ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~
***THANKS FOR READING!***
BOOK 1, CHAPTER 18: PROMETHEUS INCARCERATION
In an alleyway absent of bystanders, Al suspended her ruby red yo-yo in a sleeper position with the perpetual energy ball bearings keeping it spinning. With delicate, subtle movements with her wrist and fingers, she slowly moved the yo-yo in circular motions parallel to the ground, just inches above the asphalt.
“Mappa Mundi,” she uttered quietly, inciting her navigation magic.
The yo-yo began to act on its own, drawing various shapes in the air with glowing red tracers. After a few seconds, the magical energy feedback let Al know to proceed to the next step of the spell. With a quick jerk, she snapped the yo-yo up the string and clasped it tightly in her hand. A red aura emanated around her, illuminating the alley with its warm light.
Finally, Al thrust her arms straight up toward the sky, expelling the spell outward in every direction from her location. The red aura expanded and dissipated.
Silence followed, in which she concentrated and waited patiently. The Mappa Mundi spell continued to stretch out, invisible and undetectable by the citizens of Chicago. At last, using the spell as a liaison, she locked onto the coordinates given to her by Excalibur. A thin, red ring of light appeared around her with a pointer similar to a compass, showing her which direction to head in.
“Got it,” she said to herself as the red ring disappeared. “I just hope the coordinates are accurate and the thing I’m looking for hasn’t moved too far. Where’s that nun when I need her? She’d be much more helpful than Mappa Mundi in this situation.”
Wasting no time, Al hurried toward her destination. The city was bustling as noon approached. Whatever events were about to unfold, she would have to go about it without alerting the public, and it would be challenging to do so in such a populous place. Sister Farrah had the ability to evacuate large areas, another reason why Al was at a disadvantage without her accompaniment.
Al navigated the city on foot, occasionally ducking into hidden spots to discreetly check her Mappa Mundi to stay on track. She had been all over the world, and the only city she could remember rivalling Chicago’s size was Tokyo. As such, she was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer land area of the metropolitan area, saturated with noisy and smelly automobiles, herds of pedestrians, and countless streets. The colossal skyscrapers were always a sight to behold, threatening to distract her with their hypnotic bulk. Having never been to New York City and knowing it was larger than either Chicago or Tokyo, she subconsciously decided she would never want to travel there without a guide or, dare she consider it, a GPS.
The trek led Al to an outdoor plaza. Making sure nobody was around, she checked her Mappa Mundi spell, now a green ring surrounding her to indicate she had arrived at the determined spot.
“I’m here,” she said aloud. “Now, where is this thing?”
Al looked around, trying to find anything or anyone that stood out. The fact there were no other people would make it easier to find the target, and if a fight were to occur, there would be minimal witnesses. That was relieving as Al walked slowly and examined the environment.
“But wait a minute,” Al said to herself. “This is a huge city with tons of people, and this plaza looks like it’s meant to have a lot of people here. Then why isn’t anyone here?”
No people. The sound of traffic was very distant, almost inaudible. Seagulls and pigeons were present, but they offered very little to disarm the calmness of its eeriness. Stillness and silence were abundant, yet out of place in the middle of Chicago at noon during the weekend.
A sneeze tore through the tranquility. Al whirled around and found herself being confronted by a boy who appeared to be the same age as Chris. It was Erik Hawthorne.
“Excuse me,” he sniffed. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Oh,” Al replied. “Don’t worry about it.” She was suspicious of the sickly-looking boy.
He looked awkwardly at Al as he thought of something to say.
“Uh, nice weather, huh?”
“Yeah, I fell asleep on a bench here,” Erik said, trying to ease the encounter with a casual conversation. “Just call it a bad habit of mine. But it’s weird … there was nobody here when I woke up, and it was pretty busy before.”
“It’s strange, alright,” Al agreed, letting her guard drop. “This looks like a place that would be popular around this time.”
Erik twisted his face. At first, Al wondered if he was reacting to something she said, but readily understood he was about to sneeze again. With much effort, Erik pinched his nose with both hands and stifled the sneeze.
“Sorry,” he said painfully, “but you should get away from here.”
“Huh?” Al was now intrigued. “Why’s that?”
“Trust me.” The expression Erik wore was solemn, almost pleading. “You don’t want to be near me.”
“I’ll be the judge of that, thank you. In fact, I find you quite interesting.” She looked around. No other person was in her line of sight.
“No, I’m actually really boring,” Erik said modestly. “Take my word for it.”
He screwed up his face again before choking down another sneeze. When he did so, the sound his sinuses made was disgusting and cringe-worthy.
