|Just a short story based on an idea for a book floating around in my head.>>
(Author Note: Please forgive me for any typos. It's almost four in the morning and I really don't feel like going over it.
Leave a comment about what you think.)
It was two days before the biggest commercial holiday of the year. Christmas Eve was the next day, and the mall was a circus. I almost mean that literally.
I dodged an oblivious teen girl texting on her phone, and quietly cursed all things having to do with text. “Why in the world did we come here?” I growled to my friend.
She glanced at me, eyebrows quirked. “What, did you have something better to do today?”
“I'm sure I could have found something. It'd certainly be better than dodging angry-looking, frantic last minute shoppers.”
She waved me off. “We got to see a movie and everything, don't be such a baby.”
I swerved around a rather large woman pushing a stroller, and almost ran into a white gangster in the process. “Hah. Honey, you haven't seen “baby” yet,” I replied when I sidled back up to her.
I wasn't really that irritated. I just enjoy messing with her.
“Whatever. I want to see if they have any good deals on clothes, too.”
“Black Friday was weeks ago,” I said. “Aren't big sales over?”
She looked at me like I was the biggest idiot this side of the planet. I hear Obama's in India or something, so I was relieved to know we've got the other side of it covered. “The deals only start on Black Friday, Kyle. They go all the way to Christmas.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “Excuse me for being a guy, Katie.” I guess I wasn't as informed as I thought I was.
I was visiting my hometown of Lake Placid, Florida, from an equally small town in Tennessee, and today I was at the central mall in the county over with a group of friends. There was Katie, Em, my sister Liza, Katie's boyfriend, Xander, his friend Todd, whom I had never met before, and another friend of Katie's I had never met before, Juan.
The movie had sucked, and none of us had our driver's license yet, so we couldn't bail till our respective guardians got here.
But we weren't thinking about leaving yet. We were youth enjoying a crowded, slightly aggravating, day on the town, and by God we weren't going to let a bad movie and a few people ruin our mood.
We did some teenager stuff for a while:
Go into stores, tell another friend we'd buy a ridiculous piece of clothing for them, then not; eat junk food, drink coffee, try to look like sexy beasts; cuss a lot because that's what older, more mature people did all the time, right?; flirt with strangers, be the scourge of mall security, and make adults hate us.
I pretty much did all of this save for the last couple. I don't like stereotypes, number one. But I also hate it when adults look at me with disappointment or anger. So I try not to be as loud as the average teenager. But, I do my part.
We'd been at the mall, oh, say, about three hours before crazy bounty hunter demons started killing people.
If I sound wholly unsurprised that's because I am. I'm something of a superhero where I come from, but I don't like the stereotype.
No, don't stop reading! This gets better, trust me.
I have the whole secret identity thing going for me. But I'm not really in the public eye. I do more, light of the moon, stick to the shadows, type of butt-kicking. I kill demons, devils, and all sorts of other nasty things for a living. Well, not a living, because I don't get payed for it.
I was sort of...bestowed with it, I guess? Some old guy gave me the power to control water, along with some crazy cool karate moves I hadn't known before. I'm also a lot more durable that the average human, and can move faster.
This old guy, he was a professor of mine at school, he had this old chain-mail thing, an old suit of armor for knights of olden days. The one he gave me was “enchanted,” whatever the heck that means. When I put it on, it fused to my skin. (No, you can't see it. It went under it, or something. That's how I'm so durable. Also, if you ever feel my stomach, that's not abs. That's the chain-mail.)
So yeah. I'm a superhero. Sort of. And no, no one knows.
Not before today, anyway.
So when I felt the explosion rock the mall, I knew something evil was about to go down. I felt my jovial mood drop into a bitter disappointment. I was hoping that for once, just once, I'd be able to hang out with my friends and forget my worries. I'd never faced a demon outside my town in Tennessee. Not once. It's sort of a Hell-Gate. That's why “Fate” or God or whoever you want it to be “placed” me there, to stop the threat of demons.
Don't look at me like that. This is what the old guy tells me.
I just beat things up.
The crowd in the mall all let out one terrified shriek. I had whirled around, and was scanning the ground. People seemed to be running from the west side of the mall to the east, so that meant the demons had appeared somewhere outside of Macy's.
Run!” I shouted to my friends, who were looking in the same direction as I was. “What's going on?!” Todd cried.
“Bomb!” I told him. The panic in my voice—which was real, for who knew how many people were hurt or worse, and how many more would be—convinced him, even though there was no way I could know anymore than he could, but right then wasn't exactly a time to think it through.
They took off. I grabbed my sister's arm. “Stick with them! If you lose me, stick close to Xander and Katie, got it?!” She nodded frightfully. She was only thirteen, three years younger than myself, and it killed me to leave her, but I had to deal with this.
