Canton chroniclesrising.., p.8
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       Canton Chronicles:Rising Power, p.8
 

           Faidra-Foteini Petaniti
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  “Well, at least we know what we have to do now,” Sebastian uttered.

  “How difficult will it be to face our fears?”

  ***

  The rest of the day was an endless show of their struggling against various fears, including water, heights and a variety of monster-like creatures. A task not nearly as easy as Seb would have thought.

  Mike’s fear-hologram was that of a giant creature, or better two giant ones, merged into a grotesque figure with two arms, two legs, one torso and two heads, one male and one female. The whole body was oozing with black pus, and was covered in veins that looked like black rotten wines. It hunted him for some minutes, before his rage won the battle against fear.

  Mike killed the creature by tearing it apart with his own hands, a show of brutal strength. The finishing blow came with several hits to the creature’s head, with its body turning into a massy pulp.

  When Mike was done and while everyone clapped with awe, he disappeared into the shadows without saying a word. Amy looked like she had been punched.

  “Mike really had it rough at some point of his life, didn’t he?”

  Val felt her own guts give in.

  “Just give him a little space. He’ll be back to his normal self in no time”, John replied.

  Sebastian was the next in line, his hologram a cooper-red gigantic centipede, fat and slimy, its huge body full with little holes, blood coming out of each one of them. The centipede had many small legs, and four tumours protruding from its long, filthy body, tumours which looked suspiciously like human heads, laughing maliciously at Sebastian. He showed no real fear of the creature however, after the original short shock. Like he was expecting the damn thing.

  The creature was closing in on him, with incredible speed, considering his enormous size. Seb opened his hands revealing a long metallic wire, just as the heads towered over him, ready to devour him. With an amazing eligible move he ducked under the creature, sticking the wire’s spear-like end to its soft belly.

  The centipede’s head screamed with a screeching sound, which made everyone but Sebastian, cover their ears. He run fast, faster than ever, circling the creature’s legs and torso with his, seemingly endless, metallic wire. In the end, when the wire was firmly onto place, Sebastian pushed, trapping the centipede further, cutting it in many pieces, in a blood-exploding mess. It was violent and satisfying at the same time.

  “You show them, Seb. They got nothing against you man!”

  Mike cheered and clapped louder than everyone. They all turned around and looked at him.

  “He is back to his normal self, alright” Amy said cheerfully.

  Her hologram was the biggest surprise of the evening. Her “monster” was a human, a real, actual human. Amy’s identical twin, in fact. She was wearing a smooth white dress, looking innocent and sweet.

  Amy was white as a sheet, all her courage gone.

  “Not you,” she whispered and tried to take a step backwards, but was unable to move at all. And then the sweet girl looked up at Amy and screamed, a scream of agony and pain, her fingernails transforming into huge claws, her eyes filled with tears of blood which trickled down on her white dress.

  She started stabbing herself, creating bloody holes in her belly, screaming even more at each stab but somehow unable to stop.

  “Please, stop this. It’s insane. Stop hurting yourself,” Amy screamed in the verge of tears. She lunched forward, determined to stop her twin from self-harm. The girl looked at Amy with pure hatred and malice.

  “You did this. It’s all your fault” she said with a coarse voice, and without any warning, she attacked Amy with her sharp claws. Amy foresaw the attack and took an unsteady step backwards, avoiding it. She continued moving with small sure steps, predicting the pattern of the monster’s attacks. She was so eligible, it was frightening. Their moves were practically the same.

  The both of them stood there, out of breath. Amy’s eyes was full of rage. “You don’t control me anymore” she whispered, and produced a silver small dagger in her palm.

  Moving like a shadow, Amy circled the girl, giving her small deathly stabs in every part of her fragile body. When the doppelganger finally fell, Amy delivered the final blow with a stab right at the creature’s heart.

  When the hologram disappeared, Amy run towards the room’s exit, shaking. The boys were speechless, most of all Mike, a deep shadow of regret on his face.

