Off the corner of his eye, Kris can see the dark silhouette of the lanky inmate sitting by the edge of the bed, with his head lowered towards the ground.
The clear fiberglass jail cell in front of him is illuminated by dim LED lighting from the ceiling as usual. Kris was told that the design eliminates all shadows and ensures complete surveillance, not to mention the confusing state of perpetual daytime it creates inside a windowless establishment. Then there are the eight security cameras above-head recording continuously from all different angles, the concrete floor that's rumored to be five feet thick, and all the fire and explosion-proof plumbing and electrical components installed.
All this, and top-tier mercenaries with extensive military background hired full-time as probably the most expensive prison guards in history, Kris included. He has wondered more than once, over the past month, whether all of this has been overkill for just one inmate.
One really frail and harmless looking inmate.
Bright gleaming eyes, always bowing courteously to everyone that he sees, and a contagious smile every time Kris looks at him, this kid has never shown any sign of aggression since the first day he got here.
Kris tries to remind himself of the thick stack of reports in the record folder that he flipped through before: massive explosion that destroyed a Soviet military base; an entire army of guerrilla soldiers in rural Columbia burned to the ground without fighting back; there was even a lengthy document on how a small island with suspicious Chinese nuclear research disappeared into the ocean overnight.
It simply doesn't add up. One mere person, a kid at that, cannot possibly cause so much destruction on his own.
And there were never records of the actual perpetrator being present at any of the incidents, just speculations and rumors, of a crazed individual with an alias - Phoenix.
Kris has always thought the name is sort of cliche.
Nobody has ever seen Phoenix, until last month, when right in the middle of a flaming inferno that wiped out half of Wall Street, secret service found this kid sitting on the floor calmly, lost in thoughts and almost waiting. The interrogation that followed didn't yield much result, the conversations cryptic but ultimately useless. So this jail cell was promptly built, and the scapegoat for all of Phoenix’s great crimes is thrown in and safely locked away. Who doesn't love it when justice is served, whether it's fair or simply a convenient mistake is apparently beside the point.
Kris doesn't mind the inmate, who seems strangely content to be here. Sometimes they even exchange a few words of pleasantries, to the disdain of other guards. Frankly, Kris could care less what the other guards think, he's used to being a loner in life. It just feels kind of nice to start his shift each morning with a quick hello. Especially when both of them are keenly aware of how lonely the other person can get in a situation like this, where the minutes of the day tick away at a painfully slow rate.
Kris would like to think that they have by now developed a mutual respect of some sort.
He looks onto the inmate with a hint of sympathy, and meets his bright eyes, shining unexpectedly with anticipation.
Kris suddenly has an unsettling feeling that something strange is about to happen.
He watches as the kid stands up slowly and starts to saunter towards the thick fiberglass cell wall. He then raises his right hand, and out of thin air, a ball of flickering flame starts to grow between his long slender fingers.
Kris’ breath hitches in shock, but he instinctively draws his Glock pistol and takes aim at the kid. He can feel his voice tremble as he yells. “Stop whatever you are doing now!”
The kid has never looked so alive until now. The flame in his hand turns eerily blue, licking and swirling around his fingers, as he gently rests his palm onto the fiberglass wall.
Fear courses through every part of Kris’ body, as he watches the fire-resistant fiberglass crystallizes and melts away against the flame. His mind goes blank as the deafening alarm sounds and a slew of armed guards rush towards them yelling for the inmate to freeze.
The blue flame now seems to have taken on a life of its own, devouring the jail cell in seconds and rapidly spreading onto the endless concrete ceiling and floor. Kris hears the bloody screams of the other guards as they drop their weapons and fall helplessly to the ground, rapidly incinerated by the mysterious flame. Sparks fly around them as all the cameras, alarms and electronics are reduced to ashes. It only takes a brief moment for the silence to return, while Phoenix looks on calmly.
In horror, Kris glances down and sees the flame sweeping over his own feet. He can feel sweat beading up on his face, and all his muscles tensing up in anticipation of the inevitable death. But the pain never comes, the flame lingers on his feet without hurting him.
As he looks up again and tries to calm the rapid heartbeat reverberating loudly in his ears, Kris sees astonishment mirrored on the face of the Phoenix, who is now slowly walking towards him. He gives Kris a puzzled once-over, as the dancing flame reflects in his wide eyes. Then a curious smile starts to bloom on the inmate’s handsome face. “You didn’t burn… The only one my fire cannot hurt, are my own kind.”
He moves closer, and traces Kris’ pale and sweaty face softly with one finger. The flame licks everywhere his finger touches, like the slithering tongue of a glowing snake.
Phoenix’s voice is low and smooth. “What’s your power?”
Kris swallows and forces out a response. “I don't know what you are talking about.”
Phoenix inches closer and pauses, intrigue written all over his face. His dark eyes suddenly light up. “Oh, you don't know your power yet. Tell me then, what do you dream about?”
The word “dream” hits Kris unexpectedly. Fragments of the strange dreams that have plagued him all his life flash through his mind, dreams he has never told anyone about. Of soaring and spiralling weightlessly in the sky, of flying and escaping from a crumbling world as it threatened to overtake him, of love and tears in a dark galaxy filled with millions of stars…
He has never told anyone because deep down inside he fears and knows that the vivid dreams are not just dreams.
They are memories from a time he no longer remembers.
Phoenix’s expressions turn serious. “Well, we can figure it all out later. But for now we gotta go. They have finally found us.”
“Who are ‘they’?” Kris sputters. But Phoenix ignores his question and keeps talking. “I figured hiding here for a bit would be safe. But I can feel it now, it's time to find the others. We won't live much longer, no point going down alone and without a fight.” His lips curl up into a defiant grin, eyes sparkling at the prospect of imminent danger. He starts to walk away, but then turns around and gestures at Kris impatiently.
“C’mon, slowpoke, let’s go! You obviously don't belong here. You've been a prisoner of this life for way too long now. Aren't you curious to know who you really are?” Phoenix gives him a daring wink, his voice full of mischief.
Kris wants to remind himself the absurdness of the situation, wants to figure out how his world just got turned upside down, but he is also acutely aware that something has clicked. It's as if a veil has been finally lifted off his life, and everything feels so terribly right for the first time.
He sighs, steadies his breathing, and muses to himself before finally taking a step towards the smug looking Phoenix.
I sure hope my alias won't be as cliche.
cairistiona you are it :)
bluedreaming tagging you since this is the first time I post here and my tag may not work yet? Thanks :)