I sat down on the bench as I watched Val make her way down to the box. I was concentrating on her retreating back that I thought I saw Coach Shulk with two shadows in the corner of my eye, but when I looked properly there was only one. There must have been another light shining her way or something.
I was intrigued to see what they would throw Val’s way. She’d gone through a lot and always pulled through so I knew she’d do well in ‘the real world’ as Coach Shulk put it, even if she somehow did manage to fail the test. She walked into the box and waited. I remembered when I went in and how surprised I was when I couldn’t see anything outside.
The simulation had been so real. I swear I could remember the feel of hypothermia setting in within seconds! I had no feeling in my extremities and something like standing up had been practically impossible. The bite of the blizzard wind was harsh and I thought I could feel frostbite everywhere. However, when Coach Shulk stopped the simulation all the coldness and pain I’d felt were gone. It was as though it never happened.
Even when the other students ended up drowning or their hair was set alight on fire and the simulation stopped, they ended up dry again or back with their full set of hair. The feeling of the simulation was real... but in the end it nothing more than virtual reality.
The box lit up again with its blinding light and when it faded away I saw Val stuck in a burning room. Even though the box was huge, the room she was set in was so tiny the single bed took up almost half the space. I watched as she choked on the thick smoke and dropped down to the ground to avoid breathing in too much.
“What in the hell?! This wasn’t the simulation I set!” I heard Coach Shulk’s loud voice boom.
My eyes darted from Val over to Coach Shulk and saw she was looking over the control panel with a panicked expression. She tried pressing several buttons and turning dials and I began to worry because she’d never had to do that with any of the other students. Helena and I swapped worried looks and in no time we were running down over to the coach to see what was going on.
“Coach Shulk what’s happening?” I demanded immediately.
“Something wrong” she muttered distractedly. “I was supposed to set her test in a drought but this came up. The setting has been changed and it’s no longer the same as a simulation. The flames and smoke may be the same as before with other simulations... but the effect it has on her will be very real”
“WHAT!” Helena and I cried together. I looked over to Val and saw her crouched low and her clothes had begun to catch fire. Her screams pierced through my heart and I shot my hand out to try to extinguish the fire.
It was no use.
In the back of my mind I knew it was of no use. I knew I couldn’t stop the fire from burning at her delicate skin and eating away at her hair. I couldn’t stop the fire from spreading everywhere and eating everything in its path. I felt useless and helpless and couldn’t do anything with my ability to help save Val.
I snapped my head over to Coach Shulk and fire blazed in my eyes. I could feel heat waves emanating off my skin and holes began to burn in my shirt as small bursts of flames began to spout from my anger.
“What are you doing?!” I shouted at the coach, “She’s being burned alive! Turn the simulation off damnit! She could die!!!”
Coach Shulk was still frantically pushing everything in sight and for once she didn’t look like the menacing bulky teacher who acted like a man, she looked like a helpless frightened woman. “I’m trying!” she cried back. “It won’t shut down until she’s unconscious or finishes the test!”
“Then just open the door! I’ll pull her out!”
Coach Shulk shook her head, “That’s even more dangerous than what she’s going through Derrek. Not only is it practically impossible to do that, but even if I managed to she has a chance of disappearing along with the rest of the room”
I looked back over at Val and knew that she was beyond trying to finish the test. The tall set of drawers were set alight and I watch in horror as it tilted and began to fall down towards Val. “Val!!!” I shouted and planted myself against the box. I punched and pounded at the glass but it might as well have been metal. I threw ball after ball of red flames at the glass yet it did nothing but leave black scorch marks.
Val’s eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed onto the ground and her head made a solid crack against the floor. Suddenly the whole box looked as though it was nothing but flames. It lit up once more and I had no choice but to look away. When I could finally look back I felt my heart drop at Val lying unconscious in the box completely scorched and burnt almost to a crisp.
Her hair had been burnt so it was half the length it was before she stepped inside and her clothes her smoking, almost completely nonexistent. “OPEN THE DOOR!” I yelled at the coach and immediately she obeyed.
I ran inside with Helena hot on my heels and crouched by Val. The smell of burning flesh was wafting in the air and I choked back the need to punch something.
“Val, can you hear me?!” Helena cried as tears streamed down her face. I could see she wanted to hold her, to comfort her just as I wanted and needed to do as well, but Val was so badly burnt we didn’t know where to touch her without causing her more pain.
“Tadpole! Please wake up! Please just open your eyes!” Tears blurred my vision of her burnt face and I didn’t even care if anyone saw that I was about to cry.
“We need to get her out of here!” Coach Shulk’s voice cut through my mental turmoil, “We need to get her to the infirmary now!”
