“I swear, the sun just does not exist here.”
Grabbing the edges of her hood, Verena flicks up the slick cover over her head, adjusting it accordingly. She tries to pull at the sleeves of her navy blue hoodie, to try and get them to grow long enough to cover her now-red hands. Finding that they didn’t go beyond her wrists, the girl gives up and just continues running forward in the cold.
Despite how long she had lived in the suburbs of the city, there was no way Verena could ever get used to the weather. It seemed almost every day around this time of year had gray clouds in the sky stretching for miles, and temperatures dipping below freezing. Not mention the rain; if it wasn’t cold outside, it was surely raining to the point where people stayed inside. Normally, that’s what Verena, like many other people on the weekends, would do. Today, however, was different.
Ignoring her heavy breaths, she follows the sidewalk and takes a sharp left, each step thumping off of the concrete. The bag slung over her shoulders bounces against her back; her breath comes out almost ragged. Cold dances along her cheeks, turning them bright red. Still, Verena runs on. She was late after all; who wouldn’t be running to make their train?
Arriving at the end of the sidewalk, Verena suddenly spots the familiar sight of the station parking lot. While it wasn’t anything to be excited about, she couldn’t help but smile as she realized she was slowly getting closer towards a heated building. After all, she couldn’t stand the cold; the rain she could put up with, sure. The cold, though, was something different. Even after just over fifteen years of her short life, she’d never get over it.
She reaches the beginning of the station parking, avoiding the large pothole sitting at the entrance, still full with rainwater. She darts past the assortment of cars like a bullet; their colors all blurring together. Luckily for her, nobody was backing out of their parking spot, as she would’ve been run over in an instant.
Passing the cars, the running teen barely slows down as she races across the street separating the lot and the large entrance of the train station. Completely ignoring the painted crosswalk, she takes about five steps to sprint across the dark pavement and land safely on the other side. Verena slows down only slightly as she reaches the doors, throwing the first one in her grasp open and racing inside.
Almost immediately she is greeted with a sudden gust of warmth, which slows her pace to a jog. She smiles wider now, feeling the heat reaching through her hoodie and into her freezing arms and hands; embracing her in a hug. Her face slowly readjusted to the temperature change as well; though her cheeks still felt cold against the warm environment. She couldn’t even remember how chilly it had been outside only seconds earlier.
“Why,” Verena starts, looking around the station. “Can’t it always be warm?”
As the girl continues her jog through the terminal, she comes across all sorts of large and brightly-colored signs. They hang along the walls of the station, some from the ceiling like chandeliers. All sorts of things are written on them; some showcase arrival and departure times. Others show maps of the commuter train system, the one that connected the suburbs of the city to downtown and the nearby districts on the city peninsula; each route colored different and often intersected each other.
Verena didn’t bother stopping to look at either map. She knew she was running late; her train to downtown was leaving earlier than usual thanks to maintenance. She knew exactly where she had to go; the station on the corner of 86th and Hamilton Streets. Yet, what does catch her attention is a large stand in the center of the terminal area. It flashes all sorts of news headlines, international and local, as well as sports scores and any other ‘worthy headlines’.
As the teen approaches, she notices the largest headline sitting right at the top, in large font for any passer-by to notice.
‘Mysterious Explosion Occurs in Strip District; At Least Five Dead’
Verena slows down and begins to jog in place, reading the headline again for a second time. She lets out a disappointed sigh, shaking her head in disbelief as her eyes widen.
“So that’s where Dad’s at this morning.” She says to herself.
With that, she turns towards her left and heads towards the entrance of one of the metro stations. Quickly scanning the ticket on her phone, the girl maneuvers through the turnstiles and through to the other side with no hesitation. She races over to the staircase towards her right that leads down towards the loading platform. There, she’d catch her train and ride into downtown.
But as she ran, something wasn’t sitting right in her chest. Her mind subconsciously drifts back towards the news headline, and how something about it felt off. There wasn’t such thing as a ‘mysterious explosion’; nothing just mysteriously combusted in the middle of town. Something or someone must’ve happened to cause it…
And why would they cause it in the Strip District? Of all the places in the city of Argo, and it had to happen in one of the more popular and congested areas in town…
Verena’s eyes narrow as she thinks; her steps beginning to hasten. Now, her curiosity was piqued.
“There aren’t just explosions…unless…somebody-“
Before she could dare even give the idea a chance, the girl quickly chases it away. Nobody had Powers anymore. They’d been banned from the country for almost a century now, just as the Liberators were. She shakes her head, as if it would get rid of her thought.
