Liam - 11 years old
A high pitched scream erupts behind me. While running ahead of him, I start laughing.
I take a peek over my shoulder to see my best friend scared out of his mind.
He glares at me while panting, trying to catch up to me. Sweat creases his dark skin, and his brown eyes look angry and fearful.
“Dude!” he cries. “How many times have I warned you? Don’t play with fire. But what do you do? You play with fire, and then, YOU BURN THE FRICKING WORLD! And I’m always the one who gets in trouble afterward!”
I just laugh at his fear. “Calm down. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Maybe he has a point. I’m saying this as I run away from a forest fire I accidently started.
“Not that big of a deal? NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL?” He starts taking rapid breaths. “You just killed a forest! Think of all those trees! Think of the poor deers!”
“Forget the deer and think of yourself. Come on it’s getting closer!” I cry.
Instead of a response, all I hear is a thud behind me. I turn around to see Jordan kneeling down, holding a withered plant.
“What are you doing?” I ask, my voice incredulous.
He looks up at me with wet eyes.
“It’s - it’s little Tommy!” He sobs. “Noooooo!”
“The plant? Oh god Jordan; we don’t have time for this! This is pathetic!”
He wails again and I groan, sliding a hand down my face and running back to grab him. I drag him from the ground and run from the impending flames.
“TOMMY, REST IN PEACE MY SON.”
“Oh for the love of-”
Something explodes and he shrieks, running farther in front of me, leaving me behind as sacrifice. I shake my head and ask myself why I’m friends with him.
Oh right: Every other boy hates me because I’m a jerk, and I think girls are too clingy.
We continue to run away, the fire causing smoke to fill our noses, until we finally get to our house. Thankfully, my dad isn’t home right now since he is working at the palace. He would blow a fuse if he found out his “perfect” son caused a fire.
I push open the door and go inside, breathing hard. Jordan comes behind me. His mother, Julie, comes from the kitchen, her hands on her hips.
“What have you two troublemakers been up to now?” she asks.
After a breath, Jordan points at me.
In his next breath he says, “Liam started a fire with his freaky powers.”
I roll my eyes and groan. Of course he’d spill everything out. He can’t keep his mouth shut.
Julie gasps and looks at me angrily.
“Liam! How could you? Just because you can control fire doesn’t mean you can go and do anything you want with it! Wait until your parents hear about this.”
I widen my eyes and shake my head. “No! Please don’t tell my dad! You can tell my Mom, but not my dad. Please Julie!” I all but get on my knees and beg.
My dad has big expectations for me since I’m the only son of an important general. He wants me to follow in his footsteps. If he finds out that I set a forest on fire, he’d flip.
She shakes her head with a stern face. “Uh uh. I can’t hide this. You have gone too far this time. Your father needs to know.” She turns to Jordan and narrows her eyes. “I’ll deal with you later.”
With that she walks back to the kitchen.
I sigh and turn to Jordan. He visibly gulps.
I glare at him while summoning a rock.
As it floats around my hand, the familiar feeling of strength and confidence fills me. I sense the materials that make up the rock inside my soul. I feel the stages of this extrusive igneous rock’s creation: from molten lava, deep within the Earth, to a cool hardened solid that was pushed up to the surface from deep within the ground to finally meet the sun. Heat fills me as I feel my rage and the rock’s journey from the Earth’s core to the surface, building my adrenaline.
I smirk at Jordan’s frightened expression, knowing he sees the fire in my eyes.
“I’ll give you three seconds.”
He bolts out of the house, not wasting any time. This delights me, and I feel a familiar sense of fury within me, burning up my insides.
“Three. Two. One.”
I run out of the house, summoning multiple small rocks with me. They fly beside me, picking up speed as they form a sphere the size of a big boulder.
Jordan is no match for me.
I catch Jordan, who is struggling to run faster, in my sight. I raise the ground about an inch in front of him when he looks back at me. While distracted , he trips over the dent and stumbles.
I use this moment to my advantage and tackle him to the ground, letting my boulder disperse into its individual pieces.
He shrieks as I pin him to the ground.
“Help! HELP! I’m getting jumped. Help!” he gasps.
I pause, pinning him. “Do you even know what that means?”
He pouts. “No.”
“That’s what I thought. Why did you tell on me? Do you know how much trouble I’m going to be in?”
“Because you needed to be taught a lesson. What? You thought I’d let you go since it’s your eleventh birthday? No! Someone needs to let you know that what you did was wrong. You can take away the fire just as easily you can start it, but you can’t take away the damage! You destroyed thousands of homes, habitats! Don’t you feel bad?”
“You dummy; I can use my earth powers to grow it all back!”
