The Books of Magic: Fever of Death, Chapter 2: Burning Hatred

by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza

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Kami Nomi Kai!” shouted Joshua Cantrell again, swinging at the other boys and expanding in stature once more.

That’s an effective incantation! Alfred Twitchell thought as he kept close to the wall and out of the way. He was hardly the physical type, and his back was still stinging from being thrown up against the wall the first time. Who knew how strong Josh was, now that he was using magic?

“You asked for this!” said Kirk Pike in a ready stance, his fists up and his feet spread apart. Out of all the boys in the school, Kirk was the best fighter, already on par with their instructor Johnny Peril, who had been teaching the boys basic self-defense since the beginning of the semester.

Josh swung a left, moving relatively quick for someone his current size. Kirk bent his knees under the blow, turning a circle with his leg outstretched. His foot caught under one of Josh’s legs, but Kirk kept on moving. Josh went down with the sweeping move.

Kirk backed up as Josh sprang quickly to his feet. “Couldn’t make this easy, could you, buddy?” Kirk said.

Josh Cantrell growled at his opponent and turned around for something to strike at the annoying pest.

Kirk sprang up in the air, his right foot landing solidly into Josh’s back. The transformed boy flew forward and slammed into a row of lockers. Josh fell, and the metal structures came away from the wall, toppling down upon him. For a moment, he was pinned to the ground.

“Way to go!” Gray Murphy shouted in congratulations.

Kirk smiled. “Thanks.” There was a rumbling sound, and both boys turned.

Josh jerked the lockers away with his inhuman strength, tossing them aside as if they had been cardboard boxes. Kirk nailed him with a foot to his head as tried to get to his feet. He fell again.

“Gotta put a gag in him!” shouted Gray Murphy, pulling his red T-shirt over his head. “Those spells of his are dangerous!” Murphy twisted the material in his hands so that the square dog mascot’s grin was the only thing visible.

“No crap, Sherlock!” Kirk said, ignoring the smoke from the bottom of his tennis shoes. Here he was doing all the work, and Murphy was taking charge. “Josh’s skin seems to be getting hotter as the fight goes on!”

“So, maybe we should put him out!” Timothy Hunter said as he stepped forward, aiming the fire extinguisher at his comrade. “Sorry to do this, Josh.” He closed his eyes and pushed the activator.

The white cloud of foam flew from the fire extinguisher, surrounding the maddened Josh Cantrell before he could move out of its way. The boy cried out in anguish and frustration.

What’s this? Tim thought. Only he was close enough to see the transformation of the foam. The discharge appeared at first to be normal when, in fact, it was something else.

An icy shell had formed around the boy. Tim was surprised by all of this, but he put it aside for later examination. Now he had to save himself and his classmates from Josh’s berserk rampage. The struggle was not yet over, as the ice started to melt around the boy as easily and as quickly as it had become solid.

“The shower!” announced Kirk, seizing on a plan before it had fully formed.

“Yeah!” Murphy agreed, though concerned he hadn’t thought of it first.

Kirk, Murphy, and Tim got behind the melting block of ice and, shoving it with all their strength, managed to slide it to the lip of the shower. They tipped it over with all their might into the large tiled room. Murphy pulled away at the last moment and cut the cold water on, stepping back as the shower heads burst open, full. They dumped streams of water on the struggling Josh Cantrell.

***

Back in Houma, Abby Cable awoke with a start, bolting upright in the bed. “Whoa!” she exclaimed to herself. “That was weird!” She felt something in her eye; it was moisture.

Putting her hand to her own forehead, she was amazed at what she felt. “I’m burning up!” she said.

Abby reached out to a small pitcher she kept on the nightstand and poured out a glass of water. The liquid in the glass shook, reflecting the trembling in her very own hands. What’s wrong with me? she thought. Just as she started to raise the glass, it slipped from her hands and spilled the water all over herself and the bed.

“Damn it!” she screamed, grabbing the glass and hurling it at the wall. It shattered upon contact. Abby’s head was spinning. The rage she felt over the simple accident was growing, consuming her from the inside.

She bolted out of bed just as Liz Tremayne entered the room.

“A-Abby? Are y-you all right?” her good friend asked in a quiet voice. Having been traumatized by her abusive husband, Liz was no longer her old, outgoing self. It would take a long time for her to heal from her emotional wounds.

Abby looked at Liz sharply, her eyes narrowed and focused. Liz was her friend, but at the moment, all she felt was vile hatred toward her. All she could think about was how Elizabeth Tremayne had become such a weakling, crying and whining all the time. It made Abby sick to her stomach to look at her. It was unnatural.

