Sorry I've been gone guys! This past week was finals week so my life has been a little hectic, but things are better now and I've got a bit more free time again! :)

Dramatic chapter, if I say so myself. ;)

Enjoy!

READ ON!

CHAPTER EIGHT

I woke up early in a cold sweat, feeling as if there was ash engraved into my skin. The dream, or perhaps nightmare is more accurate, felt even more intense this time.

I sat up, my hands scrunching the top of my hair as I focused on calming my breath. I looked around, almost fearing I would have burned something in my sleep.

When I had calmed enough I reached under my pillow where I had stored the candle. I gripped it, feeling assured that last night hadn't been an elaborate dream, and pulled it out.

I stared at the candle, willing it to lighten. I stared at the stick of wax until my vision nearly tunneled. Everything faded and I tried to reach inside myself for that flame that existed within me. Everything else faded but that candle in my hands.

I groaned, frustrated. "I can't do it," I muttered.

"Don't think so hard, dummy," someone said with a chuckle. "Your powers are a part of you, it's natural. Let it be."

I sat up, startled. I whirled my head around, but saw no one. It had to have been in my head, but...but I don't remember anyone saying that to me. It sounded familiar-the voice, the statement-but I couldn't place it to a face or a time.

Now feeling dazed and uneasy, I stood. For a moment, my head swum in disorientation. I had to lean back on my bed. When it faded I carefully walked to the shower. I turned the water on to as hot as it could go. After giving it a moment to heat I stuck my hand in.

I could feel the heat, knew how hot it was, it should have just about burned me, but my hand didn't redden and I didn't feel pain. Startled I quickly turned the shower off.

I don't know what I had been expecting, but I suppose I was hoping there was one shred of normalcy left in me, but it appeared that, if there had ever been any, it left long ago.

I suddenly felt like one huge, walking flame. A time bomb waiting to go off and burn everything, and everyone, in my path. I felt trapped in my own skin. Scared of myself. For once I was glad I couldn't see a reflection of myself. I didn't want to see the monster I was. The uncontrollable being who set fires when upset.

Perhaps the bleeding red hair was a warning: I am not normal, I will harm you. Stand back. Stay away.

When I turned the shower on for the second time, I put it on as cold as it could go Perhaps as a pathetic, useless attempt to hamper the raging fire and heat within.

I didn't even wash my hair. I just curled into a ball on the shower floor, still fully clothed, under the chilled water, and let myself feel miserable, if only for a moment. My tears blended with the falling water. Unpleasant and unattractive choking sounds came out of my mouth.

It wasn't a moment I was proud of. It was weak and, in that short time I had been at the Asylum, I had learned that weak was not something you could afford to be. They ate weakness, devoured it, until nothing remained but a shell of a person.

But already I was cracking, breaking. Stress, fatigue, amazement, fear...it was all a whirlwind of emotions and I was being spun in the center, going from one emotion to the next.

Sitting there crying, it was weak moment, but it was a moment that was mine and I had very little. That moment was mine to steal away and keep to myself, otherwise it could, like everything else, be taken away from me.

After a while, but far sooner than I'd have liked, I forced myself to stop crying. It was a slow process, filled with hyperventilation and forcing my eyes wide open into the freezing, falling water. After that I forced myself to stand, slipping once on the slick, wet floor. I stumbled to turn the shower off, halting the pounding of the cold water on my shoulders. After a moment of steady breathing I got out and changed into dry clothes and harshly brushed my hair. I was still in the bathroom when the watchdogs pounded in, showing no hesitation when they bursted into the bathroom. I tried to ignore the slight disappointment I saw in some of their eyes upon noticing that I was fully clothed and decent.

They said nothing, just jerked their head in a motion that meant I should follow. I did so with silent reluctance. Everyone else was also entering the hallway, flanked with their own Wardens. I spotted Aaron and he waved. I forced a fraction of a smile on my mouth and waved back.

