My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Phoenix: Chapter 17

The next day, the testing focused on what I could do with magic. It was pretty enjoyable. I fried some ants on the sidewalk outside while Ian took notes about all the different ways I could do it. I cooked meals. I lifted heavy stuff. I cleaned the lab without moving from a chair. I did math.

Apart from showing off my magical skills, I showed Ian all the ways Lucian taught me to fight. He was impressed how well I could beat up a pillow that never hit back and never laughed at how it felt like a butterfly was attacking it.

So far, I was being treated well. I had no idea how long it would last.

I started reading about phoenixes in the extensive library of the Agency. Xavier never could figure out why I liked the place so much. It was warm and well-lit, comfortable, and clean. This seemed to be a trend around here, and it was one I liked.

Mark and Key were Happy. Happy Happy Happy. With a capital H. It loomed over me like a threat; as if it could all easily be taken away, so don’t be shocked.

The testing got a little rougher: I was pushed to my limits in their attempts to show how much I could stand. Flying in extreme cold. Flying in extreme heat until my human body couldn’t take it and I transformed. Flying against a nasty wind that felt ready to rip my wings off. Running, running, running. Going without food. Going without water. Put into a simulator and tested to see how much horror I could stand, put through nightmarish scenarios that were nonetheless totally believable, just to see how I’d react. Put through mazes like a little mouse.

And Ian, smiling through it all apologetically. I started to hate him. He could smile all he wanted, but he wasn’t doing anything. That was what mattered. Anyone could smile. It doesn’t last.

Ian increased the treadmill’s speed to twenty miles an hour. I was pretty fast on my feet, being light, but I was starting to get tired. Anyway, I knew I couldn’t run any faster than twenty-two miles an hour. But he was going to ramp it up to twenty-five anyway and smile apologetically when I smashed into the wall behind me.

“Are you all right?” he asked fifteen minutes later, as I rubbed the back of my head.

“Just dandy.”

I avoided talking to Mark. It wasn’t that I was angry with him at all; I just knew that he’d lose his temper, and I didn’t want the Agency to be against us. If I reached the end of my rope, I told myself, I’d let Key know. Key might handle things a little more diplomatically than Mark ever would.

Xavier was clueless. He had no idea what was going on, and I judged that if I told him, he’d have a similar reaction to Mark, and would get himself in trouble. I didn’t think he had as much of a temper as I knew Mark did, but I didn’t know him well enough to make any decisions.

I wasn’t sure how any of my testing was helping the Agency fix my magical issues. What did it matter if I could run in the cold? I could understand wanting to know at what temperature I turned into a phoenix, but these other things would be useless as far as I could see.

By the end of the week, things were getting pretty nasty.

“Just a little longer,” Ian promised, smiling apologetically.

Angry and ready to hit someone, I was not in the mood for another Smile. But I controlled myself, and took the proffered pill, and slept in the lab’s supplied bed instead of my cozy tower room so I could be Studied.

Then, during the night, the numbers came again. It was sort of like a dream, except it woke me up to do it. I eased myself onto the side of the bed and sat up, groaning. They filled my head, numbers flashing through my mind—

One. Two. Four. Eight. Sixteen. Thirty-two. Sixty-four. One hundred and twenty-eight. Two hundred and fifty-six. Five hundred and twelve. A thousand and twenty-four. Two thousand, forty-eight…

It was a factory, a factory, and the orders were piling higher and I was in charge, but there was no way I could keep up. I was in debt, I owed these customers, I must have borrowed money to stay alive—

Sixteen thousand and three hundred eighty four! Thirty two thousand and seven hundred sixty-eight!

Numbers, my controlled, blank, normal, easy numbers, spiraling out of control, with some doomed and unknown effect on me!

I was feeling queasy and dizzy and like I had the biggest migraine on the planet. I felt ready to throw up, I was breathing fast, and I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t stop the flow of the numbers, which were increasing by the half-second! There was no way—

One hundred thirty-one thousand and seventy two! Two hundred sixty-two thousand and a hundred forty-four!

The umbers continued to wash over me, and at this point, I couldn’t really make sense of them any longer. I still felt ultimately queasy, and they still flooded the back of my mind with the migraine, but now I had control over my thoughts for more than a few seconds. I breathed deeply, and managed to push back the numbers well enough to tolerate them. I sighed, and fell back onto my pillow, flinging my legs back into the tangled mess that the blankets had become while I twisted around in my sleep.

I fell asleep instantly.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 6th, 2011 at 8:42 pm and is filed under Phoenix. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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