Sandeul was ten when he found out.
It was kind of hard for his mind to wrap around, actually, because he'd always been told, magic doesn't exist. And magic didn't exist, did it?
So how exactly was there a little fire dancing around in his palm?
He'd been scared, of course. Any ten year old would've been scared at seeing, having fire so close to them. Sandeul stared at the little flame, wide-eyed. He didn't know what to do with it.
"Sandeul?" he heard his mother call up the stairs, and Sandeul quickly blew the tiny flame out.
"I'm in the attic!" he called down.
His mother came up and smiled when she saw him. "What are you doing up here? Silly," she said. "Come down. Your father's come home from work."
"Oh! Yay, Daddy!" said Sandeul, and ran down from the attic. His mother smiled from behind him.
He didn't mind having the ability too much. He didn't tell anyone, even though he had plenty of friends in school.
Kids liked him, and teachers liked him. It was nice.
Sandeul had thought it out, a bit. If people found out he could make fire, they'd make a big deal out of it. Interviews. News. Celebrities. Sandeul saw the crazy stuff that happened on television and in the newspapers, with men and women and their shiny hair and perfect faces and words like "sex" and "break up." Sandeul didn't think they were very nice words.
So he kept it to himself.
He looked forward to Wednesdays because he got home early and his mom was usually grocery shopping and his dad was still at work so he had the house all to himself. His parents told him not to touch the stove, but he'd seen fire at the stove before so he figured that he could figure it out.
He liked practicing. Practicing was fun. It was sort of like singing, because he liked singing too--sometimes he'd play with the fire and sing and pretend he was in a movie, or something. He could make shapes out of the flames on the stove, like hearts or lollipops or a mother and her child walking down a street.
By the time he was twelve, he could make an entire city out of fire.
Sandeul was thirteen and knew how stoves worked. His parents didn't tell him not to use it anymore because his dad had had two jobs in the past year and was now working at his third; and his mother had gotten a job at the local grocery store.
Neither of them usually came home until at least six o'clock.
He used the stove mostly for cooking, now. He had always liked the attic; something about having so much brightness in his palm amidst a sea of darkness was comforting, to him. He held the fire and played with it for hours on end, making things like piano concerts and playgrounds and singing little lullabies to it. Sometimes, Sandeul liked to think that the fire had feelings. That it wanted to be treated delicately.
He heard the front door slam; was it six o'clock already?
"Sandeul?" called his mother.
"I'm in the attic!" he called back.
Several minutes--or maybe an hour later, Sandeul wasn't too sure--he heard the front door slam again.
"I'm home!" said his father's voice.
"Attic!" said Sandeul.
"Sandeul, dinner's ready!" said his mother. "Come down and eat!"
"Coming!" said Sandeul. He was making a castle out of his fire.
He didn't know how much time had passed but then there was a princess in the fire castle, and a boat, and a river; Sandeul's eyes gleamed in the dark as he stared at it.
He heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
"Sandeul," said his mother's voice, just as Sandeul made the dragon, and then the attic door open and his mother's eyes went wide, and--
"What are you doing?" said his mother, and Sandeul tried to think of the best excuse he could.
"I can explain," he started, and the dragon was growing bigger and--
"What is this?" his mother shouted, and when Sandeul looked at her she was backing away like her son was a monster, and--
The dragon roared. Sandeul didn't know how to explain it, but he heard a real, loud roar and it ate the princess and the castle and everything along with it until it was filling up the entire attic.
Sandeul's father appeared and said, "What's going on here?"
The dragon turned on Sandeul's parents and his mother screamed, and then suddenly it wasn't a dragon anymore but a real, live fire and burning anything and Sandeul's mother was screaming, screaming and it was all Sandeul could hear, and--
The last thing Sandeul could remember after that was being outside of his house, shaking while the neighbors held him and the police were looking someone to arrest for arson and Sandeul was so scared that he couldn't speak.
The orphanage was nice, as far as orphanages went. Sandeul remembered watching movies about orphanages before when he was young--
--remembered watching movies with his parents--
"Hi," a voice said suddenly, and Sandeul was jerked out of his thoughts to the face of a grinning boy above him.
The grinning boy sat down on his bed next to him. He probably slept here too, Sandeul thought: the beds for all boys fifteen to seventeen were in the same large room. Sometimes it felt suffocating and Sandeul liked it.
"My name's Chansik," said the grinning boy. "What's yours?"
"Sandeul," he mumbled.
"What? Sorry." He--Chansik--was still smiling. "I couldn't hear you."
"Sandeul," Sandeul said a bit louder.
"Cool," said Chansik. Like Sandeul's name was cool. "Are you not an outside person?"
Chansik nodded towards the windows, where kids were running around on the fields and jungle gyms. "Everyone's out there, so."
Sandeul narrowed his eyes. "You're not out there," he said.
"Yeah, well, you aren't either," said Chansik. "Wanna be indoor buddies?"
Sandeul got up from his bed.
"Excuse me," he said. "I'm going to use the restroom."
It was ridiculous. He didn't even know who Chansik was. The kid kept following him around like some sheep.
Sometimes Sandeul got picked on by the older kids. Not that they were much older: Sandeul himself was about sixteen years old, and the kids who picked on him were eighteen at most. It was probably because Sandeul was small, though, easy to target--he knew he didn't look sixteen. Besides, they had reason to, anyway. Sandeul was quiet and didn't associate with anyone else. He was probably creepy.
