Under Water, Under Flame

Benny followed Jimmy’s tall, almost running form, clutching desperately to the older boy’s hand, coughing and gasping for air.  Images of blindingly bright flames kept dancing before his eyes, blinding him. Benny vaguely heard what sounded like gunshots in the distance behind them.  Rather suddenly, Jimmy came to a halt. Someone was speaking; a woman.  Benny saw, through the lights in his head, a plump, worried looking woman in a large white doctor’s apron.

“...need to take him to the medial booth at once,” she was saying to Jimmy. “We’ve set up a temporary place on deck to tend the injured. Come along, right this way.”

Jimmy followed her, Benny stumbling after him. He heard a loud bang, and felt the ship shudder slightly.  Joshua still lay limp and silent over Jimmy’s shoulder.  They climbed up another flight of steps and at the top, Benny collapsed to his knees, unable to go farther, feeling as though the smoke were eating his lungs.

“Go on without me,” he gasped. “I’ll catch up. Look after Joshua.”

Jimmy hesitated.

“Hurry,” said the woman.

Jimmy nodded, his decision made quicker than it should have been, “I’ll come right back for you once Joshua is safe.”

Then they were hurrying off, and Benny slumped to the ground. But just as the disappeared around the corner, a strange thought entered Benny’s dazed mind.

If the woman was a doctor, why didn’t she want to help him too? He was clearly not well.  And Joshua seemed well enough, just unconscious, right?  So why was she alright with only helping Joshua?  He was a student too. Suddenly fear, almost as strong as the fear of the fire had been, grabbed at Benny’s ragged breath.

He pushed himself to his feet and ran after Jimmy, stumbling as he went. He turned a corner and saw Jimmy’s feet disappearing up another flight of stairs. He plunged on, the fear of the woman, who might not be a doctor, giving him new strength and helping to clear his mind of the flames. 

At the top of the stairs, Benny found himself pushing open a door and walking out into the crisp cool air of night out on the deck. There was no one there. He looked about frantically, finding himself on a bit of deck right on the edge of the boat, which was cut off from the rest of the deck around the boat by a wall on one side and a door leading into a stairwell on the other.  The little patch of deck between was empty except a pile of cloth which he assumed to be extra canvas or rope or something, by the railing, which was still and dark in the moonlight.

Benny walked towards it, his eyes adjusting the darkness, not nearly fast enough. He was almost upon it when he realized that it was not just a pile of canvas, but it was Jimmy. Benny resisted the urge to shout as he saw the still pale face of the older boy, lying pressed against the wooden boards of the deck where it had fallen. Joshua was nowhere to be seen. 

Instinctively, Benny ran to the low wall and higher railing that stood between him and the silent water below and looked out.  Something was floating in the water below.  A little boat, with the black shapes of two or three people huddled in it was being rowed quickly and silently away from the ship.

Then the water on the far side of the ship became suddenly white and troubled in the moonlight and a dark solid mass slowly emerged from the swirling water.

Benny stood, shaking with helplessness as he watched the people on the lifeboat climb into the dark hole that had opened in the submarine. He had immediately searched for another lifeboat, but none was visible. He had almost launched himself over the railing and swum after them, but he knew that he couldn’t swim well enough, and that he couldn’t hope to fight against all the people in the lifeboat.

He wanted to cry out, but was sure that the only people who would hear him would be those people out on the water. Those people who had taken Joshua. He watched in horror as the shape that could be the plump pretend doctor climbed into the submarine, the limp form of Joshua clearly in her arms.

The moment the black shape of the submarine had sunk beneath the water, Benny turned back to Jimmy, and fell to his knees beside the older boy.

“Wake up, wake up!” he sobbed, quite hysterical by this point. With shaking hands, Benny felt Jimmy’s neck for a pulse and was very relieved to find one. He needed to get help. So, without thinking, he began to scream at the top of his lungs. It came easily and naturally.




“Why haven’t the fire extinguishers gone off?” the Captain bellowed to no one in particular. A group of professors stood nervously around him, watching the flame licking about the door of Kevin’s room and waiting for orders.

Just then Ophelia burst into the hallway and ran to wards the captain, moaning, and clutching her stomach.

“Put it out!” she shouted, her voice high and nasal, “Oh, oh, ooh put it out,” by this point she was sobbing, and clinging to the captain’s navy blue bathrobe.

The Captain looked down at her, “Where is Miss. Pennington?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know!” wailed the frail little girl, tears filling her pale blue eyes. She raked one hand through her messy dark hair, the bent over with a little scream.

