Welcome to Emberly

What do you do when you find out that you can do things other people can't do? Simple- you wait. Eventually, someone will show up on your doorstep, tell you that you're the Chosen One, and send you off on some mildly perilous quest to save the world.
At least, that's what the plot of every fantasy novel ever written tells you should happen. But sometimes, real life isn't quite as simple as the books you read, and when you've spent years waiting for destiny to come knocking on your door, the idea of being patient a moment longer can make you mad. The question, then, is this: when fate leaves you on your own with the power to change the world, what so you do?
Believe it or not, the answer to that one is just as simple.
You take matters into your own hands.

*FINALIST in Movella of the Year 2017!*


5. I Don't Care

She positioned herself on her bed with her legs crossed and put her hand into the front pocket of her hoodie, drawing out an old and slightly dirty two-pence coin. Weighing it in her hand for a moment, she threw one final glance towards the door, checking that it was still closed and locked. It was. She placed the coin in the palm of her hand and focused. Almost immediately, the coin began to rise from her palm, spinning slowly in the air, held aloft by nothing but intent.

She sighed.

One year, one month and twenty-two days had passed since she had woken up on that rooftop, but she still remembered every detail of that morning as though it had been yesterday. She remembered the chill of the wind against her bare skin. The pain in her arm, her back, her head, her eyes. The sight of her own blood, vivid red against the grey concrete. She remembered spending an hour throwing herself against that exit door again and again, feeling it finally giving in to her weight, falling into the warmth inside with a fierce sting of relief. She even remembered the time displayed on the big digital clock above the stairway- 04:52. The building had been one of those big newspaper offices in Emberly’s financial district, and fortunately for her, nobody had decided to show up to work early that day. She remembered taking the lift down to the ground floor, running all the way home with her broken arm clutched to her chest, feeling her heart beating into her throat with every step. More than anything, she remembered arriving home, panting and bleeding and hyperventilating, to see that her bedroom window, which she always closed before going to bed at night, was wide open.

In the end, she had decided not to waste time trying to convince herself that it was all a coincidence, or a prank, or the product of some kind of psychotic breakdown. Even if she had been set on deluding herself, she wouldn’t have had the time; it had become clear almost immediately afterwards that the rooftop fiasco had only been the beginning of her problems. She had lost her temper at her maths teacher one day over a bad test score only to avoid punishment when every lightbulb in the room had exploded at once, showering everyone with little bits of glass and distracting the teacher long enough to forget about her little outburst. Barely a week after that, she had awoken in her kitchen after a nightmare with the entire room torn apart around her- furniture overturned, knives stuck in walls, cupboard doors ripped from their hinges. Then, a month after it had all begun, she had woken up to find herself hovering five feet above her bed, face grazing the ceiling, hair and clothes tugging upwards as if she was underwater. By that point, she had long since resigned herself to the fact that her life had given up on making sense, and the only thought she had been able to conjure in that moment had been something along the lines of, Huh. That’s weird.

She had, however, been aware of the fact that these incidents were likely to have an impact on her social life if they escalated much further, and so she had resolved to do something about them. Happily, this task had proven itself to be far easier than she had first imagined. Whenever she noticed something weird happening, she could just tell it to stop and it would. And, as she had soon discovered, she could even make it start when she wanted to.

She hadn’t even needed to turn to the Internet to put a name to her powers. She had seen the Matrix movies, Carrie, X-Men, Stranger Things- all of them called it the same thing. Telekinesis. Mind over matter. She had gained control of her abilities over the next three months, teaching herself to do just about everything she could think of- lifting objects, throwing them, breaking them, even setting them on fire- using nothing but the power of her mind. As her control had increased, her fears of causing a catastrophe had lessened. Nowadays, she could do just about anything she wanted, so long as it could be done inside a relatively small, locked room. She had never done anything outside of her bedroom. She had wanted to, sure. But she never had.

But tonight, that was going to change.

