling silent instructions to each other. A tiny prick registered on his arm and drew his attention. The green fluid from a syringe disappeared into his arm, the effect instantaneous.
His eyes drooped once, twice, and remained closed on the third drop. His raged-fueled mind yelled even while the drug raced through his body. His mental control was dulled little by little until silence claimed him.
Countless beatings and demands for him to demonstrate his ability drove Mycale past every limit he assumed he possessed. The only emotion left was raw and dangerous. The rage. His blood boiled under his skin, so intense that waves of heat hovered just above the surface, and several times, the men were forced to douse him in cold water.
His mental awareness was too far gone to determine if the ice water was to tamp down the rage he was spewing or the actual heat itself. Several fires had sprung up, but based on the approving behavior of his tormentors, he didn’t know if it was him starting the fires or them making him think he started them.
Why hadn’t he paid more attention to his parents’ lessons on how to pray? He attempted on many occasions to pray for himself, and for the rest of the kids, hoping his desperate words were somehow received.
He begged, “Please, God. Don’t let these people kill us. We’re kids. We don’t know what they want.”
Starved, thirsty, battered, and beaten, Mycale believed this was the last place he would see. The men no longer made attempts to wipe his memory, claiming he’d effectively found a way to block them out.
Since they couldn’t vacuum away his memories, he was fully aware of Ivan’s disappearance. He was never returned to his bed in the silent area. Was Ivan killed for helping him escape? He was desperate to find out what happened to him.
Mycale retained his memories of the repeated cycles of torture he endured. He was nearly drowned, was electrocuted, deprived of sleep, and starved of food. Trapped in an endless cycle of abuse and pain, he began to reject the notion that this world was real. Was it possible he was dead and in hell?
His grandparents always preached about hell, but he’d never believed their stories, until now.
Countless beatings and muffled screams tore at his heart and provided a grim reminder that he wasn’t dreaming. He and other children were being forced through physical and mental torture to show abilities they didn’t know they possessed.
He was unable to see outside this soundless area of his prison, so he couldn’t say if he was in this place for a week or a month. Since there was no way to measure time, it didn’t exist in this place. There was only one sickening constant: an endless supply of abuse.
Partnered with a girl this time, Mycale caught snatches of her yelling angrily on his behalf while he was dunked and held, face down, in a tub of water. There was something special about the strong-willed girl that resonated with him. His connection to her was different than it was with the other kids.
The same torture he received now was inflicted on her earlier, but she hadn’t been broken. Each time she was dunked, she would glance at him, and even while coughing, gagging, and spitting up water, she would find his eyes. Their eyes would lock for just a second and in that moment their shared connection seemed to give her the strength she needed to endure.
Now that he was suffering the same fate, he did the same and her eyes were there, waiting to give him strength even as she kicked, cursed, and screamed her head off at the men.
His lungs burned like they were being ignited by an invisible fire. Swallowing the metallic flavor of his own blood, each breath turned into acid as it slid down his raw throat. Another stolen look at the girl was all it took to keep him going.
Coughing uncontrollably, water spewed from his nose and mouth as he fought to get oxygen into his lungs. Their tormentors were determined to suffocate him, one way or another. His chest felt like it cracked from a wildly thrown fist that caused him to lose the breath he was struggling so hard to catch.
“The fire kid. Show us the fire.”
He didn’t know how to make it happen on demand. He was convinced he’d started several fires the men were forced to contain with fire extinguishers inside and outside his room. If he knew how to make it happen, he would do it to end his suffering and to somehow help save the other kids.
“Your little girlfriend over there, although she damn near killed us all, showed us her smoke. The little brat even has wings. Now, let us see your fire.”
“I don’t know how,” he choked out.
Having no control over what was being done to him, Mycale’s hand was slapped down atop a hard wooden desk they dragged inside his room. The slap sent peppering aches of pain up his already bruised wrist. While one man firmly held his hand down, the other placed a circular cutting device around the joint of his left pointer finger.
He pleaded, “Please, don’t. I’ll show you the fire. I promise.”
His already frayed nerves were set to a chaotic frenzy listening to them brag about peeling the skin from each of his fingers. He needed to see the girl’s eyes again, but they turned him away from her. The only source of refuge he found inside this place was her.
The muffled sounds of her yells and of her knocking on her walls barely touched his eardrums. Knowing that she was fighting to stop his attack by any means reminded him that someone in this place cared about his pain, his feelings, and whether he lived or died.
