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“You!” I scream angrily. “You’re the reason I lost!”
“I’m the reason you’re still alive.” Nikki counters. “Do you really think you would have survived in there much longer if Simon hadn’t found you?”
“I had a plan.” I reply. “I was going to get out.”
“You didn’t have a plan.” Nikki says softly. “It was only ever win. Win or die.”
“It was better than your plan. Lose and die!” I scream back at her.
“Trust me Jay, you were never going to die. We had a plan set in place to get you out. But then that man had to come and ruin it all.”
Jeb. I think to myself.
I freeze in place. “How did you know that?”
Like Simon said, I’m different just like you.
I’m staring at Nikki. I can hear her words clearly ringing through my head, but her lips aren’t moving. “How are you doing that?”
“Let’s just say I have a way of talking to people like you, Jay.” Nikki smiles. “Of being able to get inside their head.”
“Who are you?” I ask taken aback. I try backing away, but the guards have tightened their grips on my arms.
“Someone who believes you’ve been given a special gift. A gift that, if learned to be controlled, could help a lot of people.”
“I don’t want to help anyone!” I scream at her. “Let me go already!”
I’m really sorry about this, Jay.
The last thing I see before my entire world goes black is Nikki making her way towards me and the guards.
“What are you doing to me?” I ask horrified. It’s as if all the light in the world has suddenly vanished. I can’t even see my own hand in front of me. I’m completely blind. I fall, losing my balance, but the guards easily keep me upright. It was so dark. Darker than the warehouse, darker than even the Cage. I start throwing wild punches, but the guards easily keep me detained. At their touch I begin to panic. They could kill me and I would have no way of stopping them.
“Stop it, Jay.” I hear Nikki say, surprisingly close. I keep fighting, waiting for the heat. Begging for it. Wishing the monster would come so I could be free.
“You stop it!” I scream in no particular direction.
They’re not going to hurt you.
“Get out of my head!” I’m yelling so loud my throat is beginning to burn.
“Let her go.” I hear Nikki say. I feel the guards loosen their grips and then, I feel nothing. They’re gone. For a moment I stand there, unsure of what I should do next. I can’t see anything, so running would be pointless.
“What are you going to do to me?” I ask.
“Save you.” Nikki says, just to my left. “So you can save the world.”
I lunge towards the sound of her voice, but when I swing, she’s gone. I fall, losing my balance again and hit the ground hard. When my hands run across the soft sand beneath me, my heart stops. I look up and see it. The Cage. It surrounds me from all sides. The noise of the blood thirsty men around me is deafening.
“Get me out!” I scream. “Get me out of here!”
This is where it started, Jay. I can’t tell from which direction her voice is coming from, or if it’s coming from anywhere at all. This is where you found your ability.
Get me out!
This is where you crossed the threshold.
Your maximum potential.
I don’t know what that means. I look from side to side, waiting for someone to attack, but I don’t see anybody.
Suddenly I see my opponent. Her name was Rose. She was the fight I first felt the heat. First discovered the Fiery Hot. First let out the monster.
This can’t be happening.
Please, make it stop.
Kill the girl, save the world.
Rose lunges and I barely have time to dodge her swing. When I look up again, she’s already throwing her next punch. And it hurts.
How are you doing this?
The mind is the greatest weapon there is.
She strikes again. I block her and counter with a punch of my own, square in her jaw. She stumbles backwards.
I can’t kill her.
You’ve done it before.
Without warning, Rose attacks again. I easily dodge her carelessly placed punch. Next, I combat her feeble attempt to place me in a neck lock with a good kick to the abdomen. Rose doubles over in pain. She gets up surprisingly fast and manages to wrap her arms around me before I elbow her in the nose, causing blood to gush out at an alarming rate. She lets go, the pain making her eyes water. I take a moment to catch my breath, completely exhausted from the struggle.
Suddenly, I feel a blow to the back of my head and nearly lose my balance. My skull feels like it’s on fire and it takes me a moment to realize I’m feeling pain. I turn to see Rose has regained her composure and is now wielding a deadly steel pipe. One of the audience members must have supplied her with it. For a moment she seems stunned that her blow had such a meager effect on me, but then she quickly raises it again. Her swing is slow and sloppy and I easily duck out of the way but I lose my balance, falling to the ground.
I land with Rose on top of me. That’s when I feel the second blow. This time to my torso and the whole right side of my body erupts in pain. Another blow, this time to my head and I almost black out. I come to my senses just in time to block Rose from smashing my face in with the pipe and land a square punch to her jaw. I hear it crack and she falls to the ground, howling in pain.
Rose is up within a matter of seconds. Before I even have time to react she’s placed me in a choke hold, cutting off my intake of oxygen. I struggle under her weight, desperate to find air.
I can’t breathe.
Then do it.
Rose tightens her grip and I feel my vision beginning to blur. It was all happening exactly the same. I remember this exact moment. The moment I thought I would lose. The moment I thought I would die. I feel the heat flush into my face, my body beginning to burn with the Fiery Hot.
She’s going to kill me.
Not if you kill her first.
The monster is awake. It tears at me from the inside, desperate to be let loose and it’s all I can do to keep myself under control. With one easy motion I send Rose crashing into the side of the Cage. Her heart is beating so softly, she’ll be dead within a couple of minutes if somebody doesn’t help her. I force myself to calm down. Force the monster back. My hands are shaking and I try taking slow, deliberate breathes to slow my heart rate down.
You’re a monster!
Suddenly, the Cage vanishes. All that’s left in its place is the empty blackness from before. The sand I felt beneath my feet vanishes, replaced with a cold hard metal floor. I feel my body shaking all over, but the monster is gone. I fall to my knees, completely exhausted.
“I told you she could do it.” I hear Nikki say from somewhere off to my left.
“She definitely has potential. We’ll keep working with her until she’s completely learned how to control it.” This from Simon.
“She’s had enough today.”
“We’re running out of time.”
“No. She’s had enough.” Nikki’s voice is surprisingly close now.
I try to stand, but end up just sinking to my knees again. Without the Fiery Hot, the strain on my muscles was just too much. I feel a hand reach out and steady me.
“You’re not such a monster after all, are you?”
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