Initially, she had tried to follow the example of her favourite movie characters by sitting tight and waiting for somebody who knew about this stuff to show up and explain it to her. If the tropes were correct, they’d explain that a whole world of magic and wonder had been hidden in plain sight all her life, tell her she was the Chosen One, and send her off on some mildly perilous quest to save the world. But as far as she could remember, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and all of those guys hadn’t needed to wait nine sodding months between mastering their powers and being given something to do with them. She was sick of waiting for answers that never came. She was sick of waiting for her destiny to come looking for her. She wanted to have some fun, and seeing as nobody had shown up to explain to her why she shouldn’t, she had every intention of doing it tonight.

All she had to do was wait a little longer. The clock on her phone read 01:36, but she could still hear the muffled blare of the television from down the hall, and yellow light still spilled through the crack underneath her bedroom door. She sat there for what felt like forever, spinning the coin between her fingers and keeping her eyes fixed on the door like a hungry animal, until she finally heard the television shut off and footsteps begin to make their way along the landing. The sliver of light beneath the door vanished with a quiet click that sent a violent shiver of excitement down her spine.

Placing the coin back on her bedside table, she made her way across the carpeted floor of her bedroom to the window and pushed it all the way open. The cold crashed through in waves, tugging at her clothes, playing with her hair, shuddering through her body like she wasn’t even there. She pulled herself up onto the sill and stood, taking hold of the window frame in one hand. Then she manoeuvred her body through the opening, balancing on the narrow ledge outside. For some reason, she looked back, noticing the pile of books that still sat untouched on her desk and realising that she had never finished her homework. It had been Physics, she remembered- due in the next day. She smiled.

Physics can go fuck itself.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

Then she stepped off the ledge into oblivion.

For a moment, she allowed herself to fall, letting the wind yank her hair, flood her mouth, pound into her ears, drown her brain in cold. She could feel the air all around her; it was slipping through her fingers, but she made her hands into fists and grabbed hold of it and drew it in, forcing it to envelop her, imagining that it could hold her. She felt the rushing wind grow still against her skin as she stopped falling, the cold closing around her body like a fist. She opened her eyes.

She was standing in the air ten feet above the pavement. Her arms were stiff at her sides and her head was tilted forwards slightly, hair whipping like smoke in the wind while the rest of her body remained still, perfectly and impossibly poised in mid-air. The street beneath her was glistening wet, splattered with puddles of orange light and utterly bare of people. Good thing, too. She gazed into the unlit, rain-splashed windows of the houses opposite and wondered what would happen if someone saw her. What would they do, she wondered?

Probably grab their iPhone and start filming.

She grinned. She couldn’t help herself; it was all far too absurd. And yet it was real.

Let them film. Let them stare. I don’t care.

She held herself there for a few seconds, letting the still-falling rain streak her skin, preparing herself for what was to come. Then she grinned wider, flung out her arms, threw back her head, and hurled herself into the sky.

The speed of her ascent ripped the breath from her throat and sucked the tears from her eyes. She shot through the darkness like a bullet fired straight up, racing past columns of darkened windows, leaving the highest rooftops far below her. The wind was yanking her hair and flooding her mouth and pounding through her head again, but this time, it was hers to control. The night belonged to her. Beneath the wail of the wind, she could hear herself laughing; it was a crazed laugh, strange, disembodied. Adrenaline shrieked through her like electricity, igniting every nerve, making every hair on her skin stand on end. This was… This was…


She stopped herself suddenly, head grazing the bottoms of the clouds, city laid out beneath her, painted in golden light on the black earth. That, however, was all she saw- a blur of light. The wind was flinging her hair into her face, making her eyes sting. Sure- her long hair, blowing in the wind, probably added to the aesthetic appeal of the situation, but it was also making it incredibly difficult to see. Sighing, she let herself drift back down to street level, coming to rest twenty feet or so above the ground next to a row of houses, and began to hunt around in her hoodie pocket for a hair tie. When she had found one, she tied her hair into a ponytail, tucked the end into the neckline of her hoodie, and flipped up her hood to secure it. As soon as she had done this, however, she looked up, her eyes scanning the gloom and eventually settling on a nearby window. The darkness had polished the glass into a perfect mirror, and her reflection stood out clearly against the pane, staring back at her with…

What the hell is wrong with your eyes?