The Captain crouched, and grabbed her by the wrists. She looked up at him with her wild wet eyes, and he met her gaze and held it. “Concentrate now,” he said gently but firmly. “If you want to help, you need to concentrate. Where is Miss Pennington?”

Ophelia struggled, and tried to pull away, clenching and unclenching her teeth, and letting out pitiful little sobs.

“Ophelia, concentrate.”

Ophelia fell still, her eyes pinched tightly closed. After a moment, she said, “She’s in the engine room, trying to start the sprinklers. Joshua’s been rescued. Jimmy saved him.”

“Joshua was in danger?” asked the Captain with surprise and concern.

Then there was what sounded like a handgun going off in the deck above them.  Another shot rang out, and another and another.

Ophelia jolted at every shot, and the Captain continued to hold her steady. Then she let out an ear-splitting scream of pain and an explosion above them rocked the ship and a large crack appeared in the ceiling overhead.

The captain stood up, releasing Ophelia, who rolled on the ground, sobbing and moaning.

“Buckets, get buckets!” he shouted. Then two things happened at once. The crack in the ceiling widened, as if weighed down by something heavy on it, and the sprinklers burst into action soaking everyone instantly.  Then the ceiling broke and water came splashing down, like a waterfall in a rainstorm of sprinklers.




Kevin didn’t spare any concentration to watch Jimmy leaving with Benny and the little boy. He stared intently at the flames that leapt and wove before him, as if mocking his feeble efforts to hold them back. He clenched his jaw till it hurt and waged war on the flames with his mind, which was beginning to hurt almost as much.

The wall beside the doorframe was blackening, and then it burst bright with flame, sending a gust of searing heat into Kevin’s face. He concentrated hard and the flames stopped spreading for a moment. Then they licked forward again, eating the wood down the hallway towards to boiler room. 

Another burst of flame shot out of the wall to Kevin’s right, catching his already burnt hand and making him shout with pain and jump back.  He stumbled away, burying his hand in the bathrobe Benny had given him to put the flame out. The fire stormed forward now that he was no longer resisting it.

Then the corner of the bathrobe caught on fire and Kevin forced himself to ignore the pain, ignore the flame trying to eat his clothing, and concentrate. He put up the hand that had not just been burnt again and stared angrily at the flames that swirled about just as furiously.

Then, without warning, a gun shot rang out. At first, Kevin thought that he had been shot. Someone had killed him. Someone did not want the fire to go out, but wanted him dead.

He collapsed to his knees, falling onto the flaming bathrobe, and felt more pain as the hair on his leg caught fire. Then there was a second shot, and a third, and Kevin realized that it he didn’t feel any bullets piercing him.

He looked around for the source of the shots. Through the flames that surrounded him he could just make out the form of a man who stood a little ways down the hall behind him.  The man was tall and slender and wore a billowing blue cloak and a large feathered hat.

'A pirate aboard the Golden Thrush?!' Kevin’s mind reverberated with shock.

Then, quite suddenly, Kevin felt something icy cold and wet cover his head and soak his body, putting out the fire in the bathrobe. Was it, could it be water?

The fire in the bedroom roared in fury, as though it sensed that its end was near. A huge explosion on the floor above sent a ball of fire bursting out of the doorway, only to be caught in the rain of water that was pouring from the ceiling above Kevin.

Then Kevin felt strong hands grab his arms just below the shoulder and drag him through the water that was pooling around him, filing up the hallway. Drag him away from the writhing, dying flames. More water suddenly sprayed from sprinklers positioned at intervals along the ceiling, but Kevin didn’t notice.

“Water, my dear boy,” said a familiar voice in Kevin’s ear. “Even the greatest pyrokinetics use water to fight large flames, you know.”

Kevin looked up through watering eyes to see the narrow, slightly lined face of Professor Hopkins. He looked back at the hole in the ceiling where water was pouring down and remembered the gunshots. Slowly he realized that the professor must have aimed, not for him, but for a water pipe in the ceiling.

Then everything began to swirl and go black, and Kevin found himself in a vivid memory of the first time he had met Professor Hopkins, the man who had just rescued him.

“I know that many of you do not want to be here, right now,” the professor had said on the first day of class, to a group of nervous first year students. He stood before them in the big bright white room, looking slightly ridiculous in the big black hat he always wore.

“But do you know why art is required aboard this ship?” No one had answered. “Because Art is a way of thinking, a way of being. And although some of you will never think that way, or be that way, it is important that you learn to understand Art, and understand that some people are, above all else, artists.”

Then Kevin knew no more.

The End

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