A Fire Within
If someone had told Alex Vesely that in three years’ time, he would be walking down a white trail with nothing but a few dollars to his name, he would have laughed in their face. If they would have told him that everything would be turned upside down on him in a matter of a week, he would have brushed them off with a wave of his hand and a cynical grin.
And if they had told him that someday he would wield the power to control fire, he would have considered them insane.
The snow fell now, upon the white world. Trees stretched upwards, their gnarled branches sparkling with ice. The tips pointed towards the layer of ashen grey clouds shifting and billowing in the sky above and still the snow fluttered down with quiet persistence. Alex’s dark eyes assessed the thousands of snowflakes swirling around him and he exhaled. His breath blew out of his mouth in thin vapors.
You’ve been given a gift. Something to bring warmth to anyone and anything you touch.
He heard Vivian’s voice clear in his head, as if she were there, whispering the words in his ears. Wind whipped up, making Alex shiver beneath his layers of clothing. The irony of his situation fell upon him and he smiled. A man capable of controlling fire and retaining its heat…freezing to death in the bitter cold.
But he knew it wasn’t much longer now. The only reason he’d taken this shortcut (if it could even be called that) through the woods was for the mere fact that they were looking for him. Times were dangerous. Especially now. And with Alex’s gift, he was considered a prize, almost a trophy of sorts.
To catch him would mean everything.
As Alex walked deeper into the forest, the trees thickened, becoming more clustered and blocking out the amount of snow that fell to the earth. Alex’s shoes trudged through the white blanket beneath his feet, and he did his best to retain what warmth he held since the last time he’d been near a flame. He thought of Vivian, he thought of her smile, and he thought of the world falling apart around him.
So tell me what you’re going to do with this power of yours, she had asked, her gaze emanating with fierce curiosity. Tell me what good it’s going to do for you.
Alex remembered the way she had looked at him, almost like a god. And he didn’t like it. Not one bit.
There’s nothing I can do with it, he’d replied miserably. Except keep you a little warmer at night. You know how I don’t like to use it.
At this point the curiosity in her eyes had melted into something else; something that Alex couldn’t explain then and still couldn’t today. It was almost a look of pity, but mixed with something else. Vivian had always been hard to read at times.
You don’t like to use it because you’re still afraid of it.
A grimace from him. And then a lie.
That’s not true.
His untruthfulness had caused her expression to change to one of heavy skepticism. She knew him all too well. To lie in front of Vivian was a fruitless approach. She could see through him as easily as if he were transparent. And right then her analyzing blue eyes could sense his fear.
Alex stopped walking and looked towards the sky. The tree branches above were doing a good job of concealing the clouds from him, as if wanting to cage him in. The icicles that hung from them looked sharp and frigid. Alex took off his glove, exposing his skin. Holding his hand out in front of him, he held his palm level with one of the icicles and inhaled the frosty air.
The icicle began to shrink, spilling water like a faucet. Alex felt the heat spreading through his very fingertips. But he’d gotten used to that. A couple of moments later, the icicle had melted completely, and Alex lowered his hand. He stared at the empty spot on the branch, lost in his own thoughts.
You need to keep moving.
He slipped his glove back on and continued the way he’d been going, wondering if perhaps there were something wrong with him. Maybe these past years of being played a puppet had done something to his brain. At only twenty two years old, things seemed bleak. So young, yet so lost. Suddenly, the silence around him seemed confirmed his fear. The fear of being alone. Clenching his fists together, Alex shoved these thoughts from his mind and focused instead on the snow covered trail.
Night was falling fast and when the cabin finally came into view, Alex was relieved. He’d used his last remaining heat to melt the icicle, and he needed to warm up again. Breaking into a jog, he made it all the way up to the door before stopping to rap on it sharply.
A man answered the door, a man that Alex had been aching to see for quite some time. It almost made the long, freezing trek through the woods seem nonexistent.
“Kirk,” he said, feeling as though heavy weights were lifting off of him.