Maybe she could find an article or video about the headline online.
Looking out of the corner of her eye, the girl notices the long commuter train sitting quietly beside the loading platform. The last of the people that had been waiting were now entering the train cars; there was almost nobody left on the platform.
The train was about to leave.
Almost letting out an ugly screech, Verena flies down the second half of the staircase fairly quickly, grabbing towards the strings of her bag. On one of the last steps, her foot lands squarely on something; a solid something. Noticing it a little too late, the solid object goes flying outward, down the rest of the staircase and bouncing a short bit on the dirty tile of the loading platform. She hadn’t even seen it in her hurry.
Noticing it immediately, her mind first jumps to a rodent of sorts. However, Verena quickly notices the small object seemingly gleaming against the tile. In a quick snap decision, she bends down and snatches up the object in her left hand. She races over to the closest set of open doors and runs inside.
Once she steps inside the comforting sight of the train, Verena finds the closest seat possible and collapses. She’d been running for a much longer time than she was used to; her chest heaves as she gets air into her lungs. Relieved that she made her train, Verena leans back into her seat, allowing her muscles to slacken and relax.
Feeling the object still in her hand, she holds in front of her, hoping to actually get a look at what she stepped on.
It was a small silver rectangle, with fingerprints marked all across the cold metal on the outside. A small amount of black residue sat along part of the rectangle’s side. As Verena looks closely at the box, she notices the top appeared to open up, revealing something inside it.
It was a lighter. The rectangle was a lighter.
Upon realizing it, Verena looks down at the object with sudden dislike, her mouth morphing into a disgusted frown. Now she was cursing her curiosity; she’d stepped on some weird smoker’s lighter, and now she was holding it in her hand. How many germs were on that thing? How much dirt? Where could it have possibly been?
“And now I’m stuck with it…” she mutters to herself. She wanted to smack herself so much now.
Looking around at the other passengers in the car with her, the girl quickly writes all of them off as possible owners of the lighter. There was one man who held a briefcase on his lap and was dressed in work clothes; a woman sat with her double stroller sitting in front of her, tending to her children sitting in it. Another larger woman was too busy reading a magazine article to be searching for a missing lighter, or to be possessing one.
Noticing that she’d be stuck with the weird object, Verena lets out a frustrated sigh. Hesitantly, she places the lighter in the front pocket of her hoodie; she had nowhere else to put it, and she wasn’t going to walk up to her father holding it in her hand.
“Maybe I can find a trash can?”
Verena lets out another sigh, this time in defeat. She couldn’t wait to get home.
“It was around 1 AM last night when emergency services got called to this abandoned building in the Strip District. Police say the caller kept hearing about ‘weird screaming’ and loud sounds coming from inside the building. Within seconds of police arriving, officers claim to have seen the side of the building seemingly explode,”
The reporter in the video turns around towards her left, microphone in hand, and motions towards the side of the brick building that was seemingly gouged out by an unknown force. While most of it was unable to be seen thanks to the nighttime recording, most of the crater could be seen thanks to the camera crews’ lighting. Along the ground, dust and broken brick lay, blood splattered along the brick and the ground and even the remainder of the building. The entire scene remained confined behind the yellow tape of the police; in the background past the reporter, two investigators sat crouched over a pile of rubble.
It wasn’t until Verena saw that part of the video on the train that she realized how serious this incident had been, and why her father had left so early without his lunch.
Verena’s father was a police officer; often times he would be called out in the middle of the night investigate and watch crime scenes, as well as take day and night shifts for all sorts of things. This particular time, however, he’d been called out early in the morning to attend to and secure a crime scene while the investigators worked on it. He’d forgotten his lunch; something that wasn’t uncommon for him to do. However, normally her mother would drive it to him, or he’d buy something from some fast food place nearby.
Today, however, was different. Because she was out with Verena’s younger siblings, her mother sent Verena herself to drop off her father’s lunch.
Now here Verena was, sitting on the cold plastic seats of the city’s transit, listening to a news report from three in the morning. Her left hand rests atop the blue drawstring bag that had once been slung over her shoulders, containing her father’s meal. Her hood is now flopped down, revealing her shoulder-length chestnut brown hair, only to be matted down by a pair of black headphones.
The teen watches her phone screen with a close eye, trying to pick up on anything suspicious. She didn’t really understand why this one story interested her so much; there was just something about it that was off. It was that one thing, however, that keeps her curious.
