When Phoenix came to, he expected to be in his bed, layers of blankets over him, the soft metallic glow of the morning light system to his back, and Roxanne a few feet away. He forgot that he was on the surface, buried in snow, lost, and nearly dead.
Gradually, with all the strength he could find, he got to his feet and looked around. The snow had stopped, and visibility was back to normal––which, in the middle of the night without a flashlight, still wasn’t fantastic. What he could see was a scattering of bricks. That’s what tripped him last night, he decided. He followed the trail of bricks with his eyes, realizing that he was standing just inside what used to be a building.
Shivering, he trekked over to the bricks. He walked along the path until he saw the remnant of a wall, which he leaned against to regain his breath. As he leaned back, something metallic brought ice to the back of his head. When he felt he had the energy to do so, he turned to look at it, to see it was a plaque of some sort. He removed his goggles to better read the delicate letters.
Although the smallest set of words was still illegible to his sore eyes, he could see that some sort of award had been presented to Born Laboratories and Communications, Inc. A pattern of constellations was etched in beside the name of the company, circling a planet with thin rings. After removing his right glove, Phoenix drew up his hand and lightly touched the design.
At that moment, a bright white light struck his from behind. He whirled around, anticipating a needy surface dweller or a rescue party, maybe both. Instead, the image of a girl the same color as the snow filled his eyes and memory. She had been there last night, when he thought he was about to die. She seemed more like a dream than anything else, so, Phoenix thought, either he was still asleep or she was very real. From here, he could only see the top of her head, so he went in for a closer look.
As he approached, the white light blinded him. He shielded his eyes with a frosty, glove-less hand, but it didn’t help him much. Neither did replacing his goggles. However, he could see very clearly that she was not a typical human, if she was in, fact, human at all. Her features were slim, but not fragile, with pale grey webbing of veins across the eery whiteness of her complexion. She smiled slightly, as if enjoying the weather, eyes closed. She had no sharp angles anywhere on her frame, not even around her fingers and toes, which were webbed. Despite her rarities, Phoenix found her beautiful, in a certain intangible way. As his eyes adjusted, he felt more comfortable around her, and eased down to sit next to the transparent box.
He laid his bare hand, which was red from being whipped by the cold over the past few minutes, against the face of the prism. Had he been able to reach into the box, his hand would have touched hers.
He watched her quizzically for a while, wondering what to make of this strange phenomenon, when suddenly his hand fused to the box. Panicked, he ripped it back as quickly as his frozen, dogged muscles would allow, but it was to no avail. Thin, organic lines, brighter even than the light coming from the girl, grew from his palm and danced elegantly, like so many branches of a tree, across the surface of the box. He continued to struggle until he felt like he was going to black out again, and then stopped, deciding that it simply wasn’t worth it. He grew fatigued as the fairytale wonder of the lines spread out in front of him.
Originating from his hand and going out, the lines shifted from white to green. Phoenix’s tired eyes watched on with awe as the girl was completely removed from his sight and replaced by the only the color green. And then, the next thing he knew, he was being swept away, across what once was the floor, by a wave of hot, thick liquid. His hand was no longer attached to anything, but neither were his eyes. Once again, he found himself suspended in darkness.
Just to be cautious, he replaced his glove before turning to see what had become of the prism. To his surprise, it was no longer standing. But there was a person, some sort of figure, wicking herself clean. She stood at the epicenter of the uneven trenches which had been formed by the hot liquid.
She took a glance at the damp, flushed, and temperature confused Phoenix and said, more distressed than angered, “I take it you’re not from Born.”