Kelly watched him from the doorway, sleeping on his side with his arm stretched out. His chest rose in slow rhythms and she fought the urge to slip underneath it. She feared it closed to her now even though she had healed him. There was so much she understood, but it was the unknown aspects of her world which inflicted damage beyond her means to heal.
She was not alone. The dogs had the run of the house, but they stayed away from her. Their loyalties were absolute, and she read the unyielding column of their love manifested as a rainbow bridge of neural activities.
There was the artificial intelligence. She had stolen some of its data as a reflex, and she guessed it closed to her as much as John himself.
She could go. There were people after her, but there had been people after her for years. Life had been a series of hotel rooms, damp walls and stale sheets, beds which vibrated if you fed coins into a meter and televisions tuned into a riot of lurid colours. John had a beautiful home, but it was cold and empty to her now.
It was a laboratory, a temple to a mystery she bore like a scarlet A or the mark of Cain and revolted underneath it.
The doorbell rang and she flinched. She heard John get up, sighing as he stood and threw on a t-shirt in the dark. He moved past her, his palm brushing against her hip with an offhand tenderness which made her sigh with relief.
Police. A uniformed officer, wired with tangential adrenaline, doing a routine visit to ask if they had heard anything. John explained they had been watching a movie in bed and Kelly heard the faint intimacies within the long pause, John’s relative state of undress and the officer’s restless looks away.
She reached and ran her consciousness over his, saw he was fighting an image of the two of them together, Kelly’s long legs wrapped around him before she drew back and found nothing suspicious in John’s recollection.
Kelly left a suggestion inside the officer’s head to think he had written their names and details, and to go see if he could do something useful with his time. She planted a seed in the soil of his insecurities and let it grow as he exchanged hot, gnawing looks and dull, envious small talk with John.
She watched John close the door, appalled at how she had used her abilities without cause. John turned and looked at her in the doorway.
‘You’ve experienced a big part of the problem, Kelly.’ he said.
She frowned and stepped backwards.
‘I’m not – it was just easier.’ she said.
John glanced past her.
‘Yes, it’s natural, like turning into a wolf or an insect who feeds on memories.’
She closed her eyes as a molten anger heated the air in her lungs.
‘John, this isn’t helping-‘ she said.
His eyes blazed in the darkness as he raised his hands.
‘Then what does, Kelly?’
His voice was loud, and Kelly flinched as her muscles coiled to prepare for conflict. The fight-or-flight instinct was a scalpel and she read the wounded frustration in his posture and neural activity. An aura of regal purple and harsh infected red exuded from him.
‘I lost control, John. It’s not your fault.’
His lips drew back over his teeth as he stared at her.
‘Everything is my fault.’ he said.
She came towards him as he opened his arms and held her with enough force to make her bones hurt. Kelly needed the force of his reassurance as she put her mouth to his ear and clutched his back.
‘What are we going to do?’ she said.
He told her in a terse whisper and she agreed with a nod before she asked him to take her to bed. John gripped the hair at the back of her head and held her gaze, looking at her with a focus which made her ache with a sudden, vicious want.
‘Are we monsters?’ she said.
He shook his head before he kissed her. His teeth found her lips and she pressed against him. They moved like they could not get close enough to one another, and by the time they made it to the bed, she was screaming for him to be inside her.
Afterwards, they whispered to one another about their fears and she listened to him detail how they would approach her transformations.
His authority offered Kelly a state between surrender and control, which softened her fears as the parts of her made alien stayed dormant in his presence.
Adam watched the flames with fascination as he moved through the house. There was no one left to resist him, and he watched as people fled with a cold fascination. The woman had shown talent, and he had felt his consciousness warp before an attempted assault.
He recalled her tapping into the air, her forehead wrinkled with concentration as he wrestled with the man whose pores dripped lava. He couldn’t move his fingers without bursting the livid blisters which congregated where the flesh had not burned away. The pain was insistent, but he kept it under control as he walked outside.
There were sirens in the distance and he shook out his arms, acknowledging the flares of pain which travelled up his arms. He had ammunition to spare, and a part of him revelled in the chance to hurt others again.
The woman had fled, and she knew things. The intrusion into his mind had unnerved him, and such an insult could not go unavenged.
By the time the police arrived, he had left. There were enough bodies and evidence to keep their attention occupied, and none of them knew how it had been a whim which kept them alive. Adam’s hands healed by dawn and he kept walking, imagining the woman’s neck in his grasp to motivate him.
Olivia read the secretary’s intentions with the ease of a take away menu. Her heightened senses fed her professional experience so each micro expression was clownish and obvious which made manipulating her a polite series of observations and questions.
Olivia gestured to the teacups, three in a row by her computer monitor.
‘I bet it’s the least of your collection.’ Olivia said.
She had shaped her features to resemble the woman, sculpting her jaw to reflect a similarity which would endear the woman to Olivia.
Ellen blushed and looked away.
‘They’re so pretty. I run this office, so it doesn’t hurt to have a few touches to make things feel -‘
Olivia smiled and changed the set of her shoulders to better mimic Ellen.
‘Human?’ Olivia said.
Olivia adjusted her vocal chords, emitting a frequency which made Ellen susceptible to suggestion. It was like putting a hat on a hat, but Olivia wanted to work with haste and Ellen helped anyone who massaged her fragile ego.
‘Homely.’ Ellen said.
She would get the files.
Nothing wrong in helping Mr Howlett at all. Olivia hid her delight at Ellen’s obedience and she was back in the car with a telephone number, an email and most important, an address. There was glee in Olivia’s steps when she got into the car, and underneath it, a thirst to reward her skill and care.
She resolved to use her abilities with care, Amaro expected nothing less.
Olivia called him but an aide answered. He was at rest and Olivia passed on her intention to start contact with him at the earliest opportunity. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, arching her eyebrows and giving herself a confident smile.
She set off and turned the air conditioning up, feeling more comfortable as the chilled air blasted her skin. Olivia was hungry, but she had work to do.
The waitress was kind to her, but she didn’t feel deserving. Her head rattled like a pit of snakes, trying to come up with a reason she wasn’t coming home. All the stories she had written, and here she was, stuck in a cosmic second-act climax, without a hope of turning the tables on whatever was coming for her.
They had built him from various interpretations of the character, borrowing from cinema and literature alongside some novel comic book versions to develop a version which would prove unstoppable in pursuit of its mission. He was relentless.
There were flaws in his character which she could exploit if she avoided being shot or stabbed long enough to strike at them. She was a long way from a Swiss lake or an Arctic floe, but she resolved to find something she could use, writing on napkins as she drank endless cups of tea, writing to beat the dawn, and whatever followed it.
She recalled the location of the other flares and headed in a different direction. It was not safe, but it offered something.