Moving forward, Abby grabbed the unsuspecting woman. With ease and a strength beyond that she ever possessed before, she threw Liz up against the wall.

There was a crunching sound as bones snapped on impact. “Oooph!” Liz groaned before slumping to the floor. Through tears of pain in her eyes, she could barely make out her angered friend’s movements. “Abby…” she groaned softly, feeling nothing but hurt and confusion that Abby could hurt her in this way. Why would she do such a thing?

Stomping right past her, Abby punched a hole in the door and stormed out into the living room. Liz could not move, not to stop her friend or reach the phone for help, even if she dared risk angering her friend still further.

Abby stormed out of the house, tearing the front door off its hinge as she exited, and walked toward town, her platinum-blonde hair swirling in the air, steam, and smoke boiling from her skin.

It wasn’t too long before the woman was walking through the center of the downtown area, shambling from one side of the street to another and glaring at cars and people. Folks were honking and pointing at her, talking. Most of them knew her, for Houma was just that kind of town. Most hadn’t seen her in a few months, and now here she was, storming around the streets dressed scantily in a nightgown.

Abby felt a pure hatred for them all, something that she had never felt before today. Why did I want to come back here? she thought. I’m better than this town! I’m better than everyone! She laughed as she grabbed hold of a parked pickup truck and turned it over on its side.

People on the street scattered, some of them crying out in scream of terror.

But one man wasn’t fast enough. Abby grabbed hold of him and threw him into the brick wall of the bank building. A handprint of burned skin ran around his neck where she had grabbed him. Blood leaked from his nose, for a lung was punctured by a broken rib caused by the blow.

Abby turned to a woman and her two children, growling in a menacing way. “Stay back!” the woman cried, pushing her kids behind her. “Don’t hurt us!” But Abby slapped her to the ground, and the skin peeled from the woman’s face at the point of contact.

“Momma! Momma!” the son cried out. “Lady, why’d you hurt her?” He glared at Abby.

As the young woman looked at the child, his face changed before her eyes. It wasn’t a little blonde boy that she saw, but instead the face of one of the students from the school. To her, it appeared as if Timothy Hunter were standing before her.

Abby roared and grabbed the child. With a twist, she whirled around and hurled him through a plate-glass window. The boy screamed as the glass shattered, cutting through his body.

***

Alfred Twitchell returned to the locker room with Johnny Peril, just a minute after Josh Cantrell was forced to take a cold shower with all his clothes on. “What is going on here?” the blond teacher exclaimed, seeing the room in a wreck. “Did a hurricane come through here?”

The boys started to explain, all talking at once and making it difficult for Mr. Peril to make heads or tails of the situation.

In the shower, the cold water steamed away when it touched Josh’s skin. The boy frowned slightly, unable to make out the conversation. He was still somewhat trapped by the shell of ice, but the combination of the water and his own extreme body heat seemed to be slowly working on that.

Peril glanced at the shower and noticed the changes in the ice. The lad hadn’t yet freed his mouth, but when he did, Peril had no doubt things would go crazy once more, with the boy growing and burning everything he touched. He took charge of the situation. “Who’s the fastest runner here?” Peril asked.

The boys all looked at Kirk Pike. “I guess I am,” said Kirk, agreeing with the assessment with a curt nod of his head. He was the most physically fit of all the third-years, and even after the grueling fight, he could still outrun most of the group here.

“Fine,” Peril said. “Kirk, go to the bestiary and get some of those fireproof suits they use for the salamanders. Bring a couple back here on the double!”

Kirk nodded. “Understood, sir!” He was off like a shot out the door.

“What about the rest of us, sir?” asked Gray Murphy.

Peril examined the situation. “Best to clear away some of this mess, if you can,” he said, all the while keeping one eye on poor Josh Cantrell. “But be ready! We might need to clear out on a moment’s notice, understand?”

“Yes, sir!”

***

Headmaster Gallowglass had completed his morning rounds as usual by the time the first period was in session. No further signs of those meddlesome spores, he thought to himself. Just as well, too, or else we could have had… Something caught the corner of his eye, interrupting his thought.

Kirk Pike was running from the bestiary with bundles in his arms.

What’s all this? the headmaster wondered. The way the boy was moving implied some kind of urgency, as opposed to mischief. Too far from the boy to call out, Gallowglass followed him instead, back to the gym. Kirk entered the locker room entrance on the side of the building.

Gallowglass noticed there was a large number of girls standing beside the entrance to the girls locker room as he walked up. What’s going on here? he asked himself. First things first. He wanted to see what Kirk was up to.