Katie, who had stopped a moment to see why we were waiting, grabbed my sister's hand and began running, glancing back at me with a worried look. “Right behind you!” I had to roar above the ever-growing pandemonium. I made a show of starting to run after her, which was enough to satisfy her, so she turned and caught up with the rest of our group.
I, on the other hand, spun on my heel and took off into the flow of the crowd.
Or at least I tried to. Ever try running against the flow of a terrified crowd running for their lives?
Don't. You'll get yourself killed.
If it weren't for my heightened reflexes, I'd have been trampled a dozen times over. Even then, I barely spun out of the way of people. I ducked, jumped, whirled, and pivoted to get through, but all it did was leave me in the same spot, doing more maneuvering than actually moving. Yelling at people to move had the effect of an ant yelling at a kid to stop smashing his hill.
Some security guards were trying to direct the flow, but their efforts were drowned in the cries and thudding feet of over a thousand terrified people.
“Eff this,” I growled and sprung up onto an island holding a large fake plant. A row of four more continued down the mall. I began jumped to each one, sometimes having to twist my body in mid-air to avoid hitting someone in the head. When I reached the final island, I was faced with the the problem that there were no more islands to jump on.
So, I jumped onto vendor carts. You know, the ones that sell cheap purses, hats, cell phones?
Unfortunately, a lot of them had wheels, and I nearly fell off when I landed due to loss of balance, but since I had the agility of a cat, I jumped to the next one before that could happen.
It took me about five minutes to make my way to the west side of the mall. It was mostly cleared, a good thing, because if and when the fighting started, I'd want to keep bystander casualties to an absolute minimum.The explosion must have been the demons teleporting into the mall, or opening a temporary Hell-Gate to enter into it, because the surrounding area looking trashed. Windows broken, carts over turned, dust and plaster everywhere.
And then I saw them: Five demons, all wearing a purple type of armor, it almost looked organic. They all had greenish skin, and black hair, save for one.
One had a very long, very wicked looking sword, and aside from the brute standing next to him, was the tallest out of the bunch. He had two red eyes, and a nasty smile on his face.
The one next to him, the brute, was just that: a big brute, who was the only one not holding weapons out of the five. He was very tall, buff, and slavering at the mouth. Didn't look very intelligent.
The next two were the smallest of the bunch, maybe coming up to four feet at the most. They were...twins, practically. They were terrorizing a woman and two kids. They moved FAST.
And the last one was the scariest looking of the bunch. All had black hair save for him. He had pure white hair, with long talons. In each hand, he held a wickedly curved blade. And all of it was just blade, no handle. That meant a point on each end, the points facing opposite its counterpart. They looked like blades that could cleave the very air. White Hair was the only one not showing expression. I immediately knew him to be the leader.
I took all this in in one glance. Then I was bunching my leg muscles together, and springing for the roof.
I twisted in mid-air, so that my feet would hit the ceiling. I landed heavily, and before gravity could catch up with me, I let loose another powerful spring, torpedoing right for the group. Again, I twisted in mid-air, so my feet would be facing the intended target.
I went for Brute Boy first. My right leg caught him in the chin, and my left in his chest. For a split-second, we hung there like that. I could feel the leader's eyes on me, calculating.
Then a whoosh of air emanated from Brute Boy's mouth, and he went FLYING. He spun head-over-heels in the air and crashed through Macy's store windows.
Since my momentum had been halted as soon as my feet met Brute Boy, who then took over my crazed flight for me, I landed lightly on my feet.
Sword Guy was on my right, White Hair on his right, and Thing 1 and 2 to my left, leaving the terrified woman and kids alone. They escaped while the Things' attention was drawn elsewhere.
I grinned at them all, adrenaline coursing through my system. I absolutely loved it when the odds were against me. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once. It made me punch things harder.
“Hey boys. Now why'd you have to go and crash our party?”
There were bodies on the ground, dead or alive, I couldn't tell. My resolve hardened. I'd make them pay either way.
Sword Guy turned to me, his sword raised in an attacking position. “Shall we dance?” I growled.
I, unfortunately, have no weapon, so when he came at me with his lighting-fast attacks, I was thrown solely on the defensive.
I leaned to the right to avoid the first slash, ducked to my left as he slashed at my head, and let loose a devastating drop kick.
I got him at the knee, and he went down.
Something tackled me from behind. We went sailing into the nearest wall, and I slammed my face into the unyielding concrete. I heard something snap and my curse was lost in a howl of pain as that snap made itself known as a broken nose.
I elbowed viciously backwards and upwards, catching one of the Things in the ribcage. Something like an “oof” followed, and then I was free. I kicked off the wall, did an inverted back-flip, and landed on my feet facing the Gang Green Gang.
