“I always save the dog,” I assure Nadia.
Like everyone I’d rescued from this burning pharmaceutical lab, she was full-on panicking. But as I ran through the flaming hallway carrying her against my chest, she kept reaching back over my shoulder and shouting, “Ravi! Ravi! I can’t leave Ravi!” I assumed that Ravi was another lab worker. She pulled herself together and explained that Ravi was her brown Labrador retriever.
I kick open the glass double doors of the burning building and hand Nadia over to Stinger—my thirteen-year-old niece, my soul sister, my beloved Rachel. Nadia freaks a little when she sees her. Most people do, because she looks like a teenage human bug-girl.
Like me, Rachel is a Seduman: half-human, half-Sedu. Sedim are spirit beings from the universe of Sediin. They maintain their physical bodies and the entire realm of Sediin by draining the souls of guilty human beings. In order to convince guilty human souls to willingly submit to being drained, the Sedim manifest forms like demons out of human folklore and convince humans that the draining is punishment for their sins. I come from a line of Western European Christian demons, with powers relating to fire. The people I’m rescuing know me as Lady Firebird, a Seduman with superhuman strength, flaming hair, flaming eyes, and rock-hard, concrete-like skin. I also have really nasty fangs, but I haven’t manifested those in this situation—no need to scare these poor people even more, right?
Since I’m a Seduman with fire-based powers, I can’t be burned. Perfect for rescuing people from burning buildings. Rachel was adopted into my Sedu House, but by birth she’s a Seduman with insect-based powers. So she has dark, hard, insect-like skin and glowing eyes, and she can spit acid stingers; super cool stuff, but not as helpful when you’re in a burning building. As my niece, she’s immune to my spirit fire, but she’s not immune to physical fire.
Rachel’s awesome at helping the shocked and shaken victims when I get them out. Her human adoptive father was a Rabbi, and she picked up a real sense of how to calm people down and help get them to the paramedics and speak for them if they’re too rattled to talk. That frees me up to immediately return to the building and save more people.
Nadia manages to blurt out that Ravi is locked in an office behind Laboratory 102. I promise her I’ll return with Ravi, and I run back into the blaze.
I can hear her screaming her thanks behind me, which is nice but unnecessary. I’m a total dog person, and I’d hate myself if I knew there was a dog in there I didn’t save. But also, I love being the rescuer and not just the warrior demon girl. So far, all the YouTube videos people have seen of me or things they’ve read have been me fighting and killing monsters from the spirit universe. People have generally been grateful and received me as a heroine, but some people are afraid of me. I get it—people don’t know if they can trust us. This is an opportunity to save lives without violence. Hopefully it gives people more proof we’re on their side.
I run through the flaming halls following Nadia’s disjointed directions. Laboratory 101 exploded and took half the building with it; the shockwave started fires all over the rest of the building. So far, other than smoke damage, this far into the building things are in one piece.
Before I even turn down the corridor in front of me, I can hear Ravi’s muffled, panicked howls. I round the corner and look into the small window in the first door—nothing. I brush the smoke out of my face as I walk to the second door and peer through its little window. There’s Ravi, running in circles, jumping and scratching wildly at the door. I notice some hairless patches on his legs and muzzle—I’m guessing he’s trying to rub, scratch, and bite his way out. I grab the doorknob—it’s hot to the touch, and it’s very locked.
I can pull the door right off its hinges, but that will probably panic poor Ravi even more. I wish I could talk to dogs, and just tell him that I’m…
Months ago, I’d run to the aid of a Rottweiler who’d been hit by a car—the dog we adopted and named Jesse. I’d tried to think to Jesse that I was going to help her; she seemed to calm down enough to let me pick her up.
It can’t hurt to try.
“Okay, Ravi, I’m going to open the door and take you out of here, but I need you to back away from the door and not run.”
I imagine a picture of myself pulling the door off and putting it to the side, walking up to a calm and relaxed Ravi, and taking him in my arms. I concentrate on sending Ravi that image. While still trembling from muzzle to paw, Ravi stops howling and jumping and slowly backs away from the door, whimpering and staring at me with desperate eyes.
I grab the doorknob and twist, hoping I can just pop the lock. I apply more and more pressure until the doorknob bursts apart in my hands—and the door remains locked. I let out a quick, frustrated sigh, take a few steps back, and spring into the door with all my strength. The door doesn’t burst open, but I do manage to smash the wood away from one of its hinges. Good enough. I force the splintering wood until it gives way, then get a good handhold around the door and tear it off the wall. I throw the door down the hallway.
To my joy, Ravi is still whimpering and shaking but hasn’t bolted.
“What a good boy you are! Let’s go see your mommy, Ravi. It’s gonna be okay.” I concentrate on sending him an image of me holding him, running through the building, and handing him to Nadia. Ravi lets me picks him up. I hold him tightly against my chest, give him a kiss on the head for being such a good sport, and dash through the smoke and fire toward the front door.