Kirk Vansworth stared in at Alex, his eyes filled with disbelief. He looked a lot older since Alex had last seen him, which was only two months back. The wrinkles beneath his eyes were more distinct and the stubble layering his cheeks and chin were tinged with the faintest grey. His mouth twitched in silent movements as he looked for the words to say, but his clumsy tongue failed him. Eventually his face broke out in a wide grin and he stepped forward to embrace Alex tightly.
“You kept me waiting too long,” said Kirk, his deep voice filled with relief. He stepped back to get a better look at Alex, his expression exultant. Once he saw Alex shivering, however, he beckoned him inside the house.
“Come in, come in. I can’t believe you made it all the way here on foot,” said Kirk once they were both inside. He scurried over to the kitchen and began rummaging through the drawers. “You’re a crazy kid, you know that?”
Alex smiled and for the first time in a while it spread across his face in a way it hadn’t done for a long time. The act made his facial muscles feel tight and awkward. As if they were weak from not being used enough.
He looked around the interior of the cabin. Though it was messy, it felt like home. The dark mahogany walls were lined with dozens of photos. On the tables were dirty dishes and newspapers, trinkets and loose change. The fireplace on the left wall was made of light brick and its lack of fire made Alex glance over towards Kirk. Before any words were exchanged though, Kirk pulled a large lighter out of the drawer and walked over to open the windows.
“Way ahead of you,” he said to Alex, grinning. “I already got the wood and kindling ready, I was just about to light it before you knocked.” He clicked the lighter on. “You must be freezing after that walk—”
He stopped midsentence, because Alex raised his hand up, palm outwards. Warmth spread again through his fingertips, only this time, the flame at the tip of Kirk’s lighter shifted and moved, drifting across the room towards Alex’s open hand. With a flick of his wrist, Alex sent the flame spinning towards the fireplace. In an instant the flames rose up, flickering angrily. The room was suddenly filled with the sound of crackling fire.
Kirk stood, dumbfounded. Alex didn’t know whether to apologize or burst out laughing. Finally, Kirk managed to compose himself, but he continued to look thoroughly shocked. He stared at the burning flames incredulously.
“So that’s why they’re after you, isn’t it?” he asked quietly. “It’s all true?”
Alex nodded, walking over to the fireplace. He felt the warmth wash over him and he held both hands out so he could absorb the heat.
“It’s why I came on foot. They raided my house looking for me. They…have Vivian.”
His jaw clenched and Kirk inhaled sharply. Alex’s eyes glared intently into the fire, his anger rising. If he could somehow slip out of his own body, he was sure the fire would have been reflecting in his eyes, accentuating his own rage. Kirk walked over to him and rested a hand on Alex’s shoulder.
“We’ll get her back,” he said softly, yet convincingly. “You’ll get her back.”
Alex trembled, knowing that Kirk meant to be reassuring, but he found it hard to see it as such. He couldn’t believe this was happening. A week ago, things had been perfect. The world spun on its axis, the skies were blue, and he’d been living a normal life. Now it felt as though the world were standing still. The skies were always a different shade of grey. And now this.
He watched a trail of fire follow his hand and hover above his fingertips. He rolled it between his fingers and over his palm, finally morphing the flames into a perfect, flickering sphere. Kirk watched him in awe.
“When…did you find out you could do this?” he asked, still not taking his eyes off the shifting flame. Alex cocked his head to the side like a curious dog, watching his hand.
“A week ago,” he replied. He made the fire spell out Vivian’s name in the air, the cursive letters quivering and casting shadows onto the walls of the cabin. “It was in a fit of rage. I couldn’t control it. And when they found out what I could do, they went crazy. Said I had to come in for some kind of test. When I rejected them, they became dangerous, sent me threats. I think they wanted me to carry out some kind of vendetta. Actually, I know they did.”
Alex spread his fingertips and sent the fire snaking back into the fireplace. When his hand was empty again, he turned to face Kirk.
“I’ve missed you. But I also need your help.”
Kirk nodded, swallowing.
“You know I’ll help in any way that I can.”
Alex smiled. “I know. It’s why I came to you.”
Silence. Both of the men stared at each other, waiting. Kirk Vansworth had been like Alex’s father. He’d grown up with the man, learned things from him that he couldn’t learn anywhere else. Alex trusted Kirk with his life, and by coming here it proved it. Kirk knew this. Alex did too. And now that he was being hunted, the bond between them would either break or stay intact. Kirk cleared his throat.
