With NaNoWriMo over for the year, I’ve finally gotten the courage to post Chapter 2 of my newest project, Prism World.
Surprisingly, this book has been the most fun to write. It was a project that started purely out of boredom. And so I decided I’d play a little game. I went to Grooveshark and typed in a random word: prism. I’ve always been fascinated by prisms and I was curious to see what kind of songs would come up. After sifting through several songs, many of which I was not impressed by, I came across a song called “Prism” by Trail.
It is this song that inspired my story and, more specifically, the following chapter. It was Chapter 2 that I originally envisioned when beginning to write. Using “Prism” as my inspiration and allowing the main character, Lightning, to take full control of the story, I wrote the following chapter. Bear in mind, however, that this chapter would probably be considered rated R. That being said, I hope you enjoy. I have only shared this chapter with one person up until now.
(If you are unfamiliar with this project, feel free to read Chapter 1.)
Sweet darkness engulfed me as I opened my eyes and sat up. My masters had found me after my escape from my target’s house. They had blindfolded me, as they had always done, and had put me in a car. I had almost immediately fallen asleep. Between exhaustion, confusion, and, I suspected, trauma from so much exposure to light, my body had almost instantly shut down. When I woke, I was back in my cell, back in the darkness, where my only companions were the shadowed objects scattered about the room.
The slight tapping of footfall caught my ear. Instantly I was on my feet. I ducked behind a chair in the corner of the room, crouching low and eyeing the faint outline of the door that led to my cell. It was what every Phantom was taught. It was how they kept our skills sharp. We had to always be alert for visitors. If we were easy to spot, we’d be punished.
The door swung back on squeaky hinges and two figures entered the room. One was a master, and I knew his face. The other, however, was a stranger to me. I stayed hidden in the shadows.
“It would seem she heard us,” the master laughed quietly, stepping aside so the stranger could go further into the room.
“Good,” the stranger replied. His voice was deep and gravelly. I could smell a mixture of cigar smoke and cologne radiating off of him. It was toxic, but I dared not move for fear of being heard. I was not allowed to come out until the master called me.
But he didn’t call me. Instead, the stranger kept speaking.
“I was concerned about her abilities after the incident at the Covent household.”
“It wasn’t entirely her fault,” the master said. “Apparently, Mr. Covent was at the hospital with his grandmother all night. Lightning followed all the procedures. She did what she was supposed to do. The Fate’s failure compromised her.”
“Yes,” the stranger breathed slowly. “That has already been…dealt with. What I wish to know is what kept her so long? She didn’t leave the house until after Mr. Covent returned home. And yet, he’s still alive.”
“That, we are unsure of,” the master replied. “We always train our Phantoms to finish the job whether or not it would mean getting themselves killed in the process. She should not have retreated even if he fought back. At the moment, our only guess is that getting caught in the light caused her to lose focus.”
“Hmm,” the stranger grunted. “I suppose there are…disadvantages to training them only for the night.”
“This isn’t a common occurrence, though, sir. I have worked here for well on 30 years, and never before has one of our Phantoms gotten caught in the daylight.”
“These aren’t normal times, Mr. Perei. The rebels are forcing us to make moves we’ve never had to make before. I have already spoken to your superiors about this…incident. You will be breeding new Phantoms accustomed to minor levels of light, and you will be selecting a few current Phantoms who will be trained to react properly when in the light. That way, we should not have this issue again.”
“But sir, what should we do about Lightning?”
There was a pause. Every muscle in my body was tense. Was I going to punished for not killing my target. But why should I? He did not seem to be much of a threat to me.
“I have already discussed that with your superiors,” the stranger spoke at last.
I could see his feet turn towards the door.
“Her skills seem to be sharp, and she comes from a long line of superior Phantoms. But I fear she has been too badly compromised by this incident. I have suggested retiring her to the breeding program. Her recent exposure to light means she will probably adjust quickly to the new parameters I have set up for the Phantom Legion.”
The two men exited the room, but I did not move until I heard the door click behind them. Retirement? I still had two more years left to go. Was my failure so severe that I had to be thrown out? And what was this talk of breeding? I knew nothing about the concept. I had never known either of my parents. In fact, I didn’t even understand the term. All Phantom children were taken at birth and raised by masters who gave them only the bare necessities and who punished them if they cried too often. Phantom children never knew love and were trained to live without emotion.
