Chapter I: The Center of Everything

Chapter I: The Center of Everything

A Chapter by Etienne Lantier

The world was shaking.  It seemed to wobble and move with each step Tara took.  She had to get home.  Even if the street was coming apart under her feet, she had to make it home.  Home was always safe.


Where she stepped, the ground cracked below her feet.  Tiny, spider-web cracks that spread and looked like veins.  Bleeding veins.  The cracks boiled over with red sparks that looked like blood, but brighter.  Like magma.  And she ran from it.  She ran from the cracks and the sparks, but there was just more of it, with every step she took.


She felt hot, all over.  Her heart seemed to be pumping heat itself.  Her blood, too, was boiling magma.  She ran down the moonlit street, tearing it apart as she went, and everything was turning red.  The sidewalk, the buildings on her street, and the melting streetlights, they were all turning a tint of red. 


She looked down on at one of her arms.  They were red, too.  Hard to see.  Everything was red, or pink.  Just shades of the same color.  But it looked as if steam were coming off her arms. 


She tried to scream, but an awful, heavy liquid spilled out of her throat and all over her blouse. It disintegrated beneath the apparent heat of her fiery vomit.  She cried, but the tears were heavy, and hot.  The same as the liquid dripping down her rapidly deteriorating top.


Tara wrapped her arms around her torso, covering as much of it as she could.  She didn’t dare stop running.  She was afraid she would melt all the ground below her feet and sink to the center of the earth forever.  She would just float there, in the middle of the earth, at the center of everything, forever.


Finally, she was home.  Everything was going to be okay, here, in this white, two story building where she grew up.  Everything is okay, when you get home.  She didn’t know how it would help.  But she just hoped and prayed that somehow being back there would make everything go away.


She tried to open the door, but the knob turned to liquid at her touch.  She pushed on the door with her shoulder, and it burst into flames.  It fell apart below her weight, and the flames didn’t feel hot.  It didn’t make any sense.


She ran upstairs.  The wooden steps cracked and broke beneath her feet, but she made it to the second floor.  The carpet burned beneath her as she ran to the bathroom.  She had to get there, to the place where she’d gotten ready for prom just a few weeks ago, and then, and then…


She raced to the sink, and looked into the mirror.


She just stared.  Mirrors were supposed to show your reflection, but there was no way the girl staring back through the glass was actually her own reflection.  Even though everything had a red tint, Tara could see that this girl was glowing red.  And her veins.  They were glowing an even brighter red.  But the worst part was her eyes.  This strange girl in the mirror had no pupils.  Her eyes glowed the brightest red of all.  


The girl in the mirror wasn’t a girl.  She was a monster.  A fiery creature from the depths of hell itself.  She was awful.


Hot, heavy tears fell down her tears.  When they spilled onto the sink, there was sizzling and the cracking of porcelain. 


It wasn’t fair.  Eighteen years old, and she was a creature of destruction and hellfire.  Everywhere she walked, there was just flames eating through the earth.  It was just wrong, and everything was starting to feel hot.  She was so very hot.  Hotter than she’d ever been before. 


She screamed again, and magma boiled down her face.  The earth shook.  The world was heat and madness, and she was the center of it.  She was the center of everything.  She was the in the middle of all this.  She was the source and the victim.  She was the flame and the destruction.


And the world exploded.



The ambulance sped off, sirens blazing, but Beacon knew that it was already too late.  He could already feel the life force of the man and woman disappearing forever.  His heart was aching over the well being of his dying wife.  Her heart’s only concern was her children. 


“They won’t make it,” he said to no one in particular.  It was a cold night, but the remains of the burning house kept the cold away.  The firemen had the flames under control now, and it was only a matter of time before the threat was completely extinguished. 


“I don’t care.”  It was detective Crosser. His intentions were good, if specific.  “I only want to know whether or not this was intentional.  I don’t much care for you superheroes, but your powers are real good at discovering intentions, and arson is serious.”


