Clutching his chest, a young man threw himself upward and out of his sleep. Breathing deeply to still his racing heart, a faint smile formed on his lips, until he glanced down at his alarm clock and saw the time.
Leaping off his bed, almost crashing into his wall as he tried to avoid the bed sheets piled to one side, he ran for the shower and adjusted the water temperature constantly before stepping under the water. For a moment he simply stood there as the water streamed over his face and through his light brown hair on its way down his body. Almost reluctantly, he began washing himself and all too soon he was out of the shower, putting the mandatory school uniform of a pale green polo-shirt and black pants on quickly.
Searching around his room, he eventually found his essentials. “Phone, Keys, Wallet, and IPod” He murmured, touching each one in turn. “Oh, glasses” He added as he put them on.
Grabbing his bag, he opened it and threw a book with a metal clasp inside before walking out, locking the house behind him. His mother and brother long gone, neither possessed his talent for oversleeping.
Pulling his phone out, he typed a quick message to his father. “Had a very interesting dream” was all it said.
Slipping the phone away, he pulled on a pair of headphones and started up a playlist, tapping through songs and assaulting his ears with short bursts of a variety of different musical genres in just a few moments. Eventually, he settled on some remix he had found online. His hand went into his backpack and pulled out the book with the metal clasp.
Reading its pages, he continued to walk, still aware enough of his surroundings to dodge whatever blocked his path. Following the twisting, turning road leading to his school, he continued, his eyes leaving the pages only as long as absolutely necessary.
Before long, he was walking into his classroom and towards his seat. Nearly turning to sit, a momentary check saved him from ending up in some classmates’ lap, frowning he looked around. It was his class but it was still wrong. Following the disruptions back, he realised with vague interest that Samantha was not sitting with the other Michael and the chain of displacement flowed until his seat had been taken as everyone had chosen secondary preferences rather than take the seemingly dangerous seat.
Slowly, he realised he had been standing there, frowning at an apologetic looking blonde girl he thought was called Robin, for quite some time. Shrugging, he weighed up the options remaining and elected the window seat leaving him beside Tobias, ensuring safety from any issues the other Michael might have, as well as silence, given that the more popular Tobias had not spoken a word to the strange Michael in the years they had spent sharing classes at the school.
The decision did earn him an angry glare from Jenny, who Michael assumed was Tobias’ latest girlfriend or, at least, wanted to be. Tilting his head sideways, he just looked at her curiously until she went away. “Faggot” she breathed, barely under her breath as she did so.
“Err... Sorry about her. She says she likes the window” Tobias said, apologetically, eliciting a confused look from Michael.
“Uh, doesn’t matter. Never understood the insult” Michael replied, with a sideways smile at Tobias, considering that he might actually be a decent human being before turning his head away and looking outside. Smiling as he saw the bushland just beyond the border of his school, memories of camping trips with his father flickering in his mind.
Eventually, he was dragged back into the present by his teacher who demanded he continue reading from where Alyson had finished. His classmates laughed when he responded with an “uh?” while looking in his bag for the book.
Tobias took pity and slid his book over while indicating the line. Obviously confused, Michael read the page to himself.
“Less dope before class, mate” Claire sang out from beside Jenny, causing more snickering as Michaels voice rose.
“Wait, I thought we were on the next book already? Do I really have to read this again? It was so boring and obvious. I mean seriously, does anyone think that he’s not going to break out miraculously and save the girl before blah, blah, blah?” Michael said, half to himself.
Looking around, the class was silent. Though only a scant few looked even mildly impressed, he did not care really but he just did not want to do something so boring. A shrug from his teacher told him to continue and so, with a sigh, Michael began to read. His mumbling, interspersed with commentary, barely reached half the class and before long his teacher forced another to take over. The class might have dragged on, but Michaels mind was somewhere more interesting.
Eventually the bell sounded and Michael was freed from the boring class, as he walked to the door he heard the teacher call his name. Snickering teenagers continued past him as he turned to look at his teacher.
“Yeah, Mister Woodward?” Michael asked, shuffling towards the desk.
“Is everything alright, Michael? I know haven’t been here long but you seem unfocused today... well more so than usual” the teacher asked, causing a frown to form on Michaels brow at the attempt at humour.
He just stood his ground, watching his teacher. Luckily Mr Woodward was barely out of University, so he began to fidget uncomfortably after a short while. Forcing himself to stop, he stood up and tried to play another card.
“It’s alright if you don’t want to talk about it. I was in your shoes not too long ago. Believe me... I understand, just come talk if you need someone.” Mr Woodward said. Michael looked at the hand on his shoulder with slight confusion, not quite sure when it had been put there.
After a moment, Mr Woodward stepped back awkwardly and let Michael wander off to his next class.
The rest of Michael’s classes proved to be even less eventful, he was thankful that he had a free period after lunch which lead to him quickly leaving the school grounds behind as the other students were slowly segregating themselves into their groups. As he walked, he thrust his hand into his bag and pulled out the book with the metal clasp. Turning it to the first page, he began to read it again from the beginning as he worked his way home.
Fumbling with his keys at the door, he managed to get inside the house with minimal loss of reading time. Wandering around, he discarded his school bag in favour of a lighter satchel and transferred only the barest necessities into it. As an afterthought, he stripped off his uniform, changing into a more relaxed combination of worn jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of black chucks. Touching his glasses with a frown, he looked at the case for his contact lenses and with a resigned sigh he carefully put his contacts on, blinking uncomfortably for a moment before scooping up the satchel again and heading outside.
