Risen From Ashes

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Chapter Twenty-Five

Hôpital de l’Hôtel-Dieu, Paris, France

A morning sun slowly filled the white, spotlessly clean room with its warm, comforting rays. There was little in the way of decoration; a red cushioned chair near the window with an oak table. To the right of the door, a singular, generic painting hung on the wall. While it was nothing distinctive, there was a certain charm to it, something that could make one pause and reflect.

In the middle of the room, protruding from the wall was a hospital bed with running machinery.

A heart monitor stood tall next to the gurney, occupied by a single person. It was tracking the pulse of a comatose woman with sleek raven black hair and pale flesh.

A pulse oximeter was placed on her middle finger while an I.V. was injected in the crease of her slender and scarred elbow. A feeding tube was connected to the needle as well. A small nasal hose rested behind her ears and on her long neck. Her chest slowly rose and fell as her gentle rhythmic breathing was controlled.

Although the medical devices made strange, repetitive noises every now and then, they were the only equipment keeping this equally strange, unknown woman alive.

Just as the sun’s pure light gently brushed against the woman’s clean, agedly scarred cheeks, she awakened with a sudden start. Her eyes darted from one corner of the room to the other as if she had just seen someone there, someone from her unknowable dreams. Shock engulfed her very core as she felt a twinge of pain in her chest.

The cardiac monitor sped up, then slowly settled to a normal heart rate. The woman’s fear steadied as she realized she was safe and alone.

Heedless of where or whom she was, the woman glanced down at her unsoiled hands. There, she bore blemishes of a painful, forgotten past, one she could not, or would not want to remember. She noticed the faint scars on her hands and arms as she tested their capability. She flexed each muscle as small pricks of pain stung from the newer scars; they were stitched to prevent any more imperfections, but the woman wanted them out. Whoever she was, she didn’t care about the cuts and flaws that would eventually fade with time.

With a quick gaze around the vacant and sparse room, she noticed something out of place, a clipboard that held a mountain of paperwork on the chair by the window.

Outside, it was a bright clear day. Yet there was no noise, no car horns, no sound of any kind; there was nothing.

Slowly, the woman pushed back the covers, tested each muscle in her toned thighs and legs, and massaged her limbs so she could get the blood flowing properly. Finally, when she could move her toes, she shakily slid off her temporary berth. With only the strange paperwork on her mind, a painful sting struck her elbow and neck; she looked back and noticed the medical equipment wired to her arm.

Unceremoniously, she ripped out the tubes and tape, freeing herself from the confining electronics. The monitor, which kept the pattern of her average heart rate, flat lined and triggered the alarm; a deafening ring filled the room.

However, her only concern was the information she sought on the paperwork. With a little difficulty walking, she still felt weak as she made her way to the table. Slender fingers picked up the clipboard and she read the scribbled penmanship:

Date: June 2, 2028

Name: Jane Doe – given unknown, arrived in Paris one month ago.

DOB: XX, XX, XXXX – no wisdom teeth, estimate late twenties, early thirties.

Status: Living – comatose for twenty-eight days and counting, doctors have confirmed. Vitality above normal, wounds, and bleeding heal quickly, however blemishes remain.

Side Note: Noticeable head trauma, may induce memory loss, vision seems stable, no apparent broken bones – surprisingly.

Other comments: Despite the bumps and bruises, this patient is a medical miracle as her wounds heal faster than the average human being does. Also, nurses have noticed that she murmurs mostly incoherent words. Please note, heart known to race when whispering following words: Raven, Blackbird, Phoenix, Serum, murder, Kai.

The woman’s blue eyes fell on the last word and snippets of her whole, horrendous, violent life came back to her.

Her grandmother, attired in a green earthy dress, led the woman and her cousins through the orchards on a hot summer day, “Follow the wind and listen to the trees. Only then will you be appeased,” was gentlewoman’s soft, calming, voice. She showed them the patterns of the tree leaves, and taught everyone how to interpret the shapes they created.

