The satisfying sound of knuckles cracking filled the air as Helena, Derrek and I walked down to Combat. I was actually quite excited to see how everyone had improved this year and apparently so was Derrek. He cracked the knuckles on his other hand and shook both hands out while a smirk crept onto his firm lips.
“I am so ready to get back at Blake for freezing my coffee this morning” I heard him murmur. I chuckled and rolled my eyes. Will those two ever give up? They could possibly be best friends if it wasn’t for the 24 hour need to kill each other!
I saw the Elementals down the hallway, reaching the doorway to the gym arena, and I wondered how they would go when it came down to facing the rest of the Abled in combat. They stopped just outside the door and by the time we reached them I could see the flicker of uncertainty in all their eyes.
“Don’t worry guys... it’ll be fine. Usually we just have partners and practice what we learnt in Skills or have some sort of ‘last man standing’ version of hide-n-seek, I suppose” I looked at them, my eyes filled with certainty, “It’ll be fine”
I nodded my head towards the door and allowed them to walk through first before following afterwards. “You’re babying them” Derrek pointed out and I rolled my eyes, bumping my shoulder against his, feeling the heat from his body surge through from him to me.
“Better than saying, ‘get the hell in there you whiney babies!’” I joked.
I turned my head forward and was surprised to see the arena had changed since last year. Where there once had been a clear separation between the four different sections of desert, forest, lake and infirmary there was now stadium-like benches all around the circular arena. Dead centre was a large box that was probably two thirds the size of the whole gym arena and reached up to the ceiling. It was made of foggy glass and the edges were held together with studded metal while one side was devoted to a control panel.
“What the...?” I heard Derrek say. That pretty much took the pathetic words out of my mouth.
Slowly we made our way to where the rest of the students were sitting and sat a little off to the side. I could see the eyes of the Elementals dart from face to face of the Abled and back to the giant glass box, taking in everything from their surroundings. I quirked an eyebrow when I noticed a few of the girls eyeing Blake and Cameron before I shook my head in amusement.
I really didn’t see that coming.
Who would’ve thought that over the span of a holiday the girls could go from treating the Elementals like lepers to seeing them as ‘like, oh my God total hotties’. I could feel my eye twitch at even thinking of talking like that and an involuntary shiver made its way up my spine. Our biggest problem would be trying to keep them away from Cameron.
Cameron was too nice of a guy. He was tall and very muscular, even his ability proved him supernaturally strong, but he seemed to lack in the department for saying ‘no’ to the girls. Even if he didn’t want their attention.
Thinking of Cameron made my mind drift to Cara. From what I was able to see, her ability was incredible! Her ability was unbelievably tough and unlike anything I’d ever seen before, but her personality seemed as though she had been sucked dry of self-esteem and confidence. She was quiet as a mouse in a crazy cat lady’s house and was absolutely adamant about not using her abilities at all.
My thoughts were cut short when Coach Shulk stomped into the gym arena blowing her whistle loudly making it echo off the dome ceiling. She was as burly as ever and I wouldn’t be surprised if she spent her Christmas holiday weight lifting trucks. She spat out the silver whistle and it dangled on its string around her neck before she began to yell loudly.
“Welcome back students! As you may have noticed, the arena has been changed! This will only be temporary. To begin your second year at Abled University, we will be starting you all off with a test! This test will be a test of survivors! Every single one of you will go into the glass box, alone, and I will configure the settings to the type of environment that you have the most difficulty with your ability. You’re job is to survive... plain and simple. Show us how you would survive and I will either pass or fail you. Just remember... this will be a way of thinking how well you can survive in the real world”
My eyes widened at Coach Shulk’s announcement. This was definitely interesting, and slightly dangerous. I wondered what she meant about ‘configuring the setting to the type of environment’; did this mean they throw water at Fire-abled people? To say I was excited and intrigued was an understatement.
“Alright! Let’s get started!” She boomed. “First up to try out the test is Derrek Calor!”
I turned my head to Derrek sitting next to me and I saw him sigh deeply as he leaned back into his seat, completely ignoring the coach. “Derrek... she called you” I whispered, nudging him with my elbow only to receive a shrug from him.