His hand shook uncontrollably, which inadvertently sent the sharp instrument slicing against his finger. With a sore throat, he could hardly force out a hoarse cry when the man squeezed the instrument around his finger and tightened the biting grip.
The skin broke first before the aching pull of his flesh being ripped from two of his fingers induced involuntary shivers. Since his strength and voice decided to vacate his body, tears were all Mycale was left to beg with; but he refused to let the droplets fall.
The men left his cube afterward and stood in a circle consulting with the other two. Every once and a while, they pointed at him or the girl.
Mycale propped himself up against the wall facing the girl’s room. She was there the entire time watching, waiting, and fighting for him. The way she disrupted the men on multiple occasions when he was being tortured proved her bravery and willingness to take the heat for him.
“What’s your name?” he mouthed to the girl silently.
“So-ri,” she mouthed, stretching out the syllables.
“Like the word sorry?” he questioned, pausing between each word, hoping she would understand him.
A smile lit up her bruised face. A genuine smile among all the horrors occurring, and she gave him the gift while nodding.
His injured hand sat against his chest. “I’m My-kale,” he uttered, attempting to sound his name out for her since it wasn’t spelled like it was pronounced. Her reply looked like she pronounced Michael, but he didn’t correct her. He nodded and returned a smile, something he didn’t believe he was capable of anymore. Smiling hurt his busted lip and bruised face, but it was like a Band-Aid to all the horror he was suffering in this place.
Sori pointed a shaky finger at him, and he didn’t miss the rainbow of colorful bruises on her hand and running up her arm.
“You okay?” she pronounced the words slowly, concerned about him as much as he was for her.
Silently, he mouthed, “Yes.”
Forced to witness each other go through horrible rounds of torture, they understood each other, bounded by pain and mental trauma. Like him, he believed she operated off rage because he saw her dark brown eyes flash a fiery blue, and her room was filled with thick blue smoke that sent the men torturing her running in every direction. Forced to place breathing masks on, they’d cautiously entered her room again.
He assumed that seeing other kids being hurt was the worst torture he would endure, but something inside him snapped at the sight of them hurting Sori. Seeing her hurt caused him to heat up and at one point the chair inside his room melted into a puddle. Seeing her hurt is what caused him to start a fire on demand.
The men believed the key to unlocking their abilities was through mental and physical pain or by making them angry. Now, after multiple rounds of abuse, Mycale believed their logic was correct. Pain and anger, so far, were the only ways to trigger them into displaying abilities none of them were aware they possessed.
Sori was taken from the soundless bay area and tortured as many times as he was, but based on her reaction when he first saw her at the beginning of this session, they were able to mess with her memories so she wouldn’t remember her prior suffering.
Sori placed her small hand against her glass with her big eyes locked on his. He lifted his hand and angled it so it appeared to be placed against hers across the distance. A surge of warm energy coursed through him, soothing his aches and pains like her smile did. Were they connecting somehow or was he so desperate for anything good he was imagining it?
The circle of monsters broke apart and two marched in the direction of Sori’s room. They sprang the door open, jerked her up off the floor by one arm, and slammed her face down on a table with her facing him.
One of the men held a large knife to the back of Sori’s neck, the sight sending a harsh ache of pain knifing through him. Mycale screamed like a child gone mad, his voice ripping through his throat.
“No! Leave her alone.”
The men deliberately stared at him as one gripped her ponytail and yanked her head up so the back of her neck was pressed into the blade. A sliver of blood seeped from the small knife wound they made on her neck.
Sori’s frightened eyes were pinned on his. Tears ran down Mycale’s cheeks for the first time. His voice box exceeded its max volume, but only cracked words and hoarse cries sounded.
“No. Sack it la’. You can’t do that. Please!”
The men controlled every move she attempted, leaving Sori defenseless. Terrified. And despite how useless her attempts, she continued to fight. With her eyes, she begged Mycale for the help she was aware he couldn’t give her.
Her eyes went blue again. Then, in the next instant, a burst of thick blue feathers sprang from her back and sent the men stumbling away.
“Those things are as sharp as razor blades.”
One man’s taser was drawn and aimed at Sori to keep her in place on the table. Despite their desperate situation, her beautiful wings were something that Mycale couldn’t help admiring.
“Shoot her! Shoot the little blue-winged devil child!” the man still clutching the knife yelled to his friend who’s hand shook and eyes burned with fear.
“No! No! Don’t hurt her. Please!” Mycale begged, screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Shoot her right now before she kills us,” the man gritted out at his buddy. The sight of them about to hurt Sori was too much for Mycale.