But I suppose that there are just some things you can’t really suppress. Even if you treat a person like an animal, there are small things hidden deep inside that you can never get rid of. I had never really been able to feel much before, but the thought of that young man…I compared that experience to all that I had ever known and something about it just bothered me. I could feel something welling up inside of me, a feeling of defiance. I didn’t know what it meant to breed, but if the masters wanted to do that to me, they’d have to fight me first.
I reached inside my shirt and pulled out the little crystal prism my target had given me. It was still attached to its chain and I dangled it above my head. But of course, there was no light, and so nothing happened. It merely dangled back and forth, helpless to do anything else. That stone had potential…great potential. But, like me, it was stuck in a dark room, dangling on a chain, a prisoner to the one who held it.
Lowering my hand, I clutched the prism tightly. I could feel my (tendons?) tightening beneath the clasps on my wrists as my hands formed into fists. Fight. It was what I had been trained to do, but what if…what if there was something beyond fighting? What if there was such a thing as a reason to fight? I would never know if I had to stay here. I had to get out. But how?
I tucked the prism back inside my shirt and collapsed back onto my bed. I would have to figure out a plan. I had a new target, a new goal. And my plans almost never failed.
“You can come out, Lightning.”
I was crouched under a desk to the side of the room when the familiar voice caught my ear. It was Mr. Perei, the master from before. I had been sleeping soundly when I heard the doorknob turn, but even the deepest of sleep would be broken by my training.
I cautiously slipped out from under the desk.
“I am here, master,” I replied, coming to stand before him.
I stiffened, however, when I saw a stranger step past the door frame and into the dim half-light. The halls were always a little bit brighter than the rooms. I figured it was because the masters were not trained to live in the dark.
I eyed the newcomer with suspicion. It was a young man, with jet black hair and ebony eyes much like my own. His skin was ivory white just like mine, his body muscular but light and lithe at the same time. Immediately, I knew what he was. He was a Phantom, just like me.
“Lightning, I have brought you a companion. His name is Blade.”
Blade? All Phantoms remained nameless until they had made at least 10 kills, and their names were always in association with some aspect to themselves or their skills. Mine was Lightning because I had always been known for quick, clean kills using a gun, the sound of which was akin to thunder. If this Phantom’s name was Blade, he must do his kills with a dagger or a sword, and if he could be successful using such primitive weapons, he must be very skilled indeed.
“Why?” I asked.
I could see the master tense. I wasn’t supposed to ask that question. As a child, I would have been slapped for asking.
Blade shifted slightly. He, too, seemed to be surprised by my question.
“Lightning,” the master’s voice was strained and threatening. “What were you taught about that word?”
I ignored his response.
“I don’t want a companion,” I said, backing away. I didn’t trust the master’s motives. I had made a decision. I was going to follow my last target’s advice. I was going to see if there really was a world beyond my concrete prison. And that started with questioning the masters.
“I didn’t give you a choice, now did I?”
The master motioned for Blade to step inside. He immediately obeyed.
A moment later, the door was shut and locked. Now it was me standing defiant in the center of the room and Blade standing placidly before me.
“They said you had been compromised,” Blade mused, nonchalantly circling toward me.
I watched his body language. To him, I was no more than another target. But what had he been told to do to me? Did this have something to do with the breeding the stranger from before had mentioned? Why did the sound of the word bother me so?
“Compromised,” I repeated, beginning to circle away from him. “Yes, that is what they say.”
“Why do you ask? Do you doubt the masters?”
“You seem to.”
He paused, looking me up and down.
“You know why I’m here, don’t you?” he questioned at length.
“No,” I responded curtly.
He moved toward me. I backed away until I felt the cold essence of the wall press against my back. I shivered as Blade placed his hand against my jaw. I was still conflicted. Half of me told me to not resist, to obey the masters, to do whatever Blade told me to do. The other half of me trembled in rage, in indignation. That half wanted to fight back, to secure freedom, to see what I had been missing all my life. But that half was still weak. I waited nervously as Blade ran one hand down my left arm, pressing his other hand against my waist.
“I’m here so we can protect the government,” Blade said, breathing into my ear. “We are too old to protect the government, so we must create new Phantoms to do the job for us.”
