This idea has been hovering around the edge of my consciousness for months and in the last week it has finally started taking form. Hope you enjoy.
“Hurry up, Rover! They’re gaining on us!”
Six-year old Rover stumbled along after his brother. They’d been on the run for as long as he could remember. Rover’s lungs burned in his chest. The heat seemed to spread out from there filling his limbs. He felt so hot, he had to be was steaming. This wasn’t from running, though. Rover knew he wouldn’t be able to contain himself for much longer.
Rover hurried up the street. His brother jumped behind a building, and watched the street past Rover. He was looking for signs of Them.
Rover ran past his brother into the alleyway. An alley? There was no way out except the way they’d come. Rover couldn’t be sure why his brother chose this place to run to. His brother continued to watch down the street, waiting for something. The walls on either side stretched up so Rover had to crank his neck to see dark sky. It was darker than it had been the day before. The walls themselves were blackened as if by fire had scorched their surfaces. It probably had, Rover decided. The town they’d been running through was abandoned and as near as could be to destroyed while still standing. Buildings still remained everywhere, but there were husks, gutted out first by fires then by looters. They were in one of the first places to be ravaged by Them.
It had been risky coming here. They were always more safe in the sanctuaries. Never completely safe, but more safe then when they were out of them. But Talon had heard rumors that what they were looking for was in the ruins of Chicago. So here they were, gambling and, from the looks of it, losing.
Talon was eight years older than Rover. He’d been taking care of Rover his whole life. Rover had never learned what happened to their parents, and Talon refused to talk about it. Talon always seemed to know what to do, where they should go. The street adjoining the alley was littered with rusting cars. Someone trying to drive anything would find themselves out of luck. That is what Talon had been counting on. If They wanted to follow the brothers, they’d have to do so on foot.
The heat was becoming too intense for Rover to handle. He pressed himself against the wall for support as he tried to control himself. “Talon!” he called through gritted teeth.
His brother, Talon, glanced over at him. “I’m sorry Rover. You just need to hold it in a little longer.” His eyes held an emotion that was hard for Rover to read, especially in his current state. Rover closed his eyes and worked no controlling his breathing. He counted slowly in his head like Talon had taught him. The burning was still there, but it wasn’t in control of him anymore.
Talon broke through his meditation. He turned to face his little brother. “They’re here Rover. When I say now, you need to pull that same trick we did in Houston. Got it?”
Rover suddenly understood what they were doing in the alley. “But that was an accident. I don’t know if I can do that on purpose.” He was desperately afraid he’d let his brother down. Then They would capture them and it would all be over.
Talon left his position at the corner and knelt down in front of Rover, putting his hands on his shoulders. He looked his brother directly in the eye, and spoke with no hesitation. “You can do it, Rov. I know you can. You have a lot more control than you did back in Houston. You can do this, you have to believe that.”
Rover took a deep breath, feeling the heat respond inside of him. He nodded his confirmation to Talon, knowing that speaking would betray him.
Talon released him and resumed his position at the corner. Rover imagined for a moment that Talon had released him because the heat that he was overwhelmed with too strong of his brother too stand. But that wasn’t that case. The only person that could feel the heat was Rover.
Taking more calming breaths to control the heat, Rover half-turned to face the back wall of the alley. He pictured what he needed to do in his head. He saw himself repeating the action over and over. A sense of calm surrounded him. For the first time, Rover realized, he could do it. When Talon ran toward him, telling him it was time, Rover was ready.
He stretched his hands out to the back wall. The heat in his body gathered into his hand and shot to the bricks. With a breath, he clenched his outstretched fingers. Thousands of bricks pulled free of each other. Rover would have enjoyed watching that part in slow motion if he hadn’t been concentrating: millions of cracks spreading practically instantly across the entire surface of the wall, each brick pulling and breaking free of its neighbors . . . all of it happening silently. The silence is what always amazed Rover the most.
In another breath, Rover turned to the open end of the alley, throwing his hands over his head toward the entrance like he’d watched kids do with soccer balls at the sanctuary in Los Angeles. With his hands, the bricks flew as one to the other end of the alley just as They first started making an appearance. The brick swirled harmlessly around the two brothers. The same couldn’t be said for Them. The bricks were littered in a massive pile from the entrance of the alley to the other side of the street. Those crushed under the weight hadn’t even had time to realize their dire situation until it was too late.