“Well, before we start talking about suicide missions or how you’re going to burn the town down,” began Kirk with a smile. “We should probably get some food your stomach. It’s been a long trip for you and I’m sure you’re starving.”
Alex nodded in agreement, finally acknowledging the low grumbles coming from his stomach.
“Peanut butter and jelly?” he said hopefully.
Kirk laughed, walking into the kitchen. “I think I can do you one better than that,” he said. “I used to cook for you all the time, remember? I know what you like.”
Alex shrugged. “That was a long time ago. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead and be pro chef for the night.”
They talked a bit more as Kirk prepared dinner. Alex watched him add beef and vegetables to a black pot on the stove. The smell soon filled the cabin with a mouthwatering scent and Alex could hardly wait for his food. He felt as if he hadn’t eaten in a month.
“So you’re sure nobody followed you here then?” asked Kirk as he added some spices to his stew. Alex nodded.
“No, no one followed me. I made sure I wasn’t being tailed. There should be snowfall tonight, right? That should be enough to cover the tracks I made coming here.”
Kirk nodded somberly, stirring the contents of his pot. He looked worried.
“And what about Vivian?”
Alex tried not to make a face at the sound of her name, but failed.
“Vivian will be fine.”
The finality in his tone caused Kirk to not pursue the topic any further. Alex stared out the window, watching the world outside darken. Just like the inside of him was; he could feel it working its way into his body. There was a side of him aching to rip free and tear out the throats of the people who’d taken his fiancée. That side of him wanted to watch them burn.
And I want to laugh as they do.
“Erm, you okay, kid?” asked Kirk nervously. Alex snapped out of his trance and managed a smile.
“Yeah. Great.” He pretended to stretch. “How’s that stew coming?”
Alex ate his dinner quickly, helping himself to seconds. Kirk still hadn’t lost his knack at cooking and Alex was grateful for that. Once full, they both moved to the living room area and Kirk settled into his chair, leaning back and sighing. Alex popped the tab on a soda he’d stolen from the fridge and took an eager swig. In the fireplace, the fire continued to crackle.
“I think maybe we should start talking in the morning,” said Kirk sleepily, his eyes half open. “You’re not leaving tonight, right?”
Alex pondered this idea. Finally he said, “No, not tonight Kirk.”
Kirk smiled. “Good. I missed you, kid.”
“I’ve missed you too.”
Kirk stood up, stretched, and then turned to Alex.
Alex nodded towards him warmly. “Night.”
Once Kirk was upstairs and in bed, Alex stood up and watched the fire again, wondering where Vivian was and if she was okay. The guilt boiled inside, and he thought back to when they had originally asked him to help. He should have obliged then. He should have cooperated. If he had, Vivian wouldn’t be in this mess, and he might not be on the run from some of the most dangerous masterminds in the country.
The anger rose again, and Alex attempted to keep it at bay. Sleep. That was what he needed. Collapsing on the sofa and staring up at the wooden ceiling, Alex listened to the crackling of the fire and watched the shadows dance above him. His eyes slowly began to close. Soon, very soon, it would all be over.
Alex awoke in the middle of the night, quite abruptly. With a jerking motion, he sat upright on the couch. The fire had gone out and his eyes struggled to adjust. There were sounds coming from outside and Alex lessened his breathing so he could hear them.
Soft thuds in the distance. Voices. And very faintly, the sound of a vehicle driving away.
Alex’s heart twanged.
They found him.
He scrambled off the couch and glanced up at the ceiling, praying that Kirk stayed fast asleep. Dashing into the dark kitchen, Alex opened the drawers and swiftly sifted through its contents. He finally found what he was looking for. Kirk’s cigarette lighter still had some fluid left in it, though not a lot. It would be enough.
Alex heard the footsteps on the porch and the voices murmuring.
“Quietly. And whatever you do, keep that kid away from fire.”