  “I would have never guessed… Not about Amy Wyatt.”

  We all have secrets, it seems.

  Val was the next in line, and as she entered the room, she heard Nelson and Mandy rooting for her. The room felt much larger on the inside than the outside, much more frightening. Ready to shallow the person who entered it, and then spit the remains.

  No wonder everyone gets the creeps in here.

  Val waited and, suddenly, felt a little push on her brain. Something whispered to her, forcing her to remember what she would like to forget the most. To embrace her fear. And then it happened.

  The whole room, the entirety of it, turned into her prison cell in the Asylum. She expected something like that would happen, but the exaggerated detail of it, the rotting bleeding walls, the stale air, the small round hole on the top of the room, a joke of a window, the black dirty floor. It was like she was back in there. She felt all of the air escaping from her lungs, and was unable to breath for a second.

  Calm down, Val. You’ve escaped once. You will once again. Your brain is your weapon.

  Val resumed a fighting stance, ready for what came next. Sure enough the four wardens of the Asylum started coming out, creeping from the corners, four shadow figures without a face. They all had a stick on their hand and walked slowly towards her.

  She could face them, she knew that, but the question was how. She tried to think of a weapon but her thoughts were fuzzy. She couldn’t produce anything, like the people before her.

  Val took three steps back, as the shadows kept approaching, and tried hard to think of a way to face them, but she had no ideas whatsoever and nowhere to run.

  But you are not a runner, Valentine. You are a fighter. So, for once, fight back.

  The little girl’s voice, somewhere inside her brain.

  Blast them all.

  In a matter of seconds, Val’s thoughts cleared up. She stood upright, closed her eyes and she raised her hands. The window gave a small crack, then a larger one and as she was being covered by the darkness… the glass broke into a million pieces, with a blast so powerful that claimed huge chunks of the wall with it.

  The light chased the shadows away, as they started running for their lives, only to be pierced with the thousand glass pieces. The room went back to its original shape, and Val stayed in her place for a second, feeling drained. At last, she found the strength to exit the stage.

  The crowd didn’t know how to react. There were some mild cheers but that was the end of it. Val understood their confusion. It was not a spectacular action fight, nor some disturbingly creepy monsters, just a broken window.

  She approached Mike and Seb, who gave her soft taps in the back.

  John congratulated her with an inexplicable look on his face. Disbelief.

  “Something you didn’t expect, John?”

  “It was exactly what I expected from you, Valentine. Did you expect it from yourself? To fight back?”

  Val avoided his gaze, turning her head towards Amy, who had just joined them again, looking embarrassed. She tried to break the ice, meanwhile ignoring Mike’s and Seb’s uneasy looks.

  “You were amazing, Val. Not even evil shadows stand a chance against you.”

  She hugged her tightly, surprising the group. Amy had been for the most part, allergic to human contact.

  “You don’t need to tell me the story if you don’t want, but you also did great”, she whispered gently in Amy’s ears.

  The girl looked at Val with enormous wet eyes, nodded and turned
away.

  The names flew by, people being tested one after another, in an endless ocean of faces and talents. When the last announcement for the day was made, John’s name flashed brightly on the screen.

  “Finally. I thought my time would never come.”

  “You are already a winner in our hearts, John” shouted Seb.

  “Yeah, go ahead and show them some of the Lucas power bloodline brother” Mike screamed even louder, and both raised their fists in a show of dominance.

  “Men” said Amy, bringing her palm to her face, defeated.

  John was standing still with his eyes closed, when the monster appeared on the stage, much like the werewolf Nelson had seen.

  “Is that his greatest fear? A wolf? Seriously?” Amy exclaimed in disbelief.

  Even the boys looked disappointed. The creature snarled at John, but he didn’t move an inch. He looked at it, deep in the eyes. And then he spoke, addressing to the beast itself.