Maybe it was because she’d been to the Strip District so many times. After all, that’s where she and Kylie always got ice cream, where Carson always liked to prank unsuspecting tourists, and where Mitt always played basketball. It was always one of the more peaceful parts of downtown Argo, unlike some places like the Harbor District. Who or what would just go and explode part of a building that would result in the loss of human lives?
“We’ve been told that five people had died as a result of this incident, all proclaimed dead by investigators on the scene. We do not know the identities of these people, but we know they were all adults. While the investigation may have just gotten started here Tim, we’ve been told that it appears some sort of struggle between multiple people occurred inside the building, prior to the explosion. Those who witnessed the event also tell police they saw what appeared to be a man in his late twenties escaping from the building just prior to the explosion. No connections have been made to this case either, although some speculation has begun to spread as police begin to try and possibly find a man who could responsible for this tragedy.” The female reporter continues on, the camera zooming back out from the crime scene and focusing back onto her.
“Alright, very sad news to hear from the Strip District tonight. Thank you, Eileen.”
“Yes, thank you Tim.”
With that, the news report clip ends, and Verena’s phone logs out of the video window. She leans back into her seat, not realizing she was hunched forward while watching. She lets out a sigh; too caught up in the story to think about her movements.
While the news clip did settle some thoughts, Verena still wasn’t satisfied, noticeable by the small frown now sitting on her face. She’d tried looking up whatever articles she could find, but it would appear as if the information hadn’t changed from that morning, when the incident was first reported. The identities of the victims couldn’t be found; no source of the explosion, no connections, no new information. Nothing.
Nothing except for the man who escaped, and the possibility of a struggle inside the building.
“Was there a fight among the five people?” Verena asks herself, turning her phone off and placing it in the back pocket of her jeans. She didn’t dare want it to touch the lighter that sat quietly in her hoodie.
Despite her silent nature, Verena finds her head swarming with questions about the incident. What if the fight had been in self-defense? Was it offensive? Was it one against four? Two against three? Was there even a fight? Was it even an accident?
Verena shakes her head to herself, as if she knew the answer to her own question. She knew she always asked weird questions; that was just a good example. Of course there was an accident; if it wasn’t an accident, what was it?
With that realization, Verena’s eyes widen and she sits up in a flash. The man with the briefcase notices and stares over at her for a few seconds; she doesn’t notice.
One person killed them; an explosion was set up to make it look like it, possibly? But, how could one person just summon an explosion-
“Alright, I have to calm down.” the teen says to herself quietly, trying to calm her violently-racing mind. It was just suddenly jumping to these random conclusions…conclusions that weren’t necessarily wrong.
“I’ve been watching a little too many crime shows-”
Suddenly, the teen hears a loud rumble through her headphones, coming from the back cars. Her own train car suddenly starts vibrating and shaking violently, sending Verena grabbing towards the bottom of her seat and her bag. It goes on for quite a few seconds, but just as it seems to get worse, it stops. Now her mind snaps around; forget about the explosion downtown: what just happened to the train?
The train keeps moving forwards. Verena looks towards her right, back in the direction of the rumbling noises. She stands from her seat and removes her headphones, keeping her eyes narrow as she stares at the back of the car with concern. She was worried; worried for the people in the back end of the train. Other people sitting inside the same car also look in the same direction, one woman closing her magazine to look as well.
Soon, a man in work clothes rises from his seat, walking to the very back of the train car in broad steps. Once in the empty back area, the man peers through the door connecting the current car to the one behind it. He tries to see through the glass window through the top of the door, maybe to see through to the previous car. He even places his hands to the door, and eventually his ear as he tries to hear through the fairly thick metal.
Silence settles in between the few people inside the car, waiting to see what this man overheard or saw. Whatever that’s happened to make the train to shake the way it did was concerning; had it been any worse, it could’ve gone off the tracks.
What could the shaking have been caused by? Surely it wasn’t an earthquake; if it were, the tunnel around the train would’ve collapsed and crushed everyone inside. So, if it wasn’t that, what was it?
Something catches in Verena’s chest; two explosions, within hours of each other. It was certainly plausible the two were connected…But was it possible?
Soon, Verena finds her mind moving to all sorts of possibilities and answers; she wants to know what happened. However, she doesn’t even notice in the slightest the weird warmth slowly spreading out across her body like a blanket.
When she does, she quickly realizes it and begins searching herself and her clothes; every pocket possible. Eventually her hands fall upon her hoodie pocket; inside it, she finds that dirty lighter, earning a small grimace as she remembers it’s presence. However, it didn’t have the same cold and solid feeling as before. Instead it felt more like a hand-warmer. A really warm hand warmer…one that was comfortable and had a nice fluffy feeling to it. She barely lays a finger the lighter, but quickly finds it scaling hot.