“Why protect the government?” I asked, trying to slip away as one of Blade’s hands began to make its way up under my tight black shirt.
His grip was strong, firm. He pressed his body up against mine. There would be no easy escape now.
“Where do you get these questions?” he inquired as his broad hand slid up my back.
“Don’t you ever wonder?” I responded, turning my face away when he tried to press his lips to mine. “Don’t you ever wonder if they’re wrong?”
“Wrong? I don’t know what you mean.”
“Right and wrong. Have you never heard those words?”
Blade stood back slightly, looking at me quizzically.
“No,” he said. “What do they mean?”
I paused. I wasn’t really sure myself. How was I supposed to explain it to him?
“I’m not sure,” I replied at length. “I don’t know how to explain it. But it’s like…like the difference between light and darkness…only, it refers to how our actions affect other people. One makes people happier, and the other doesn’t.”
He looked at me with confusion. Then his eyes widened.
“You spoke to Mr. Covent, didn’t you?”
Now it was my turn to look at him quizzically.
“Your last target, the one you failed to kill. The masters told me about him. They say he is a liar who is trying to destroy the government. He is our enemy, Lightning. You cannot believe what he told you.”
“But what if the masters are the liars?” I questioned.
I could feel the intense anger rising up inside me.
“What do you mean?” Blade inquired.
“How do we know?” I continued. “They don’t let us know anything else. They keep us locked in these rooms. They tell us what to do. They tell us who should live and who should die. They blindfold us. They hurt us if we don’t do what they want. But my target…he could have killed me. He could see in the light. I couldn’t. He had a gun, and he had his gun trained on me before I could aim at him. But he didn’t. He didn’t hurt me. Who is our enemy, but the one who threatens us?”
“You’ve been brainwashed,” Blade replied angrily, grabbing me by the arm and pushing me onto my bed. “He didn’t hurt you because he wanted you on his side.”
I moved to sit up but I couldn’t before Blade pinned my arms to the bed.
“What are you doing?” I questioned. I could hear the same sound in my voice that I had heard in that of the one called Mr. Covent and the one called Emma.
“My duty,” Blade said, pressing his body against mine. “I am to use you to create new Phantoms. You can’t fight me.”
“Can’t,” I breathed as I felt him begin to pull at the top of my pants. “I…” I could feel strength, adrenaline, anger welling up inside me. A growl escaped my throat. “I hate that word.”
Reflexes kicked in as I sank my teeth deep into Blade’s lip. I could taste the metallic hint of blood as the other Phantom yelped, shifting his weight just enough that I could shove myself out from under him. I bounded across the room, perching atop the desk, defensive and ready to fight.
Blade turned on me angrily. I had no weapon with which to fight, but then again, neither did he. I waited until he was just within reach of me before I rolled off to the side, my feet hardly touching the floor before bounding away again. He was Blade. His skill was in using a blade. I was Lightning. My skill was in my speed.
Around the room we went. I could sense his temper mounting. He grabbed the chair near the desk and threw it at me. I dodged out of the way, the chair splintering to pieces behind me. Blade bounded after me. I jumped to the side. His reflexes were sharp, but mine were sharper.
All of a sudden I heard the door handle turn and saw the door begin to open. Now was my chance, if I had any. I made a break for the door, but Blade bounded in front of me. Mr. Perei appeared in the half-light behind him.
“Blade, what the hell-”
“I will win,” Blade growled. “I will fulfill my duty, even if you don’t want to.”
“No,” I replied sharply. I reached for a piece of the broken chair. “No, not by me, you won’t.”
As quick as I could, I launched myself forward. Blade reached out to stop me, but I ducked below his arm, driving one end of the wooden beam into his gut. He doubled over in pain and I slipped past him.
“Lightning, what-” Mr. Perei began, but I didn’t give him time to talk, either.
I jammed my elbow into a nerve near his neck, knocking him out in an instant. My feet echoed like rapid gunfire in my ears as I pelted down the hall. I didn’t know where I was going. I wasn’t sure if I was headed into the arms of my captors or out toward freedom. But I kept running all the same.