A Christmas tree gleamed with differently colored lights. Presents rested under the fresh scented pine while frost clouded the darkened windows. There was a fire burning in the hearth, creating the perfect holiday scene.

Suddenly, Kai’s towering figure was cast in shadow from the firelight as he shot the family; one bullet was all it took for an instant kill. He then took an edged weapon from the dining table that had been set up for dinner and swung at the woman who was already wounded and huddled in the far corner under the stairs.

She screamed in pain and cried out for help that would not come; Kai’s maniacal laugh overshadowed her fear.

Somehow, she found herself limping, bleeding, and yet still walking towards the hospital, whispering weakly for help.

Four coffins lay out on either side of two already placed tombs. They had been lowered beneath the ground. The family would now rest in peace with Swan and Falcon.

Her family’s once beautiful farm, blanketed with fresh, white snow was suddenly thrust into flames from a single, bright, flash of light as the fires spread quickly, overtaking all with little regard. The woman, who had been across the street, foolishly ran into the engulfed house, trying to find her family’s photo album. As she grabbed it from the bookshelf, her home collapsed on her, burying her in the burning wood and glass rubble.

Ira, who looked older and stronger, pulled her out of the wreckage and tried to reawaken her. When he failed, his green eyes blurred with tears. He held her soot covered, scarred, and slightly burnt corpse and sobbed over her lifeless body. His sadness cut through her soul. He cried out her name but only garbled words were heard.

Matthew stood behind Ira. He too wept silently as he held his best friend’s shoulder. Matthew Allen, Ira Byrne, her best friends who had always been strong, no matter what, had broken down at the sight of her mangled body.

As one memory faded, another came to mind. Like a flash of light, Kai’s wicked face sped into view as he caught her wrist tightly, crushing her nerves and prying the handgun out of her fingers. She watched, wide-eyed, as a doctor clutched his stomach, and fell to the floor, dead. Her eyes then darted to the man she had shot; he fell back into a chair and tried to dig out a bullet from his knee cap. Fury flashed in Kai’s eyes as he yanked her raven black hair. His cruel voice hissed as he neared her. Outside, she heard the thunderstorms rage. She had no idea where she was.

“Because you survived, my dear Blackbird, you will watch as I burn the world you love. I will start with New York City, where it is said your dear friend Raven is stationed.”

His thin, strong fingers grabbed her chin and forced her to watch a video feed of Wall Street.

“Go ahead, Wilson,” he sneered wickedly. Kai completely ignored William Wilson’s grimace and yelps of pain from the gunshot wound in his leg.

For once in her life, and against all hope, Blackbird prayed as tears swelled.

“NO! Please! I’ll do anything!” she cried out in desperation; she wished Raven could hear her shouts of caution and fright. She hoped that there were no civilians taking refuge there, that the casualty count would not raise another couple million more than it already had. “Kai! Please don’t do this!”

Too late.

Wilson had already entered the codes.

In the video feed, Captain Byrne and nine of his men came into view as they had escaped a nearly crushed building. One was shot down; the rest took cover. Aiming, firing at unseen enemies, two more had been struck down.

Then, someone pointed at something out of the camera’s view. Four had slipped into a sewage drain. Then, a fifth had followed, leaving two behind. A flash of light, similar to the one Blackbird witnessed at her home, struck the city. The buildings collapsed on Russian and American soldiers alike.

The death count mounted higher.

The video feed was cut, only static filled the screens.

“NO!” Quick as lightning, she pried herself from his tight grasp, losing a few strands of hair in the process. Her fingers clasped the knife from his hip and she drove the blade deep into Kai’s gut.

He showed no sign of pain or hint of fear. He only smiled horribly and averred, “No one, least not you, will prevail against me, dear cousin. I have died and risen from ashes!”

Something hard hit the back of her head and she fell unconscious.

