Prism World: Chapter 3

So I discovered last night that I am, in fact, not a Phantom. As if that was ever in question. After waking up my mom and step-dad by running smack into the bathroom door at 2 o’clock in the morning, I have decided that I might want to turn a light on from now on.

That being said, I’m about halfway through Prism World. I’m currently working on Chapter 15. I’m getting more excited about this book. I do think it’s turning out to be my best yet. I’ve been asked to post more of Prism World here on my blog, so here is Chapter 3. This may be the last full chapter I post, but I hope you enjoy it.

————————————-

Chapter 3

Gravel crunched beneath my feet as I stumbled down a dark alley in the slums of a nearby town. The Phantom Legion compound I had grown up in was located just over the hill from this place. I didn’t know if the masters would come look for me or not, but the dizziness I was feeling told me I needed to find a way to patch up my wounds…quick.

I don’t know how long it took for me to get over that damned hill, but the hazy orange glow that hung over the hill crest was still burning bright when at last I managed to reach the city limits. Though I couldn’t read, I did know what the symbol for a medical facility looked like. I had once done a mission in a hospital. I had been about 16 at the time. My target was in because of a failed hit by one of the older Phantoms. I had been let off about a block from the hospital, and so the master in charge at that time had told me what symbol to look for.

Now, it was all I could do to keep from passing out. I was overwhelmed by pain, stiff, sore, exhausted, and god knows how long it had been since I had eaten anything. Add blood loss to that and I was a mess.

Then I saw it. A dingy sign with a red cross hung above a darkened doorway. I limped over toward it and collapsed against the door. With as much effort as I could manage, I pounded against the door. No response. Again I pounded. Still no response. I tried the knob. No good.

Groaning, I stepped back and looked around. There was a window off to the side of the doorway. I could tell it had a single latch at the top, but…

I lifted my gun and fired. Glass shattered everywhere, but there was now a hole big enough to fit my hand through. I reached in and unhooked the latch, then lifted the window and crawled through.

A light flashed on in a stairwell just outside the room I was in. The doctor’s office seemed to also serve as the doctor’s house.

“Be careful, Henry,” I heard a woman’s voice say from the top of the stairs. The plea was faint.

“I will, dear. Just…stay put,” a man’s voice replied. I could see a shadow flickering into view.

Quietly, I fell up against the wall at the edge of the open doorway leading into the foyer, my gun held up against my shoulder. My senses could hardly be considered sharp at this point. I was trying not to faint. But I could still tell that the footsteps were coming closer. Then…

I turned, the barrel of my gun coming to a stop under a man’s chin. I could see sheer terror glittering in his eyes.

“You a doctor?” I questioned. My voice was strained.

“Y-Yes,” the man gasped.

“Bandages,” I demanded, motioning with my gun. “Now.”

The man looked confused, but immediately obeyed my command. He led the way into a room on the opposite side from where I had come in. He motioned for me to sit on a chair set off to the side while he went to turn on the light. I flinched when the overhead came on. It wasn’t as bad as it had been the first time I saw daylight, but it still hurt my eyes. That, though, was the least of my pain, and so I did what I could to ignore it.

Then the doctor turned back to me. A look of horror crossed his face.

“God,” he breathed in shock. “What happened to you?”

“Bandages,” I replied, leaning against the back of the chair. It felt good to sit down.

“You’re going to need more than bandages, miss. You have lacerations all over you.”

“I know,” I huffed.

The doctor leaned down and examined my hand.

“Is that a bullet wound?”

I grunted in reply.

“And these lacerations…that looks like shrapnel in your arms.”

“No doubt,” I responded.

“I need to get this stuff out of you. It could kill you otherwise.”

I watched as the doctor rushed around the room, muttering strange words like “antiseptic” and “sutures”. But I didn’t really care at that point. Now that I was sure he’d help me, I let my pistol clatter to the floor.

The doctor paused when he heard the sound. He eyed me for a minute, then grabbed up his supplies and returned to where I sat. Gently he took me by the hand and began cleaning up the worst of my wounds: a nice little hole right through the middle of my left hand. He was quiet for a very long time as he worked. Every now and again he would pull out some strange device that I would eye suspiciously, but he’d quickly explain what it was and continue working in silence. It wasn’t until he had gotten my arms bandaged up that at last he looked up at me.

