Combustion

She stood up tall and leaned her head back, letting out a scream so loud it could be felt. A small spark ignited on the tip of her nose, causing her entire body to burst into flames. An inferno of energy exploded from her chest. She had become the light she sought. She became the power that struck fear into others.

With the putrid smell and vile conditions of the fish market alleyway, there was something to be said about how the glistening rain from a recent springtime shower brought in some beauty. With street lamps in the distance, there was just enough light for the droplets to glimmer. The water encapsulated the light within the darkness of such a place. Water and light can bring glamour to even the most offensive spaces. Yet, despite small bits of charm, the group of men walking through spent no time acknowledging it. No, their focus was Janie.

After an evening at Nox, she had left on her own with minimal intoxication. Which, of course, had been her full intention after being laid off from her job. Her boyfriend insisted they ignore reality and go get drunk. However, her drinking was short-lived and had come to a screeching halt when confronted with her boyfriend’s physical closeness with another woman. His hand had slid over this unknown woman’s hip to her rear just as Janie turned from the bar. Janie was, without a doubt, the jealous type, and his act of infidelity was enough for her to launch her drink into his face during the confrontation. A costly assault, as she had spent nearly fifteen minutes and twelve dollars to obtain the bubbly pink drink. She stormed out of Nox and into the darkness alone, her boyfriend shouting in the background. 

So, as this group of men followed her into the dark alleyway, a common local cut through, she began to glisten as well. However, her forehead sweat had little impact upon her beauty but was a clear response to a series of events that had to lead her here. She quickened her pace as the men crept closer and closer to her strides. She was full of scorn, which she wore in her eyebrow furrow. 

“Hey babe, where you going?” shouted the man leading the group. He grinned and giggled, slapping the shoulder of another member, sharing a connected mockery.

Janie did not reply, nor did she look behind. She kept her feet moving, power in each heel strike. Click, click. Her gaze did not shift and remained eyes forward into the shadows and fish smell. 

“Oh, come on! We just want to talk.” The cackles echoed, the men becoming rowdy in their pursuit. One had to grab hold of the gun tucked into his waistband to prevent it from falling. Another checked if his knife was in his back pocket.

As Janie and the group of men moved together, the farther away they got from a working streetlamp. The night grew darker, and the less everything glistened. Beauty was fading with each step. Janie’s footsteps became more and more sloppy as her eyes struggled to adjust. Her heels got stuck in cracks in the ground, and it made her ankles twist. She struggled to keep her pace and took the time to peel off each shoe off. She stumbled slightly, and the men closed some distance.

Janie tripped, landing on her knee. Her skin sliced open, and blood dribbled out. Her breathing became erratic with sporadic chest heaves and gasps for air. There was a growl under her breath, rage bubbling. 

The little light that lingered flickered on and off. Even the stars twinkled a little dimmer. The wind spiraled around and picked up speed as Janie coughed and heaved.

The group of men slowed their movements as the wind developed a spherical shape in the sky above Janie. Signs shook, and glass rattled. The street lamp stopped flickering and turned off completely with a loud popping noise, causing the men to jump in their skin. Janie, however, did not. In fact, she did not appear to notice any of the otherworldly events happening. She focused intently on the ground with the same scornful look on her face while she gripped her knee.

Smoke made an appearance, but it was unclear from where. The sphere of wind blew the smoke all around. The men stood with their mouths wide open as they witnessed the wind hinder, and a figure appeared, floating in the sky. They wore a red cape that sailed in the wind, masking the shadow it held inside. 

“Y’all see that?” one of them asked. They all mumbled in agreement. One by one, the men took deliberate but shaky steps backward. 

As the red cape hovered down to the ground, the focus shifted to another person in red. Hunched over with an agonized expression, Janie was only a few feet away from the new presence but remained oblivious. The wind died down, and it became clear that the smoke emitted from her body. The smell of burnt hair and flesh filled the air. 

She stood up tall and leaned her head back, letting out a scream so loud it could be felt. A small spark ignited on the tip of her nose, causing her entire body to burst into flames. An inferno of energy exploded from her chest. She had become the light she sought. She became the power that struck fear into others. 

The group of men entered flight mode. Many of them stumbled at their own inability to move as fast as they wanted to. Fire continued to erupt Janie’s body. Many of the flames reached the men and scorched them as they ran. Some lost leg hair and others a sense of control.

The figure in the red cape applauded, marveling at the phenomenon that was Janie. A woman of fire. 

“Bravo, my dear,” they said, taking off their hood. A chiseled face of marble stone exposed with eyes filled with horrors. She stood without fear of the flames. “Rage is always a spectacle to be admired.”

Janie’s flames grew brighter, the heat deforming the street sign. She continued to scream, her agony pulsating in the alleyway. 

“Calm yourself down, dear. You will burn yourself alive before you get your revenge. You are in no danger with me.” She reached toward the flames, and Janie’s fire did relax. Black swirls gently coiled out of her hand, wrapping Janie’s body in a layer of twinkling darkness. “Before you burn yourself to a crisp, let me help shield you from the flames. My name is Nyx, and I think you and I could help each other out. Like you, I am full of rage, and the time has come for our revenge. Come with me.”

Janie did. The flames had pacified, but she no longer appeared as the Janie from an hour before. She glowed, her body a burning red hot ember. Without questions, she followed Nyx out of the alleyway and towards Nox. 

Nyx (Marie Casey)
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