“That ain’t good for ya,” Al told him, “holding it in like that.”
“Uh, I know.”
“Then let it out, bud.”
“No, I shouldn’t. And you need to leave.”
“Hey, this is a public area,” Al retorted. “I have every right to be here.”
Again, Erik felt the tickle in his nose. However, the speed at which it appeared was very quick, likely from the momentum of the two stifled sneezes aching to be released. Inevitably, Erik couldn’t prevent himself from sucking in a lungful of air before blasting it out his mouth and nose.
There was no expecting the shockwave that came with the sneeze as Al felt the ripple push through her. Erik’s vocalization was so loud it echoed and left Al’s ears ringing. Getting over the sudden start, Al was further disturbed when the dozens of birds overhead plummeted to the ground throughout the plaza. Although the birds weren’t dead, they suffered from the fall as Al watched them squirm despairingly, and it seemed as if something else was ailing them as well.
“What?” Al turned her attention back to Erik as he wiped his face with the back of his hands.
Noticing the birds squawking meagerly on the ground, Erik felt a pang of guilt. It was difficult for him to face the reality, but he had no other choice. When he saw Al was still standing there and drilling him with her stare, he became confused.
“You’re not sneezing or coughing?” His question and tone warranted as much suspicion as he himself was experiencing.
“N-no.” Al wasn’t sure how to respond. “What’s that mean?”
“Oh. That’s ….” Erik trailed off.
“You did this!” Al pointed at the birds. “That sneeze did this!”
Erik became angry, mostly due to his defensiveness.
“How can you be sure?”
“You’re surprised that I’m not sneezing or coughing after that,” Al told him. “What are you, sick?”
“Uh, yeah, that’s it,” Erik said, playing it off. “I’m sick. I’m super, mega, ultra-sick! So you should stay away from me.” He coughed, and the lung congestion was clearly audible.
“Ew.” Al coiled away, her neck and arm hairs standing up as Erik sniffed loudly.
“See?” he told her straightforwardly.
Al demurred, saying, “Huh, you look pretty lively for a really sick guy.” She squinted her eyes at Erik.
Looking around, Al realized the birds weren’t the only victims of Erik’s pestilent sneeze. There were multiple flies and bugs strewn across the ground.
These birds and bugs seem like they were affected by this guy, she thought. If the effects of whatever he did are immediate, but I’m okay, then that probably means my magical capabilities protected me. She looked back at Erik, who shifted his gaze uneasily. He said he’s sick, but I’ve never heard of a sneeze taking down a flock of birds.
A toothy grin spread across Al’s face. Her ruby red yo-yo was already in her hand and ready. Erik saw the look on Al’s face and immediately felt nervous.
“Ha, I think I get it!” she called out valiantly, holding her taught yo-yo string in front of her. “I’m willing to bet that you’re the target the phone’s Excavator was talking about.”
“What damn excavator?”
“And I lucked out!” Sleeping her yo-yo, it began to buzz as it picked up speed, glowing brighter by the second. “That would mean you’re another person I’m looking for!”
“You’ve got the wrong guy!” Erik quickly waved his hands defensively. He watched in horror as a visible aura began to radiate from Al’s body from her rising power.
“You better hope I’m right.” Al twirled the whistling, glowing yo-yo over her head as she whipped up the air. “Otherwise you’ll probably lose a leg or three.”
“Don’t worry,” she snickered, removing a small crystal from her hoodie pocket for Erik to see before she tucked it away. “If it comes to that, I can put you back together again.”
“Please! Have mercy!”
“Silence, bitch! Terra Geyser!”
Al slammed the yo-yo forcefully into the stone-tiled ground. None the wiser, Erik could sense a swell of upward power directly beneath him as it tunneled from the depths of the earth. Trying not to panic, he braced his stance for the oncoming attack. Inside his heart, an abyss opened, bottomless and frightening, and he felt the contained strength within him immediately flood his body from head to toe.
It was his newly acquired power, and although he detested it and all that it was capable of, it was his only way of defending against the young girl’s attack.
Erik channeled his powers straight down to his feet just as Terra Geyser erupted violently through the plaza foundation. Doing so was strenuous as he had never used so much of his powers at once, and the rumbling caused by the clashing opposing forces was disorienting.
The upward surge of Terra Geyser was adequately warded off, resulting in the torrent of dirt and rock to blast sideways as it broke through the ground’s surface. The horizontal release caused Al to stumble back as she shielded her face from the dirty debris.
A wide and shallow crater was carved into the plaza foundation with Erik in the center, kneeling over and using both of his hands as support while he regained his equilibrium. He shakily dusted himself off, trembling from the sight of the destruction while unable to fully wrap his mind around what had just happened. Al scoffed at him, frustrated by the utter failure of her attack.