“You know I don’t like being called a superhero,” said Beacon.  “I don’t fight monsters.  I don’t save the world.”


Crosser actually cracked a smile at that one.  He found something rather amusing.


“You’re here,” said Crosser.  “You’re using a codename.  You’re wearing a costume.  And you’re fighting crime.  And you’re using a special power to do it.  That all screams superhero to me, pal.”


He had a point.  Beacon probably was a superhero, if only by technicality.  His powers were simple.  He was an empath.  He could read the emotions of others.  It wasn’t strength of flight, but it was super human.  His costume was a simple affair.  He wore a trench coat when he was on duty.  As for the mask…


Well, maybe he wanted to be a superhero.  He had powers.  And sometimes he had to use them face to face with powerful criminals, in the interrogation room.  Protecting his identity couldn’t hurt, right?  But he knew, deep down, that he just liked playing the part of the costumed hero.


“This wasn’t a crime,” Beacon said.  “The person who did.  She was panicked.  Scared.  Confused.  She didn’t understand.”


“I know what confused means, Beac.”  Crosser kicked a pebble into the rubble of the house.  “You said ‘she.’  Got anything more specific for me?”


Beacon concentrated.


“This was her home,” he said.  “She was coming here because she thought she’d be safe here.  She was running from something.  She was scared for her life.”


“Well, if this is where she lived, it should be easy enough to get a name,” said Crosser.


“It also means we’re looking for someone who just lost two relatives,” Beacon said.  His voice was soft.  He hated this job.  “And she was definitely the cause of this mess.  I can feel guilt, too, lingering in the air.”


“So we’re looking for a girl who just accidentally killed her family in a fire.”  Crosser sighed.  “I hate this job, too.”


They shared a look.


“You don’t have to be an empath to know how you’re feeling right now, Beacon.”  He bent down.  “To make matters worse, the way the ground is cracked here, it’s not right.  It doesn’t make sense.  Unless.”


“You’re thinking super,” said Beacon.  “You’re always thinking super.”


“True,” replied Crosser.  “But take a look at this destruction.  Maybe HQ sent me for a reason.”


You really couldn’t ignore the signs.  A trail of destruction leading to the burnt house.  The feelings of despair and guilt.  It was very possible that something supernatural was going on.


“Fine,” Beacon replied.  “So we’re looking for a girl who just accidentally killed her family with newly discovered superpowers.  Possibly.”


“Yeah,” said Crosser.  He didn’t sound happy about it.  “If that’s the case, we’re out of our league.  Time to call in the big guns.  And you know how I hate those guys.”


“Yeah,” said Beacon, adjusting the mask covering his eyes.  “I do.”


Crosser was already dialing his cell phone.  “You know I don’t mean you, Beac.  I don’t even mind the government boys too much.  They do a good job.  Come on, pick alread"hello!  Yes.  We have a code seven.  Repeat, code seven.  Yes, I’ll hold.”


Beacon zoned him out.  This was beyond him now, at least for a while.  For now he could just try to drown out the emotions of the people surrounding him, and watch the sun come up over the rooftops of the city.  Normally it calmed him down, but something didn’t feel right.


“There’s more to this, somehow,” said Beacon.  He wasn’t even sure if Crosser was listening or not.  “There’s something starting here.  But I don’t have the right powers to figure out what it is.”


Crosser finished his phone call and turned his attention back to Beacon.


“They’re on their way,” he said.  “You ready?”


“They don’t intimidate me,” said Beacon.


“Really?” asked Crosser.  “’Cause they scare the hell out of me.  But such is our line of work, right?”


“Sure,” said Beacon, but his mind was wandering.

© 2011 Etienne Lantier

Author's Note

Etienne Lantier
Rough draft.

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Added on January 12, 2011
Last Updated on January 23, 2011
Tags: superhero, superheroes