“Mr. Covent…he told me about someone like you,” he said. He looked hesitant and nervous, but curious all the same.

“Covent,” I whispered, wincing as the doctor pulled a piece of shrapnel from my shoulder. “That’s…what they called him.”

“They?”

“The masters.”

“The…are you…?” he stood up and looked at me in shock. “A Phantom?”

I lifted my gun from the floor and, pointing it at the doctor, gave him a steely glare.

“Keep working,” I said through clenched teeth.

“That isn’t the best way to get someone to help you,” the doctor replied, crossing his arms.

I blinked back at him. He was obviously scared, but he still spoke to me with confidence.

“I’m not going back,” I whispered, clenching my gun tightly. I could feel a strange tightness welling up in my throat. A stray drop of liquid coursed down my cheek, startling me for a moment. Lifting my bandaged left hand, I caught the drop on the end of my finger and stared at it in confusion.

“You…escaped!” the doctor sounded excited. “Covent wasn’t kidding when he said he had talked down a Phantom! Incredible!”

“Please,” I cried, closing my eyes tightly, trying to stem the flow of tears. “I’m not…I’m not going back!”

I aimed my gun at the doctor with new fervor.

“I won’t let you tell them. Now, either you help me or I shoot you and fix myself.”

“No, no,” the doctor replied quickly. “I promise I won’t tell them. But you know, I usually require payment for my help.”

I stared back at him blankly.

“Payment?”

“Yes. Payment. Money. You know what I mean, don’t you?”

“No.”

I honestly didn’t. I had no concept of economy.

“Okay,” the doctor mused, obviously trying to find a way to make me understand. “Rewards. Were you ever rewarded for doing something your masters liked?”

“Yes.”

“Well, payment…money…it’s like a reward. I do something good, you reward me for it. Understand?”

I looked at him quizzically. “Maybe.”

“I’m helping fix you up. Do you want to help me in return?”

“How?”

“The government you have been working for. It hurts people. People are starving, suffering, but the government kills anyone who stands against them. That’s what you Phantoms do, isn’t it? Kill people the government doesn’t like?”

I nodded.

“Alright, well, you’re trying to get away from them, which means you are now their enemy. And I’m their enemy, too.”

“You?”

“Yes. Me. The Mr. Covent you spared the other day…he’s their enemy, too. We’re trying to make a better country. We’re trying to help people. Do you understand?”

I nodded firmly. Pain. I understood pain. And I understood that the doctor and the one called Mr. Covent were trying to put an end to the people who had kept me locked in a dark room all my life. I didn’t understand everything he was talking about, but I understood that.

“Good,” the doctor smiled. “So, can I make a deal with you?”

“What is it?”

“Join us. Help us fight the people you escaped from. If you do that, you’ll be paying me back tenfold.”

“Fight…” I mused, looking down at my bandaged hand. “Let me rest first. I can’t fight right now.”

“I’m not asking you to,” the doctor smiled. “When you get better, then you can help us. Deal?”

I looked at him long and hard, then nodded. “Deal.”

“Good. Now let’s finish getting you cleaned up. My name is Henry Kepler. And you?”

I was silent for a moment as I watched the doctor stitch up a nasty wound near my knee.

“Lightning,” I replied at length. “They called me Lightning.”

———————-

Little tendrils of light danced around the edges of the curtains when I awoke. It had been a couple of hours before Dr. Kepler had been able to extract all the shrapnel and stitch up all the lacerations on my body. He had then helped me up the stairs and into a spare bedroom where I immediately had fallen asleep.

I sat up, stiff and sore but feeling much better than the night before. I was glad the curtains were closed. I was slowly growing accustomed to the light, but I still wasn’t fond of it.

I glanced around at my surroundings. Compared to my room of concrete walls and sparse furniture, this place was lavish. But because of my work, I knew that it was on the poorer side of things. The bed I slept on was softer than my own had been, but hard as far as most beds go. A simple quilt lay crumpled up on my lap. There was a bedside table nearby, a couple of bookshelves, and some stacks of boxes. The walls had faded, decorated paper plastered to them, and there was carpet on the floors.

