Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chapter 16 - Fire From Flesh

For four straight nights, Truth's dreams gifted him with visions he was unable to understand. The sensations and images came in irregular disconnected bursts: Honor's face, disembodied voices of people from his past, screams, the sensation of falling, a suffocating blindness, a concrete labyrinth, and fear heavy enough to steal his breath. Each night he awoke shivering in his own sweat, squelching screams into his pillow, and with the faint scent of smoke lingering in the air.

This night was no different. Truth swung his feet over the side of his bed and sat up. He glanced around in the darkness and saw to his surprise specter-like swirls of heat as they rose upward and dissipated into the vents of the air circulators. His dreams had been so vivid, confusing, and fearsome that he'd begun reaching out from the unreal to the real world. It was almost as if he was lighting the dreams on fire.  Truth ran a hand over his brow, unsurprised to find it damp with sweat, and spoke aloud to himself, "One day, my boy, you're going to burn down your whole world, self included." He emitted a dry chuckle but was unconvinced by his own attempt at jocularity and quickly shut up.

He'd tried to ignore the dreams, but the attempts were an exercise in futility and he knew this if he knew anything. He rarely dreamed, but when he did... A couple of months ago, when he first began dreaming of Honor, her face, the clearest most tangible and glorious thing he'd ever seen waking or sleeping, he longed to see her, to communicate with her. That had been because when he'd had those dreams there was no sense of fear or danger. He was no soothsayer. The exact future was as much a mystery to him as anyone else, but he had a sense of things.    Something had changed since then, and whether good or bad, Truth did not know.

Truth heard the light click of the electric lock of his bedroom door and the slow turn of the knob. Unsure of the exact hour, he knew, nonetheless, that it had to be predawn.  Other than himself, no one should have been in his room at this time. Something deep within him nagged because he should have never been caught so unawares. “I should have sensed someone coming before they ever touched my door,” he whispered to himself.
Though only mere seconds, minutes seemed to pass before the door began its slow arc inward. In those brief moments, Truth was able to discern two things. The person on the other side of the door was neither Jorine nor Jamal, his guardians. Jorine, heavy and stout, was none too gentle and would not have ever been able to unlock and open the door with such silent ease. Besides, her heft caused the old wooded floor boards by his door always moaned under her weight.  Truth deduced that this could not have been Jamal for one reason. Jamal, an insufferable coward was afraid of him and dared not come into Truth's bedroom alone, day or night.
In the split second before the door opened wide enough to expose his side of the bedroom, to lay back down and feign sleep.

Truth was right and wrong.

Two people entered his room. The first to enter was Jamal, and to Truth's surprise he didn't emit the waves of white and pink that marked him and his fear, but instead his heat halo was a confident greenish-blue. And Truth could also see Jamal's heart as it beat a steady and strong rhythm against his ribs.  The man who entered next was taller and more solidly built than Jamal and wore his confidence like a shield. His halo was solid blue and his large strong heart beat like the slow and steady beat of tribal drums. And his scent was also strong.  He reminded Truth of when Jorine and Jamal once took him on a night time picnic.  This man smelled of musk and pine and clean earth. Both intrigued and afraid, Truth mused that this blue man's spirit was as much fire as anything he had ever conjured. Unlike Jorine, whose life energy pierced him like many tiny needles, wildly ricocheting off of the walls, this man's energy was a smooth flowing force the undulated around the room in cooling waves.  Truth was as drawn to this energy as he was repelled. He'd never seen anyone like this man.
Jamal pointed at the door and whispered something that Truth could scarcely make out. All he could hear were scattered words, “tomorrow… electric lock… darkness…cold…”

Forgetting that he was supposed to appear to be asleep, Truth screwed up his face in an effort to catch the stray words but was hardly successful. He couldn't make sense of the bits he'd heard thus far.
The blue man turned toward Truth's bed and looked in his direction for long seconds until Jamal started whispering again, this time pointing at the window. This time Truth heard him clearly say, "...a possible escape route. He's dangerous. He might kill you."

Truth nodded his head imperceptibly in agreement. He didn't know what Jamal and this blue man were planning, but yes, he was dangerous and he would kill if he had to, if it meant saving his life, if it meant the chance to get to Honor. He said all of this to himself but outwardly maintained the pretense of sleep. He chuffed lightly, as people often do naturally when sleeping and this drew the man's attention again. He held up his hand, silencing Jamal in mid whisper.  The blue man motioned for Jamal to leave, and the both passed out of the room, pulling the door to when they did.

Truth rose immediately upon hearing the electric lock engage and went to the door. He pressed his ear against it, hoping to catch some faded bits of the continued conversation, but he could hear nothing. He stood there for a long time combing his brain for some meaning to what he'd just witnessed. Jamal, supposedly so terrified of Truth that he never entered his room, suddenly does so and with a stranger. And this stranger, was able to do what no one had ever been able to do, make Truth doubt himself.

Truth sat back down on the edge of his bed. Four nights of vivid dreams about what?  And now this? "Which is what," he asked himself aloud.  Truth’s heart was running a horse race in his chest. Something was about to happen, of this, he was certain. "But what do I do?" he asked aloud. He shook his head in hopes of shaking free the confusion and fear. 

Truth had little fear of men. Men were easy. He could dispatch them if he wished. But he never had indiscriminately demonstrated his skills.  He had never hurt anyone unless they had caused him harm first.  Doing so would only have hurt him.  Until he knew a way to reunite with his sister he needed to be rational.  "But how can I be rational when I'm being threatened?" Truth stood up and began to pace, ordering and reordering his dreams, the feelings, the fears. None if it made sense, and none of it brought him closer to understanding.  All that the brooding accomplished was make him even more afraid and more doubtful.

Truth's pace increased, the heels of his bare feet digging into the floor, twisting the throw rug in the center of the room into a knot that he then kicked under his bed. His heart raced manically and his throat felt tight and hot. "I will not be kept in the dark.  I will not be lied to.  I won't."  Truth stopped and stomped his foot.  He wrapped his arms around himself to stop the trembling, to ease the thing he could feel happening. 

He smelled the scent of singed cotton and he jumped backwards, surprised by what he had done. Holding himself, arms wrapped, hand over arm, Truth had burned holes into the sleeve of his shirt. Big hand shaped holes.

“Fire from flesh.  Now, isn’t that a pretty trick.”  The voice was as calm and deep as a forest under snow.  For the second time that night, Truth had not sensed the man’s approach.  He spun around.  The blue man stood in the doorway, and although Truth couldn't actually see this, he knew that the man was smiling.


  1. My review of Honor & Truth is now posted at Web Fiction Guide. Hope you like it.

  2. Laz. Stunning.
    Thanks a million.