Our interaction earned us a hard shove from our Wardens. Grimacing and grunting and trying not to stumble I glanced back at Aaron. He gave me an apologetic look. We continued in silence until we got to the dining hall and the Wardens let us go. Aaron immediately went over to me.

"Sorry. Guess I forgot."

I forced a smile. Every part of me was shaking on the inside, quaking with fear, but I refused to let it show. These Wardens wanted me to crack, I could see it in their sneers as they glanced at me and whispered words to one another. I wouldn't put it past this small group of inhumane humans to be placing bets on how long until I would crack. I would not give them that satisfaction.

I wasn't sure if I was strong. I just knew I had to be strong enough. Strong enough to survive. Strong enough not to break. Strong enough to keep together what little fractured pride I have.

It was with that strength that I met the whispering Wardens eyes with a tipped up chin. They snarled at me, openly showing their dislike for me.

Aaron put a warning hand on my arm. "Don't test them," he muttered to me. "It's not worth it."

I pulled my eyes away from the Wardens, turning to face Aaron. "I hate this."

He tried to smile, but it looked faked and forced. "What happened to that optimism we talked about?"

"I think it died with my memory." After a thoughtful pause I added, "Or maybe I'm naturally pessimistic. How would I know? It's not like I'm talking about myself, or anything." I rolled my eyes, bitterness tainting my voice.

Aaron frowned, studying my face. "What happened to you?"

I looked up to him, negative emotions effecting me more than I'd like. "Are you serious?" I asked in a hushed whisper, glancing nervously at the guards. "What happened to me? I woke up in an insane asylum for kids with superpowers with no memory. And it doesn't stop there. Apparently I'm even freakier than average, and that's saying something."

Aaron didn't react for a while, he just continued to study my face. "You're scared," he said eventually.

I laughed coldly. "Scared doesn't cover it. I'm freaking terrified."

"Of what?"

"A better question would be what am I not afraid of. I'm terrified of everything! The Wardens, the Manager, the Watchdogs, of myself!"

Aaron stared at me, concern showing on his face. "Are you afraid of me?"

I swallowed, pulling my apparently hazel eyes from his warm, chocolate brown ones. "No." I choked out.

"Well, you're not afraid of everything then. And you shouldn't be afraid of yourself. I'm not."

I bit my cheek nervously. Eventually, I sighed. "I'm sorry," I said, holding my arms close to my body. "Everything is developing so suddenly and it's a crazy whirlwind and..." my voice cracked. I looked down at the ground not wanting Aaron to see how scared and hopeless I was. I fought the burning tears behind my eyes.

Aaron tipped my head up with two fingers. "You'll be fine, Red. I know it. You're tough."

"How would you know?"

He smiled. "I told you. Sometimes it takes an outsiders opinion."

I took deep breaths, steeling myself for the day. Plastering on the smile I looked up to Aaron. "What's on the menu for breakfast? Something gourmet, I'm sure."

Aaron snorted. "Oh, yeah. Definitely. Fortified soup. Classy. Five-star rating."

I laughed. "What does fortified mean anyways?

"They put in extra nutrients and whatever that we wouldn't get otherwise."

"How do you know these things?" I asked as Aaron guided me to the back of the room so we could get our meal.

"I read a lot. Most of their books are educational crap, but it's better than nothing, I suppose. They let you take books into your rooms so typically that's how I spend my evenings."

"Nice hobby, I guess." I said as we walked up to the Zookeeper. I tried to smile kindly as I reached for a bowl, but the Zookeeper just stared, looking...wary. Almost...afraid. Of me.

My fake smile fell as I grabbed the bowl. Aaron noticed both of our facial expressions and helped guide me away.

"Did he look scared of me?" I asked when we were out of earshot.

"You never know with those guys. Besides, they're trained to think of us as science experiments."