Alex sank into dark corner of the kitchen, doing his best to breathe shallowly. Kirk’s front door creaked open and a silhouette cast itself across the floor. There was a pause and then a person slinked stealthily inside, holding what appeared to be a rifle. They wore all black and a black ski mask. Behind them, two others followed, dressed the same and holding guns of their own. Alex held his breath.
“Check upstairs,” said the tallest of the three, pointing to the staircase. Alex felt his stomach shrink.
He had to think of something fast. Desperately, Alex flicked the lighter on behind his back and felt the flame drawn to his hand. Focusing, his eyes locked onto the nearest intruder and he flicked his wrist with expert precision.
The stranger’s sleeve caught fire. He let out a strangled cry, and the other man near the stairs whirled around as the other attempted to detain the fire. Alex saw his window and took it. Moving swiftly, he crept up behind the man nearest to the stairs and pounced.
There was a horrible crash as both of their bodies fell forward onto Kirk’s table. The other two men, in their confusion, stood frozen for a brief moment. It was all Alex needed. Striking the man in the throat, he sprang up and grabbed the gun out of the second man’s hands. Whirling around, he dealt him a blow across the face and he crumpled. The man behind him raised his gun, but Alex stretched out his hand and drew the flame back into his palm. The masked stranger gazed at him in fear, his eyes wide.
“Go ahead and pull it,” snarled Alex, making the fire in his hand flare angrily. “I don’t think your boss will be happy if you bring me back dead.”
The man glared at Alex through his ski-mask.
“You don’t know anything.”
Alex smirked. “I know a lot more than you do. I was bred to be a puppet. Just like you. So don’t try to tell me what I don’t know, you’ll only embarrass yourself.”
The man continued to glare, but was looking a bit more on edge. He tightened his grip on the trigger.
“I’ll do it, I swear I will—”
“Then do it.” Alex extinguished the flame in his hand and spread his arms wide. “Do what you came here to do.”
The man didn’t move. He looked indecisive. There were suddenly footsteps coming down the stairs.
“Alex, are you alright, what happened—?”
The masked man automatically aimed his gun at Kirk, who stopped halfway down the stairs. Alex struck. He threw a fist into the man’s stomach, snatched the gun out of his hands and brought the front of it down onto his forehead. The man fell onto the floor like his comrade, and lay there groaning, clutching the front of his face. Kirk began to yell.
Alex didn’t hear. He grabbed the man off the floor by the front of his jacket and lifted him up so they were eye level.
“Where is she?” he snarled, feeling his anger begin to flare again. The man groaned. Alex shook him. “Where is she!? Where is Vivian?”
The man stared at Alex in fright. “I don’t know who you’re talking about. I don’t know anything.”
“LIAR!” Alex slammed the man against the wall, bringing his face close. Kirk began yelling again.
“Alex, calm down! Enough!”
“Ryker has her,” said Alex quietly, the danger creeping into his voice. “Tell me where she is.” He brought one finger up towards the man’s throat. A flame flickered at his fingertip and the man recoiled in panic.
“I don’t know anything, I swear!” he said desperately. “Ryker doesn’t tell us where he goes, just that he would be waiting for a call once we had you.”
Alex’s head cocked to the side.
The man swallowed and jerked his head towards the man lying on the floor closest to them.
“He has the phone.”
“Then get it. Now.”
Alex let go of the man, and he stumbled unevenly towards his fallen partner, reaching inside his pockets and retrieving a black cell phone. He pushed a button and the screen lit up in the dark living room. The man began dialing a number. Alex cast Kirk a furtive glance, but Kirk only stood there in shock.
“Ryker,” said the man in a low voice. His tone had changed to a more respectful level. “We have him.”
There was talking at the other end of the line and the man nodded. He glanced up at Alex his eyes full of fear, then looked back at the ground, listening.
“We’ll do that, sir. Yes, we’ll meet you there.”
He hung up the phone.
“Where is he?” said Alex quietly.
The man trembled a bit. “I shouldn’t be doing this. He’ll kill me.”
Alex nodded. “Of course he will. He’ll kill you. And then your family. Then maybe he’ll go for your friends just for kicks. Unless you tell me where he is.” Alex’s eyes became fierce.
The man hesitated.
“He’s at Gable’s Junkyard. The one across town.”