He felt cold sometimes.
"Hey," said a voice when a seventeen-year old who was in Sandeul's maths class was kicking him into the ground. Sandeul's lip was cut. "Leave him alone."
"Oh, hi Chansik."
Sandeul peered up. Chansik was standing there, arms folded.
"Wanna join us?" said the kid in Sandeul's maths class.
"You guys are assholes," said Chansik, and the boys laughed. "I'm being serious," he said when they stopped. "Get away from Sandeul. What did he do to you?"
"Well, uh," said one of the kids. "He looks like a five year old?"
"So you'd beat up a five year old? Nice."
"We were only," mumbled another. "We'll go."
They scurried off and Chansik came over to help Sandeul up.
"Thanks," Sandeul mumbled. "Ugh, fuck, I'm all--dirty."
"It's okay," said Chansik. He blinked up at the sky.
It started raining.
"Christ," said Sandeul. "This is going to make everything--worse?" Blood and mud started slipping off his clothes and body. His cuts and scrapes and bruises disappeared, too.
Sandeul looked at Chansik, who smiled.
"Magical rain?" he said, and Sandeul couldn't stop staring.
Somewhere, in the distance, thunder rumbled.
"I usually don't tell people," Chansik said, and then chuckled. Flipped his hands over and stared at his palms. "Well. You're the first person I've told."
"What? Why?" Sandeul's own secret was pushing at the edge of his lips, and he was doing all he could to restrain it. Because it wasn't a good thing. Fire was never a good thing.
Destructive, demolished, gone was the happy couple, with only their son escaping. No further evidence has shown to how he'd escaped the fire despite being in the same room as his parents, but some sources say--
"Sandeul? Are you okay?"
Chansik's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Again. Sandeul managed a weak smile that didn't quite feel like, well, anything.
"I'm fine," he said softly. "Continue."
"I just. I don't know why or how I have it," said Chansik, flipping his hands over again. "It's kind of--I don't know what to do with it. I'm a little bit afraid of it, you know?"
"I didn't even know it could heal you." Chansik ran a finger against where one of Sandeul's scrapes had been, on his face. "I don't know what else it could do."
"Well, it's rain. Water," said Sandeul, bitterly. "It can only do good things."
They were behind the orphanage while the other kids ran around and played. They were talking about Chansik's powers over the rain again.
"I don't think water's all that good," said Chansik, as he flicked a finger up towards the sky. A single raindrop fell on his fingertip.
"What do you mean?"
Sandeul thought Chansik was like the running waves of the ocean. Roaring and cool, all at once. Swirling around, mingling with the others. Never lasting too long. Being there when he needed to be.
"It causes floods," said Chansik. "Tsunamis. Hurricanes. It's kind of," he flicked his index finger up again, and three single drops landed in a straight line down his finger. "Terrible."
"It's not terrible," said Sandeul. "Not all the time."
"Well, nothing's terrible all the time," said Chansik.
Sandeul looked down into his lap.
"Fire is," he whispered.
"Fire," said Sandeul, and then louder. "Fucking fire! It shouldn't even--I don't know why I even--"
When did he start crying?
"Sandeul?" Chansik looked worried, and some kids and teachers were glancing towards them now. "Sandeul? Are you okay?"
Sandeul's eyes felt hot, like flames were burning into them. He ran away and into the boys' bathroom before anyone could ask.
Chansik didn't follow him into the bathroom but he was sitting on Sandeul's bed when he came out. It was still mid-afternoon and kids were still outside. Some might've gone to dinner.
And Chansik was here waiting for him.
"I have some too," said Sandeul when he joined him. "Powers, I mean. Fire."
He opened his palm. A flame danced into life, and then Sandeul put it out.
"It's horrible," he said, and his voice trembled. He shuddered. "I--I killed my parents with it. I killed my parents."
"No, you didn't," said Chansik, but Sandeul was shaking his head, and Chansik's arms were wrapping around him and Sandeul couldn't stop shaking.
"I did, I did," he whispered and his face felt hot again. He buried it into Chansik's neck. "I-- It was when I was-- I was so stupid and I didn't even know what I was doing, never told my parents, and then suddenly they were there and they were screaming and they were gone--"
"Shh, shh," Chansik whispered as Sandeul sobbed into him. "It's okay. It's okay."
They sat there for a good few hours doing nothing, nothing but Sandeul in Chansik's shoulder and sniffing every once in a while, Chansik's arms still around him. When they heard the door open for the first time, Chansik whispered, "Let's get out of here."
It was evening, eight o'clock at best, and they walked out of the orphanage. The gates were still closed but they stood in front of the building, and Chansik's arms were wrapped around his shoulders.
"I wouldn't blame you," Chansik whispered, "if you never wanted to use your powers again. That's fine. And I don't--don't really know anything about how you feel, or anything, but--it was an accident, okay? It wasn't your fault."
Sandeul nodded. He didn't believe Chansik's words, but he nodded anyways. He wanted to.
"I'm sure it's beautiful," said Chansik. "That you could do great things with it, now, now that you know how to use it. You gotta trust yourself. I trust you."
Sandeul nodded into Chansik's neck again.
"I trust you," said Chansik, and he lifted Sandeul's chin up so that Sandeul could see the rings around his eyes, and then Chansik brought him in, kissed him quietly. It felt like rain pouring on his soul, putting the fires out, washing away the ashes.
Sandeul found that he wanted nothing more than that.