  “You are heading the wrong way… In fact, I am right behind you.”

  All of a sudden, John disappeared from his position, only to appear right behind the creature, just like he said a minute ago. The creature jumped around confused as well as enraged. It started running towards John. John just smiled.

  “That’s the right direction alright? But how do you know who is the real me?” John looked at his right side… looked at the identical copy of himself standing right next to him.

  “Is it this guy?”

  The crowd exclaimed in surprise.

  “Or is it this guy right here?”

  Another doppelganger appeared at John’s left side. The three of them pointed comically at each other, like being in a magical performance. The Instructors stood up from their positions, their faces glued to the screen. Val blinked in order to wash away the illusion. It was still here. There were three Johns at the same time.

  The beast was now crying confused, unable to decide what to do next. John and his twins closed in to it, and it took some steps backwards, cowling in fear.

  “I don’t even think you are a real monster at all, though” said the three in unison.

  “In fact, I think you are just a petty insect. Yeah, that’s what you are.”

  And the creature was gone in an instant. In front of John’s feet stood a bug, so tiny and harmless, one could never think that it had been a monster in the first place.

  “Sorry, pal. That’s life.”

  He crushed the insect with his feet. The Illusion was gone, and John was again one person, at his original place of entrance, not having moved an inch. He gave a small bow to the instructors, who were speechless, unable to react. The crowd was flabbergasted, cheering and clapping, even Amy, who whistled slowly. John excited the stage, with Peter Smith making the announcement on his mic.

  “Ladies and Gentleman, our first surprise of the day. John Lucas, congratulations. Yours is, truly and officially the first new Power in Canton.”

  ***

  4. The Ties that Bind

  John sat on a comfortable chair inside the Instructors’ office, with Vanessa Rehberg facing him from the other side of her desk, sceptical.

  “You seem a little troubled, John”, she said, in a most professional manner.

  John looked back at her, his eyes shining behind his glasses.

  “I think it’s because of this office. And because this feels more like an interrogation, than a congratulation.”

  Vanessa smiled apologetically.

  “I am sorry. I have a thing for bleak and secretive working environments. I think it counters my overexposed office in the Canton Tower.”

  Indeed, the Instructor’s office was scarcely light and, combined with the black and grey colours, kind of depressing.

  “Don’t let the deco put you down, John. I still want to congratulate you. You are the first one obtaining a Power, and so fast. Like you’ve always known you had it, somehow.”

  John held his breath, trying to look as calm as possible, under Vanessa’s observing eyes.

  If you only knew.

  But maybe she did know. Maybe that’s why he was here. She was certainly speculating. The question lingered in the air.

  How? How did you do it? How did you know?

  John smiled politely and answered, without waiting for her question.

  “I always had an increased sense of perception. For my environment, the people I met. And when I went into the room, I just knew. I knew I could bend the monster, and the crowd, to my will.”

  This simplified version of events was not far from the truth. In fact, it was really close to the truth, visions and dreams aside. But he wasn’t going to share his personal truth with a Canton official. At least not until he was completely certain about her intentions.

  “Then impress me. Show me your power of perception.”

  John reached for his pocket, put his hand in and when he took it out, a beautiful rose was there.

  “For you, my lady”.

  Vanessa was clearly not ready for this sort of affectionate display. Her reaction was so sincere, as she let her guard down for a moment, that John felt sad for her.

  Unwilling, but plagued from curiosity, he stole a glimpse in the woman’s mind. John saw a man there, one he immediately recognised. Everyone in Canton knew who the man was. John withdrew from Vanessa’s mind once the memories started getting too intimate. He had no intention of watching Canton’s highest authority figure on his underpants, or without them.

  The High Counsellor and his Assistant had a relationship. Somewhere along the way, it ended, leaving them both scarred.

  Vanessa took the flower in her hand.

  “Thank you. I hope you are popular amongst girls, because you sure deserve it.”

  He was moved by her words, thinking about his own unfulfilled love.