He blocked it? she thought, feeling irritated. That’s impressive, although Terra Geyser was at a fraction of its power. Still, I thought this guy was a total pushover, but he’s already showing some promise.
“Pretty good,” Al sneered, tossing her yo-yo about with the string tricks the ruby red body was designed for. “You might actually make the cut.”
Erik coughed up some mucus from his windpipe before spitting it onto the ground, much to Al’s disgust. Clearing his throat, however, he felt very healthy and full of vitality, more so than he could ever remember.
“Gah,” he wheezed, looking at the crater around him. “I thought I was gonna die.” He looked at Al. “What just happened?” he demanded. “And what are you talking about?”
Al continued performing string tricks with her yo-yo.
“I’m testing you, to put it simply,” she replied cockily. “Don’t get too full of yourself, though. I used that last attack nowhere near its full strength. I’d go all out with it next, but I’m not trying to destroy this place.” She caught the yo-yo in her hand, giving Erik a taunting smirk. “C’mon, bud. Show me what you’ve got!”
Confused, Erik said, “You mean you want to fight me?”
“Am I speaking out my butt? Of course that’s what I’m saying.”
“Uh, but … you’re just a kid.”
The blood pressure in Al’s face quickly increased.
“I’m not a kid, dammit!” She disassembled the ruby red yo-yo body and replaced it with the traditional-shaped, emerald green one, doing so with such speed and ease that Erik hardly noticed the switch. Tossing the yo-yo into wide, complex loops, she continued her taunts. “Whatcha gonna do? I know you can do something.”
Erik nervously glanced around, despairing at the fact there still wasn’t anybody around to help him or at least back him up on the notion the young, blonde girl in front of him was a lunatic. Furthermore, where in the world did everybody go?
“Let’s chill out,” Erik said. “I don’t want trouble, especially with some kid with a yo-yo.”
“Don’t talk crap about my bandalore!” Al snapped, still looping her yo-yo. “I’ll have you know that they were used as weapons in the Philippines.”
“Uh, no they weren’t,” Erik told her. “That’s a myth. There aren’t any official records of yo-yo’s used as weapons, and the evidence is disputable.”
“Heh, you’re the first to call me out on that.”
“Hey, I-I’m gonna be honest here,” Erik said, scratching his head. “I’m not a fighter. I don’t wanna do this.”
Al laughed mockingly, her yo-yo loops getting wider and faster.
“You’re too afraid to fight a girl?”
“You might not be a fighter, but you’re a pretty good blocker.”
“You blocked my Terra Geyser!” Al was growing more impatient by the second. Why was the sickly-looking boy being so reluctant and difficult to deal with? “That’s evidence that you ain’t some run-of-the-mill mortal!”
Not knowing what to say, and completely baffled by the situation, Erik just shrugged and shook his head.
No longer willing to keep the match at a standstill, Al retracted her emerald green yo-yo and held it in her hand, fully determined to take a shortcut to acquire the necessary information behind Erik’s abilities.
There’s something weird going on, she thought as she kept an eye on the hesitant Erik. He reminds me of Chris and Roger. It’s very rare to find three people with these sorts of abilities in one area so close to each other, but it’s even weirder how none of these guys seem to rely on magic. What the hell is up with that? Just what kind of powers do they have?
The lack of people and pressing quietness seemed to push down on Al’s uneasiness more profoundly now as she assessed the situation. She’d been well-educated in the basics of every topic her organization dealt with, and her mentors were very open when informing her and her peers of the knowledge she was not yet old enough to learn. As such, she at least knew about everything she wasn’t formally educated in. In the back of her mind, a thought crept up and turned on a light in her head.
I remember something my mentors told me. They’ve mentioned more than once that there are instances where people don’t need to rely on magic. What did they call them, again? Latently gifted, or some crap. I was told that this is an advanced subject because it has something to do with … the real truth or something similar, I think they said. Damn, I don’t remember, and it sucks that they won’t just teach me these things already. This sick guy is one of them, though. He’s gotta be. And Chris and that black friend of his. I have to find out.
“I just have to find out!” Al yelled. “Prometheus Incarceration!”
She tossed her yo-yo and snapped it back with a flick of her wrist, calling forth the flaming walls of Prometheus Incarceration around herself and Erik. As the inferno stretched higher and higher, Erik frantically looked around, desperately seeking an exit that didn’t exist.
“Alright, all I need is some information!” Al announced demandingly, performing technical tricks with her yo-yo to control the flames. “Let’s see how you handle my Prometheus Incarceration.”