A brief silence filled the room. And then Alex walked closer to the man.
“If you’re lying,” he said between his teeth. “I’ll kill you myself.”
It was an empty threat, but it worked. The man nodded, backing away. Alex shook the black hair out of his eyes and looked back at Kirk.
“I’m going after him.”
Kirk nodded, swallowing. Alex slid all the three of the guns across the floor towards him but kept a small handgun for himself and slipped it in his jacket pocket. He glanced at the man cowering near the wall.
“Find something to tie him up with. I’m leaving.”
Alex made towards the door but Kirk ran over to grab his arm. Alex turned around.
“Let me go.”
Kirk looked fearful. “I can’t let you do this. You’ll be killed.”
Alex felt his heart twinge, but his hesitation spawned panic.
The woman you love may be moments from death.
“I’ll be fine,” said Alex with conviction. Thinking of Vivian had fueled his anger. Kirk squeezed his arm and then pulled him into a brief embrace.
“Come back safe,” Kirk whispered shakily. He then let go of Alex and gave him a reassuring nod. Alex paused briefly, thinking of what he was about to do. But he knew overanalyzing the situation would initiate more hesitation, so he swallowed, turned towards the door, and slipped out into the cold night.
The moonlight was sporadic on the white earth, for the trees made it hard for the rays to slip through. Where the light did touch the ground, it lit up the snow, causing it to sparkle like glitter. Alex assessed where he was, and knew the path back towards the entrance of the woods, where he would end up coming out on the side of a busy road. He’d definitely taken the unique route to Kirk’s place, but it had been the safest.
He walked. The heat from Kirk’s lighter was still held reserved, and it kept him warm to the point that after a while, sweat gathered on his forehead. The woods were quiet, serene, and still. Like the calm before the storm. Alex found it unnerving.
Time didn’t matter. Alex walked past the icicle laden trees, trying hard not to think of how stupid this was. It was like volunteering for suicide. But he was tired of running. If he was going to die, let it be in the right way. Let it be in the presence of the woman he loved.
Alex had never given much thought to death before. It had always been on the edge of his mind, lingering on the outskirts of his conscience, teasing him with its own possibility. But when it came down to it, his denial got the better of him. How many times had he told himself it couldn’t happen to him? How many times had he stared death in the face before and laughed?
He thought of Vivian. He thought of her smile, her delicate cheekbones. The snow drifted off the tree branches above and fluttered around him in a gentle wind. The world was ice. But she was his sun. The fire he could harness could never compare to her warmth. To love someone was to experience the heart’s true purpose. It was like freeing oneself from their body and floating on nothing but an emotion powerful enough to stop time. If Alex could have converted it into a fire of his own, he could have burned down the earth.
The woods cleared and a road came into view below a steep, snowy hill. Alex walked down the slope in a haze, seeing nothing but a horizon scattered with flickering stars. Headlights of passing cars passed by and the land slanted downwards. Alex could see the city lights on the horizon, mirroring the starry sky. He exhaled and watched the vapors drift in the moonlight.
His legs felt like lead as he trudged through the snow, down towards the road. The opposite side was lined with a rusty guard rail, and beyond it another hill that went down into another field. On the other side of it, the tiny lights became more prominent. Gable’s Junkyard was on the edge of town, a mile or two away from the city. Alex stood on the edge of the road, staring in the direction of the lights. He knew it wasn’t far, even on foot. His heart beating with a new rhythm, he set off down the road, watching the cars pass him.
Gables Junkyard came into view, after passing a few restaurants and gas stations on the way. Its old, yellow sign loomed on the side of the street and Alex stopped. Ryker’s men would be expecting an arrival. He needed the element of surprise.
He moved stealthily along the path leading up to the entrance, closed with a fence gate. Someone was pacing back and forth near the entrance, holding a long gun. Alex’s eyes narrowed.
He darted into the shadows cast by the wall of pine trees to his right. The entrance to the junkyard was right next to a cluster of thick pines, and it made for excellent cover. Alex moved quietly until he was near the side of the gate, watching the man turn around and pace the other way with his back turned.
