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Phoenix at the Ashes

Written by castor :: [Wednesday, 19 June 2013 18:00] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 25 June 2013 11:46]

PHOENIX AT THE ASHES

 

By Castor

 

(with special thanks to Dru1076 for editing and proofreeding)

 

Her husband had once asked her if she could see Mecca as she prayed. It was a foolish question. As she prostrated herself before Allah each day she could see straight. But the world was round. The angles of the earth meant that her super-powered eyes would go over the horizon into outer space. Mecca, as an old Sufi once said, was always slightly beyond the horizon until your there. Like God.

As Halfia morning prayer ended, she adjusted her black veil over her eyes a bit. No one in their house could see like she could, through walls or yes through burquas, but still the need was there. Though the rules of Islam only required her to wear it when she left the home (though she had made her special exemption) she often did this. This perplexed Rick. But the world to her was … was always translucent, and then 8 years since she developed the ill formed belief that it was the same for everyone.  

Halfa prayed that morning, so far away from Mecca. She lived in Sydney, Australia. About as far away from the holy city as one could do so (It was perhaps true that Alaska or South America were technically farther, but she felt the distance). With her incredible powers it was relatively short. She could have made the pilgrimage faster then any commercial jet. But still she was … a stranger.

She had been born in Australia, but had never truly felt at home. Her grandparents had emigrated from Oman in the sixties. He had been an oil engineer and investments sent him out so far away. He found much intolerance for him and his wives. They treated him to strange looks, the occasional laughter, and arrows, as he told her. In truth in the last 50 years things had not much improved. Yes she had found the native Australians (though that wasn't the right word) more polite. As she walked through life covered head to toe in black with only her eyes peaking out she had only rarely experienced direct derision. Now the Muslim community had special schools where she could learn Arabic and be more in tune with God, but it had never been easy.

But she had a full day ahead of her, and she focused on it. The past was over. The future was in front of her. 

After Prayers she busied herself in the kitchen. Rick (or Richard Jenkins), as he often did before work, prayed in the garden that he loved so much. He loved her too of course, and of course Allah. Such a man with so much love for Allah deserved a warm and hearty breakfast, and a delicious lunch.

She cracked open the eggs to make him an omelette. Rick was a white man and used to European foods. Learning to cook in this angle had been a challenge, but not impossible. There was nothing in the Koran against omelettes with cheddar cheese and tomatoes, Butter or white bread. While the stove required a traditional amount of time to cook with her super-speed she could squeeze him orange juice very fast, and slightly chill it with her breath. She smiled. She preferred dates and porridge for her morning meal, but she made herself a portion to. It would have been no work, but Rick … wouldn't approve. And he was her husband and master. 

Rick came in sweaty from the garden. He was a tall man. White Australians often had ruddiness about them, a sense that 200 years in the hot sun had entered their skin. He on the other hand was pale white with red cheeks when he was busy. He was tired slightly from working maybe half an hour. Halfa had stamina past 100 horses … and could not quite relate to this. In the last eight years she could remember what it was like to be a normal human, but the memory was increasingly just a memory of the idea. The experiences where tricky.

"I think we got the tomatoes under control," he said. "You would be surprised how much the little buggers can grow when you give them the space."

"How are the pumpkins?" said Halfa. She liked pumpkin, and the thought of a fresh pumpkin crop filled her heart with joy.

"Doing it worse. Pumpkins take a huge space. I hear you plant one seed and you got an acre if you don't attend to it." 

Halfa smiled and lowered her head. Rick moved a hand and pushed away her Burqua. She flinched ever so slightly. He was her husband and he could look. But it was still odd to be so exposed. What if the neighbours could see through their 4 inch walls?

"You are so beautiful, Iron Phoenix" Rick said as he kissed her. "I am so lucky to have you."

She smiled up at him. She did love him of course. Allah had filled her heart with that, no matter how different and strange this western man was. By filling her heart with love, she smiled as it would let Allah fill his heart with love.

Rick had been born a lapsed Anglican. They had met four years ago in university, back when she was pretending harder to live in the world and had studied computer science. He had seen the strange Arabic girl … or not really, as she never showed her face. There are many jokes even in the Islamic world of what women looked like under there veils. 

The dedication! To court a woman like this so different then, so shy of attention, from a vastly different culture and understanding. A woman who never let them kiss … or even see her lips, until after he had and her father agreed on marriage terms. 

It was perhaps good that Allah had rewarded him so when she finally took off her veil. Halfa was tall, of model height. Her dark brown body was covered in strong muscles, her waist waspish, with huge breasts and mysterious centre. She was a great beauty with her shy green eyes that could look at him looking for approval. It was of course granted.