"Well, they look at me like a bomb about to explode. If I'm a lab experiment, I'm an unstable one in their eyes." I sighed as we went to our table.

Kali was sitting on the table with her legs crossed, her empty bowl abandoned at her side. Katy sat on the other side, still eating her soup.

"Damn, Kali. Did you devour your bowl, or what?"

She shrugged. "I've learned that the faster you eat, the less you taste."

"Granted." We sat down by Kali and began to eat.

"What's got you two so silent?" Kali asked. "D'you hook up or something."

I began to choke out sheer surprise, Aaron patted me on the back to help while glaring at Kali, and Katy lightly slapped her saying "Kali!"

Kali just laughed innocently. "What? It was an honest question? Did you? It would explain the tension. I mean, no one else really could pull it off, but I mean Aaron has his little trick and-"

"Kali." Aaron said sternly while I recovered from my near-death by fortified soup. "Nothing like that happened."

She leaned forward. "So you did use your little trick last night to..." she looked behind her before turning back to Aaron. "To sneak into her room," she finished quietly.

"No! Yes. Not for what you think." Aaron seemed kind of flustered. "Just to talk. She's been having some adjustment issues and I thought talking about it in a private, no-warden area would be beneficial." The last part he said in a hushed tone.

Kali just smirked. "Whatever. I'm rooting for you two."

I swear, my face was about the same color as my hair, colored by embarrassment and discomfort.

Besides this, that day and the next two went the same as the previous one. In the morning I worked with Fredrick on control. Not much was accomplished except lighting his desk on fire thrice more and managing to fully melt the candle within a minute five times and managing to correctly light the candle twice. Oddly, it was the last thing that caused me the most strife. Control was not my forte, as it seemed. Power, raw and undefined, I had. That was definitely not the issue.

Lunch was typical. I sat with Aaron, Katy, and Kali. Occasionally some others would join us, like Ashley or Cody or Alex or whoever. After that there was the dull educational lecture from the Teacher. After successfully fighting off the lovely lull of sleep that the wearisome class offered, I would go to Combat Instruction. The Instructor had me on treadmills and weight lifters for the majority of my time spent there, and worked with me on the basics of combat for a short time at the end. Dinner would be the same as the two previous meals. The evening time was spent talking to Aaron or watching Kali kill it on some video game or keeping score in basketball.

It was my fifth day in training, Saturday as I was told, that things changed. At least, for me.

Fredrick decided to work with me in the Training Facility with everyone else. I was nervous, but I felt bad about how much I had scorched his desk so I didn't put up a fight. When Fredrick guided me to an open area in the burnt field of grass, I began fidgeting, holding my arms close to my body.

"Are you sure about this?" I asked nervously, my voice raising at the end. "We haven't been having...great control with my powers."

"You're right." He agreed. "So I came up with a new plan. Clearly your powers are struggling to get out and trying to control that is tough. Possible, but tough. So first let's get you acquainted with your abilities. Once we know what we're dealing with we'll have a better shot at control." He smiled. "Okay?"

I swallowed and looked away, nodding.

"Besides. I have a theory about your lack of control."

"And that would be?" I asked quietly, aware of every Elementalist and Watchdog in the room was sneaking glances at me, anticipating my next move.

He clasped his hands leaving only his index fingers out. He then wagged those fingers at me. "Fear. That's your biggest enemy. Your power scares you and that fear cripples you. It restricts your control. We need to familiarize you with your power. No fear, nothing in your way. Get it?"

I gave him a weak smile, my eyes still flickering to all the watching faces. "Got it."

He nodded. "Good." Then he started backing away. "See right behind me? That's a glass panel equipped with nine fire extinguishers. There's a circle concrete floor behind it with ventilation holes that will release a gas made to suppress flames. That's where I'll be, perfectly safe. You just let go."

My eyes widened. "Just let go?"

"Yup." He walked behind the glass panel and gave me a thumbs up with a smile.

