Thursday, June 16, 2011
Chapter 20 - Debacle (Part 1)
McKinley entered Truth's room alone.
The room was dark but for the diffused yellow glow cast off by the city lights in the distance. Truth was sitting on the window seat, his blind gaze focused on a point in the distance, somewhere below his tower perch.
McKinley cleared his throat before speaking. "I am Professor Hashimoto McKinley. I am the Supreme Scientist." McKinley paused, waited for Truth to acknowledge him but Truth didn't even appear to have heard, so McKinley continued. "I am honored to finally meet you, Truth. You may not be aware of this but I have been receiving daily reports about your development and behaviors since you came to live with the Esclaves." McKinley moved forward, each step small, slow, and succinct. It was almost as if he was performing a rigid stylized dance.
“You’ve taken an interest in me,” said Truth.
McKinley stopped. He now stood only about five or six feet away from Truth. Later, McKinley would swear that he could feel waves of warm pulsing energy flow outward from Truth, flow over and around him. McKinley itched to reach out and lay hands on the source of this energy.
"Certainly. Yes, I have," McKinley's breath caught and he swallowed to regain composure. "You're important to us, to me."
"I've been with Jamal and Jorine for almost ten years now." Truth turned to face McKinley and seemed to study him for several long seconds, his face an inscrutable mask set into deep dark shadows, as if chiseled from stone. "Why are you only just coming here to visit me?"
McKinley opened his mouth to respond but almost immediately he decided it would be best to hold his tongue. The truth, if he was willing for even once to be honest with himself, was that he'd been afraid of this Believer boy with the frightening powers, this Scientist science project debacle. The lie, whatever one McKinley could possibly manufacture, while it might have sounded flattering, would still have sound suspiciously like a lie.
Against the backdrop of the Sinistral’s sulfur glow, McKinley could see little other than Truth's eyes and teeth and a few jagged glimpses of skin. The darkness made the boy appear sinister and hard. Truth had offered a crooked self-satisfied smile that made McKinley believe with an uncomfortable terror that Truth had been reading his mind.
"Having trouble with that question?" challenged Truth. McKinley's pride flared up, but before he could answer Truth continued. "I'll try an easier question." Truth stood up. McKinley was surprised to see how tall Truth actually was; he had at least half a head on him. "What brings you here?"
Now that was a question that McKinley could answer. "I've decided that the time has come for you to leave the Esclaves. You'll come to my home and stay with me." Truth said nothing to this. "I know that you've probably developed quite an attachment to the Esclaves---"
"Not really. I don't exactly wish them any harm and I suppose they've been acceptable care takers, as much as Scientist kidnappers can be, but I wouldn't use the word attached."
“Nevertheless, I think it is time that you have a change of surroundings, a new perspective if you will. You need to be with a Scientist who can appreciate you and your unique gifts. Someone who can help you reach your full potential.”
“In other words, you wish to take advantage of this curse you and your Scientist brethren have laid on me.” Truth’s voice was deadly flat.
McKinley stared open-mouthed at Truth. Truth's teeth flashed in the darkness again. This time when McKinley swallowed, it was to tamp down his growing annoyance with Truth's arrogance.
"I'll ask the Esclaves to come say their good-byes. My valet Airun will come assist you to gather those items you wish to bring with you." McKinley turned to leave.
Just as his foot crossed the threshold of the door he heard Truth say, "I'm sorry? I must have said something to give you the impression that I'd be leaving with you."
McKinley started to laugh. He was annoyed, yes, beyond measuring, but he was also impressed with the blind boy. "What?"
"I see heat, did you know that?" said Truth changing the subject.
"Certainly," said McKinley deciding that it wouldn't hurt to humor the boy. This was, after all, an opportunity to get to know what he would be dealing with for the unforeseeable future.
"It's an odd gift with baffling quirks."
"I imagine it is. What's just as odd is the fact that you refer to it as a gift."
"Of course I do. Although, this seeing-blindness, for lack of a better term, was certainly never meant to be a gift. Scientists don't give gifts to Believers. But I figure, if I can use it to my advantage...." Truth lowered his head momentarily as if ordering his thoughts and then continued, "The human body is what I call a hot spot. I can see a person coming from great distances, sometimes even between walls."
"I didn't know this,” said McKinley in all truth.
"Each body, each person, has his own temperature and color."
"Color?" McKinley stepped deeper into the room until again he stood only about five or six feet away from Truth.
"Your color is yellow." Truth's teeth glinted. "I wonder what that means?" The giggle started deep in Truth's chest, sounded like the distant rumble of a train, but as it rose to the surface it grew piercing and high pitched.
When McKinley had had enough he said in the most commanding voice he could muster, "Stop this nonsense and prepare to leave." He turned on his heal but was unable to take a single step in forward momentum. He suddenly felt bone cold, as if some great unseen frozen fist had reached into his body and with one swift swipe stole his body heat. He'd once camped outdoors for three days in Siberia during the coldest season arriving at his destination by riding on the back of a mush team driven sled, wind whipping against his face and yet he had never experienced cold as sudden and complete as this.
Exquisite flashes of blue lightening danced along the walls of the dark room, an awesome artistic urban light show that impressed him with awe as much as fear, because it took McKinley, a man with considerable intelligence, but a moment to surmise what was set in motion. In the following moment, as the smell of burned plastic, and sulfur, and heated metal, and burning hair filled his lungs, McKinley silently berated himself. Had he been willing for just once to admit that he had always been afraid of this boy, and this time he was all too willing if it might save him, he would have sent an army of chemically restrained servants to retrieve the boy in his stead. After all, the Airun's of the world were expendable, but he, Supreme Scientist Professor Hashimoto McKinley, was not.
Truth said, his voice now suddenly deep as a rocky cavern, "Haven’t I already made myself clear? I have no intention of leaving with you." Then the entire room burst into flames.
When McKinley awoke in a cluttered ruin amongst shattered glass, flames swirling around him like greedy lapping tongues, he had no idea how much time had passed. He tried lifting himself onto his elbows but he quickly realized, pain traveling the length of his right arm through his shoulder on an electric pathway to his brain, that it was shattered. Panting with pain such as McKinley had never known, he lay back down and tried to catch his breath and his bearings.
McKinley lay in what appeared to be a ringlet of fire. A perfect ringlet. McKinley lifted onto his left elbow this time, with significant difficulty and was astonished to note that he lay not in a ringlet but in a rectangle, as if cut perfectly into the floor, a singular island untouched by fire. Above the crackling of the fire, as it consumed furniture and bedding and fixtures, McKinley heard voices call out from the next room where he'd left Airun with the Esclaves.
"Airun!" McKinley's voice cracked as he inhaled a lungful of acrid smoke. "Are you there?" McKinley was able to pull himself to his knees but quickly lay back down as the smoke was thicker three feet above the floor making breathing almost impossible, especially in his already weakened state. McKinley called for Airun again and glanced up to see him standing in the doorway. He held a piece of fabric over his mouth and nose. McKinley was nearly faint with relief at seeing Airun. "I need your help, Airun. Can you come get me?"
Airun shook his head in the negative.
"Of course you can," he said as if talking to a small child. "You'll need to be careful, but I know you can do it. I see a path you can take from the door to me. It is narrow but---"
"I wouldn't spit on you if it meant saving your life," said Airun, his voice remarkably clear and alert. A flash of flames and smoke rose abruptly and when they’d eased, Airun was gone.