  “You are free to go now, John. Go celebrate with your friends. I am sure they will also receive their Powers in a short while. You are a really strong bunch. All of the candidates are, in fact.”

  John smiled and got up from his chair. His hand was on the door handle, when the question came.

  “What’s the name of your friend? Not Amy Wyatt. The other one. With the blue eyes.”

  John was surprised by the question.

  “Valentine. Why?”

  Vanessa cleared her throat, her tone cautious.

  “Her performance was really impressive today.”

  “You were watching? I thought you said…”

  “I watched some of the candidates, yes. And I think your friend’s stunt was the most impressive of them all. We’ll just have to wait and see. You run along now.”

  The door closed behind him with a small thumb. Vanessa looked at her hands. The flower was gone. She stood there for a long time, looking at the empty space in her palms, smiling sadly, when the rest of the teachers came.

  She informed them of her encounter with John.

  “It was still impressive though, even though it disappeared in the end.”

  Peter remarked, looking at Vanessa’s empty hands, trying to imagine the lost flower.

  “He is certain to have good luck with the ladies, that guy”, said Beth, smiling to herself.

  “Beth, your comment is highly inappropriate,” Priscilla said shocked and Guido just shook his head in disapproval, knowing his sister all too well.

  “He is really strong”, said Vanessa, more to herself than anyone else.

  “Is that bothering you, Vanessa?” Guido asked with his soothing voice.

  “As a matter of fact, it does. It’s not just him, but all of them. They did so great in the test, way more than expected. Don’t get me wrong” she added hastily, seeing their confused stares, “that’s what we want. Express-Heroes. But a fast train has a greater chance of derailing. At least they all seem sane and sound.”

  “Appearances can be deceiving, isn’t that what you mean?” Beth asked.

  “It’s jus
t that, if someone goes berserk we have no way of stopping.”

  “There is one way to stop them, and you know it. No matter how unpleasant it might be,” Guido remarked, dead serious.

  Priscilla and Peter looked nervously at each other and then at the floor. Vanessa sighted. It all came back to him.

  “I will have to seriously think about it.”

  Although she would rather forget Henry White’s existence altogether.

  ***

  Val and Amy were waiting patiently in the boys’ room, Sebastian playing with his PA, and Mike anxiously circling the room.

  “Will you stop playing with that thing? Our friend might be in danger”

  Sebastian rolled his eyes.

  “Mike, seriously? SERIOUSLY? We are in the new Academy, with the protection of the Council and the Deities, and you think John might be in danger?”

  “He is been in there for an awfully long time...”

  “They want us to embrace our Powers, dude. They are not going to kill the first new Hero in Canton. John will tell us everything when he’s back”

  “Maybe Rehberg is trying to take advantage of him, you know like…”

  “Amy!!!” the both boys shouted wildly, and Val burst out laughing.

  “You really have something against her, don’t you?” she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

  Unexpectedly, Amy froze in place, looking exactly like she did in her fear test.

  “Amy it was only a joke, come on” Mike started, but Seb stopped him.

  “Do you want to talk Amy? In fact does any of us feel like talking, since we are stuck here waiting our friend? We faced some pretty harrowing things in those tests.” He took a deep breath. “And since we’ve paired together by, I don’t know, destiny, fate or whatever, it’s better if we are honest with each other.”

  Amy looked at Seb, and for a mere second she looked so grateful, Val almost expected her to stand up and hug the poor boy.

  Then she lowered her head again, and the moment was gone.

  “Sorry guys, I am just, I am not really ready to share anything. I like you all, or at least I think that’s what liking a person feels like. Just not yet.”

  Val felt exactly the same way. It was still too early to let out her own fears, at least the gruesome experiences not even Mike was aware of.

  Seb let go of his PA, and took Amy’s hand on his own, surprising her.

  “Then we’ll do the start, as brave men usually do, right? What do you think Mike?”

 
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