Turning away from the horrific scene in front of him, he slumped to the floor and hid his face behind his trembling hands and knees. Seeing her being harmed affected him differently than it did with the other children, and he didn’t understand why.
He couldn’t explain the differences in the way he felt; he only knew the ache burned harder and dug in deeper. It didn’t add fuel to his rage. It turned the raging energy into a bigger monster inside him.
“Shoot her or I’ll take your weapon and do it for you.”
Mycale slapped at his head, fighting himself to ward off the images of the pain in Sori’s eyes, her bruised body, and the way her eyes begged for his help.
“It’s not real.” He whispered the soft expression to himself. “Az if. They blaggin’ me ‘ead. It can’t be real.”
This wasn’t the first time he attempted to convince himself he was dreaming and stuck in a nightmare. However, hearing Sori’s muffled cries tore a hole in his heart.
Exhausted, beaten, and broken, Mycale couldn’t stomach another second of what they would do to Sori if he didn’t do something. If the plan was to drive him mad by hurting her, they would succeed this time.
Continuing to slap the side of his face, Mycale let the same spark of rage that helped him melt the glass spill over his body. He hardly knew what rage was but was sure he hated these people. He wanted to hurt them for hurting Sori. The sight of her bleeding, helpless, and with a Taser aimed at her pushed him past his breaking point.
Standing, he pushed at the interior of his wall. Heat radiated from him in stormy gusts of hot wind. One more aggressive shove at the glass made it shatter like an explosion. Glass rained down on him, but he didn’t acknowledge the tiny pricks of pain that bloomed over his skin.
Mycale’s display made the ones standing near his side of the room dive behind the thick desk they stepped from behind to taunt him. His destructive actions made the others abandon their deadly stance on Sori. Her wings retracted when she lifted her head, and their eyes met for the briefest moment.
He walked through what was left of his cube and, in three quick steps, was outside her wall. Her eyes were blue again, but the men were so busy ogling him, they didn’t notice. This time, when he pressed his hand against the glass, instead of shattering, a large portion melted away like it was plastic.
His hands emitted blue and orange flames. Amazingly, the flames weren’t burning him. They left a tingling warmth along his skin. This was what his captors wanted to see. They were right all along about them all having abilities, but their method of getting them to show it was barbaric. Test animals in a lab were treated better.
Two men approached from behind, but he didn’t want, nor could he take his eyes off Sori. The men who stood above her left her alone to come after him. They took deliberate steps in his direction with their Tasers aimed at him.
The ones at his back reached out in an attempt to subdue him, but every time they got to within a few feet of him, they jumped away as if being burned. He turned when Sori broke their locked gaze to glance at the ones closing in on him from behind.
He turned and lunged at them. In their haste to get away from his fire, they backed up until they hit the only wall of the small room. The other two approached as well. Now surrounded by four, he spun to take them all in. Was it anxiousness he spotted in their tense postures? Were they afraid of him?
Sori climbed from the table and began to step in his direction to help him, but he shook his head at her. The action caused her to stop.
“Run! Find a way out and get help!”
Her head motioned in a quick nod before she took off, trailing puffs of blue smoke.
His words weren’t vocalized out loud, yet she understood him. Movement pulled his attention away from her departure.
When he faced the men again, his rage flared, and although he couldn’t see flames, the heat he emitted caused them to jump back and cover their faces. He turned to face the opening leading out of the small alley between the two damaged rooms. That’s when he noticed various parts of the larger room in flames.
Now, he understood the terror-stricken expressions on the men’s faces. Wasn’t this what they wanted? Their gazes kept bouncing back and forth between him and their burning surroundings.
“I didn’t sign up to be burned alive,” one said to the others without taking his eyes off a portion of the ceiling that was set ablaze.
“Me either. I told Padre that this one and his little girlfriend were more powerful than the others. You see how they look at each other. Like they can talk to each other without speaking and shit.”
“We need to wipe as many of them as we can, get them back home, and get the hell out of here before the whole place goes up.”
The men took off toward the bay of beds. Mycale needed to help Sori and the other kids. The place was burning, and the men who tortured them planned to cover up their crimes by stealing their memories.
He ran into the double doors leading into the bay area at full speed, expecting to break through them, but was knocked on his butt when the thick doors didn’t budge.
The hard collision knocked him senseless enough that he struggled getting back to his feet. Pain screamed through his body as his head and shoulders took the brunt of the hit.