When he lifted up that he also lifted up the Iron Phoenix. The Phoenix wore metal armour designed a bit like something from the Fritz Lang movie Metropolis, paired with angle wings and the vague notion of the mythic bird. She was Sydney’s top superhero. At first she had been reluctant to wear the armour for fear of exposure. The costumes heroines wore often were revealing of far more ones face. This was perhaps an understatement.

However she had asked her Iman about it one day after Friday service. After convincing him that she wasn't mad (which took some doing), he had convinced her to don a costume, as he might try to convince some rebellious teen to at least cover her hair.

However: a costume. She had thought perhaps wear a purgi, when flying, but the Iman himself had said this would be a bad idea. Too distinctive, and perhaps a tad silly. Though heroines wore dresses, flying through the air all could look through them.

He himself suggested a form of an iron suit with wings. It would obscure her face and, with enough work, her form. It had the added benefit of camouflage. The iron Phoenix could lift 20 tons, and fly unaided, but people would think it was the suit. Invulnerable to EMP’s … other blasts too. Though she was mostly invulnerable the suit pushed it further. It was an elegant and clever idea. Allah be praised.

However, Halfa was wearing her more traditional armour this morning as he dropped her veil back down.

They ate breakfast largely in silence. It was traditional that women ate separately then the men … this was strict in the Koran, and even the most conservative man would fault her for doing so, but his life had traditions that she found hard to break. He used to talk to her and sometimes did, but she could never quite make small conservation, and eventually the talking faded into silence.

Then Rick dressed for work. She smiled underneath her veil and looked at her man. He was well formed in every aspect, pleasant to the eye. She had resisted examining him before her wedding night, but on his wedding night found him quite large and able to satisfy her. The thought thrilled her with joy. She thought of offering herself to him now … a quickie as the parlance called. However, he had to go to work to soon. Always too soon.

She herself had to start. Rick provided for her with his job as a programmer on videogames. She kept his house spotless, and did it well. She turned on a radio in the house. It sound was to low for most people to hear, but it told of the crime and misery of New South Wales. It was a horrible noise … for what she could do and what she could not. Too much of the latter; not enough of the former.

Rick Left the house and was gone for about an hour before the news hit her. It was just after the second prayer. A large fuel truck had hit a small elementary school in the Southerland Shire. She had been washing linens when it happened. She responded so swiftly that the linens fell to the ground, but not before she was out of the house flying through the skies over Sydney. She needed so little time these days. At first when she had gotten the costume it would take forever to simply find the will to wear such a thing. Now she could transform from her normal modest garments to it in a flash of light. And fly through the city at a clear 400 miles an hour. It was a pleasant speed.

The scene of the accident was startling. That was the word. The long semi-trailer had embedded in one of the classrooms. Outside, the large tanker of petrol was on fire and threatening the school. She looked through the wreckage of the school. Two children where still inside gasping at horrible breath, but outside a hundred more where gawking. Gawking at the fire, as if they had never seen a flame. She was disturbed slightly by it. Did they have no sense, no brains in their head, to leave? It could and probably would kill them. The tanker was only on fire … it could, and probably would, explode soon enough. To leave or help. They just looked.

But soon it would be worse. They would look at her. 

It didn't help that as she landed the light from the sun mixed with the light of the fire creating patterns that danced over her armour. She had an awesome look, it had been observed … she created awe. Their eyes, so many eyes of the children, fell upon her. Like a thousand eyes of some horrible beast. They could see through it … see through it to her quaking heart … no matter how much armour she wore, how much protection she had. They couldn't stop looking … stop seeing her.

And she wanted to smash every one of their cute cherubic, horrible monstrous heads in so they couldn't look at her. She wanted to murder the children so very, very badly for the impertinence of there stares.

Instead she saved them.

Both of the children inside at least had the decency to be unconscious, broken down by smoke and fire to an uneasy sleep. She flew through a window that was to break anyway and as quick as whip grabbed them from under the desks they had hidden beneath and flew them outside to the ground. She heard Ambulances coming in the distance. Fire trucks too. They where still far away.

Now she had a burning truck. This she simply blew a cold breath of air on and watched the fire cool to nothing.

The kids cheered. But she didn't hear them. Shaken slightly, with her super ears she instead listened to her own heartbeat and tried to steady it.

She flew off as quick as she came, not able to bear the sweaty meaty hands that were soon to follow, to grab her and shake her like the toys they abused. 

She cleared her head. It was her usual pattern after the first big event of the day to do a patrol. After all, the linens were already washed. But today she felt bothered. She still flew over the city, but didn't really patrol. She just closed her eyes and felt the chill of the upper atmosphere.

