Flaws and Flames
This isn’t the way Devotion Day was supposed to end. Elijah and I were to submit a request to Provider, an unpleasant and labored Devotion, but one that would change our future. I was admitted easily, many Flaws are. This type of grimy work is saved especially for us. Providers scavenge outside city limits for beneficial material. When Elijah was called to the Heads of Devotion and handed his request over to the announcer, applause and standing ovation take place as he reads Gen’s Lab intern. The Gen’s lab is a government run genetic facility dedicated to the eradication of Flaw genes. Being who Elijah is, a Super with the highest scores at the academy since the forming of Tantum, he is readily accepted. The auditorium cheers but I’m numb as my heart and pride are crushed.
We’ve spent countless hours on research in the Restored, a hidden relic house deep in the Ruins of the city. Our research can change everything for Tantum and, I thought, for us. We’ve broken curfew, lied, dodged Protectors and have spent more than enough time together to be sent to the asylum. Supers and flawsare not permitted to interact until after D-Day, even then, it is looked down upon but we couldn’t let this information disappear.
Several months ago I came across Elijah, during a run. He was staring into the Ruins as if there was something important to be salvaged from the decay. I would never have approached a Super before but something told me to talk to him and to my surprise he didn’t ignore me. He asked if he could show me something. He led me through the dirt caked, makeshift buildings until we got to the Restored. That is where Elijah showed me plant life.
D-Day is over and the sun starts its descent. I can’t find Elijah. I need to talk to him to understand. The day grows darker and with no sign of him I race to the Restored. I need to tell Fay what happened. After months of running in the dark my feet know the path perfectly and soon I’m walking up to the red bricked building that feels like home.
I push through the front door and am thrown into a frenzy of shouts and curse words. Everyone scrambles, shoving what they can into bags. Fay stands on a crate barking out orders. I struggle through people and debris.
“Fay!” She turns toward me. Her long blonde hair is sticky with sweat and blood and she has a large gash on her forehead that leads to a swollen eye. I run to her.
“What’s going on?” I scream over the panic.
“No time, Kali. You need to leave, get home, NOW!” She yells.
Suddenly, the Restored is flooded with blinding light as shattered glass rings through the room and white smoke starts to rise.
An intercom sparks on. “Exit with your hands up! Any resistance and we will use force!”
That is all it takes to start the chaos. Screams drown out any thought and I’ve lost sight of Fay. I’m shoved to the ground. Panicked feet start to trample me and between the air being knocked out of me and the gas, I’m suffocating.
Hands grab my waist pulling me up. I thrash, trying to escape but lack the strength, and oxygen to disentangle myself. I’m pushed against a book case. I hear screams of pain, gunfire too but I’m too weak to run and it’s impossible to see. My rescuer knocks down the books, frantically searching. My wrist is grabbed and I am shoved through a small door at the base of the bookcase.
The darkness in the room is unnerving and a chill engulfs me to my bones. The floor is loose, gravel or dirt, and the walls are rough stone. My rescuer swings in after me and pulls the trap door closed. The Ruins are filled with unkindly and desperate people. I press against the wall, waiting for what comes.
After a time I hear movement and a small glow illuminates the far corner of the room. An orange flicker, like the colors of the setting sun, dance alluringly against the walls and cast the black outline of a man. I try to melt into the stone, scared of what I am seeing. This man is using fire, a natural element, like the plants, that are supposed to be extinct. No one has even seen them since before the war.
“Who are you?”
I jump up but quickly collapse back, sending myself into a coughing fit.
“I’m not here to harm you. You need to stay seated.”
He shuffles through a bag, his back to me.
“You inhaled close to toxic levels of gas. It may be some time before you can draw a full breath. You need to relax.”
Once the coughing spell dissipates he turns to me and lit in his hand, swirling up around his fingers is fire, real fire and I’ve seen him before.
He and I were always on chore duty together. Fay requested all members to dogood for the good of the facility, chores. His name is Vincent, a Super like Fay, but he doesn’t look like the same Vincent. The flames seem to enhance every part of him. His eyes aren’t the normal blue. Instead, they reflect the warm golden glow of the flame. The fire sends streaks of yellow flecks through his blonde hair and his face is decorated flawlessly by the light.
“Are you alright?” He asks sternly. Before I can reply he starts to pace.
“I can’t believe Fay trusted him!” He yells, startling me.
“We should have left two weeks ago, like I told her. But she wanted to see how it would play out! We should have fixed this, we should have told…”
He stops pacing and turns to me, sighs and runs his hands through his hair, the flames painless against his flesh.
“This could have been avoided..”
He is apologizing to me? The fire plays across his eyes showing sadness that I don’t understand but quickly it’s gone and his face contorts into frustration.
“You have your friend to thank.”
“What are you talking about!?”
Accidently shouting, sending myself into another spell and am reduced to gasping for air. Vincent hurries to the other end of the room pulling a canteen from his bag and hands it to me. Its several mouthfuls before I realize the taste, a crisp, clean and sweet taste of water, unlike the mineral water given in our daily rations. I look up at him and he sits down beside me, his hands still illuminated.
“I’ll answer any questions you have.”
“Did Elijah cause this?”
“He overheard our evac plan. Fay talked to him, trusted him to stay quiet but it turns out she was wrong.” He replies.
“Who are you?”
He gets up again.
“I’m not usually the one who explains. Fay and I aren’t from Tantum. We came from outside the city.”
“You’re lying. Nobody and nothing survived the war. The rest of the world is desolate.”
I retort, offended he thought I would believe such a story.
“It isn’t a lie. We come every year and set up the Restored in hopes to find people who want to break free. People don’t live in Tantum. They are bound to Devotion until their dying day. We help people escape this prison.”
“But everything was destroyed; even the natural resources and the plague killed everyone that managed to survive the war.”
I say weakly, how can I deny what I am seeing right in front of me, produced in Vincent’s own hand?
“Says who? Your government? Do you see this fire Kaliope?”
He knows my name.
“Did you taste the water?”
The water! I almost forgot.
“I know you and Elijah studied our plants. I can show you a forest with animals living together for the sake of living.” His voice softens.
“They call you Flawed, but in my world, people like you and me, we are considered equal. You have no idea the things you can do regardless of your raven hair or amber eyes. These things don’t define you. Fay believed we needed to help you. I was sent to protect you during your journey out.”
He drops to his knees so we are face to face.
“You are meant to be part of my world. You know there is more”
He reaches out to me, flames swirling, my heart pounding. He’s right, I’ve seen what Tantum offers and what Vincent offers is more than I can imagine. Elijah betrayed me. I can’t go back to my life. I reach out taking his hand without thinking. The fire spreads and spills onto my own hand as warmth extends through my body. I know that I’ll follow him out of Tantum. I choose his flames over my Flaws. I want to be part of his world forever.
Story by: Aarika Copeland
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