Three more years had passed. Blackbird was once again sitting at the lone desk that overlooked the windy storm from the tall tower of Vallø Sløt. Tired and strained as she was, her will was as strong as ever, she continued to write in her small leather bound notebook, even though there were very few pages left. Drained but unable to sleep, she paced around the small tower room, worried about the outside world. She had not heard nor seen any news since the attack on New York.

The one and only guard who was constantly posted in her dull abode, taunted her relentlessly. He hoped to be entertained by watching his prisoner like a hawk day after day. His unremitting torment was the result of the dismal, tedious, sentry work.

Furious that she would not react to his taunts, he finally cursed her with Russian insults. Lightning struck outside as she swore at him with a mix of Russian, English, and French profanity.

The guard, finally enjoying his post, struck her hard across the face as thunder loudly followed its leader. Suddenly, the single door was thrown open wide without warning; while the sentinel was caught off guard, the prisoner took her chance and shot his foot with his own gun while it was still in the holster.

In the semi-darkness, the prisoner managed to pull the pistol from its owner’s hip before he went down. A moment later, she shot him point blank, right between the eyes; his last vision would be her furious blue gaze glaring down at him.

Punching one man hard in the face, she felt another man prime his gun against her head as he called to his fallen teammate.

How could it be? Was that Ira? Had he survived the destruction that had befallen New York?

It must be, no one else had his voice.

As Blackbird and Raven’s dangerous month together flowed and mingled in her mind, she felt her heart pound against her chest as he neared her. His hands, gripping her arms, loosened and wrapped around her frail form, holding her, never wanting to let go. His bottle green eyes flashed with delight as she felt his lips upon hers, pressing against her exposed flesh as if it were the last time they would ever embrace each other. How she ached to taste that sensation again; however, there was still a war going on, and they were caught in the middle.

The Palace of Versailles quaked and cracked under her feet as she ran towards her mad cousin. Her blade was brandished high as they fought; he too had a knife. Swiping at each other, stabbing each other, they felt the pain form and heal, form and heal. Forgetting guns or knives as they tortured the opposite, the two punched, kicked, and tried to strangle the other as they fell beneath the shattering structure. Glass and plaster cut them on contact, but their only thought was the infuriated abhorrence and wrath.

They still fought relentlessly and only stopped when they were buried beneath the ground, under the historic building that was now lost.

Memories came rushing back. Every experience, either good, bad, or dreadful had now returned.

Meryl suddenly felt dizzy and lightheaded. She swayed and fell to the floor. The recollections of Ira swam through her mind again. It was utter torture; any emotion she had ever felt for him pounded into her heart and mind. Love and loathing melded together, then fear that he too was buried within the palace made her eyes sting with hot tears.

Meryl envisioned her family sleeping forever within their coffins, buried beneath the ground, their final resting place - Olinger Eastlawn Cemetery. At that moment, when they were laid to rest, Meryl vowed not to feel, not to betray herself with emotion.

Now, however, the walls she had built so long ago began to crumble, starting with the loss of Matthew. The stone burst into nothing as she, Meryl, wept uncontrollably for the second time since her declaration.

Half a dozen doctors and nurses unexpectedly burst through the door and immediately fussed over the woman. Two of the six people held back. One had a video camera resting on his shoulder, recording the entire scene.

Another two forcibly helped Meryl up and attempted to get her back on the gurney.

“I’m fine!” she cried out angrily as she brushed away their less than helping hands.

Any tears she might have shed were now dried on her pallid cheeks. “Where is Kai?” Meryl asked over their babbling.

“Ma’am,” the man who looked like the senior doctor said, “you are not well. Please let us help you get back into bed.”

“I told you for the last time, I’m fine! Where is my… Where is the psycho?” Meryl could not risk letting that personal information slip, not yet.

One of the two people that stayed near the door, a woman with curly blonde-hair who wore a long white overcoat, asked in a frenzy of excitement, “You mean, the man you carried to the hotel?” she looked nothing like a doctor.