Almost immediately, she flicks her hand out of her pocket and lets out a small shout. Verena shakes out her hand, blowing at the seemingly-burning skin on her fingers to try and cool it off somehow. The other people in the car look over at the girl with both confused and unimpressed stares. Noticing the attention she just drew onto herself, Verena shrugs them off, biting down on her lower lip to try and not scream. She does, however, manage out a small ‘Sorry!’ to the other passengers.
Still blowing at the heated skin on her fingers, Verena now questions the lighter she had found. Since when did lighters act like space heaters?
So many odd things; first the explosion in the Strip District, then the shaking of the train, then the luck of finding this weird lighter that was also an acting body warmer. There’s no way this was all just pure coincidence….
A loud THUD rings out from outside the car, shaking the car slightly. The man by the door connecting the cars stumbles back a step, his eyes wide as he now stares through the glass window. Another vibrating THUD sends the man running away from the door, shaking his head towards the other passengers in fright.
“T-That guy’s a freak! He’s a m-murderer!” the man exclaims, running to the exact opposite end, towards the front of the train car.
The woman with the magazine asks the question Verena couldn’t ask. “‘Murderer?’”
Suddenly, the door connecting the train cars is flung open with a loud crash, followed by the shattering of glass. Verena whirls around, turning her attention from the scared man to the doorway. The large metal door now sits on the car floor; part of the side is completely bent in and warped, the thick glass window shattering into a million pieces across the floor.
Looking up at the person in the doorway, Verena’s eyes widen in fear as she stares directly at them. She freezes in place, despite the comforting warmth that hugs her body.
Another man stands in the doorway, his left hand pushed outward in the same direction he flung the door onto the floor. At first glance, he appears quite normal; he wears only a pair of worn blue jeans, gray sneakers, and a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows. His shoulders are narrow and thin, his shirt appearing baggier than it should while his face narrows just as much. His hair, a light auburn hue, is parted and brushed to cover the left side of his face and eye. But then, Verena looks passed that.
Bandages are wrapped around the man’s left side of his head and face, resulting in only his right eye down to his chin being visible. His hair is mangled in weird globs of dark stuff; it clumps his hair, making it appear messy and unkept. There are rips along the sleeve seams in his shirt, as well as cuts in his shirt and his jeans. Holes are scattered up and down the man’s pants, his right leg’s thigh is almost completely revealed.
And, he’s covered in red.
There’s red covering his right arm, tracing up just past his elbow and onto his shirt. There’s some assorted across his chest; some appearing splattered, others coming from a slash near his left shoulder. Even more can be seen across his jeans, as there are multiple cuts and slashes along his thighs and other smears of red along the bottom. It was a horrifying sight, especially since one only had to wonder where all that blood had come from.
The man looks across the handful of people inside the train car, a sly cat-like grin beginning to cross his face. He takes a step forward, then another. He then turns and looks, looks straight at Verena with cold, determined eyes. He now stands between her and the man who had checked the door.
“Good day, miss,” he says eerily, before slowly raising his right hand flat into the air. Verena could see the blood still fresh on his fingers, staining them an odd red color. He smells like it as well; the iron scent was still new, and it seemed to begin filling the car.
Suddenly the bloody man’s fingers harden and move with a flash. In an instant, the sound of cut flesh rings out, but is quickly covered by the screams of the other people in the car, namely a large blonde woman beside the man. The man’s body slumps over into a heap of dead muscle; his head rolls slightly on the floor, eyes forever stuck staring forward.
Verena can only stare as her eyes dart from the decapitated man to the bloodied one. It takes all of her might to not scream the sight of such a body, biting her on her lip to try and keep herself quiet.
She looks to the man, his attention now towards everyone else but her. Her eyes only remain wide as she slowly takes in the previous few seconds; she shakes her head in disbelief. She begins taking quick, shallow breaths.
This couldn’t be happening. Was this guy using a Power?
“Do ignore my introduction,” the man adds, talking to the other remaining occupants in the train car. He raises his right hand towards his face, each finger now morphed into a long and blood-red blade of sorts. “I wish to kill nobody.” He looks down at the corpse now at his feet, and mutters something under his breath.
He points over towards Verena with a single bladed finger, a grin forming across his face. “Unless you wish to resist…”
Verena stares down at the blade finger with wide eyes. Her mind becomes frantic; Who is this guy? Why is he aiming for me?
'What's going on?'