Alex sprinted, leapt and grabbed a fistful of the man’s hair as he threw him facedown into the snow, his knee in the man’s back. The ground muffled the man’s yells and Alex held him into a sleeper hold until he grew limp.
Another gentle wind picked up, and in the sky, a group of lazy clouds drifted in front of the moon, casting shadows across the earth. The world darkened a shade.
Alex entered the junkyard, his breathing shallow and his heart pounding. All around him were piles and piles of metal and twisted steel, rusted rails and thick wires covered in snow and ice. But no sign of anyone else.
Built up rage suddenly burst inside Alex and he threw out his arms out on either side of him, lighting the edges of each pile in bright flames. The junkyard suddenly flickered orange.
“RYKER!” roared Alex, his anger consuming him. He was tired of this. No more hiding. No more games.
Silence. And then—
Someone was clapping. The sound echoed through the junkyard.
“Well look who’s finally decided to come home.”
Ryker walked out from behind a large metal hill, followed by two men armed with guns. They pointed them at Alex. Following them were two other men and in between them, struggling and bound in ropes was—
“Vivian,” croaked Alex, his eyes taking her in. She saw Alex and screamed his name, but one of the men put his hand over her mouth and muffled her shouts. Alex snarled.
“Take your filthy hands off of her!” he said, and the fire around him flared. Ryker laughed with delight. His cool, grey eyes soaked in the orange light with a manic look.
“Such incredible talents,” he crooned, walking towards Alex slowly. His gaunt face was etched with smugness. “So my men didn’t get you after all. Pity. But then again, they didn’t need to. You came on your own. Like a moth to the flame.” Ryker looked at the dancing fire as he finished his sentence and his eyes grew hungry. Alex’s jaw clenched. Ryker grinned, his lips curling into a venomous smile.
“Why don’t we give your fiancée a little shower, eh? She’s been holed up for too long.”
Alex didn’t move. He watched the men point a gun at her, and his heart screamed. But his panic turned to confusion as the man began to spray her with what looked like streams of water. Ryker laughed as Vivian struggled and closed her eyes.
“I think your fiancée just became a bit more…flammable.”
Alex’s stomach dissolved as he realized that they had not sprayed her with water.
They had sprayed her with gasoline.
He held out his hands instantly, and the flames around the junkyard soon melted away. His eyes locked with hers and she stared desperately back at him, her face horrified.
“Yes, that’s better, isn’t it?” said Ryker acidly. “Wouldn’t want to try anything stupid now. Aim one of your fire attacks at my men and they’ll just use her to soak up the warmth.” He grinned again, and Alex’s hands balled into fists.
“What do you want?”
Ryker shrugged. “What I’ve been wanting. To share that little power of yours with the world.”
Alex said nothing. Ryker was tall, and he straightened up, accentuating his height. He glared at Alex coolly.
“I think you would do well to work for me. You have extraordinary gifts, powers I could only dream of. And I want to share in your glory, Alex. I want to burn down this world bit by bit, and I want you to do it for me.”
Alex laughed humorlessly.
“And if I refuse?”
Ryker nodded towards his men. They dragged Vivian forward, and Ryker walked close to her, raising a bony finger to her chin. It made Alex sick.
“I think you are a smart man, Alex,” said Ryker. “And I think you know what will happen if I don’t get what I want.”
His voice grew dangerous. But Alex didn’t care. His mind raced.
Four men. Two armed. Two unarmed.
He looked at the piles of frosted metal around him. His thoughts ran haywire.
You have to act. Now.
The men were close to him, two holding Vivian, and two pointing guns at him. Alex’s heart pounded.
His hands were at his side, and he opened his palms. A fire erupted behind the men facing him, causing the metal pieces to slide and clatter down. They whirled around on reflex and Alex heard Ryker shout. But the blood pounding in his ears blocked out the noise, and soon he was overcome with an intoxicating rush.
He moved swiftly, snatching the gun out of the first man’s hands and then landing a kick to the back of his head. He fell forward and Alex turned on the others. He pulled the trigger. Once. Twice. Three times. He’d shot them all in the leg and watched as they crumpled to the ground, screaming in pain. Vivian fell forward, but Alex caught her, holding her close.