I darted down corridors, trying to draw on sound and impressions I had gotten while blindfolded. Then there! I saw a door up ahead, and it wasn’t like all the other doors in the hallway. I grabbed the handle and threw it open. Just then an alarm began blaring through the building. I wasn’t sure if it had been Blade or Mr. Perei, but one of them must have told someone I had gone rogue.
The room I had entered was the one where new wrist clamps were fitted. I had them. Blade had them. Every Phantom I had ever seen had them. What were they for?
I spotted a set of keys hanging on a hook on the wall. Could they be…? I bounded toward them. I snatched the keys off the walls and began trying each one on the bands clamped around my wrists. My whole body was trembling with adrenaline. It was more intense than even when I was waiting to kill a target.
Then there! The wristband on my left hand snapped and fell off. I could hear voices yelling at each other down the hall. No time left. I couldn’t run with the keys because they would make too much noise. I’d just have to find a way to get the second band off later…if there ever was a later.
I bolted out the door and turned to the right. Half a dozen guards came to a stop, guns aimed and ready to fire. Then something happened. I got a feeling. It was an instinct really, not something I had been trained to do. I lifted my left hand. It felt so light without the clasp. And then it happened. There was a flash of white-purple light and an explosive boom!
I stood stunned for a moment, staring down at the guards lying dead upon the floor. What the…?
I heard more shouts coming from other halls. I didn’t know what I had done, but now there were plenty of pistols at my disposal. I grabbed a gun that was lying next to one of the dead guards and bolted back the way they had come. Some more guards came into view. Bang, bang, bang!My finger hit the trigger three times in the space of a second and the guards fell dead.
I was breathing heavily by this point. I was conditioned to wait until the right moment to strike. If I had to run at all, it was supposed to be little more than a sprint. I had never had to run for this long before.
I bolted through a door nearby and stumbled out into a garage of some sort. I could hardly blink before I could hear multiple bullets flying by my head. Leaping for cover, I flicked the pistol trigger again. One, two, three, four shots. I heard a thunk and a hiss. Peeking around the corner of a stack of crates, I could see quivering air spewing from a tank on the far side of the room. Maybe…
I placed my gun in my right hand and reached my left hand out toward the tank. Could I do again what I had done before? The sound of a gunshot echoed in my ears as a searing pain shot through my hand. I yelped, but before I could pull my hand back to myself, I saw the white-purple flash that I had seen before. Then came the explosion. Then came fire.
The walls began to crumble around me as a series of explosions began to rattle the building. I clutched my bleeding hand tightly to my chest. Glass and wood splinters flew by with each explosion as I raced for a door at the opposite end of the garage, and I could feel the little pieces tearing at my skin, either flying past or embedding deep inside.
I dropped my gun to open the door. Already rivers of dark crimson were flowing down my left arm. But the handle was tight, not easily opened with only one hand and most certainly not by someone like myself, trembling with fear and excitement. Another explosion from behind threw me against the door. Tendrils of smoke sank down my lungs. It burned. Ignoring the pain in my left hand, I gripped the door handle with both hands. At first, they slipped on the blood that gushed from my hand. Then there! The door pulled open. I grabbed my gun and raced out into the open night air, coughing and gasping.
A huge explosion caused the ground beneath me to shake, knocking me several feet forward and flat on my face as pieces of glass and shrapnel shot out in all directions. Moist earth stung my open wounds as I struggled to my feet. Half climbing, half clawing, I made my way up the steep earthen walls that surrounded the compound. When at last I came to the top, I collapsed on the ground again. It was a moment before I could breathe again.
At last, however, I struggled into a sitting position, still holding my bleeding hand close to my chest. I watched as tall flames rose skyward. Half the compound was on fire. They wouldn’t be looking for me for some time. The blaze was nearly blinding to me. It lit up the night sky.
Light… I reached into my shirt and pulled the little prism from its hiding place, dangling it in front of my face with one trembling hand. It was streaked in blood, but it still glittered slightly in the light of the compound fire. Then, all of a sudden, the strangest thing began to happen.
“Heh,” it came out as little more than a grunt at first. Then, “Heh…heh, heh…ha, ha, ha, ha!”
I was laughing. I threw back my head and began to laugh hysterically. It felt good. I was in immense pain. I had blood pouring down nearly every inch of my bruised and battered body. But I was alive. And, more importantly…I was free.