“DERREK CALOR! GET YOUR BEHIND UP HERE!” She shouted, though it wasn’t much louder than her normal ‘talking’. Derrek grumbled and his golden eyes blazed before he stood up and stalked over to the glass box. “’Bout time... Alright Derrek get in there”
Coach Shulk opened a door I hadn’t noticed near the control panel side and Derrek threw me a wink before walking inside. He walked into the centre of the box and I watched, waiting to see what was going to happen. Coach Shulk pressed a few buttons, turned a few dials and finally pulled down on a red lever.
The box brightened. It seemed as though there was sun growing inside the glass box and was so close to exploding that I couldn’t even look at it without my eyes tearing up. Everyone shielded their eyes and looked away then suddenly... the light disappeared.
I cracked open my eyes and peered over at Derrek, expecting to see him still standing there only to see that he was standing in the middle of a blizzard. While the gym arena was still the same dome with benches all around, the box seemed to be its own little world.
Derrek was crouched down on his knees in the snow and even from where I sat I could see his entire body wrack with shivers. Without realising, I stood to my feet and watched Derrek try to stand up before collapsing again and wrapped his arms around himself to shield some of the snow that was blowing harshly against him.
I could hear the snow and the wind as clear as day, just as though I was standing right there with him, but it was as though it wasn’t real. I couldn’t feel the water molecules or sense the coldness of the snow and yet, right before my eyes, I could see Derrek’s lips turning blue as the cold bit into him.
“Do something!” I shouted at the coach, “He’s going to die!”
“It’s just a test Valerie, he’s still conscious so until he passes out the test continues” Coach Shulk denied me.
My eyes widened and I felt useless as I just watched him suffer from the cold. Derrek face was a slight tinge of purple and his frighteningly dark blue lips opened wide as he shouted out. His shout was like a battle cry and while he was still in his crouched position I saw his hands burst out with flames.
The flames flickered before it steadily crept slowly, very slowly, up his wrist then his arms. I could see the effort it took for him to concentrate on changing into a Fire-being and I knew it couldn’t be easy. The fire continued to swallow his body but only certain parts were able to change to molten rock beneath the fiery flames. The snow began to quickly melt under his body and the snow from the winds could no longer touch the air around him.
My heart was racing away and I could hear the heavy thumping in my own ears as I saw him slowly stand up. Derrek’s face was no longer purple and blue from the snow but now was wearing a comfortable smirk as the rest of his body, that hadn’t changed into a Fire-being, turned from skin to molten rock. He spread his arms out wide and with a victorious roar began to shoot jets of angry red flames from the palms of his hands. Derrek’s own personal flame thrower began to eat away at the surrounding snow leaving nothing but dirt beneath his feet.
All of a sudden, the box burst with bright light again and all the students watching turned their heads away from the offending light. Once it had subsided I looked back and saw Derrek standing in the glass box again. There was no proof of the snow or the biting wind, no scorch marks of Derrek’s fire... no nothing.
Derrek extinguished his flames and was back to his normal self when the sound of Coach Shulk’s slow clapping reached my ears. That was when it hit me that Derrek had passed his test! I squealed loudly and joined Coach Shulk’s clapping and soon the rest of the students copied. The sound of applause filled the air and Coach Shulk opened the door allowing Derrek to leave.
He seemed pleasantly surprised at our applause but made an effort to ignore it as he slowly walked over to me. Once he was within reach I threw my arms around him, “Sparky! You passed the test! That is so amazing! What was it like?”
He pulled me tight against him, returning my embrace before helping me sit back down. “It was horrible Tadpole. As soon as you walk in you don’t see or hear anyone or anything, then when it starts you feel totally helpless. I was barely able to get a spark at the beginning”
His words sunk into me and I realised that this test wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would be. Coach Shulk called for silence before shouting out another name. We all watched student after student pass or fail as they were thrown into the worst case scenario for their ability. Most of the Fire-abled tried to copy Derrek’s example but some couldn’t even light up a finger, let alone their entire body.
