Luka Donati stood on the slopes of Monte Vesuvio and smiled down at all the people in Napoli who were about to die. Over the past sixteen years he’d grown to hate every single person in the city, and he’d been waiting for an opportunity like this all his life.
Come morning, the world would know Luka’s name, and that he was responsible for the destruction of Napoli.
The boy breathed in deep, braced his feet against the ground, and burrowed his power deep into the heart of the volcano. Dug his fingers through the living earth within. Angry, molten rock, hot enough to melt skin and bone, to boil blood and turn it into mist, roiled just beneath the surface. It begged for release and he would set it free.
But not matter how much energy he used, it wasn’t enough. The mountain trembled under his touch, but wouldn’t respond to his command to blow. He growled through his teeth and pushed further into the soil. Thrust his power into every crack and crevice. Yet all he got for his effort was some mild quaking.
Luka knew he needed more than vengeance to accomplish his mission and allowed thoughts from his past to fill his mind, to fuel the rage within that would bolster his ability.
He closed his eyes, pictured the streets he and his family had been forced to survive on after being evicted from their home when he was only a child. They’d relied on the generosity of strangers to eat, to wash, to buy new clothes. Mostly wealthy tourists who’d felt bad seeing a family with small children huddled under a dirty blanket next to the side of a building. They would toss a few Euro into his father’s hat, hardly giving more than a passing glance, and then go about the rest of their vacation.
But not everyone had been so kind. Many of the locals ignored the Donatis as a nuisance, choosing to skirt around them on the sidewalks or being downright violent with them. An owner of a Trattoria had brandished a knife at them one morning after they’d sheltered under his awning during a rainstorm the night before. And the Polizia di Stato harassed his father as a form of sport, sometimes arresting him and sending him to prison for weeks or months at a time, leaving his wife and children alone and defenseless.
Then there were the men who would take Luka into dark places and do dark things to him, sometimes for money, but oftentimes by force. He remembered them most of all.
It had taken his family a long time to pull themselves out of the gutter. His mother found work as a cleaner, and then their father started to help a local farmer. Both were hard jobs with grueling hours, but they did it to support their family. The kids went to school, were able to find work of their own. But the locals always treated them like they were lesser, like trash masked only by the scent of a cheap perfume.
Since then, all his family had left Napoli far behind, one after the other. He had stayed, though, ignoring his mother’s pleas to go with them. Luka would not abandon the streets he knew so well, nor the people he resented. He had made it his life’s ambition to pay back the kindnesses he’d experienced as a child.
The Trattoria had mysteriously burned to the ground. Someone kept agitating the Polizia di Stato by breaking into stores but never stealing anything. And certain men were found dead in dark corners all around the city. These acts were carried out over the course of the last year, and no one ever suspected young, sad, dirty Luka who’d grown up to be one of the top students in his class.
But everything had changed thanks to the Lightning that had struck him a few months earlier. A new power raged within him; it had turned him into a god. And it would allow him to make his final revenge on the whole city at once.
Luka didn’t need the voice that came along with his new ability, urging him to destroy the humans. Didn’t need its constant reminders of all the ways humanity had failed him, had pushed his family further into despair, closer to the brink of death. He would’ve found a way to do it even without them pushing him towards the directive. They only fanned the flames that already consumed him from within.
He’d driven a motorbike he’d stolen the fourteen kilometers from Napoli to Monte Vesuvio, and then hiked to its peak. The volcano had wiped out Pompeii nearly two thousand years earlier and it was hungry for another taste of human flesh.
His city stood in the distance, many of its citizens fast asleep at 1 A.M. Luka had never felt more awake.
The mountain shook as he triggered the eruption, the ground around him splintering apart. Large bursts of fiery steam shot into the sky. And then the entire top of the volcano exploded.
A column of smoke, ash, and earth rose above him, stretching up toward Heaven. It moved at incredible speed, and rode on a strong north-westerly wind that blew it towards his home.
Lava gushed over the rim of the crater behind him—a flaming mixture of white and red and orange—and crashed down the side of the mountain, like rapids down a treacherous river. He directed the molten rock around himself and watched as it streaked through the air above, raining down on the countryside below.
Luka laughed as the sirens in Napoli began to sing. People would rise from bed to look out their windows and see that death had already reached their doorstep.