Rover collapsed forward onto his hands and knees with the sudden release of so much power. The heat had completely disappeared from his body, but it had taken all Rover’s energy with it.
Talon pulled him too his feet. “I’m sorry Rover, but we have to keep moving. More will be coming.” He maneuvered Rover so he was riding on his back. He ran toward the wall-less building at the back of the alley.
Rover was too tired to notice the route they were taking, but sense that Talon was looking for an exit.
Something pulled at Rover’s consciousness. “Talon,” he whispered into his brother’s ear, “it’s here.”
Talon stopped cold. “Are you sure?”
Rover nodded against his brother’s shoulder.
“Upstairs, third floor, it’s the second door on the left.” Rover was certain how he knew, but he did.
Talon found the stair and started climbing. Rover could feel his strength returning slowly. Another flight of stairs, Rover felt the beginning of the flames curling slowly in his stomach. It would take days for it to come back as strong as it had been before. It used to take longer than that. Talon said it was because Rover was getting stronger. Rover didn’t know how he felt about that. Would the day come when he had to release the heat constantly to avoid being overwhelmed? Rover hoped not. He didn’t know how he could survive that way if it always left him feeling this exhausted. He would have no time for recovery. Rover had never shared this fear with Talon. His big brother had better things to spend his time worrying about.
He noticed Talon was panting when they reached the third floor. With some of his energy returning, Rover decided he could make it the rest of the way without being carried. Sometimes it was easy to forget Talon was only fourteen.
The second door on the left opened up into a room that was all but empty. The only thing that remained was a charred, floor-length mirror leaning up against one of the walls. Rover felt a blast of heat coming from the mirror, reaching out to him. Rover glanced over at Talon, but he seemed unaffected but heat. He was staring at the mirror, his mouth hanging slightly ajar. Hope and joy misted over his eyes. Talon leaned against the door frame for support. “We found it,” he whispered. “We actually found it!”
Rover walked over and stood in front of the mirror. He knew, in theory, what he would see, but looking in the mirror and not seeing himself looking back was eerie. In the mirror he saw a room that was similar to the one he was in. There were however a few exceptions, the lack of himself being one of them. The room that looked back at him, appeared slightly smaller than the one they were standing in. The walls were splattered with graffiti he couldn’t begin to hope to read. There was a broken table tilting awkwardly against the wall and the remains of a chair scattered on the floor next to it. Rover couldn’t help but wonder what story this room carried with it.
He turned back to his brother, and was surprised by the look of sadness painted across Talon’s face. What had happened to the joy and hope? Rover grabbed his brother’s hand and tried to pull him toward the mirror. “We should go, Talon. Like you said, before They show up and destroy the mirror.” Rover felt awkward. He wasn’t used to telling his brother what they should do.
Talon stopped a few feet from the mirror, not moving any farther. He smiled sadly down at Rover. “I’m not going, Rov. Only you are.”
Rover was confused and hurt. “You can’t stay here! What about Them?!”
“That’s why I have to stay. You don’t need me anymore. You have enough control of your powers to take care of yourself. I need to stay here so I can keep an eye on them, until it’s time for you to come back.” This plan sounded sound.
Rover understood why. “You’ve been planning this all along, haven’t you? I’m not strong enough to do this without you.”
Talon hugged his little brother. “Yes you are. You are more strong than I think anyone imagined. In a few years from now, nobody will be able to stand in your way.”
Tears trickled down Rover’s cheeks as he hugged Talon. “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too.” Talon’s voice came out raspy. He cleared his throat and stepped away, wiping at his eyes. “But I have an idea so we’ll still be able to talk whenever we want.”
“How?” Rover felt some of his own hope returning.
“We need to destroy both of the mirrors so They can’t use them. But first you need to use your power to cut out two perfect pieces. If they are exactly the same, they’ll stay linked even if we move from this spot. We’ll still be able to communicate.” Talon could tell Rover was still upset. Talon was sad too, but this was how it had to be. He gave Rover a small push toward the mirror. “Be brave, little brother.”
Rover looked back at him. “You too, big brother.”
He stepped through the mirror.