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Phoenix Down

Sarah Brunker



     Kelly could hear the baby crying somewhere above her as she ran up the staircase of the burning suburban home.  Sirens sounded far off in the distance as the walls around her began to blacken and crumble away.  Kelly had just reached the top of the stairs when a back draft caused the fire to surge forward and engulf her.  She closed her eyes right before she felt the heat hit her right hand and then travel up her arm to dance around her red hair for a moment before passing her by to consume a nearby end table in a ball of flames.  The baby's cries drew Kelly's attention back to her mission.  Holding up her hands, Kelly concentrated on the essence of the uncontrolled fire raging around her, hiding the baby from her sight.  As she parted her hands, the fire in front of her bent away like she was drawing a curtain, and she stepped through the opening before she lost control of the inferno.  She ran to the once white, but now smoke-darkened crib and picked up the writhing baby.  Gently wrapping the baby in her black cape to protect it, she looked to the nearest window.  Smoke billowed around her as she leapt through the glass and landed safely in the neighbor's flower garden.
     Kelly opened her eyes after her long daydreaming session on her roof.  As long as she impressed the others today, she'd be able to do everything she'd been imagining for so long.  She'd be a super hero, saving babies and destroying bad guys with a flick of her wrist.  Kelly slowly slid down the charcoal-colored roof, her jeans catching on the abrasive shingles, until she reached the edge, where she deftly jumped off and landed lightly on the sun-lightened wooden patio beneath.  She turned around and entered her house.  The door slid shut with a soft sigh behind her as she walked towards her bedroom.
     Her home was small, with light blue carpeting and pale yellow walls; the living room was dotted with a red armchair and a matching couch.  There was a small coffee table in the middle, covered with comics and newspapers documenting the latest rescues.  Everything was neat and arranged; she moved past this and entered her bedroom, a smaller, cozier place.  The queen bed was covered with pillows and surrounded by oak dressers.  Every shelf and desktop was littered with clippings and photos of the famous Scott Summers, the quintessential super hero and her soul mate.  She had a record of every great thing he had ever done, from the time he averted the train collision to when he rescued a child from a collapsing building.  If she met him for the first time today, she would have to use all her powers simply to keep from fainting.  Kelly opened the top drawer of the nearest dresser and took out her uniform:  a black leather jumpsuit with a red phoenix just under the left shoulder.  She laid her outfit on the bed as she pulled out the rest of her equipment; she needed to be ready for anything.