He huffs. “Yeah well you still destroyed stuff, and destroying for no reason is bad. Mommy says so. Now get off me! You’re heavy, dude. Seriously, lay off the muffins.”
I give him one final push and stand up.
Is he right? Did I do something bad?
Am I an evil person for liking to destroy things?
I frown as I think about this. I don’t want to be evil. I just had a craving to let the fire out, to watch it kill everything it touched, so I fulfilled it.
Ok, maybe that is bad.
And it’s getting worse. These cravings come more often as I grow older. Though the kingdom makes me seem like some type of hero that will give them riches and put out fires, I can’t help but feel as if I don’t deserve all their praise. What if the craving made me hurt someone? Did I already hurt someone in the forest?
We walk back home quietly, Jordan giving worried glances at my silence. He knows that I usually never shut up.
I enter the house and meet my angry mother, but when she sees me, her face becomes etched with worry. I walk to my room, ignoring her. Behind me, I hear Jordan speak.
“Avani, I think he’s broken. He didn’t say a single word on the way back.”
I shut the door behind me and plop face down on my bed.
My room is plain, with brown walls, one closet, a desk, a nightstand, and a door to a bathroom. My bed has comforting red and white sheets. They welcome my tiredness with open arms.
Right before I fall asleep, a melodic voice rings in my ears.
Aah ahh ah ahhhh
- - -
I wake up to knocking on my door.
Slowly, I get up, rubbing my eyes. I squint, looking out the window beside me and see the sun setting.
The door opens to both my parents.
They’re about to give me “the talk”.
“Son, we need to talk,” My father says.
He runs his hand through his brown hair. His tan skin shows slight wrinkles, though he’s not that old. He has a long, square face, with a sharp jaw and a defined body from his years as a guard. A scar runs from the corner of his right brow to his cheekbone.
My mother presses her lips together into a thin line. She has the same tan skin, but it’s still smooth. She has a round face and a pudgy nose. Her eyes are the shapes of olives, golden in color. Her body is slender, her bottom half larger than the top half.
Some of these features have been passed on to me. I get my golden eyes and black hair from my mom, but my hair has a natural tinge of red that doesn’t come from either of my parents. From my dad, I inherited my square face and jawline. I share their tan skin, though mine is a lighter shade.
As I stare at them walking to my bed to sit down, I can’t help but think how mad they are at me.
But what they say next surprises me.
My mom speaks up first, her face carved with worry.
“Liam, are you ok?”
I don’t say anything, thinking if I should tell her. Maybe she can help. I look at my father, who seems more concerned than angry and decide to tell them.
Running my hand through my hair, I say, “Um, no. I-I have these cravings, this need to light things on fire and destroy them. It gives me a good feeling inside. It makes me happy.” I look at them. “Is that normal?”
They give each other a look and turn back to me.
Mom shakes her head. “No. That’s not normal at all. People don’t usually take joy in destruction. Why haven’t you told us this before?”
I shrug. “I don’t know.”
Dad places a hand on my shoulder. “You know you can talk to us, right?”
I nod, staring at the floor.
He turns to Mom. “Avani, we need to get someone who might know something. This might get out of hand if we don’t help him now.”
Mom nods. “I agree, but who? Who would know of this? No one else in the world has this power except him. How can someone who’s never seen this before be trusted with our son?”
He takes her hand. “Maybe a psychologist could get through to him?”
She stands up. “Liam is not crazy.”
“I know, but therapy helps sometimes and this seems like that type of problem.”
“I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. We can’t cure something that could possibly be his natural instinct.”
They grow quiet in thought. I feel scared. I look at my shaking hands.
“Mom?” I ask in a small voice.
“Am I evil?”
She takes my hand and looks into my eyes. “No sweetie, you are not evil. You are not a bad person. I know that.”
I tear away from her gaze and look at the floor.
“Then why am I like this? Am I . . . Am I a monster?”
She pulls me into a hug and Dad joins.
“I may not know the answer to why,” she starts.
“But we do know that you are not bad. You are not a monster,” Dad finishes.
I breathe into their hold, still not quite believing them.
They pull away, and Mom gives me a soft smile.
“We’ll talk about this later. Let’s go cut your birthday cake.”
I beam at her, lightening up a bit. “Is it chocolate?”
Dad laughs. “You know it.”
Suddenly we hear a voice from the dining room.
“Cadman, get your family over here. The cake is waiting!”
Dad sighs. “Oh Elliot. Always a sucker for food. Eh, who am I kidding. Who isn’t?”
We laugh and go into the dining room to eat cake.
All the while, I try to ignore the feelings I get from the fire of the candles, just waiting to be used to burn everything away.
The voice I heard earlier keeps sounding in my ears.