“Yes!” Meryl’s heart raced, unable to think of anything else. She finally managed to smack the other hands off her. “Where is he?”

Silence befell the room, a solemn stillness that made everyone within feel uneasy. They evidently thought that Meryl was worried about the poor bastard.

The professional woman finally answered. She seemed thoroughly interested even though she attempted to mask it with regret. “He is barely alive, wounded as badly as you were. He’s nearby, and he is… Hey!”

Meryl did not wait for the rest of the answer.

She quickly ran past the entire crew, catching them unaware.

Ignoring their shouts and cries, she bolted down the hall with ease. A few rooms down, she found him, Kai’s berth.

He sat in a wheelchair next to the window that overlooked the empty city. He had a stub of an arm in a cast, and bandages covered his blinded eyes. However, the wrappings could not conceal the burn marks that were forever stained on his hollow cheeks.

He sighed deeply, thoughtfully, as a fragment of his distinguishable sneer crossed his wicked face.

Fury possessed Meryl as she ran into the room, grabbed his collar, and wrung his neck with all her might.

He hovered inches above his chair.

“How dare you, you jerk! How dare you survive, how dare you cling to your pathetic, pointless existence!”

Her voice was firm, furious, and deadly.

The physicians ran into the room but stopped in horror as they gazed upon this stranger than fiction scene.

Shaken from their shock, every doctor and nurse seized the hysterical woman, attempting to hold her back. All the while, Kai had not said a word, nor had he resisted her. The only thing he did, which made Meryl more frantic, was sneer with the slightest upturn on the corner of his mouth.

In her peripheral vision, she saw the blonde woman and man with the video camera remain at the door. The man turned on the video device and recorded what they witnessed.

“GET OFF OF ME!” Meryl cried out while punching and kicking wherever and whomever she could. She felt her nails dig into a doctor’s flesh like a cat’s claws as she tried to push them away. “That bastard killed my family! He locked me up for six years! I’LL KILL HIM FOR WHAT HE’S DONE!”

With great trouble, the doctors dragged her from the room and into the staff lounge down the hall. Difficult as it was, they finally managed to subdue her, even though she heaved like a possessed manifestation in her seat.

“Now Miss,” the senior doctor, an aged man with salt and pepper hair and grey eyes, stated calmly, even though he held a tranquilizer at the ready, “This is Megan and Cameron.” He pointed to the professional blonde woman and her cinematographer. “They want to hear what you have to say. They want to help you, but you must remain calm.”

“They can help by killing that psycho!” Meryl pointed to the doors, to Kai, who was still in his room.

“Why?” Megan asked as she and Cameron sat on the opposite side of the table. “Why punish that broken, defenseless man? What wrong did he commit against you?”

Meryl did not answer; she only stared lividly at the silent television screen. It replayed Megan’s segment of her report from the crumbled Palace of Versailles. It dawned on Meryl that if the two searchers on top of the ruins had dug a little deeper, they would have found her and Kai, as well as the rest of the bodies buried beneath. Although¸ Meryl thought to herself. Since they did not have the anti-bodies that she and Kai had, the men were probably ashes and dust.

“Please,” the news reporter urged, pulling Meryl from her thoughts, “Tell us what happened. If your story is true, we can convict that man. However, we need to hear your story. What are your names? Where did you come from? Were you two caught in the war? Let us know.”

Meryl pondered. If I do tell, he will be tried and possibly executed, but they will think I am a sociopath as well just because of my unfortunate relation to him.

Silently, she consented.

With a sigh, Meryl braced herself as she stated everything - well, almost everything. “I am Blackbird, that psychoneurotic is Phoenix. I carried that crazed, bloodthirsty jackass from the Palace of Versailles!”

Again, the doctors and nurses and even Megan and Cameron were awestricken. They watched Meryl closely. They hung on every word she uttered, even though the words were bitter and heartless.

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