Excerpt from ILLUMINE
The fire was growing, spreading past the bands that held him in place. Tiny rivulets raced over his face and burned into his cheeks and hair. "It will kill you, you know," he hissed under the burn of the fire. "If you don't get help in time there will be nothing left. You'll burn from the inside out. Your own blood betraying you."
My grasp on the fire weakened, the flames flickering and receding. He was bluffing, he had to be. Kayden burst outward into black smoke, returning to his human shape across the hall, away from my grasp.
The fire crackled inside my palms, slowly dulling to nothing. As soon as the flames died my knees gave out. My entire body shook and I struggled to breathe. Sweat coated every inch of my skin, leaving me feel like I had just dipped into a bucket of ice water.
Kayden came closer but still hung back. His expression was guarded. "It's already burning you out. Don't you feel it? Like the air will never return to your lungs?"
Slowly I slid down the lockers until I was sitting against them, gasping for breath. The room was spinning into one giant pile of color. I shook my head and blinked, trying to re-set my eyes before I passed out, or worse, threw up from the spinning sensation. "I don't need your help."
Amidst the colors came a laugh. "Of course you don't."
"Just because I'm passing out on the floor doesn't mean I can't still detect sarcasm you twit."
My eyes started to re-focus, the blurry image of Kayden kneeling before me came into view first. "You need help. Before you lose control and hurt someone."
"Like you?" I snapped. I tried to stand but slipped back down to the floor from jelly legs. "I don't know what this, this thing is, but I'm not going to let it ruin my life. You've already done enough of that for me." Another attempt to stand failed and I found myself back on the floor shaking. With one final push I stood tall, staring down Kayden as he continued to kneel.
"Stay there, I like you better when you're bowing at my feet," I whispered as a throng of students came up into the hallway. Our teacher came down the hall and opened the door for class.
English was one of the few subjects I had no problem tuning into and focusing in. Kayden was seated out of my sight, Abigail right next to me, and anything the teacher liked to dish was relatively easy for me to handle, especially when I had already read all of Shakespeare's works in 6th grade out of sheer boredom.
"We're going to continue with our look into Othello today, so open your tombstones under your desks," the teacher muttered darkly. It was a never-ending joke with her class that she called the textbooks tombstones since they practically weighed as much as one.
As I reached underneath for my copy of the book I felt a stab in my stomach. Automatically I sat up straight and breathed, the hot-knife feeling only growing worse.
"You okay?" Abigail raised her eyebrows at me. I gave her a little nod and slowly reached back down for the book under my chair. Another stab sharper than the last hit my stomach again, the pain spreading into my chest with a burning sensation I'd never felt before. I doubled over and pressed my forehead to the cool desktop.
From the back of the classroom I heard Kayden. "Essallie doesn't look too good."
The teacher shot took one look at me and panicked. "Oh no no no, I am not having another kid get sick in my class. Abigail, take her down to the nurse, quickly."
An arm slipped around my shoulders and hoisted me out of my seat. It was all I could do to keep my lips pressed tight from screaming at the pain. "Get her things. She's on fire, I can feel the fever coming off of her in waves."
Wait, that was Kayden talking, not Abigail. Kayden was the one carrying me out of the classroom, and into the hall, and down to the nurse. I wanted to spit in his face, maybe even set him on fire in front of everyone for a little show. I was getting sick of him trying to play hero to my slips and falls.
Eyes closed, I felt him carry me out of the classroom and down the hallway, Abigail right by my side. "She was fine this morning," I heard her say. "Hell she was fine two minutes ago. What do you think happened?"
"My theory probably isn't the one you want to hear," Kayden replied truthfully. He lightly adjusted his arms to hold me up better. "She wouldn't like me to spread my ideas."
Too true. Letting everyone know I could potentially engulf them in flames if they looked at me crossways would probably put a damper on my mood. "What, do you think she brought something with her from New York? Like a Typhoid Mary of the modern era? Bad ass."
"Not quite, but sure, we can go with that," Kayden laughed.
"I'm right here, you know," I whispered through tight lips. Pain was driving down into my bones, stabbing like millions of scalded, jagged blades into my skin. He turned into the infirmary and followed the nurse's directions to set me down on a cot in the back room while Abigail explained everything in the other room.
"It's happening, you know," he whispered in a low tone.
"Nothing is happening," I managed to snap back at him. "It's just a reaction to lunch. I haven't been handling food well. Must be coming down with a bug."
He shook his head. "If she takes your temperature, it's going to show you should be dead. Your powers are coming in, like it or not. What happens next is how you handle it."
I raised my head off the pillow as much as I could manage. "How about I just set you on fire and get it over with?"
"I hope you're still this feisty when the fever wears off," Kayden said, the corners of his lips twitching.
"You haven't seen a fraction of it yet," I laughed despite myself and let my head back down onto the pillow. Sweat beaded and trickled over my skin, suctioning the pillow and flimsy sheets to me like glue.
The nurse stepped in with Abigail and immediately shooed Kayden away from me. Both hung back as she ran one of the new thermometers over my forehead and waited for the reading. When the results came up she shook her head and reset it before running it over my head again. But the results left her face just as ashen as it had the first time.
"Can't be right," she smacked the device in her hands a couple of times. "Let me try again before I get the old one."
"What did it say?" I asked in spite of myself.
She laughed, nervously almost. "This new technology is so temperamental. It said you have a fever of 120 degrees, but there's just no way that's possible. You'd be dead." The reading flashed at her again and she jammed it into her pocket. "Now it's saying 122 degrees. I'm getting the old one."
I felt my stomach drop, the pain flaring through my body again. She turned around and sent both Abigail and Kayden back to class but not before I had a chance to steal a look at Kayden. His eyes were shining like polished coal, his lips curved into a tight-lipped smile.
After seven different attempts with both the old and new thermometers the nurse finally called Jayson to pick me up and take me home for the day. She stressed that ice baths, ice packs and cool rags would surely bring the fever down and break it within the day. He led me up to my room and made sure to bring rags in every half hour soaked in borderline frozen water. Nothing was bringing the fever down.
Between hazes of the fever and pain that forced me into blackouts I had fitful dreams. Creatures of all shapes and sizes continued to reach out to me as I used the fire to burn them past my path. By the time I would wake up the fever would be spiking higher, the pain so intense I'd throw up.
At one point I managed to drag myself to the tub and turn on the faucets, shoving myself in with my clothes still on. The water felt worse than the stabbing pain inside me, and I screamed. Jayson had run upstairs to pull me from the water and back to my bed, but he said my fever seemed to have gone down from the bath.
I felt like I was dying. Nothing wanted to work, from my legs to my heart, it all moved like an animal on its last leg. Each breath felt like I was putting all of my energy into it. Giving in suddenly seemed easier, plausible.