His remaining right eye narrowed as he stepped into the gym, already gathering data with just a touch of thought. The place was a shambles. The lockers were damaged, and some of them had fallen to the floor. There was foam and water streaming out in piles, and the students were mulling about in disarray. Gallowglass thought, Does Peril have no control here? He quickly found where the physical education instructor was.

“Stand back, boys!” Johnny Peril had one of the fireproof suits in his hands, stepping into it as quickly as possible. Some of the boys were standing around, while Gray Murphy had his shirt in hand. Johnny glanced over the shower as he dressed. Josh Cantrell was in a melting block of ice under a virtual waterfall in the shower.

This situation needs some control! Gallowglass thought, then blinked.

The room returned to normal.

Josh Cantrell stood up from the shower, freed from his confinement. “Whoa…” he groaned unsteadily. Then he fell over, exhausted from the battle within his body.

The witnesses seemed surprised at the suddenness of the event. “What just happened here?” asked Alfred Twitchell.

Johnny Peril stopped dressing when he realized the situation was handled. He shook his head slightly at the headmaster. Showoff!

“Take Cantrell to the infirmary!” Gallowglass ordered. “I have other business to attend to!” He walked over to the girls locker room next.

The girls, still clamoring about the struggle, separated to either side of Gallowglass’ path to let him pass. He ignored the occasional question, seeking out the heart of the problem. He found it when he located Adam Frankenstein around the other side of the building, trying to hold Patsy Ambrose in place under the faucet. Steam filled the air, and Adam had some serious burns on his hands.

Here, too? he thought. This is not good! Gallowglass blinked, and the girl collapsed, skin cooling visibly to the touch.

Adam noticed the change as well, since it affected him. His jaundiced skin was as good as when he was made. Seeing Gallowglass, he knew the source of the aid. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

“Take her to the infirmary, Adam!” Gallowglass ordered. The lumbering man nodded and carried her gently off.

By this point, Johnny Peril and the other boys arrived as well. “Peril, Peel, we need a head count on our students,” Gallowglass instructed.

“We’ll get right on it, sir,” Emma said, looking a bit rough after her struggle. She started to count her pupils.

“Not just here,” Gallowglass said. “The entire school. Spread word to all the staff!”

All the staff?” Johnny asked. “Is it that serious?”

“I believe it is!” Gallowglass replied.

It didn’t take long for the principal’s mandate to spread. Within ten minutes, the reports came back in from all corners of the island. All students had been accounted for. All the staff was present, too, except for one.

Headmaster Gallowglass frowned. “Has anyone seen Mrs. Cable?” he asked the assembled faculty. Most shook their head no.

Rose Psychic raised her hand. “Sir, I noticed she was missing around dawn,” she explained.

“Why didn’t you report it sooner, Miss Psychic?” Gallowglass asked brusquely.

“At first, I thought she had just left our quarters early,” Rose said. “I last saw her yesterday around noon. I believe she said something about meeting Mr. Belmont at the clock tower for something. She is gone, and so are her things.”

Mr. Gallowglass’ frown deepened. The clock room could take one anywhere at anytime, he thought. Having a madwoman loose to change history is an unacceptable danger. Even though he protected Grimoire from everything that impinged on his senses, Gallowglass could not be everywhere at once. He was omnipotent, not omniscient.

Gallowglass knew how dangerous the tower could be. Anything could wreak havoc in the outside world, even killing the wrong man at the wrong time. If Abby Cable is gone, I’ll have to track her down! First, I need to make sure things here are protected.

Addressed the faculty once more, the headmaster said firmly, “All staff and students are to report to the infirmary immediately. Mr. Bones and Miss Eve, please conduct Miss Psychic’s and Mrs. Cable’s classes there, along with your own.” The two instructors nodded. “Miss Psychic, you will come to the infirmary with me now.”

“What’s going on?” Johnny Peril asked.

“I encountered this morning some kind of plant passing infections along in its spores,” Gallowglass explained. “I thought I had nipped the problem in the bud — pardon the pun — but it seems things had already spread by that point. Some kind of inoculation needs to be administered to ensure we have no further outbreaks.” The headmaster then turned to Rose, took her hand, and the two vanished in a flash.

“You heard him,” said Peril, taking the lead now that Gallowglass was gone. “Let’s assemble the children in an orderly manner.” Moments later, the students walked down the halls toward the infirmary. They were silent, thinking about what had happened with their classmates. But no one thought harder about it than Timothy Hunter.

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