Just then I caught the sound of voices coming from the stairwell and the sound of two pairs of heavy feet. One voice was Dr. Kepler’s. The other, Mr. Covent’s. I paused stiffly, ready to spring into a hiding spot if need be.

“That bad, huh?” Mr. Covent mused.

They had stopped at the top of the stairs.

“Yes,” Dr. Kepler replied. “It took me hours to take care of all the shrapnel and lacerations. And with all the blood she lost, I can’t believe she managed to stay aware for as long as she did.”

“Well, she’s a Phantom. I expect they are trained to endure great amounts of physical strain.”

“She had me scared for a while,” Dr. Kepler laughed. “It’s hard to think straight with a gun aimed at your head.”

“I imagine she was scared,” Mr. Covent noted. “Think about it. They’re hunting us, and we don’t know the half of what goes on inside. Someone who’s been on the inside for that long…I don’t think they would just let her walk away easily.”

“Judging by the way she looked last night, I would say not,” Dr. Kepler agreed. “But there was something strange about her. She didn’t understand half of what I was saying. Now, maybe that had to do with her blood loss but…well, I just don’t think so. She didn’t even know what money was.”

“The other day, when she was in my house…she’d never seen daylight before either,” Mr. Covent said.

“And she kept calling her superiors ‘masters’,” Dr. Kepler added.

“Yes. I think…well, I could be wrong, but I think the Phantoms are kept against their will. They’re not agents of the government so much as they are pets.”

“Right. Well-trained pets.”

By this point I had edged up to the door. At this last comment, I opened it and stepped out into the dim light of the hallway. It was brighter than the halls in the compound, but still dim in comparison to daylight or to the light down in the doctor’s office.

Dr. Kepler and Mr. Covent gave a start of surprise when I appeared.

“I’m sorry. Did we wake you?” the doctor inquired.

I looked at him long and hard. He was middle-aged, older than Mr. Covent in any case, with salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly-trimmed mustache. I hadn’t taken a good look at him the night before. I had only been focused on getting help then.

“Lightning?” the doctor prodded, looking at me nervously.

“No,” I said. “I was already awake.”

“I see. You really should get back into bed, though. We don’t want those stitches coming out.”

I looked down at my hands and arms. There were little strings in nice, neat rows all over.

“You weren’t kidding,” Mr. Covent commented, looking at me in wonder. “What the hell happened?”

“Explosions,” I said, looking back up at the two men. “I was inside an exploding building.”

“There was a red haze over the horizon last night. I saw it when I was getting ready for bed. Was that where you were?”

“Yes.”

“What caused the explosions?” Dr. Kepler inquired.

“I did.”

The two men stared at me in disbelief.

“You?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I shot a gas tank,” I replied. “Then…”

My voice trailed away.

“Then what?” Mr. Covent inquired.

“It caught fire,” I said bluntly. “There were other tanks in the same room. They killed whoever I didn’t shoot.”

“How did you manage to get here?”

“I walked.”

“You walked all that way with those injuries?”

“Yes.”

There was a moment of silence, then I turned to look at Dr. Kepler.

“How long until these are healed?” I asked, motioning slightly with my head to the stitches on my arms.

“A week at least,” the doctor replied.

“And my hand?”

Dr. Kepler and Mr. Covent exchanged glances, then the doctor said, “Well…the bullet wound is severe. It did a lot of damage, and I don’t know that you’ll ever have full use of it again.”

I frowned. I never was as good with my right hand, though I could still beat your average gunman using it.

“I see.”

I turned back to the room.

“I will rest a while longer,” I said, glancing over my shoulder. “But if anyone suspicious comes, tell me. If they’re government, I want them dead.”

Then with that I stepped into the bedroom and closed the door behind me. Darkness. Sweet darkness. I wasn’t sure I’d ever grown accustomed to the light. But before getting back into bed, I pulled my little prism out from my shirt and held it up against the light that shone around the edges of the curtain. Instantly little patches of rainbows began dancing around the room. I smiled slightly. Yes…I was now where I wanted to be.

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