His eyes trembled under their lids. Hard earned breaths flew out of his mouth while he sucked in air that was becoming smokier by the second.
The chant rang through his head on repeat until he rolled over and forced his shaky legs to carry his weight. He swallowed hard as a bout of lightheadedness caused him to stagger.
He braced himself against the doors with his palms planted against them. Fire helped him escape his glass room and he prayed it would also work for these thick wooden doors.
His hands ignited with the blue and orange glow of flames again. This time, he wasn’t afraid of his fiery ability. He was sure it was the only thing that would get him through those doors.
When the wood began falling away like ash, Mycale lifted his palms and glanced at them. He couldn’t believe he was making the fire happen. Reality kicked him square in the head. He’d started this fire, so if any of the kids got hurt, it would be his fault and he would be no better than the horrible people who took them.
He shoved at various areas on the door, making them melt away in fiery embers until he made a hole big enough to step through. Inside the doorway, he glanced around the soundless room. This time, sound ripped through the open area.
His brows pinched tight at the sight of a lighted exit sign hanging above a door that was left cracked open. The sight of a dimly lit sky with billowing clouds was the best sight he saw since Sori’s smile.
Was that door there the entire time? Their captors managed to find a way to keep them from hearing so they must have found a way to keep them from seeing the exit that was there the whole time too, but there was no time to figure it out.
Thankfully, the men were nowhere in sight. The kids sitting up in their beds stared around at each other, some coughing from the thick plumes of smoke seeping into the room.
Their dazed expressions revealed that their minds were messed with again, and Mycale feared they would never know the full extent of their abuse and capture.
Mycale went about the task of burning away each kid’s restraints and directing them to the door. When he got to Sori’s bed, she stared with squinted eyes and parted lips like she was trying to place his face. He burned her restraints away, and ignored an unshakable urge to keep her near him, pointing her toward the door instead.
“Thank you,” she said, hopping off the bed and running to the next bed instead of going for the open door like the other kids. She comforted the next girl before helping her turn over to allow him better access to burn away the restraints.
When she noticed he was using his hands to break the restraints, her eyes grew wide, but she didn’t panic or even question him. Sori couldn’t remember him, but it didn’t stop her from attempting to piece together what those men stole from her.
Her eyes remained fixated on him while helping him free the last five children. Those horrible men may have gotten to her memories, but they hadn’t taken away her will to help others.
By the time the last boy was set free, the atmosphere was consumed and alive with billowing smoke and dancing flames. Although his once-flaming hands were out, he was reluctant to touch anything else. Sori helped a slow-moving girl find her way to the door since the smoke was too thick for them to see anything but the exit sign.
Mycale instructed the boy with him to hold firmly to the tail of his gown as he led the way from the room. Before exiting, Mycale glanced back and his gaze brushed over Ivan’s empty bed. What happened to him? Was he back home or was he taken somewhere else?
He and the boy neared the door to freedom, but something kept urging him to glance back. His conscience wouldn’t allow him to give up on Ivan.
Fresh cool air breathed new life into his body when he stepped through the door. The rays of sunlight peeking through the fluffy clouds were a welcomed treasure to see.
The boy he led out fell to the ground with tears streaming down his face. Mycale didn’t know if the boy’s legs gave out or if it was the joy of freedom taking over him. Helping him up, they ran through a dirty, deserted alley. Seeing the other children waiting and waving from afar kept them moving. The deserted street they stood next to was three blocks away, far enough that they would be safe from the fire.
When they reached the other kids, Mycale glanced back at the building. Smoke and fire wafted from multiple sides, and a blaze was beginning to consume the area where they were bedded down. Nestled among old, abandoned warehouses, the building was at least five levels high with most of the windows missing from the higher levels.
It took a moment for the cold winds of December to register, but the chill was nothing compared to what they suffered. Where were their captors? Would they come after them again? Scanning their surroundings, he prayed the men weren’t hiding and waiting to pounce on them.
The sound of fire engines in the distance meant they were a step closer to being saved. What city was this? The landscape bore no familiarity to any neighborhood he knew. It didn’t appear he was in England anymore.
A nagging reminder flashed through Mycale’s brain.
What if he was still in the building, hiding?
Turning, he marched toward the building as the others attempted to stop him.
“Are you crazy? You can’t go back in there,” one of the boys yelled out.
He ran and shouted across his shoulder, “Ivan may still be in there. I have to help him.”
Other than seeing Sori be hurt, running back into that building was the most heart pounding and dangerous act of his life. Every part of his body and mind screamed for him to stop, but he couldn’t. Ivan sacrificed himself to more torture so he could get away and find help.
