Chapter Seven - From the Ashes
The poor, tormented girl curled up even further into the corner, pulling her leges close, and hugging them against herself. She buried her head against her arms, and continued muttering about voices in her head. She looked like a green and gold Christmas ornament she was balled up so much in the corner.
Hints of orange flames flickered atop her head and across her arms, as she struggled to keep her powers contained within her. They were almost invisible within the light of the room, but could be seen by anyone watching for long enough. The flames didn't burn her, her hair, her clothing, nothing. Being more mystical in nature than anything we on this planet could describe, she was untouched by them, as was anything nearby her. No signs of scorching or singing could be seen on the drab hotel wallpaper.
I gave Chris a worried look, and all she could do was shrug. This was my plan, my brilliant idea, and Chris didn't have any suggestions.
Reaching out again, I put my hand on her shoulder, feeling hair and the spandex material of her costume underneath, as well as the odd sensation of tickling flames that did not burn. I only call them flames for lack of a better term, and the sensation was like feeling warm water, or a light breeze moving against my skin.
The moment my hand touched her, her head shot back, and her eyes met mine. They were filled with smouldering flames, and it felt as if I was looking into twin burning embers, two lumps of bright red coal set alight and placed inside her head, both burning at me.
As those burning lights met my eyes, I could feel a tickle in my head, and I found I could sense Chris behind me, hear her, as if I was looking at her, but she wasn't speaking. I could hear her fear, her concern, her wanting to help me, and pull me away, but afraid to touch either me or the Phoenix.
There was more. More voices. All echoing inside my head. Distant voices, near voices, so many crying for help, or in pain. I could feel those we had left below, the battle raging on still, as they continued to fight for us, hoping we'd put an end to this.
As each new voice was added to the rising chorus inside my head, I felt I wanted to scream. This was only a fraction of what the girl in front of me was feeling. That she was still as together as she was amazed me through the throbbing drum of voices.
After what seemed to be an eternity, but only the tiniest slivers of time had passed, the voices faded away, to be filled only by one, the voice of the girl balled up in front of me, whose eyes I couldn't tear myself away from, or even blink.
It wasn't a slow build of voices like before, instead, her voice, her thoughts filled my mind in an instant, and the volume was turned up to eleven. She flooded my head with her thoughts, mentally shouting, "I SAID GO AWAY!"
I felt the force of a truck hitting me, and I was flung across the room and onto the lone bed in the center, hitting the backboard with a loud crack that I was sure was my back at first. The mass of pillows helpd cushion me somewhat. If they had been absent, it very well could have been my back that made that sound.
Seperated from the girl we came to find, Chris rushed to my side, dropping the spear to the ground.
"Are you ok," she asked.
I nodded, almost unaware I had even been asked a question, still shaken and out of it from my mental experience. As the pain subsided, and my head stopped ringing, I sat up on the bed, watching the huddled, frightened girl.
"Not my best plan ever," I muttered, and rubbed my shoulder.
Chris smirked, "You've had a run of bad ideas today."
I turned, looking back at her, as she leaned against the wall, another bland hotel painting beside her head. "Says the girl who thought it was a good idea to turn down the Sorcerer Supreme."
Sadness washed over her face, and her eyes became downcast, looking away from me.
"Hey, I'm sorry, just teasing, that's all. Forgive me?"
Chris gave a small nod, but didn't look up from the floor. I had picked at the scab of her error, the cause of all the troubles today, causing the weight to fall upon her shoulders once more for what had happened. I had been feeling bad about all the lives lost because of my own actions, but she knew she was the true cause of it all, making it necessary for these people to sacrifice themselves for us. For all my lugubrious thoughts that day, Chris' mood must be multiple times worse.
My reverie was interrupted by a new voice, or rather a new spoken voice. It was a voice I had heard before, the voice of the Phoenix that had deafened my own thoughts, now spoke into the room like a normal person. Her head had picked up and was looking at Chris. Her eyes had been put out, replaced by the sparkling green they once were, at least before she had locked gazes with me. I don't know what they had been before today.
Now that I had a good look at her, I could see she was no regular Phoenix I recognised, at least now. With all the changes rampaging through people today, she could have been anyone a meer six hours ago. All I had to do was look at Chris for evidence of that.
She watched Chris for a moment, who had yet to notice that she was being observed. In a quiet voice, like a curious child, the Phoenix asked, "You caused this?"
Chris was startled by the almost gentle voice, the unfamiliar voice, and her head shot up, and looked at the girl with the fiery hair.
With a nod, Chris answered the question.
The Phoenix slowly stood, using the wall and the desk as leverage, unsteady as her mind was still being assaulted by voices. She moved closer by a foot, but still almost an entire hotel room seperated them, with me on the bed between them.
"No, this is not your fault, not truly. You were a catalyst of change, I see it in your thoughts. You were in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Someone would have set off that awful man eventually. It just happened to be you, Christopher. I don't blame you. Martin doesn't blame you. None of the people who know you were there do, either."
The worry in Chris's eyes faded away, as the weight melted, although I didn't need to be a telepath to sense the guilt she still carried, and would carry for some time. A few words from a stranger would not change that, not all the way.
Turning from Chris, the Phoenix turned her attention towards me, and I could still feel the weight of her fiery eyes burning into my soul, as if she was assessing my own complicity in the day's events after the changes.
"You only did what you had to do. You asked, and the people chose their own course. You are no more to blame for their passing than Chris. The two of you have fought hard, and lost friends to reach this room, to find me. Now that you are here, Martin, I sense you have a way to fix everything."
She moved closer towards the bed, looking down at me, still where I had landed, although sitting up on my elbows.
"After everything you have asked others to do today, with everything you believe you have caused, can you ask one more person to serve your needs?"