She had been 15 when it happened, or it started. The how was irrelevant, as she had been told that it wasn't duplicatable. Not one chance in a million that it would happen and not one in a billion that she survived. Of course they didn't know the real odds, which was likely smaller. A teacher had once told her that nothing was 1 in a 100 or 1 in a billion. She cursed those who dealt in such imprecision.

But not Rick. He loved her. And what’s more he loved Halfa Jenkins. One often heard that in comic-book stories as a cloying insight, but to her it felt real, fresh, unbelievably so. He loved her … this pathetic little thing.

She flew to his office right now. She of course would not embarrass him by coming in. She was the Iron Phoenix. But instead she watched. She saw him engaging in the second prayer. It was slightly late, but not unforgivably so. He sat on the ground upon the prayer rug. She extended her ear with much practice to listen to his prayers. He spoke them near silently 

"Great Allah, the Just the Merciful," said Rick

"I can't believe you do this shit," said a voice.

She moved her eyes up. It was Tom. She didn't remember his last name but remembered him. He was another of the students from their graduating year. Rick had mentioned he worked with him now, but she didn't comment. She never liked him. His eyes where incredibly cruel. But he was here.

"Its part of the package. Prey five times a day. Go to Mecca. Give up pork."

Tom picked his nose "How's that working for you?"

"It’s not that hard really. I know people say … oh bacon! It’s so great, it’s so … ahh come on! When do you really eat it?" Rick said.

Tom chuckled. "I had a ham sandwich for lunch. It’s pretty sweet."

Rick got up, folding his rug. "Some girls are worth it. Halfa’s amazing. You know her. It’s just worth everything that you need for her. She has no idea, of course, but …”

"I always thought," Tom said, "That she was just weird. Something off. I know she’s an Islamic loony, but beyond that … slightly … just, I don't know, like she’s not really there."

Rick sighed. "She’s with me. Hell, to be honest with you, I wish, you know, she got a real job."

"She was a better programmer then I ever was. Just so damm fast."

"But she wants to be devoted to me. You got to respect that. I mean, she’s a goddess … but I get to be a guy with a woman in a black cape behind her.”

Tom smiled. "At the mall. God. A question though. Do you believe in this shit?"

"No." said Rick. "Not really more then the half-hearted times my parents took me to church. God: A pleasant thought and a beautiful tradition, but nonsense. It’s a different form of nonsense so …”

And Halfa could hear no more.

Halfa flew away faster then the speed of sound, and was in the upper atmosphere.

He was an unbeliever. A man who adopted the form but not the meaning of it. 

An Iman had once told in a sermon that even those who doubted the words, merely saying them proved to Allah you had some meaning. If you said "there is no god but Allah: and Mohammad is his prophet" once and felt a glimmer, then you were something.

But this …

Halfa felt alone. So utterly alone. She no longer had her man to intercede with her. No longer …

But she was a good wife. Nothing legally prevented her from seeking a divorce with the Australian court. Hell, nothing prevented her flying away. But she would go home and be a good wife some more. She would cook and clean and service his needs in bed, and do all that a wife is asked. She would do this, but suddenly her heart felt hollow. This was required by Allah.

Allah.

She remembered her father the first time she put on the veil. He was a moderate man, an engineer like her grandfather, but had rejected much of his tradition. He believed in Allah, but also believed in Australia. He wore western clothing and liked Paul Hogan on the TV. He could sing and be likable with the rest of the men, even drink on the odd occasion. He went with her mother who had even less religion in her.

She herself wore western clothing until the incident, when the numbers proved irrational. She wore western clothing (a tank top) as the fat melted off her body and her hair had fallen out to be replace by … this. She had become a supergirl … a living god. And felt so alien and alone. Her father took her occasionally to the mosque to pray. Now she needed prayer.

Her sister, who was now a psychologist, had told her "Halfa, what a fool you are. There is no god. You're god, but even a god needs a god, I suppose, if she’s ignorant enough"

No-one had any idea what it was like to be her. Not the children, not the newspaper, those who cheered and attempted to kill her on occasion had no idea what it was like to be the Phoenix. To be reborn from the ashes, into something you weren't quite.

She remembered when she was fat, a tubby but friendly person, who would talk to strangers on there street and volunteer at street fairs. She remembered, but like so many other things, increasingly remembered only the memory. But there was still Allah … the great the powerful. He who had a 100 names each more wonderful then the last. She took pride as her now super mind could memorize the Koran and reread it and speak it a 100 times a second.

She wanted to destroy it. Him most of all him-kill, murder death. Be a true angel of vengeance. Dimly, more dimly then anything, she could look inside herself sounding the sense that civilization was weak and unworthy. That men were too sinful. And that she should blow it all up in a burning all of wrath. All of it. Even Mecca.

But when ever she thought such thoughts, Allah stayed her hand. It wasn't her place …

How great must he be?

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