Water on the Fire

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He came to underwater.

Even though his whole body tingled with numbness, he could still feel the discomforting cold that had sunken into his core. It was dark, and someone had taped a mask over his mouth and nose, the kind he recalled being used in a hospital. Crying out, Kai kicked, paddled, flapped hard with his wings, but something about his ankles held him down, even when he thought he could sense the barest lack of resistance when his wings rose high above him. The surface was close.

He knew this pain. This cold. He screamed, thrashing, drowning despite the clear air pumped about his nose and mouth. Bubbles and water churned about him, turning and twisting his legs about each other till he was forced to stop or risk breaking them. Still, he screamed at how fragile he had become.

At lengths, his strength ran out, leaving him hanging there, suspended in some unknown dark water, panting and freezing. Not even his own eyes could stand the touch of the water anymore and he had to clench them shut.

Deep within him, the heat of his gut all but vanished. He knew he was dying. What else could this be?

Then the bounds on his ankles went slack.

It was just a sign of how far he had gone that he barely moved to speed his float to the surface. When his head broke through, the water surface tension nearly kept him face down.

Hard, claw like hands clamped under his arms and lifted him into the air. Even as his lower legs dangled in the water, warm fingers pried at the mask. He didn't even feel the pain of the tape being torn off. Blackness encroached on his vision.

"Blood pressure dropping," said a neutral female voice. "Heart rate at fifty and going."

Other voices responded, and Kai was dimly aware of the hands lifting him the rest of the way out of the water and laying him out onto something hard. Through the blackness, though, he was drifting. The noises came from a distance. He would feel sad, maybe lonely, in such an abyss, but he had been here before on those dark nights in the abbey when he couldn't sleep for days on end. He knew this. And for some reason, that gave him comfort. He could move through this as he had moved through that. At least he wasn't cold anymore.

The water couldn't reached him here. Boris couldn't reach him here. No one could. At last, he was safe.

"His hatching date must have been guessed wrong," said a reedy sounding woman.

"Blood pressure still dropping," said a thinner, more tense voice.

"Get the blowtorch. Hurry!"

He couldn't quite get a sense of his arms or legs. They had gone tingling and fell asleep, or something like unto it. The darkness didn't seem to be as thick near the end—the end of what? But the blurring light was growing closer—black to navy, navy to blue, blue to light, brilliant light. He couldn't hear the voices. He didn't even care.

In the midst of the light came a long haired figure. At first he thought it was Ayah, and urged himself faster with a silent cry of his soul. But in that same moment, her features cleared and it was red feathers that he saw, not white, and white golden hair swathed about her like a lion's mane. Long tail feathers, though not as long as his, twisted about her legs.

"There's a reason we chose to inhabit sports tops rather than weapons, like we had in centuries past," she said, and Kai thought he could see a quirk of her thin, pink mouth in the feature bleaching white.

Sudden heat hooked about his naval like a hook about his spine and pulled. Her figure dimmed, darkened, sank away.

"The future has always been in the hands of our youth."

Before Beasts, There Was Metal--Book 5Where stories live. Discover now