A Dream of the Dark
by John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
Nero’s cold dark eyes bored right into Bounce’s own.
The boy’s body was frozen against the vault apartment’s bare white wall courtesy of her ability. Though she had no idea how long she would be able to hold him . Nero was stronger than anyone she had encountered before.
The boy’s brown lips quivered slightly. He shouldn’t have been able to do that.
The normals were easily bound by her unique power. Occasionally, one would be strong-willed enough that they could move their eyes. A rare gaze would follow her as she stalked her prey. Once in awhile she might even see a tear.
Nero Sepatu was different.
His eyes never produced any fear, worry, or sadness. The only emotions he seemed capable of creating were rage and frustration.
The boys lips parted. He was stronger than she thought.
A raspy, choked voice left his mouth,”This isn’t any fun.”
The pres Bounce normally engaged with were limited by their anatomical and mental limitations. Nero was no pre. His own superior power set presented Bounce with a novel and unique challenge.
It was exciting to the black-clad woman, but she was not naïve of how dangerous he was. If she was able to retain her hold over the boy, she might be able to control his telekinetic ability as well.
If she did, she would gain what Stanton had been after all this time. . .but she would have it all for herself.
What if that is exactly what The Controller expects? she considered.
Usually Bounce was extremely self-confident and self-assured, but now she doubted herself. Nero had proven very resilient, and eventually he would break her psychic grasp. She needed to switch tact, and soon.
“I don’t think you appreciate the gravity of our situation,” Bounce spoke as she stared at the stilled boy. She hoped all her thoughts and emotions didn’t appear in her normally cool expression.
She pushed her outstretched hands further toward the boy. It was her last ditch attempt to retain her control.
It wasn’t working though. Nero’s lips parted again, “No fun at all!”
The boy’s voice was much clearer this time. His face reddened as that deadly rage grew inside of him. Bounce knew that rage well.
The air around Bounce’s fair-skinned face and hands was changing. Her necklaces, bracelets, and waist-chain jingled softly.
“If we cannot teach you some control. . .” Bounce strained against the boy’s powerful will. A lock of her straight black hair fell from her bun, resting in front of her eye. “And some manners, then Stanton will intervene. Neither of us will like it if he does.” She continued to push with all she could muster.
Bounce’s silver jewelry ceased its clattering. The air calmed as well. She had reached Nero. The boy was relaxing.
She went on, “The Controller doesn’t suffer failure well,”
The red in Nero’s face faded. Her words had worked. She was able to deflect his anger with just the mention of Stanton.
“I just want to talk to you. I’ll let you go if you can remain civil. Can you play nice?”
Despite Allison’s maintained control, Nero motioned a small nod. He was closer to breaking her than either of them had realized.
“I think we can work together. You and I are so much alike. You just don’t know it yet.”
Allison relented her mind’s hold on the boy. She dropped her hands, palms facing the floor. She had nearly exhausted herself. Never before had she pushed her power so far. What would come, would come.
Nero’s slim shirtless body was soaked in sweat from the strain against Bounce’s power. The boy blinked. The salty water rose away from his skin and floated around him for a moment before falling onto the shaggy, tan carpet below.
“I’m not afraid of The Controller, you know.” Nero never seemed as young to Bounce as he did when he said those words. He really was just a child. He went on, “He doesn’t control me.”
Bounce knew Stanton was monitoring their interaction. He was likely watching them, listening to their conversation at this very moment.
“He doesn’t control me either, Nero.” She hoped what she was saying was the right thing right then.
Nero rolled his eyes, for once an impetuous teenager. “At least you’re no prisoner.”
Bounce had wondered if the boy had been truly aware of his situation. Apparently, he was.
“I told you we’re similar. I’m Stanton’s prisoner too. I just get to be on work release because I am able to behave in public.”
Nero interrupted, “What if I don’t want to behave?” He shot a macabre grin at Bounce. “What if I want to hurt people, Allison Jeffries? What if I just want to kill them?”
“I hurt people all the time. . .” Bounce returned with her own dark smile. She did so enjoy embracing her own inner-darkness from time to time. “I was just like you when he found me, you know.”
She hadn’t won him over. “What if I want to kill you. . .” he looked like he was considering his own words for a moment. It was the most self-restraint she had seen in him. “What if I try to kill the Controller?”
“You just might succeed.” Allison figured she may as well be honest at this point.
“But you’d gain nothing except some short-term thrill and a lifetime sentence in this terrible prison.” She let her words settle over the boy. “You have so much to gain from learning just a little self-control.”
Nero lifted off the ground a couple of inches. His toes pointed down towards the carpet. He slowly floated towards Bounce. “I’m not sure I want to. . .control myself.” His eyes flashed hatred once more.
Bounce could feel Nero pushing her back as he approached.
She resumed her psychic lock. She used the boy’s own telekinetic power to propel his body upwards at the ceiling. He hung there still, arms and bare feet dangling below.
Her gambit hadn’t worked. The boy was just too damaged. It certainly wasn’t the only time she had seen this with one of Stanton’s pets, but Nero was the most dangerous yet.
“I’m going to leave you now, Nero.” Bounce pushed her hands upwards in the direction of the levitating boy. “Maybe we can try to talk again.”
Of course she was lying to him. Bounce would debrief The Controller and recommend he destroy this abomination.
Nero was far too unstable for their use, and he was already figuring out how to break through her hold. He was way too close to succeeding for her comfort.
As if he could hear her thoughts, Nero forced through the creepiest smile Bounce had ever seen.
The tall, muscular woman backed away from the boy, not taking her eyes from him, “Goodnight, Nero,”
Bounce maintained her hold over Nero as she crossed the threshold into the lab’s hallway. A few steps out she heard the boy’s voice break her grip once more, “Sleep tight, Allison Jeffries,” followed by high-pitched cackle, then, “Sweet dreams.”
Bounce felt a shiver run through her entire body. Nero was worse than that god-awful Baby and his golem, Agnes; worse than Stanton.
Hips swaying, Bounce walked quickly down the hall. She kept her fleeting grip over the boy’s mind until she was out of the vault and the door was securely shut behind her.
She leaned back against the cold metal door and exhaled deeply. Bounce could feel that the Controller was aware of what had just transpired. It wasn’t just his style. It was his way.
And despite her own many dark misdeeds, Allison Jeffries rarely lost any sleep. Tonight, however, might be a bit different.
Header photo by: Molly Belle
Closing photo by: João Santos
The Dreamer is an ongoing fiction epic about some very special people.
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