Born in Fire (Part 1)

The sound of thunder woke young Bergemo Grey in the middle of the night. He opened his eyes with a methodical nature that’d give a hardened war veteran a run for his money. He sat up with an even more methodical nature as the sound of rain pattered against his window and the flashes of lightning, which would blind anyone else, barely fazed him. He threw off his covers and placed his feet on a cold and unforgiving floor, the same floor he’d become accustomed to because of the constant beatings he’d withstood. The same floor where feet of the other children in the orphanage kicked at his face, the same floor where one child even tried to stab him to death, the same floor that lulled him to sleep and dried his blood. . .for young Bergemo shed no tears.

            He sat with elbows rested on his knees and hands folded, thinking about that night. The night of fire. Infants usually don’t have the capacity for memory, however Bergemo, remembers this night clearly. His father, whose name he didn’t know, nor would the orphanage tell him, picked him up when he ran in the room. Fear and concern for his newborn son his eyes, he cradled Bergemo with arms of a loving father that would die so his son could live. Bergemo’s mother, whose name the orphanage also wouldn’t tell him, running out of the room and heading into Bergemo’s with the same intention of protecting the child. Bergemo’s father ran out the room and his mother followed immediately until the fire spread unusually fast and consumed her in an instant.

            The last thing Bergemo saw that night was his mother being eaten alive by abnormal flames, flames that had malice and evil within them, flames that moved as if being controlled by another being.

            Bergemo took a deep, measured breath and stood; the thunder roaring as a lion would after becoming the leader of the pride. The rain continued pattering until it began to pour, and the sound became a knocking, and then an avalanche. The anger and rage boiled inside him. Everything in the room came into extreme focus. He could hear the blood coursing through his veins along with the beating of his heart. His temples pounded and the sound was a rhythmic beat, like that of a drum. Footsteps sounded from Bergemo’s right which meant the headmaster of a staff member was doing their late-night rounds (for sometimes the children would sneak out and run about the city unsupervised). Bergemo needed to get out of the orphanage, and he needed to get out now.

                                                                        * * *

            Bergemo snuck downstairs with the stealth of a black-ops operative. Everything was still in slow motion and that intense, extreme focus was still there. He could hear the other children breathing as well as giggling and planning to sneak out for the night. In Vanguard Orphanage, dark and stormy nights were the best times to sneak out. The chances of getting kidnapped dropped dramatically as the rain served for perfect camouflage while running away, the sense of adventure increased tenfold as the children pretended to be their favorite heroes, or villains, from movies going on a right of passage. However, for Bergemo, his reasons were different. He didn’t want to be some pretend hero; he didn’t want to be a villain either. No, Bergemo wanted to fight. He wanted to become the number one fighter in the world.

            And nothing was going to stop him.

            The stairs creaked as the headmaster headed in Bergemo’s direction, all the laughter from earlier had ceased and Bergemo had about three seconds to decide: get caught and reprimanded or keep going no matter what. . . even if it meant never coming back. Three seconds was too much time for the decision was easy.

Fuck Vanguard, it didn’t give him good memories anyway.

Bergemo moved further into the shadows as he tip-toed down the steps; when he got to the bottom, he saw someone at the door, a security guard that usually slept on the job. Bergemo whipped around the corner and hid beneath the staircase as the headmaster came down. Bergemo watched the man intently as he searched for anything that could do for a weapon, for the man that made his life a hell even the toughest would beg to be put to death after enduring would get no mercy should they encounter each other. Bergemo never had the knack for picking fights or starting with people unprovoked, but, when people started with him, he finished them and he finished them well (unless he was being jumped, that was). The headmaster walked toward the security guard and woke the man up, he whispered something in his ear then turned back to go upstairs to his quarters, Bergemo hid behind the couch the other children stuffed him in and jumped on until he passed out and waited till the man was out of sight. Bergemo looked at the guard sitting in his chair casually, listened for the footsteps of the headmaster which he should still hear but for some reason has ceased and realized the headmaster knew he was down here and told the guard to use force if he had to.

As expected, Bergemo thought, he knows I’m here.

Everything came into an even more extreme focus as Bergemo calculated the distance from the door, recounted the amount of steps the headmaster took compared to the amount of steps on the staircase, estimating the headmaster to be waiting in the middle; he also estimated the length of the shadows consuming the room as well as timed the rhythm of the thunder roaring outside with the hardness of the pouring rain. He listened deeply for the headmasters’ heartbeat but only heard a faint, nearly imperceptible rhythm (as the headmaster knew about Bergemo’s uncanny focus) meaning the headmaster was concealing himself. Bergemo looked to the floor and realized he couldn’t tell the headmaster’s exact position due to the shadows being intertwined which left the situation at an impasse.

A stalemate, Bergemo thought, oh well, if he tries anything, he’ll get no mercy from me.

Bergemo shimmied along the wall with flawless stealth, he got to the corner when he stopped dead in his tracks and spotted traces of the headmaster’s shadow. He calculated the height, width, and trajectory to conclude the headmaster would see him if he proceeded further without a plan, specifically a distraction.

However, the headmaster and Bergemo have had many encounters. He knows Bergemo well enough to not take his eyes off him. Not even for a second.

Suddenly, as if on cue, footsteps sound at the other side of the hall. The shadow doesn’t move and Bergemo figured the headmaster prioritized him over the others which made things difficult. Bergemo listened to the rhythm of the footsteps and recognized them as those of the kids who actively beat him, as well as the kid who tried to stab him one time.

You sure you wanna let those three escape, headmaster? Bergemo thought mockingly, if my calculations are correct, on a night like this, they’ll be more trouble than the average orphans.

Bergemo waited patiently as the kids ran amok, causing general chaos. He could hear the headmaster’s heartbeat rising along with the tension in the room; the thunder roared louder with each flash of lightning and the weight of the decision began to wear on the man that made Bergemo’s life a living hell. Does he stop Bergemo or the three rebels? A tough question. All the staff members have concluded their rounds and won’t be out till morning, he’s outnumbered and, with Bergemo in the mix, potentially outsmarted. He knows Bergemo didn’t coordinate a plan with the three running around; in fact, the headmaster was acutely aware of Bergemo’s interactions with the other children and that Bergemo would just as easily use them as a distraction, let alone cannon fodder. And so, the headmaster weighed the pros and cons in his mind: if he went after the three running amok, it would look good on his part, ensuring the majority of the orphans are safe which would preserve the outstanding reputation of Vanguard (and perhaps help in his becoming eligible to start his own orphanage to help spread the influence of Vanguard across New York City and eventually the state). However, if he goes after Bergemo, his plans will be set back for at least five to seven years, as the loss of a child is irreparable by law; sure, he has a few connections that can pull some strings to prevent him from losing his position entirely; however, it would be a risk for Vanguard to keep someone who let three children slip through his fingers so carelessly.

The implications of this decision weighed heavily on the headmaster; meanwhile Bergemo, was inching closer and closer to freedom. . . Until the headmaster snapped out of his trance and rushed after him.

Shit, Bergemo thought, he chose me.

Bergemo sprints for the door with the headmaster gaining fast, the security guard stepped in front to stop him and Bergemo rolled under him while pickpocketing him at the same time.

“Is the door locked?” The headmaster asked.

“Oh shit,” the guard said.

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