Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Fourth Instance by Rachel O'Neill

The smoke from the wreckage filled the sky. As soldiers and emergency personnel arrived to secure the scene they found what they expected: charred, broken bodies scattered across the field. What they didn’t expect to find was her.

The sole survivor of the tragedy, she stood in the midst of the field with her back to the rescue teams. Her sweet summer dress, now torn and covered in ash, and her long blonde hair blew in the hot winds surrounding the wreckage.

Cries of “Survivor! We have a survivor!” filled the site. The emergency personnel called it a miracle that the young woman wasn’t destroyed in the blast, but they were suspicious. Soldiers approached with caution, fanning around the site.

Dan Johnson, a soldier with some medical experience, was the first to approach. “Ma’am? We’re here to help. Are you hurt?” Rather than weeping or begging for help, she remained still. “Ma’am?”

She slowly turned to face them. “Be careful. There are … sharp edges.” Her voice trailed off and the soldier watched her eyes fall on one of the crumpled bodies in the field.

When she stumbled a little, her bare feet catching on debris, the soldier closed the gap between them and helped her sit down. Someone dropped a blanket around her shoulders as Johnson began to staunch the head wound that bubbled blood down her face. Her blue eyes seemed to be looking at everything and nothing, as if she saw every tiny detail before her but nothing could reach her.

Obviously dazed from a serious head injury, it became quickly apparent that in her current state she didn’t even know her own name. Determined officers questioned her but she had no answers, no words to describe what happened in the accident. Several times she stood up and began to walk away in confusion, but Johnson easily coaxed her back down. 

“I think I heard a little southern in your voice. Where you from, ma'am? Alabama? Tennessee?” He lightly tugged on her wrists to bring her back and spoke conspiratorially like he was telling a dirty joke in church.

Stone-faced officers nearby watched them closely and urged Johnson to keep pressing her for information. After a while they started to notice she seemed a little more alert and something was different about her face. 

“You feeling a little better? You look a little better.” Johnson continued talking but she kept her silence.

When her eyes first began to brighten, the soldiers brushed it off as a trick of the emergency lighting. Then her eyes began to glow ice blue.

Johnson jumped back and the soldiers drew their weapons. What they had called a miracle was now becoming their nightmare. This young woman who emerged from the fire and smoke was a new Instance.

Only three others like her are known to exist. With very little data available, scientists have been unable to explain what creates the Instances, these humans who crawled out of the wreckage of horrific disasters as a new species of human. Some theorize that the great energy of the destructive event causes the transformation to a new, not-human creature. Others believe the Instances were never human to begin with and that they caused the disasters from which they emerged. In every case, the Instance was the only survivor of the disaster and each emerged with powerful, untested abilities. Though information about the Instances is classified, “leaked” footage of their inexplicable powers and abilities would keep the news hounds fed for years. 

It was the knowledge of the Instances' inhuman abilities that put fear into these officers and the change in the camp was instant. Men who had shown great care and concern for her were now terrified and more than a little angry. 

She spoke for the first time in many minutes. “Why are you afraid?” With a hurt expression, she dropped her glowing blue eyes.

Barked orders flew around the camp but the girl barely seemed to notice. She kept her now quite startling eyes focused on the soldier who first approached her, who dressed her wounds, and who moments before was telling jokes to try to make her feel better. Dan Johnson now stood 10 paces away with a gun pointed at her head.  

The young woman stood and allowed the shock blanket to fall to the ground. Turning to the wreckage, she lifted her arms slowly. With a great shudder, the giant mass of broken metal rose and hovered above the ground.

“I can see it.” Her voice came clear and steady even amidst the chaos.

Johnson took a tiny step closer. “See what?”

With a small gesture of her finger the wreckage turned.

“See what, ma'am?”

She looked over her shoulder and turned those piercing, neon blue eyes on him. “I can see the device that ruined us - that killed 89 men, women, and children.” The offending piece flew out of the wreckage and landed at Johnson's feet. “They tried to kill me, but instead they made me.”

The wreckage came to rest on the ground again and she turned to face the soldiers. Unlike earlier when her eyes were glazed with shock, they knew she was really seeing now. She saw the bodies of the slain where they lay scattered in the field, saw the soldiers who gently cared for her on the scene but who now held aimed their guns at her face, and finally let her burning gaze fall on the device that caused all of it.

“I won't forget.”

Twitter: @rachelforgets

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