Jake sat down on the hill. The ground was cold and wet, already the water soaked through his pyjamas. It was bright out, so very bright and so very loud. The fire was much louder than he expected. He thought it would be like a regular fire, with crackles and pops. He didn’t expect the roars, the shattering glass, the groaning as great beams collapsed. The screams. Though there weren’t many of those. Jake suspected that was because of the smoke. The loudest was Clarice, he could see her at the broken window, trying to breathe fresh air, screaming for help. She had spotted him, waved, he couldn’t see her face clear enough, but he heard her scream for him. He just watched. It was better for her this way. It was better for all of them. No one would be left. Once he was sure, completely sure that everyone was dead, he would take care of himself. There was no point in going on alone. The bodies would be destroyed, twisted beyond recognition and use, his own would be the same. Everything that happened here would be covered up, he knew that and he accepted it. That wasn’t important. The only important thing was stopping it. Perhaps someday they would try again, Jake suspected they would, but for now that wasn’t important. Perhaps it was selfish of him, but he was so tired of trying, of fighting. He just wanted it all to stop.
They came for him when he was twelve. He didn’t know why, they didn’t say. He had been in bed when they broke in. He hadn’t been asleep, he was up late reading comics. He heard his parents yelling, then there were a few thuds and the screaming stopped. The men came into his room, Jake had hidden under the bed. He knew it was stupid, but there was no where else. The window had a big drop outside it onto brambles and the wardrobe was tiny. He hoped that maybe they’d think he wasn’t even there that night. After all he was supposed to be at his friends for a sleepover, but then Billy got sick. They had dragged him from underneath the bed and carried him out of the house. He didn’t see his parents. They didn’t yell, they didn’t try to go after him. He didn’t know what happened to them.
He didn’t know why he was chosen, why he was taken. There was nothing unusual about him. Average grades, average hobbies. Nothing that stood out. Yet take him they did. Told him he was special, that it was a special school for special people but Jake knew that was a lie. He wasn’t important. It wasn’t until he got there that he fully understood it. He wasn’t special now, but they were going to make him that way.
It had been an agony of test after test, strange things injected into his arms and legs, the screaming, burning pain as it raced through him. During the day was school, in the evening the injections, the training, at night he would pass out from exhaustion and start all over again in the morning. There were sixty kids in the school. Sixty kids going through the same hell as him. The staff pretended that they were friends with him, him and all the other children, but they weren’t. Not really. They would stay away from them, act friendly but if you tried to get too close they’d push you away. They wouldn’t even give a hug to those who cried. No, Jake knew that the adults didn’t care about them, not as people. He could never understand why the others never saw it though. The kids all looked up to them. Jake could barely stand it, watching how they played favourites and got the other kids the fight for meagre scraps of love and affection.
Three years. Three years of torture and stress and pain and for what? Nothing. None of it was worth a damn. One more week, that was all, one more week and they were free. Then that stupid asshole Dominick had to go and ruin it. They could have been free. Jake had heard them talking amongst themselves. The kids would be sent elsewhere, fancy schools, payments from the government. Life would have been sweet, if only Dom had kept his mouth shut. No, instead he ran through the halls screaming that he did it, he made it work. Jake had gone with everyone else to see, not really expecting it to happen, but it did. The small ball bearing floated off the table. It was only a few inches and only for a few seconds at best, but he did it. Everyone was cheering, screaming. Everyone but Jake. He knew what that meant. All that tiny little ball represented. More testing, more injections, more pain. He couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t.
He had been hiding it for years. Exploring it in secret and failing their tests. He could levitate things easily enough. It was one of the first things that manifested. It took him a few months to get the hang of it. After that he was able to build on it, make himself stronger. Then one day he found he could make fire appear. It was an accident, he had been having a nightmare and he woke up to find a small fire on his bed. He had managed to hide the burn mark, it was only small. He had kept it secret, focusing on the day that they’d finally be let go. There had been rumblings about it for a few weeks, suggestions and rumours of cut budgets and closure. Jake knew he just had to outwait them and he’d be free.
Starting the fire was easy. There was no real start point. One second everything was fine, the next everything was on fire. He kept the fires burning bright and hot. He could feel himself getting weaker, he was tired, but he had to continue. There were bunkers under the place, they were on fire too. The guard towers stationed at the walls. Everything. The whole world was burning. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want any of it, but it was the only way.
Jake didn’t know when he passed out. The last thing he remembered was the roar and heat of the flames. Now it was morning. There was nothing left but smouldering rubble. There were no people around. Not yet. He didn’t know where they were, but it wouldn’t be much longer before someone came out. He didn’t know if he destroyed all the data they had recorded, he hoped he had. Wearily Jake got to his feet and started walking, shivering in his cold, wet pyjamas. He was going to walk into the fire, when it reached its highest point, but now the fire was gone and he didn’t think he could make more, not for now at least. Maybe they wouldn’t know, they might think he burned up inside with everyone else. He didn’t know where he was going to go, he didn’t know what he was going to do. All he could focus on was moving, one foot in front of the other. If he stopped, if he was caught, everything the night before would be for nothing. They’d know and they’d make him do it over and over again.