“What d-do you want me to say?” Erik cried, his face wrought with panic. “What the hell is going on? Are you doing this?”
“First of all,” Al replied, “yes, I am doing this. Secondly, I don’t really need you to say anything. This is a performance test, not a questionnaire.”
Al’s string tricks conducted the flames to move in closer, putting the pressure on Erik.
“You’re insane! This is gonna kill me! I’ll burn to death!”
“Um, maybe.” Al was nonchalant. “If you wanna live to see tomorrow, show me what ya got!”
Panicking and on the verge of tears, Erik watched helplessly as the flames moved closer. The green glow from Al’s dancing yo-yo pierced through the orange light of the burning prison. With no ideas to overcome his predicament, Erik balled his fists, resolute and brimming with the will to survive. It was fight or flight, and he was quickly amped up on both.
He knew his powers were necessary for his survival.
Again, the abyss in his heart opened, this time wider and craggier than ever before. The insidious powers from the trenches of this soul-hemorrhaging rift gushed out at an alarming rate, swarming Erik’s mind and body. Within seconds, the threat of the encroaching fire appeared insignificant and paltry, a worthless attempt on Al’s part to stand in his way.
However abhorrent and loathsome his powers had been, this first deluge of it was nothing what he feared it would be. The pleasure of his body being filled by the waves from his heart’s abyss was paramount and raw, the epitome of enjoyment that was too sinful for human consumption, lest the consumer be overwhelmed by the state of euphoria; the state of euphoria the boy was now drunk off of.
For it was simple: Erik Hawthorne’s powers were of absolute evil — negative energy.
As if moving a part of his own body, Erik controlled the flow and functions of his powers. He concentrated it toward his sinuses and airways, building up a sneeze, which was the only action he could think to take.
Sneezing is a biological reflex, an action caused by involuntary mechanics of the body to rid the nostrils of unwanted material. The highly complex functions of the immune system, which is a system of numerous interacting hormones and chemicals in the body, has been studied by doctors and medical scientists in the ongoing pursuit for a true understanding of medicine and disease prevention. And without even realizing it himself, Erik had advanced hundreds of times beyond any other human in his knowledge and operation of these functions.
Evil powers now in bloom, Erik had full control, on an instinctual level, of the mechanics within his immune system, as well as the non-biological pathogens being born within his very own body.
Channeling his powers into his nasal cavity, he simultaneously gave birth to entire squadrons of unprecedented diseases that were geared for deployment, all of which were already running amok throughout the city of Chicago, making the news headlines and being the interest of several studies.
Initiating the signature itch in his nose through the rapid coordination of histamines and vasodilation in his nostrils, Erik sneezed.
The force from Erik’s mouth and nose pushed Al backward, and she struggled to keep her balance. As the flames of Prometheus Incarceration were blown away, the interruption in Al’s yo-yo operations nearly snuffed the spell out entirely, something Al had never witnessed outside sparring lessons with her mentors. Without delay, she resumed her control of the spell as the encircling flames were reignited.
Erik’s demeanor changed with the drop of a hat. How he stood and how he glared at Al made his meekness from earlier seem like a ploy. Mucus dripped from the boy’s nose, filled with his very own non-biological diseases that immediately trumped and thwarted any and all microbes that unwittingly came into contact with them. The harmless and beneficial bacteria on Erik’s skin was overridden and replaced. The essential gut flora lining the insides of his intestines were assassinated and commandeered. His dormant chicken pox viruses were eradicated. All biological functions within the boy’s body were biased toward the acceptance, adaption, and improvement brought about by these microorganisms that were, in fact, not organisms at all. Yet they existed, and they served Erik’s bidding hundreds of times more effectively than his natural human microbiota ever could.
Aleph-Naught chuckled. There was a sense of excitement, which was the only thing suppressing the undeniable fear she felt.
“Well, this is something else,” she said with a grin. “It looks like you passed my test.”
With a grave tone, Erik replied, “Then why don’t you stop what you’re doing?”
Al wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Because this isn’t a test anymore,” she said, building up the power in her yo-yo. The emerald green body shimmered so brightly it could be seen from outside the flame walls. “I can sense it from you … a dark power. Something that no human should possess, and something I’ve never felt from any living thing before, including the mentally ill and animals.” She twirled her yo-yo over her head, tensing herself for the onslaught. “I’ll wipe you out, evildoer!”
The walls of fire exploded inward and collapsed, directly exposing Erik to temperatures far above the limit of survival. A clashing tide charred the ground and thrashed around Al, who was impervious to the flames of her own spell.