And I failed.
Mycale was recaptured after Ivan helped him get away, and not knowing what they did to him because of it was a different kind of torture.
Once he entered the building, he immediately fanned the space before him to beat back the thick smoke clouds attacking him. There was no light and deadly flickers of fire gave him a hunting trail to travel along. Smoke flowed past his face, like hungry buzzards with dark intentions.
“Be a hard man,” he reminded himself.
Coughing into his palm, he walked further into the dark building on shaky legs. His eyes watered to ease the burning the smoke caused. His lungs begged for mercy, but he pushed on, marching deeper into the room. Teasing whispers came from the smoke, and the flames peeked and spat from different areas within the darkness.
Creaks and groans sounded and kept him on edge as every brush of a bed or a wall made him jump or spin fast. Repeatedly, he shouted Ivan’s name, hoping and praying he would answer.
“Ivan! Ivan! Can you hear me? You don’t have to hide anymore.”
When he stepped into the room where they kept the smaller glass rooms, it was so filled with smoke, he stopped at the doorway, contemplating his next move. A thundering crash sounded behind him and sent him running back through the darkened hall toward the bay of beds.
The caved ceiling was now blocking his way back into the bay area. His body seized at the horrific sight. He couldn’t swallow his fear fast enough to think. He spun in a circle twice, and only darkness and fire answered his silent prayer for an exit. The fiery debris continued to fall from the ceiling, not giving him any options but to turn around.
Was there another way out? He bent to a lowered position, remembering his fire safety class. Three firemen visited their classroom last year to teach them about fire safety. He’d even gotten a chance to climb onto their fire engine.
Memories of all the good times he shared playing football with his friends, his father, and his big brother calmed him. Blundering around, he choked and kept searching. His breathing grew shorter, each breath he dragged in toxic. He lifted the dirty material and placed his hospital gown over his face.
Trapped, the only place left to go was back to the area housing the glass rooms. He hid beneath the thick desk near the exit into the hallway and prayed the firemen would find him before the fire got to him.
The periodic sprinkles of cold water trickling down to him kept him from falling completely apart. The water was a reminder that help was near and would be there to rescue him soon.
“Hurry,” he mouthed, jumping every time a flame licked at him teasingly.
The heat kept him pinned in place and too afraid to move. He clamped his eyes shut against the smoky sting and prayed. Darkness surrounded him and pressed down like a weight. The whispers emanating from the flames chased the deafening silence away.
Was he losing his mind? Noises that sounded like words came from the flames. He clenched his eyes shut tighter and placed his hand over his ears to shut out the sound.
Each time a thick plume of smoke took his breath, he became more lightheaded. He sipped air hoping to take in what was left of the clean oxygen. Like fiery arms reaching out to embrace him, the flames no longer teased him; they danced around him like a set of thick curtains closing him in. He fought the unwanted touches, punching and kicking blindly.
He lay as flat as he could under the desk. His heart beat so hard against his chest, it might have been the sound itself that led the fighter fighters to him.
The whispering flames closed in more, stealing his breath. Sori’s smile flashed in his head right before he was pulled into a cavern of inky darkness.
Mycale woke to the sight of his parents’ smiling faces. He lay, unstrapped, in a hospital bed. He was alive. He faked a weak smile for his parents' benefit while the chaos that had taken place at the hospital erupted in his mind.
“The children. Are they okay? Did they make it?” he questioned, his eyes bouncing between his parents’ stressed faces.
“What children son?” His father’s brows tightened.
“The other kids. We were tortured. I tried to get them all out. I set the building on fire. I couldn’t find Ivan.”
He was rambling and, based on his parents’ squinted expressions and soothing hands, his mother’s hand against his shoulder and his father’s on his lower leg, they didn’t know what he was talking about.
“There were no other children. However, we do believe you were kidnapped. Whoever abducted you made it appear you’d run away by leaving a note in your bedroom.”
“No.” He shook his head. “I didn’t run away.”
His mom ran a caring hand over the top of his hair. “I didn’t believe for one second you’d run away from us. We know you didn’t write that note, either. It wasn’t your handwriting. Someone took you, and we plan on finding out who and why, even if the authorities don’t believe it.”
“There were other children that were taken like me. At least twenty of us.”
His mother’s gentle hand cupped his cheek. Concern rested in her unspoken expression. “There were no other children. You were the only one they found, son. In a burning warehouse.”