I could see Val’s eyelids flutter but that was the only movement she made besides breathing. I mentally apologised to Val in advance for hurting her and scooped her up gently. Her skin was still hot and I didn’t even want to think of the fresh open wounds covering her body at the moment.
I heard her scream faintly but the smoke had obviously been too much for her oesophagus and her scream was barely louder than a whisper. “It’ll be okay Tadpole. It’ll be okay! Just hold on, hold on for me and it’ll all be over!”
I chanted the same phrase over and over again to her, I wasn’t even sure if she could hear me, all the way to the infirmary. Besides Val’s condition, there was only one thing on my mind that seemed to throb like a migraine...
... What the hell happened to the control panel?
I snapped my open and gasped in fresh, clean air. Bits and pieces of what I last remembered ran through my mind like a montage and I screamed loudly covering my face when I remembered the drawers falling towards me.
“Tadpole! It’s okay! Everything’s okay! You’re safe, you’re in the infirmary. There’s no fire here” Derrek calmed me, “Well, except for me”
My eyes snapped to Derrek’s worried face and his eyes swirled a creamy molten gold as they pierced through mine. I could feel my heart slowing down and calm wash over me at his familiar face. It was only then that I realised I was in the infirmary, not the simulation box, and I looked back at him feeling confused.
“Sparky, how did I get here?” My throat was sore and my voice croaked a little when I spoke. I could feel tingling all over my body and I began to rub my arms a little to try and get rid of it.
“I carried you here. You were in bad sorts Tadpole... Something went wrong with the control panel and the effects of the simulation became real. You were so badly burnt I just...I couldn’t do anything... I-I...” Derrek stuttered.
I could see the pain in his eyes and I knew that whatever I looked like after they got me out was not good. A thought struck me from what Coach Shulk said when I was watching Derrek during his test,
‘It’s just a test Valerie, he’s still conscious so until he passes out the test continues’
“Sparky... Did I fail the test?” I asked quietly with an expressionless face. Derrek didn’t answer me at first. I waited for an answer and finally, when I didn’t hear anything, I turned to look at him. “Did I?”
Without saying anything he nodded and I felt my heart crack a little. This was only our first test, and it was supposed to show us how well we’d do in the real world, and I failed. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes and I choked back a sob.
“Tadpole, why are you crying?” He asked a little surprised. I was probably over reacting but it meant something more to me to pass that test than it probably was to others.
“I failed the test Sparky!”
“So...? There was something wrong with the control panel Tadpole. That was against the odds for you. Besides you’d gone through what other Abled and even humans hadn’t gone through before and survived! Why does this mean so much to you?” He looked curious and confused at the same time as he searched my eyes for the answer.
I sighed and let the tears dry up. I looked out the window that showed a dark cloudy night sky. It looked as though I’d been unconscious for a good part of the day. There was no moon and no stars to gaze at so I decided to tell him my fears.
“Malum is still out there Sparky. We don’t know where he is or what he’s doing, nor if he’s still weak or getting stronger every day. What if he comes back and there’s a repeat of last year?” I looked at him straight in the eyes and let my walls crumble, “How can I defeat Malum when I can’t pass a simple simulation test? It doesn’t matter that there was something wrong with the control panel. Things go wrong everyday!”
Derrek’s jaw tightened and a vein pulsed in his neck. I heard a low growl escape from his lips and he gently, but firmly, gripped my upper arms making sure that I looked at him and didn’t look away. “Malum will never get to you again! Remember my New Year’s resolution? Well I’m keeping that and I promise, I swear to you, that Malum will get his paws on you unless he goes through me first” My mind skipped back to New Year’s day when everyone announced their resolutions for the New Year.
“My promise for the New Year is be your rock. I’ll protect you from anything that ranges from a mental breakdown to a psychotic Elemental”
“Thanks Sparky” My heart melted a little at how protective he’d become of me, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d do better than what the test said I do in the real world.
“Ah! Glad to see that you’re awake! How are you feeling Valerie?” Derrek and my heads snapped to the doorway and I was surprised to see Mr Obsidian standing there with a slight smile on his face.
I sat up a little straighter and smiled back, “I’m feeling better Mr Obsidian” I replied, ignoring the tingles that were still lingering on my skin since I woke up.
“Good, good, because I need you two to gather Helena and the Elementals and meet me in my office as soon as you can” He looked to check if we were alone, and once he was satisfied that we were he continued, “I have a very important assignment for you eight and it’s of utmost importance that it gets done very soon”
How did you like Derrek’s POV on the box scene? It’s his first POV in this story =) What do you think the ‘assignment’ is all about?
Dedicated to @SammieWertish who wanted to read in Derrek’s POV =)
Don’t forget to vote/comment/fan and share my story