My body hovered as I curled through the jags of the former window pane. The smoke was no obstacle, but the infra-red spectrum was flooded with searing red. Layer upon layer lined the maze of the apartment building; how was I supposed to find one man in the middle of all the chaos?
I pressed further; past what was once a bedroom and into the blazing kitchen. Tiles cracked like egg shells and shards of glass littered the ground. Wooden stakes like spears toppled across the main hall, then withered in the intense heat. Gods, if I couldn’t fly over them…
The apartment numbers seared like brands on the doors. D086, D088, D090; each fell with a clumsy blast from my finger cannon, and I called into each of them. “Mr. Geong! Mr. Geong, are you in here!?” I was screaming over the crackle, but there was no sign of him.
Soaring as fast as I could I scoured the other side of the hall and searched the apartments one by one. Suddenly the roof collapsed and I jerked back, narrowly avoiding the porcelain bowl that split on the concrete beside a melting polyester sofa.
It was no use; my search was taking too much time. How did I know I hadn’t missed him? Maybe he was unconscious, choked out on fumes. I had to keep looking.
Somewhere in the maze there was a voice, or at least I thought it was a voice. I turned and searched for a direction and a human shape before realizing that the words weren’t in English, but there was definitely a man calling out from the inferno.
“It’s okay!” I yelled. “I’m here to help! Mr. Geong, where are you?” Did he even understand me? Gods, what a time for communication to break down.
“Yes! Yes! Here!”
The voice was clearer, only a couple of doors away. When I squinted I could see the heat signature through the walls and a figure curled up in a bath tub. He was tucked away, safe, but not for very long. To think, without these powers I might never have found him.
I followed the wall to his apartment then skipped past the front door. It would be easier, I decided, to break directly into the bathroom, and then make a bee-line straight for the open window at the end of the hall. Foolproof; absolutely foolproof.
“Try and save oxygen,” I called. “Keep your head down!” That sounded like the right thing to say, but did I really know what I was doing?
My nerves steeled and my shoulders arched; pointing my arms ahead I readied a solid blast. Eyes set on my target I let loose a shot that tore a hole through the brick, threw me back and saw my body bounce off the wall.
A spike of pain cracked at my skull; I fell to the ground and felt the heat for the first time, with sweat evaporating off my skin instantly. Before I could lift myself from the haze another force beat down on me, crushing my back with all of its weight and forcing the air from my lungs. I struggled to take it back, but coughed on the smoke I drew in.
When my eyes cleared I saw blood; my blood, dripping from my forehead. “How…?”
It was my own fault. I was concentrating on the job and not on keeping my powers up. They were a muscle to be flexed and I’d let go; these were the consequences of getting careless.
I closed my eyes just for a second.
There was the sound of struggling, loud enough to stir me back to life. How long had I been out? The fire was still raging, and by my side was a tiny, balding man in a bathrobe trying (and failing) to lift the weight from my back. He was saying something, no idea what, but I knew it was the kind of thing that shouldn’t be translated in front of children.
Maybe if I had a clearer headspace I could have appreciated the irony that I was the one being rescued; some superhero I was turning out to be. Gods, what I wouldn’t have given for super-strength or, you know, anything practical! If I didn’t move the beam soon we’d both be done for.
I pressed my hands to the floor and resisted the urge to pull them from the heat. It was no use; no matter how hard I pushed the debris on my back was too heavy. Maybe if I tried to fly out…
My fists clenched and I closed my eyes. All I had to do was concentrate and the weird energy would come back and transform me; except it didn’t come. The weight pressing down and the throbbing pain and the world spinning made it hard to grasp, like a handle that was just beyond my reach. I tried to pull breath but inhaled smoke, sending me into a coughing fit.
The old man leaned down beside me. His eyes were a cocktail of fear and anger, but behind them was a determination he held out for me. “You be okay,” he growled with authority. The tears running down his cheeks told a different story.
No, it wasn’t going to be like this; for him or me. Whatever happened in the park, it had made me powerful, and it was buried somewhere; I just had to find it.
I strained against the beam and tried to grab hold. It was just there, just beyond the pain, and when I had it I would light up like the fourth of July and shoot out the window like a rocket. The old man would be saved, I’d be saved, and it was just so close…
The roof groaned and began to depress. Mr. Geong doubled back, but I stared it down knowing that I wouldn’t be killed; and even if I could, better to go out in a blaze of glory, right?
Suddenly my body erupted. Enveloped in alien light I shot out from my prison, grabbed the old man under his arms and fired out of the window. Daylight and fresh air greeted us both, as did the rooftop of survivors who cheered our race across the sky.
In my arms Mr. Geong kicked, half trying to collect himself, half trying to cover up his open boxer shorts. “Who… what…?” he stammered.
“Relax,” I told him. “I’ve got you.”
It was easier to focus with the light turned on. The pain was still there, but numb; it didn’t overwhelm like it did as a regular girl. I was able to focus on my path and bring us down to where concerned neighbors had gathered.
The power waned and the aching came back again. Burns, scratches, and a headache I wasn’t soon going to live down. Funny, it didn’t feel as bad as it did being pinned under rubble, but that might have been the adrenaline rush.
I waved to the firefighter as she approached me from the crowd. I was about to tell her not to worry about me when she pointed down and said “you changed your costume.”
What was she talking about? Then I looked down and saw that she was right. Instead of the hoodie and glasses I was wearing something else; an orange and gold dress with strips of white, tights, gloves, boots, a belt, and a strange emblem on my chest that I’d never seen before, but was still familiar. It was the letter ‘G’ wrapped around an orb, ticked with a streak that grew like a beam of light. It was awe inspiring.
“What does that stand for?” the firefighter grinned. “Glimmer Girl?”
I smiled right back at her. “Yeah, that’s exactly what it stands for.”
To be continued…