“I’ve got you,” he said gently as she whimpered. “Don’t worry, I’m going to get you out of here—”
Something metallic hit the back of Alex’s head and Vivian screamed. Bright lights burst in his eyes, and he collapsed to the frosty earth.
“You’re pathetic,” said Ryker’s voice, sounding far away as Alex fought to stay conscious. “You thought you could swoop in, save her, and walk away?” Ryker grabbed Alex’s hair and slammed his face into the ground. “DID YOU THINK IT WOULD BE THAT EASY?” he roared at the top of his lungs, his booming voice echoing a dozen times.
Blood flowed freely from Alex’s lip and he tasted it on his tongue. Vivian whimpered again on the ground, her eyes watching him. Ryker kicked Alex in the stomach. The air left his lungs and he gasped, staring up at the cloudless sky, and at the stars that looked so far away. Ryker spat on him and laughed.
“Pathetic,” he said again. “I gave you a chance for you both to live, and this is how you repay me?” He kicked Alex again and Vivian screamed in protest, tears streaming down her face. Ryker sneered.
“It’s time I rid myself of both of you.”
He glanced at the fire Alex had created and looked at Vivian with an icy smile. “Let’s start with you first, shall we? We wouldn’t want Alex to die without suffering a bit. But first—”
Ryker picked up the gun Alex had used and pointed it at the moaning men lying on the ground. He pointed at their heads one by one and pulled the trigger.
“Injured men are useless men,” he spat, throwing the gun off into one of the huge piles of metal. He then picked up the gasoline gun and pointed it at Alex.
“And so this is where your story ends,” hissed Ryker maliciously. “I thought we could work something out, perhaps use those talents of yours to do great things. But your powers aren’t enough to keep you alive. We trained you well, and when I found out what you could do, I was ecstatic. I wanted in on a piece of that fame. You seemed so…promising.”
Ryker sneered again, and pulled the trigger, spraying Alex with gasoline.
“It looks like I was wrong,” he said, tossing the gun aside like the other one. “What a waste of talent.”
Alex coughed and sputtered, tasting gasoline. He couldn’t use his powers. Panic sank deep inside him. If he used his powers at all, the gasoline would catch fire.
He would burn alive.
Ryker laughed as he dragged Vivian across the snowy ground. Alex felt as though the world were spinning too fast. He needed to do something.
Alex Vesely had never given much thought about death. Not until now, when it seemed so possible, so inevitable. But to die for the woman he loved, to save her in what appeared to be their darkest moment…that was what he had been meant to do. She could never blame him for this.
His trembling hand stretched out, palm exposed. Closing his eyes, Alex thought again of Vivian’s smile. For a moment, his heart wrenched in two, and he swallowed a lump in his throat.
I love you.
The fire in front of Ryker began to shrink. He stopped. Alex quivered, feeling the heat work its way through his limbs. He didn’t have long.
Ryker turned around, smiling victoriously. And in his fury, Alex flicked his wrist, sending a volley of flames at Ryker’s gaunt face. It caught fire. And so did Alex’s arm. He heard Ryker scream in pain and let Vivian go. Pain seared Alex’s skin as he scrambled to his feet and sprinted towards Ryker. The fire was spreading across his body, and he heard Vivian’s screams among the noise. Everything was happening as if in slow motion. Alex leapt at Ryker, wrapped his arms around him, and they both fell to the icy ground in flames.
Ryker continued to scream, and Alex almost did too. He wrapped his fingers around Ryker’s throat as the fire spread to his neck. Alex’s dark eyes filled with tears, furious tears, tears that evaporated almost immediately.
“Burn you son of a bitch,” he choked, watching Ryker grow limp and his skin peel. And then Alex felt the world begin to spin, for the pain was becoming too much to bear. He heard Vivian’s screams of anguish, he saw the orange light dance around him, and in his last moments, he gazed towards the woman he loved, towards his life. He smiled.
“I love you,” he said, and he didn’t know if she heard him. Her eyes sought his and the green sparkle in them lifted his heart to the sky. He stretched his hand towards her one last time, reaching.
And then Alex Vesely’s world went black.
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