“But...but...the other children were there. Didn’t the firemen find them on the road?”
When his parents only replied with silence, his shoulders dropped in defeat. Could he have dreamed this whole thing? He sprang up with newfound memories rumbling around in his head.
“My bruises and cuts. They tortured me over and over. They wanted me to show them my ability.”
His parents stood on either side of him now, their hands at his back, attempting to calm his harsh breathing and wide-eyed hysterics.
“Son, you went through a traumatic event. The doctors said you may be disoriented and may experience confusion from smoke inhalation.”
He half heard his father’s words, his eyes aimed at his arms and hands. There wasn’t a single bruise on them.
Mycale remained silent. Thinking. Had the men gotten to the other kids? Were they safe? Or was this whole thing something he created in his head?
A few hours later, he glanced at his parents on the couch holding hands with their heads leaned against each other, asleep. Mycale clicked on the television. He needed a distraction to keep his mind from raging out of control.
When the picture of the warehouse was shown on the news, he sat up in bed, immediately recognizing the area.
“Late yesterday, a young boy was found alive inside of what’s left of this old burned out infirmary. He was found by firefighters hidden under piles of debris. The sturdy frame of a desk is apparently what kept the boy from being crushed. How he survived the smoke and extreme heat inside the building is a mystery. Local firefighters are saying it’s a miracle he survived based on the amount of structural damage and extent of the fire.”
The news report was proof that he was inside the building. However, no one was going to believe him about the other children since he was the only one found. What happened to the other kids? Why weren’t they being talked about?
During his torture, the men kept promising they would all be returned to their homes with no memory of what happened. Was it the truth or a lie to keep them in line?
Despite being back home and safe, Mycale feared his life would never be the same. His parents insisted he was missing for a week, but for him, time wasn’t a factor during his capture.
Now, he had trouble reintegrating into normal life. Spending time in detention at school for fighting, destruction of property, and back talking his teachers were some of his new ways of expressing himself.
Once upon a time, he was known for being an even-tempered kid. His parents didn’t know what to make of the changes in him. His mother was convinced the change in him stemmed from the traumatic experience of being taken and trapped inside a burning building.
He wasn’t sure his parents would ever believe he was held captive and tortured repeatedly, along with nineteen other kids. There were never any other kids reported missing, so his repeated attempts to convince his parents that he was telling the truth stressed them out. Maybe because when he was found, no physical evidence other than smudges were found on his body.
However, his parents did believe he was abducted. As a result, his father hired someone to investigate the situation, but he was reluctant to share any updates with Mycale.
Mycale prayed the other children were returned to their homes. Since they were being tested for supernatural abilities, he could only surmise they would always be on those people’s radars. It was likely why they were so keen on erasing their memories.
Over the years, Mycale’s parents stopped talking about his abduction, but the incident was the exact result of the fire that now stoked the fuse of the inextinguishable rage that lived inside him.
His parents eventually followed through with their long-time plans to move to America. They left Liverpool, England to move to what his parents were calling one of the friendliest cities in the world, San Antonio, Texas.
Moving didn’t change Mycale’s attitude and at one point, his parents were open to any kind of help they could get and put him in a military academy. Talking to a child psychologist and attending anger management classes didn’t help him, either. The rage was determined to remain a part of his life that he would have to learn to live with.
He found it a struggle to be normal when the invisible traveler inside his body constantly reminded him that he wasn’t, that he’d never be normal. There were times when he wished he’d allowed those people to wipe his memories. To be blissfully ignorant of what was inside him would have been a blessing.
Eventually, he turned to tattoos as a quick fix. Having pain of any kind inflicted on him took the edge off his anger issue also.
At sixteen, he ended up rescuing a store owner being held at gunpoint one day after deciding to skip school. He entered a liquor store he had no business being in and ended up walking in on a robbery in progress. He didn’t have a problem standing up to the man who waved a gun in his face.
The store owner had a difficult time explaining to the cops how a sixteen-year-old, who wasn’t supposed to be in her store, ended up saving her life.
Having a gun pointed at his face gave him the kind of rush that soothed his rage. Saving another life in the process was a reminder that the rage hadn’t turned him into a complete monster.
Danger became his medicine and saving others became his salve.
The liquor store event drove Mycale toward pursuing a career that involved the danger he craved. He also vowed to someday find his captors and Ivan. His saving grace was that there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t see the image of Sori and her smile in his dreams.
He needed answers. He wanted revenge. More than anything else, he wanted to find her.
***End of Sparks Part I***
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