This story is by Jeanna Herbert and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Staring at the clock as the seconds ticked by, long slim fingers playing with her golden blond hair. Chewing on her gum loudly as the teacher rambled on about Romeo and Juliet, popping a bubble so loudly that their mentor stopped.
Getting a deadly look over the glasses look from her, Lyn straightened in her chair as she gave her an apologetic look. Shrugging at the others in the room threw glances toward her, all waiting for the teacher to turn back toward the touchscreen wall behind her.
Being born on a world that didn’t have running water where she spent the first few years of her life, this was heaven. Toilets were a blessing. It was an honest joy not to wonder if you were going to pee on your skirts, or something worse. Remembering that having cheese, meat, or even eggs meant working to get them yourself. Not just going to a market to pick them up, pay, and go home to cook them. Instantly having a meal in front of you a blessing, where as many around her thought it was work. In turn having all books, news, and information on tablets was at times still amazing to her.
On her home planet she was little when the fall of the gods happened, remembering still the slaughter of the priestesses at that abby she lived in. Here things weren’t as ugly and bloody as they had been when she was younger. That may have been years ago, at times feeling like a lifetime past; but at night when she slept she still saw the fall of her friends, dying at sword or spear.
Only the magic of one of the Priestesses helped save them.That was one thing she was grateful for. That magic didn’t exist in this world. Here it was just technology, science, and religion; not magic.
The school bell rang signaling the end of the last hour, forcing her mind out of the dark thoughts she was reliving. Releived to be gathering her school techbook, shoving the “pencil” that synced to it behind an ear. Heading toward her locker to grab a few thing she needed before leaving.
Touching her palm to her locker, wanting for it to recognize her. Hearing the lock release, popping slightly open. Reaching in for a couple of books, while replacing a few from her backpack. Then reaching for her stash of cookies and gummy candies.
“Lyn, how you can eat like that, and stay in shape is beyond me.” Said Tracy, the girl who’s locker was next to hers.
“My parents don’t know either.” Smiling as she zipped her pack close. “I say it’s because I have to run everywhere.”
“No vehicle yet?”
Laughing. “I don’t think I’ll get that pleasure as long as my worlds history grades are still in the crapper.”
Leaning against the lockers, Tracy shook her head. “Why are they pushing you to be an expert at that corse? It’s crazy!”
Shrugging as she shoved a cookie in her mouth from the rainbow chip box still in her locker, throwing one to her friend. “I don’t know.” But she did know. Yet she couldn’t tell anyone about her own history. She’d been warned by her parents, even the president of the government to keep it secret. “I guess they want me to work at the embassy on Earth one day.” Shaking her head.
“Why? From what I hear that place is still in the technical dark ages.” Tracy picking up her own pack, tossing it over her shoulder.
“In some ways, according to my classes.”
Tracy throwing her a look. “Why would anyone want to go there?”
Looking at the phone-like device in her hand, remembering what it was like to not have this instant form of information and communication. Shrugging. “It could be worse for them. At least they’re not still in their dark ages.”
“Their what?” Confusion filling her face.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not anything you’ll need to know as a doctor.” Winking at her friend as she slammed her locker closed. “I’ve got to get running.”
“See you tomorrow!” Tracy sealed up her own bag.
Lyn waved from a running pace down the hall already, dodging around the jocks that were throwing a ball around the halls.
Stepping out into the very hot sun slamming her with an unbearable heat as the noise from the metro rail above, the magnetic hovering cars, and the personalized flyers above sent a thrill down her spine. Loving the chaos here more than her home before, something always going on around her. Not just the peaceful rest of the high mountains, or the calm of an aspen grove. This world was more her style.
Racing down the street with her pack bouncing back and forth, Lyn rushing past anyone going slower than she. Loving the feel of heat on her face, the moist air making it seem heavier than it would have elsewhere. Not getting to her at all, the only thing she didn’t care for was the sweat around her hairline; but that was fixed with a head scarf.
Slowing down when the red brick building came into view, looking at her watch, grateful she as early for once. Hunger driving her inside, those cookies were calling her name.
Finding the only library room that still had paper books in it, she sat down at the table that was set up for her class. Taking out her cookies and small tablet to start reading. Placing her feet up on the table, snack on her knees. Eating them as her eyes traveled back and forth.
Heart was still pumping heard, feeling like fire in her veins. “Ow.” She moved her torso a little, seeing if that would help. Frowning when it made it worse.
Backing away from the wooden table, standing up to move away from anything wooden. Hoping that would help, but it didn’t. Instead what she feared would happen again was happening.
Hand started to glow, heat rising off them causing the air in front of it to move in waves. “No, no.” Looking around for water, or a fire extinguisher; anything that would make it stop. Before she could even start her search fire burst from inside her, jetting out from her hands, eyes, and feet. A fire ripping through her veins, bringing forward thoughts of despair with it.
Forcing herself not to fall into the darkness that came in to consume her mind, or into the emotions fogging her brain; but trying to gain control over what was happening. Testing one way or another within her mind, moving her fingers in different directions, anything that seemed small or stupid. Finding that snapping helped the heat, starting to see an end to the heat.
Not realizing that she’d been lifted into the air by the force of the fire until she crumbled onto the carpet. Hands still warm, but they weren’t harmed. No burns or marks on her skin, a few holes in her shirt and skirt were the only signs of what happened.
Slightly confused when Lyn felt a heat on her skin, not within. Turning in place to see fire eating up the books behind her. Springing to her feet to ran out into the hallway and pull the fire alarm.
The effect immediate as classrooms started to empty, adults and teenagers in lines leaving the building as the smoke started to billow into the rest of the building. Lyn took a place with students of her own age, she walking with her head held low.
As they lined up out on the green that surrounded the building, the view was impressive as the fire ate at the building as if it were a starving man. Eating it’s way through the floors, doors, causing windows breaking from inside outward.
Shaking at the sight, she tried to get a hold of the rising emotions of guilt and worry. Eyes looking around frantically. It was then that she saw someone stuck in the building, high on the tenth story.
Mind reeling that someone was caught within her mess, her slight frame shaking from reality hitting her hard. If that girl died it would be on her head, all of this was on her head.
A choice had to be made. Go in and possibly be killed in the process of trying to save her, or live with the knowledge that if anyone died, it was her fault.
Struggling with the fear that weighted down her chest and the reality of a life being lost because of her, caused her to hyperventilate. Breathing coming out in uncontrolled spurts,pressure building within her mind.
But all at once it stopped when she realized what she had to do, knowing which choice she could live with. Looking up into the fire that was eating at the red brick with determination on her face, fists closing tightly.
She ran back into the fire.