Cassie knew that if her mom were to take her temperature at that moment, the thermometer would burst, spraying mercury like blood spatter. It was like her body was on fire, burning from the inside out, sending light and heat and crackling electricity in all directions. Healing her. Clotting the blood that was spraying from the mortal slash she made in her neck. Repairing tendons and arteries. Stitching her skin back together as easily as a seamstress sews a hem.
But not only healing her. Healing the world. Instinctively she knew how to control the energy, sending it to only those devices that needed it, diverting its power and capacity for destruction away from the human forms she sensed all around her.
Away from Cassie’s mom, whose dark shadow cowered behind an overturned table, her hands thrown over her head.
And the souls that created Cassie, that gave her life, were speaking to her, their whispers growing louder and louder, rising to deafening shouts, exclamations of joy at having been reborn—because of incredibly advanced technology—in the form of pure energy; the same pure white-hot energy now rushing from her every pore like a deluge through a canyon. In that instant, she knew them. Somehow, she knew them all. Their memories, their dreams, their hopes, their fears, and their last thoughts as their world ended in an eruption of fire and smoke and pain.
Pain, Cassie remembered. She should’ve been feeling intense pain, like she had for so many weeks. Instead, she felt nothing but the frantic buzz of energy and a strong desire to laugh, which she did, throwing back her head and giggling.
Her laughter was cut off, however, when the voices of every single soul within her screamed the same name, like a threat aimed at the one who caused their pain, their suffering, their deaths. “Emerson!” they cried. Then louder: “Emerson!”
Cassie realized then that his dark shape was trying to regain his feet, trying to push toward her, swatting at the white light swarming around him, as if fighting against a heavy wind. Reaching toward her with hands meant to cause her harm. Hands meant to kill her in the hopes that her death would snuff out the light inside her.
She knew what she had to do. Not for herself, but for them. For the souls lost in that small mining town, crying for the blood of their enemy. With nothing more than a thought, she let the energy close in on Emerson, like air rushing back into a crack in an airtight vacuum.
Unlike her own body, which had adapted to the energy coursing inside her, Emerson’s body was no match for the intense flash of power. Although Cassie wanted to look away, she couldn’t, silently bearing witness to the end of a monster, his screams filling her ears as his skin peeled away from his bones, laying bare muscle and organs for a brief moment before they too were reduced to a puddle of gore.
With a final burst of indescribably white light, the energy left her all at once, leaving her breathless and exhausted. Cassie dropped to her knees, staring at her hands, which were the only part of her still glowing with energy. But as the seconds ticked away, they too returned to normal.
She was dimly aware of a light glowing in the corner. The electric lamp, which was previously dead, now lighted the room. Somewhere a phone rang. Then another. At first there were shouts of surprise, but they quickly morphed to anger. Believers in darkness coming to realize their plans had been thwarted.
“Cassie?” a voice said. Her mom dragged herself out from behind the toppled-over table, her eyes wide with wonder.
“I’m here,” Cassie said.
The woman who raised her approached slowly, tentatively, the way Cassie might expect someone to approach a cornered dog. Or a ghost, perhaps. “You’re alive,” her mom said.
“We all are,” Cassie said. “Well, almost.” Her eyes flicked to the slick patch of human tissue on the floor.
“You saved us,” her mom said.
And even as Cassie contemplated whether she was right, another voice came in cold and hard and gruff from the side, like a sucker punch. “You’ve saved no one,” the man said. “And once you’re dead, Cassie, we can simply use the device again to restore the world to darkness.”
Cassie whirled around to meet the new threat, gasping at the familiar face. A man she knew all too well, from weekends at her dad’s camp and routine appointments at her mom’s work.
“Uncle Rourke?” she said, her voice rising to form a question mark.
“Hello, sweetie,” Rourke Mullen said. And then he squeezed the trigger.