That was when her horrors were realized. Erik blasted the flames back, not by sneezing, but with an energy emitted straight from his body. Al was knocked off her feet and landed on her back, her chintzy plastic necklace being blown far away. As the flames dispersed into nothingness, her adrenaline launched her off the ash-laden ground. Wasting no time, she immediately whipped up the flames of Prometheus Incarceration again, pushing the spell to its maximum.
“That does it!” she shouted as the aura around her body fluttered and rippled through the air. “I’m not playing now. This is it!”
As usual, her sleight of hand prevented Erik from noticing when she swapped her yo-yo body. Donning a yellow, H-shaped butterfly body, the eruption from her fiery spell was significantly more powerful. The whiter flames reached almost twice as high while her dancing yo-yo dazzled like the sun during the most elaborate tricks she’d performed since arriving in Chicago.
If it hadn’t been for Erik’s pathogens working overtime to ward off the heat, his clothes would’ve combusted within seconds.
“I guess I’ve got one verbal question for you, after all.” Al had to yell so her voice carried over the roaring flames and screaming yo-yo as it zipped around in vicious loops.
Erik looked at Al. He felt too good to care. In fact, he was growing bored.
“Oh yeah?” he replied.
“This spell,” Al said, “it’s called ‘Prometheus Incarceration’. Why do you think I named it that?”
“Uh … I don’t know. The walls are like a cage?”
Al sneered with delight.
“You got the ‘Incarceration’ part correct. But here’s the real kicker: Prometheus was a Titan from Greek mythology. He stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind.” Al tossed the yo-yo straight up into the air, releasing it from her finger, string and all, giving it the appearance of a skyward meteor. The expression on her face was beyond mischievous, but sinister as she continued her explanation. “As a result, he was sentenced to eternal punishment. That punishment was brought upon him daily by a mighty eagle!”
An explosion in the sky originated from the yo-yo, which burst into flames and morphed into the crude form of a giant bird. The avian fireball changed its direction, soaring down while locking onto Erik. On Al’s command and with a swoop of her hand, the winged beast shot toward the sickly boy with the acceleration of a bullet leaving a rifle, instantly colliding with its target.
The damaged stone plaza foundation within the flaming prison quickly heated up and began to turn molten. Erik had his hands up and pushed against his infernal attacker, once again feeling panic as he feared he would not be able to suppress it. His swarm of pathogens fought feverishly against the raging tempest, but he could feel the heat beginning to burn painfully as the white flames bearing down began to pinpoint onto him.
“Burn!” Al bellowed, commanding the flames with her hands, straining her body and powers while pushing the inferno into Erik. “Push! Push those flames!”
She could feel her limit rapidly approaching, but didn’t slow her onslaught. Something like Erik Hawthorne had to be purged for good, and she was going to put everything she had into it.
Suddenly, the flames disappeared, leaving a flurry of ash swirling around the plaza. Nearby structures were warped and glowing red-hot from the intense heat.
Looking past his hands, Erik saw Al stumble to her knees. Her magical powers protected her body and clothes from the branding temperatures of the ground, much like Erik’s protection from his microscopic army.
Frustrated, Al slammed her fist onto the rubble. Her yellow yo-yo rested on the ground, no longer emitting any light. With a forced smile, she chuckled softly.
“I’ve never had to keep that up for so long,” she said weakly. “Using Prometheus Incarceration at full power drains the hell outta me.” With the last of her physical energy, she looked up at Erik. “Nobody’s ever sustained that attack … for that long … except for you.”
Her vision became blurry as her eyes closed and exhaustion overcame her. Before collapsing, she was grateful that she had stopped the spell when she did, otherwise the lack of protective magical energy would’ve caused her body to be seared on the hot ground.
Erik began to breathe heavier as the realization dawned on him. He glanced around, once more feeling panic. Luckily, there were still no witnesses, and it was not the time to be disturbed by the lack of anybody else around.
Swallowing hard to keep himself collected, he approached the unconscious Al. He picked up the yellow yo-yo, examining it up close, noticing how ornate and gorgeously crafted it was, despite his shallow knowledge about the toys.
Reluctant at first, he decided to search Al’s belongings. She had two other yo-yo bodies in her hoodie pocket, one red and one green, as well as a small, white, translucent crystal, which she had earlier hinted as being useful for overcoming serious injuries.
Already feeling guilty enough, and with his anxiety increasing by the second, he refused searching her other pockets for a wallet or other belongings. With Al’s yo-yo, yo-yo accessories, and strange crystal, Erik fled the scene as quickly as possible, which was much faster than he thought people could physically run.