For a moment I couldn't speak. Couldn't move. What I said next came as a desperate shout. "Are you serious? 'Just let go'? Are you freaking crazy?"

"Red, calm down," Fredrick tried to tell me. "Check your emotions."

"'Check my emotions'? What happened to learning control before taking risks?"

"Red, you need emotional control."

"What I need is to get the hell away from everyone."

"Red!" I whipped around to see Aaron, walking toward me with his hands out in peace. . "You need to calm down."

My skin began to grow hot. "Don't tell me to calm down."

"Think, Red. You're not being rational. What are you so mad at?"

I paused. I didn't know, but I couldn't stop it. It was devouring me, this rage. I was shaking, I saw my skin begin to redden, felt my body begin to heat.

"What is it, Red?"

My breathing began to go ragged. "I-I don't know."

"Red..." I turned to see Fredrick begin to walk around the glass panel. "It's-"

What came out of my mouth was uncensored, unpermitted, and unthought out. Thinking back on it later, the words sounded fuzzy on my lips. "Stay away from me you murderous bastard!"

Fredrick faltered. "What?"

Aaron was confused as well. "What are you talking about?"

"Red," Fredrick said, moving cautiously back behind the panel. "I haven't hurt or killed anyone."

"You're just like all of them. Sadistic, cruel, murderous."

Aaron took a step forward. Somewhere I registered that all eyes were on me. I didn't care.

"You don't know what you're saying, Red." Aaron came close and spoke quietly. "You're about to go into very dangerous waters."

I ignored him and continued to speak to the man who worked for the Asylum. The man who fueled such hatred, although he'd been nothing but kind to me.

"You'll do anything to get anything you want. Us humans, us Elementalists, we're merely players in your game. Guess again. I am not your bitch." I took a step forward. "Burn in hell."

That's when the fire started.

It wasn't like my other fires. It wasn't small.

It was huge.

A forest fire sparked in an instant. It was everywhere, racing out in a circle around me, giving me a six foot diameter of free space. A free space shared with Aaron, whose wide eyes went back and forth between me and my fire.

He put a cautious arm on my arm. "Red."

I was unreachable. I was someplace else. Fueled with a distant anger. I was disconnected from everything around me. My sight began to swim. Briefly I saw dark cement walls and several dark figures approaching me. My mind flickered between the two images. I became muddled and confused.

I saw the dark men approach me and moved back to avoid them. Aaron had to stop me to keep me from moving into the flames. I was scared and caught between two rooms, and two dangers. Fire and dark men.

"Burn!" I screamed at the dark men. "All of you will burn!" I began sobbing as I screamed these words that should felt...different. Foreign and recognizable. Everything was doubled, sideways, and upside down.

The dark men approached in one mindseye and Watchdogs wade around the fire in another.

"Red!" I heard Aaron say, trying to pull me out of my confused state.

I saw a man pull out a needle, I saw the fire grow nearer. I moved closer to Aaron to hide from both.

"Red! You need to get under control."

"Back off." I flinched away from a dark man. "Back off!"

"Who are you talking to, Red?"

The dark man with the needle neared me. My breath began to shake and my rage increased. In my other minds eye I saw the fire grow.

"This isn't the end. I'm not done. I swear to you, you'll all burn."

In the real reality I heard Aaron yell out once more, wondering who I was talking to. In the reality with the dark men, I heard a different voice from the far side of the dark room. It was familiar but I couldn't place it.

"Good-bye, Genevieve. I'll see you on the other side."

That's when the man with the needle closed the distance. I felt a pang of immense fear, stronger than anything I'd ever felt, I was certain of that.

I felt a pinch in my arm, and the dark room began to fade. Not I heard someone whisper something. In my delusional state I couldn't make it out.

That's when the dark room went away, and so did my anger. It was replaced by extreme exhaustion. The fire died out instantly and I collapsed into Aaron unconscious.