The passing rate was a 50/50 chance and I was thrilled when Helena managed to just scrape a pass when she was thrown into a desert. Helena stumbled forward when Coach Shulk offered a pat on the back and when she stepped out of the box. I clapped for her offering a bright smile before listening to the coach again.
“Now we won’t have time to get through everyone in this one class, so for whoever doesn’t get to do it today... count yourselves as lucky! Now, the lucky last person for today will be Valerie Cascade, you’re up!”
“Damnit!” I muttered. I was so close to getting out of it today. I heard Derrek chuckle next to me and I glared at him playfully.
“Don’t worry Tadpole, you’ll be great. Better to get this over with now, then we can make fun of everyone else” He smirked. I sighed and knew he was, partially, right. I stood up and ignored Coach Shulk’s tapping foot as I made my way down to the door of the box. I glanced over at the control panel and did a double take when I thought I saw a dark shadows leaning over the buttons and dials. When I looked back, I realised there was only Coach Shulk standing there. I must be going crazy...
She let me in and I walked towards the middle.
Derrek was right when he said you don’t see anyone. From the outside the glass was frosty, but I could see through it at the person inside, but from inside all I could see were white walls. I waited and waited, every second seemed like an hour and my heart began to thud a little bit faster and a little bit harder.
I was suddenly blinded by the light and immediately covered my eyes. Just as soon as it appeared, the light dimmed and was gone.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t the thick smoke that forced its way down my throat before I could even open my eyes. The smoke seemed to choke me and I dropped down to the ground to try and evade it. I snapped my eyes open and fear constricted around my heart when the sight of angry fire seemed to burn everywhere around me.
It looked like I was in a room. Just a simple bland room with a carpeted floor, single bed, a set of drawers and a closet... except everything was on fire. Despite the lack of fresh air, I started to hyperventilate, I could feel the familiar burn of scorching flesh and the memories attacked me like a ferocious wild animal.
It felt like I was in two worlds.
One where I knew I was in the bland room on fire, where I knew it was a test... and another where I was being chained in a dank and dirty stone room being tortured for hours on end by fire and Stinger abilities. I panicked... I had to get away!
I shuffled backwards and screamed when my feet hit the bed. The blankets were engulfed in flames and I swear I could see Malum’s mocking face as he tortured me laughing with each flicker of the fire. The heat was overwhelming, evaporating every drop of moisture in the room. I couldn’t even cry, I was so dehydrated!
I felt like the room was shrinking in on me, I couldn’t stand or else be suffocated from smoke, I couldn’t move anywhere else because no matter where I looked the fire mocked me. The orange and red colours of the flames danced before my eyes as the dark grey of the smoke fell lower and lower as the fire ate everything in its path.
Even the carpet was being scorched and soon I was stuck in a small circle of untouched carpet. Oh God... I’m going to die! I felt paralysed, I couldn’t do this! The bland room and the stone torturing room blended together and I screamed in pain when I realised my shirt had caught on fire. I felt my stomach trying to heave up my breakfast when the stench of melting skin and burning hair filled my nostrils.
I could feel the numbing tortuous pain of the fire as layer after layer of skin was melted away leaving blackened charred edges and even my fingernails felt like they were liquefying. The smoke stung my eyes and throat and it swirled around me like a hissing grey python. The sound of cracking caught my attention and I turned my aching eyes to the set of drawers.
My eyes widened and the last thing I saw were the drawers falling down towards me before I passed out.
The muffled sounds of familiar voices hummed in my ear as I lay on the uncomfortable ground. I tried to crack my eyes open but could only manage to open it into a slit and saw the blurry dark silhouettes of people surrounding me.
“..her out...infirmary now!”
I tried to strain my ears but trying to focus on anything only made the pain all over my entire body worse. A strained scream pierced up my throat when I felt hands carrying me, but the pain was overwhelming, it was unbearable! The last thoughts that filled my mind before blacking out again were ‘just kill me!’
I think I may be dying from the heat here in Australia! Heat-bloody-wave! Who else is experiencing this insane heat?
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Dedicated to @MarcusWagner for saying he doesn't the wait on my chapters, it was nice to hear something different =D