***

     "So," the blue man said to her, drawing her attention away from the magazine she was reading, "What are you here for?"  He was shorter than her, maybe 5'7," dressed in black denim jeans with tears at the knees and a white T-shirt, and he looked like he'd been locked in a glacier for several hundred years.  Worst of all, he was staring.  Like he had a reason to be staring, Kelly thought; He's the blue one!  His gaze traveled the length of her jumpsuit that clung tightly to her lean body, from her legs to her chest and then his stare moved past the leather up to her bright red hair and finally to her face.  A small smile came to his lips when he saw her eye, but when she didn't jump in on the joke he got serious again.
     "Seriously, what are you here for?" he asked again.
     Kelly realized that he wouldn't leave her alone until he'd gotten his answer and so she said, "I'm interviewing."
      The blue man leaned back in his chair and squinted at her, saying, "So what's with the get up?"
     "What do you mean?" Kelly asked, genuinely confused.
     "The get up," and now he leaned forward again, "the outfit.  Who are you trying to impress by dressing like Cat Woman?"  Kelly could feel her temper rising, and as her face turned a brighter red than her hair, she prepared to burn a hole right through his forehead with her searing look.  Unfortunately, before she could crispify him, his name was called and he disappeared into the interview room.
     Kelly waited patiently for the six-armed woman to precede her into the interview room.   Kelly had been sitting on a brown leather chair that matched the wood paneling on the walls as she waited for her name to be called.  The room was nice, not sterile like most waiting rooms, with four chairs each lining three of the walls.  She had several cups of coffee and there were plenty of issues of Professor Xavier's publication The Gifted for her to read.  When a short, dark-skinned, white-haired woman with an African accent called, "Kelly Peters," she jumped up enthusiastically.
     "That's me!" she cried and ran forward, her waist-length hair swinging back and forth erratically.
     The woman looked between her clipboard and Kelly several times before raising an eyebrow and saying, "Kelly Peters?"
     "Yes?" Kelly answered.
     The woman cleared her throat and said slowly, "I'm Ororo, it's nice to meet you.  Are you feeling...alright?"
     "Of course I am," Kelly said enthusiastically.  "I've been waiting for this moment all my life, waiting to be able to join your forces in destroying evil," her voice rose as she spoke.
     Ororo quickly took a step back from her and gave her an once-over.  "If you're sure," she said skeptically and slowly, "come on in."  Kelly followed her into the conference room, which was even more inviting than the waiting room.  It was slightly smaller, with a desk at one end wide enough for three or four people to work at comfortably.  There were also three chairs facing the desk, one of which Ororo offered to her.  The window was open to let in the sunlight and the view of the reflecting pool below.  Kelly was so intrigued with the view that she failed to notice the incredulous looks shared between the three people sitting across the room from her.  When she finally turned to them though, they were polite enough to stop staring.  She took a seat in the brown leather chair much like the one in the waiting room and prepared herself to take on all the responsibilities of a super hero.
     "Let me introduce myself, I'm Scott.  You're here to get information on our organization, correct?" the young man in the middle asked; he was perfect, from his soft-looking brown hair to the light green button down shirt he wore.  She would have known it was Scott Summers even if he hadn't introduced himself; she felt her breath shorten and was glad that she had already sat down to avoid fainting.  Unfortunately, she wouldn't be able to get him alone and have him fall in love with her until she got him away from the woman at his left, Jean.  Sure she was pretty with her flawless, ivory skin and her long brown hair, and sure she was talented with her telekinesis, but she wasn't anything compared to Kelly's slender beauty.  Scott had leaned forward as he talked and Kelly could sense the honesty in his tone.  She wished she could know what he was thinking, but his red tinted sunglasses were blocking her view to his eyes and her ability to look into his mind.
     "No, I'm not here to interview you or anything," Kelly answered.  "I'm here to try out to join you in your fight."  Her smile beamed at them from across the table and, framed by her bright red hair, she looked as though she were radiating light.
     Scott put down her resume and stood up.  Kelly could feel the smile slide off her face as her palms began to sweat; he didn't look happy.  "Is this some kind of joke?" he asked.  He was much taller than Kelly originally thought and with the vein beginning to stand out in his forehead, he wasn't someone Kelly wanted to make angry.
     "No," Kelly said quietly, suddenly feeling like a small child caught by an angry parent.  She could see the two women still at the table whispering hurriedly to one another until Ororo got up and left the room.
     Scott brought her attention back to him when he pointed at her forehead and barked, "What … is … that?"  Kelly hated when people made fun of the third eye she had on her forehead, but she hadn't expected it here.
     Kelly straightened her shoulders and said quietly but proudly, "That's my third eye."  She could see the change in the young man's face from upset to slightly confused and then worried.  Had she threatened him?  She didn't think so.  He leaned forward to get a good look at her eye and then, very carefully, took a hold on it and ripped it off her forehead.  Kelly stood up so fast she knocked over her chair and, holding her forehead in her hands, she began to scream, "My eye!  My eye!"  Scott backed away from her, almost tripping, as Kelly ran to the back of the room.
     Jean slowly walked towards Kelly as she screamed, "You'll never catch me!  I'll fly away!"  Kelly's dream had been crushed and all she had left to do was escape.  She could feel the attempted reassurance of Jean's mind within hers, but her consciousness had been shattered and was beyond Jean's powers to fix.
     Ororo suddenly burst into the room with two medics.  The five people watched in disbelief as Kelly jumped up and down several times while shrieking "I'll fly away" at an extremely high pitch.  The two men in white tackled her to the ground and dragged her screaming, thrashing body out of the building.

***

     Kelly sat naked in a bare solitary cell with padded walls and a hole in the ground for a toilet.  She rocked back and forth muttering, "My eye, my eye, my eye…"  This small, grey room had a small square window that Scott peered through.
     On the other side of that window, he turned around to speak to the lead doctor.  He looked into her light blue eyes as he said softly, "I don't know what's wrong with her.  She actually believes she's a mutant that had a third eye and could fly."  He looked down into his hand where he cradled the third eye made of white construction paper and scotch tape.
     "She'll get better once she realizes who she is," the lead doctor said in a smooth, deep voice.  "We'll keep her safe and under observation."
     "I suppose," he said.
     "Scott, you did everything you could, don't blame yourself for her episode.  You already have enough people that you worry about," she said as she laid a hand on his arm.  "You've brought her to the best place she can be right now."
     He smiled and said softly, "You're right, and thank you for taking care of her."  They shared a momentary look filled with sadness.
     "With all the hate in the world today, it's unusual that a human would convince herself that she was a mutant; it's usually the other way around," the doctor said under her breath, her eyebrows drawing together in confusion as she went to visit her other patients.
     Scott nodded in agreement as he took one last look at Kelly and then turned his back to her.  His cell phone rang after he'd taken no more than three steps and he answered it, "Cyclops here.  Yes, I saw her.  She thinks she's one of us.  She's contained just fine, nothing to worry about."
 


Acknowledgments:

I really appreciate the help of the people in the class that gave me suggestions for improving my story, especially Lin Prisbrey.  I would also like to thank Rachael, my intermittent inspiration, and my family for encouraging my writing, especially my sister Annie.

 
 
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