Resuming his studies of his book, Michael apparently wandered aimlessly through the quiet suburban streets, barely noticing the quiet, compared to the noise that would follow the final bell of the nearby schools.
He wandered further out, towards the less populated areas, where houses were more spread out and signs of the bushlands still remained. Eventually, he came to a stop and picked his way into a section of bush that would provide some cover.
Sweeping away some debris, he settled himself down on the bare earth and looked around with a gentle smile as he took in the sight of the plant life surrounding him. Idly, he began to trace his finger around in the dirt as his eyes fluttered closed.
His head tilted sideways, as if to listen to a sound coming from below as his breathing deepened and his tracing slowed. Soon he was completely still and it seemed as if everything else around him had stilled as well. Slowly he leant forward, pushing his palms against the earth as a slight frown crossed his face.
As he drew his hands up, faint motes of verdant light began to flow from the earth, dancing around his hands. Swirling his arms around he began to draw patterns in the air around him, lazily trailing lines of energy hanging around him. Suddenly, with a downward motion of his arms Michael sent the energies into the ground and slumped down into the dirt.
With a grin and a giggle, he opened his eyes, looking up to the blue sky peeking through the treetops above, his grin falling into a content smile. Planting his hands on the ground behind him, he leant backwards on them heavily. Turning his head, he looked at them in turn and then back up to the sky.
“Left is best” he said, bringing his left hand around to his chest with a gentle sweeping motion, clenching it as he continued to stare upward. Apparently satisfied, he made a flinging motion with his hand, letting it fall back to the ground to support him as the leaves above rustled for a moment before falling still once more.
Reaching over to his bag, he sifted through its contents, pulling out the book with the metal clasp, considering it for a moment before setting it aside and pulling out his iPod. Tapping through the menus, he checked the time, a few hours before he would probably be missed. Pulling on his headphones, he let the music play and opened the book, reading it intently.
Time passed, the air quickly growing cold as the sun sank, but Michael continued to read. It was not until the low light began to make doing so difficult that he actually noticed the time that had passed, barely suppressing the swear words that leapt to his lips when he checked the time. Scooping up his bag and throwing the book inside, he hurriedly made his way home as the light continued to fade and the street lights began flickering into life.
“Where were you!?” Michaels’ mother practically screamed in his face when he tried to slink into the house.
“I... was out in the bush... studying. I lost track of time” He said, it was the truth so that made it a bit easier.
Her lips pursed tightly, his mother breathed out heavily through her nose before she relaxed ever so slightly and said “Fine, your dinner is in the microwave. Call next time or leave a note”
Suddenly, Michael remembered the message he had sent in the morning and pulled his phone out of his bag as he warmed up his dinner. Running through the messages from his mother and brother, the former only lightly masked worries and the latter openly mocking the expected consequences, he eventually came to a single message from his father that simply said “Take it easy and have fun”.
Finishing his dinner as quickly as possible, Michael locked himself up in his room. Opening the window a little, he reached into a shelf and pulled out a lighter. Carefully, he lit a nearby candle and watched its tiny flame. With a quick flick of his finger he made it leap onto a second candle nearby, frowning when he noticed that the first candle no longer burned. Squinting his eyes as he tried again, this time with a smaller movement, he smiled when only a small amount of the fire leapt over to light the first candle, leaving both burning.
Moving over to another candle, he held out a hand towards the twin flames while the other rested gently over the flameless wick, warmth building against his hand as the twin flames flickered and leaned towards him, dimming ever so slightly. Frowning, he felt the heat starting to burn against his palms but still nothing. Tilt his head, he pulled his fingers together as if to grab something and then snapped them, snatching his hand back as a tall flame burst into life atop the comparatively tiny candle. With a concerned look, he checked his hand for scorch marks and after confirming that he had not burned himself proceeded to go around the room lighting the rest of the candles, each one more easily than the last.
With candles burning brightly around him, he turned the light off and settled down on the floor in the centre of his room. His eyes closed and all went still around him, the flames burning without a single flicker and silence seemed to fall around him. In the stillness, he sat and focused, all sense of time quickly becoming meaningless.
Exhaling slowly, his eyes opened, simply gazing at the floor. A tiny breeze swirling around, caressing his cheek and ruffling his hair before twirling away to brush against the flames causing them to flicker and dance, then, one by one, the flames picked themselves from the wicks of their candles. Slowly, the flames burned their way through the air, merging and growing until they were a single pillar of flame hovering before Michael, sweat dripping from his brow as his face flickered between calm and intense concentration.
With a whoosh, the flame flared out of control for a moment as Michael passed out barely avoiding burns as he slumped forwards, legs still crossed, hands cupped in his lap, forehead pressed firmly against the floor, the room immediately filling with darkness without the flame fuelled by his energy. A few hours later, his mother opened his door. With a soft smile and a sigh, she saw him curled up in a ball on the floor, the faint imprint of the carpet still pressed into his forehead. Pulling his doona off of his bed, she covered him with it and put a pillow under his head, suppressing a gentle laugh as he started snuggling up underneath the cover with a happy smile.