She looked away from the window for a moment, trying to figure out whether she had been imagining things, and in that moment, she realised that her eyes felt strange, too- not painful, exactly, but hot. She blinked in shock, and with each flicker of her eyelids, her skull was flooded with fresh waves of heat. Her gaze found that window again, and she walked forwards in the sky until her face was inches from the glass. Sure enough, she was now face to face with the reflection of a girl whose eyes glowed deep red, like the smouldering embers of a half-burned-out fire. It wasn’t just her irises that had changed, either; her pupils, her whites and everything in-between had blurred, vanished, leaving her with what looked like a pair of empty sockets filled with fierce crimson light. Fascinated, she squinted into the glass, narrowing her new eyes into thin slits, noticing that they seemed to brighten slightly as she did so, the red shot through with orange and yellow and white. Then she opened them as wide as she could and watched them erupt into great chasms of impossible red, expressionless, empty. She could feel that heat bleeding from her eyes, soaking into her skin, so she raised a hand to touch her cheek and burned her fingers on her own flesh. She had learned about the structure of the human eye in Biology only a few days back, and she wasn’t sure how she could even still see with her pupils glazed over in red like this, but, for some reason, she couldn’t quite bring herself to care. The fact was, she could see, and so she had nothing to worry about. In fact, in that moment, the only thought crossing her mind was something along the lines of, I look so goddamn cool right now.

Then, suddenly, a voice, recognisably male, loud and deep and shockingly close.


She pulled her glowing gaze away from the pane in front of her and saw, in the window immediately to her left, the silhouette of a man. The window he was looking through was open all the way, and as she observed him with an idle kind of horror, he leaned out towards her, one hand extended. He was holding something in that hand; something black and rectangular that blinked with a tiny red light.

He was filming her.

Without knowing quite why, she found herself smiling. Maybe she just wanted to let this guy know that she wasn’t threatened by him, or maybe- and this was more likely- she had already gone completely bat-shit mental and lost control of her own emotions. She knew that she had nothing to fear from being filmed; with her hair hidden under her hood and her terrifying new eyes eclipsing her face, she would be completely unrecognisable. She raised her left hand and gave him a cheerful wave. Then she raised both arms above her head in her best Superman impression and lifted herself back into the sky.

This time, she went higher. She dropped her arms to her sides as she rose past a low layer of cloud, climbing upwards into the ever-increasing darkness until the air grew thin around her and the cold froze the rain that still clung to her skin. Then she looked down, clearing the clouds from below her and gazing upon the city where she had grown up with- she fancied- the red-eyed gaze of a god.

Granted, this view was nothing like the view offered by her dreams. Her dream world had glowed in soft shades of blue and white and silver, and the stars had stood out against the velvet sky, illuminating everything with their warm semblance of daylight. Everything had been sweet and still and, frankly, dull. The real world, as it turned out, was far more interesting. There was no daylight up here. The darkness was thick, cold, heavy; the only illumination came from the city below her, and the light it offered burned red and orange and black. Emberly wasn’t a particularly attractive city- considering what went on there, it had no right to be- but from up here, it was an entirely new place. The streets formed a labyrinth of shimmering black and orange, each skyscraper moulded from a hundred facets of glittering glass that drank in the light from the streets below and spat it out again in a million vivid shades of gold. The scene was almost surreal in its beauty. Then again, given the bizarre nature of her situation, it was hardly surprising that she was seeing things in a new light. Nobody had ever seen Emberly as she was seeing it now. She had new courage, new perspective, even new eyes to match. Everything had changed.

In the end, it didn’t matter to her whether the city was beautiful or not. All that mattered was the fact that tonight, everything she could see belonged to her. She was in control. She had never felt power like this before; it unsettled every nerve, tensed every muscle, filled every cell in her body with undiluted, devastating joy. The feeling was absolutely indescribable. It was… intoxicating. In that moment, she could have done anything. She could have razed the entire city to the ground if she had wanted to. Fortunately for the hundreds of thousands of people that were sleeping down there at that moment, she didn’t.

Maybe next time.

She laughed, and the sound echoed through the sky like thunder.

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