I tentatively touched my nose and winced as pain lanced through my face. “You little psycho,” I said to the damned Thing, who was just picking itself up from the floor in a blurring move. “I'm going to kill you.”
It gave an utterly terrifying little, “Bring it, Water Boy.”
Okay. Now, I have this fear of little people. I'm talking talking about midgets or dwarfs—not the ones by the human definition of the word, anyway.
I'm talking about Oompa-Loompas. They scared the living daylights out of me in that movie with Willy Wonka. I'd always think they would come up from the tile floors while I was in the bathroom and drag me down to Oompa-Loompa world to become their slave.
And learning about this strange new world that I have to defend has only reinforced that fear. So when this effing Thing—which looked vaguely Oompa-Loompaish—SPOKE to me, its devilishly sharp teeth flashing, it understandably freaked me out.
Not only that, but it called me “Water Boy.”
These guys knew who I was. They'd been looking specifically for me. Holy she-devils and their husbands, Batman. I was screwed.
That's when Thing 2 made his move. It jumped from across the tile, a good thirty feet away, straight at me, laughing maniacally like the little devil it was.
“My God!” I screamed in horror.
Then I kicked it in the face when it got close enough. It went down without a sound, but twisted on the floor and popped right back up on its feet.
Thing 1 hurtled at me just then, bouncing at me as if it had springs in its shoes.
Oh, by the way? Little people who bounce around scare me a lot more than just normal little people. A LOT more.
I ducked, his pudgy, talon ridden fingers just missing me. He crashed right into Thing 2. They went tumbling away.
By this point, the rest of the baddies were moving in, and it was time to use my biggest advantage. I glanced over at a gushing fountain to my left in the middle of the huge walkway. I did a little gesture, and a stream of water came surging forth. I used my other hand too, and then two long streams were coming to me.
It's hard to explain what I do. It's pretty much just and extension of myself. Or, a highly advanced remote control in my brain.
The point is, the two streams of water converged on Sword Man, and kept coming until it had totally enveloped him in a frothing oval of water. He was thoroughly irritated with these turn of events, and he tried to fight his way out.
But I can manipulate the water so that it went with him when he took steps forward. I made the water freeze, then, and Sword Man was suddenly encased in a literal ton of ice.
White Hair jumped away, not wanting to get hit with any of the water. Brute Boy was just recovering from my initial attack, coming out of Macy's main entrance dusting himself off.
Things 1 and 2 were also picking themselves up from the ground, snarls on their faces.
The panic made me gesture radically towards the water, and the entire pool lifted up out of the fountain.
It surged downwards and split off into two streams just as the Things jumped into the air, trying to get away from the attacking H2O.
I made the water streams surge upward and slam the Things into the wall. Cracks spider-webbed outward from their points of impact.
I froze them in place with the right amount of water, then called the rest down towards me. I made it into a waist-high ring around me, two streams reaching up ten feet in the air.
I smiled victoriously at White Hair, who had lost three of his men so far.
Brute Boy walked up next to his leader and cocked his head. White Hair glanced up at him almost casually, as if he were going to ask his opinion on what they'd just witnessed.
I wasn't going to be thrown on the defensive again. I raised one hand in the air, and made a jabbing motion, fingers tight together, at White Hair.
The water stream on my right obeyed and surged down at the white haired bastard.
Then, he smiled, raised one of the curvy blades in his hand, and almost casually flicked it at me. Well, the speed with which it moved was certainly NOT casual.
I didn't even SEE the thing as it sped at what seemed like the speed of sound at me. That was mostly because I ducked the instant I saw him move his hand, but still, I knew it moved fast, because from the instant I saw his hand move, and the split-second it took me to duck, the thing was already slicing air molecules over my head.
My concentration broken, all the water I had been controlling had splashed to the ground in a big slippery mess.
I stood up quickly and saw White Hair catch his blade. I was shocked he didn't taken off his hand. “Very impressive,” he said. He really looked impressed. “Very few have ever wholly escaped one of my
lama de moarte."
He had a slight accent, one I couldn't place.
I frowned at him. “You should really get that looked at.”
He frowned at me for a moment, then seemed to get the joke. He actually get a little laugh. It was spin-tingling. “Humorous.”
I shrugged. “Well, you know.” My voice was kind of shaky. Brute Boy attacked then. He jumped right over all the water and came right at me. I didn't even have time to blink.
His rock-hard forearm came across my chest in one savage slug then sent my hurling backwards into the concrete wall. It was less than six feet behind me.
But thank God there was one of those cheap massage chairs to cushion me a bit, otherwise, with all my heightened endurance and quick-healing abilities, had I hit that wall dead-on, it would have killed me.
Not like hitting the chair didn't hurt like hell, because it did. The impact actually tore it apart, and the concrete behind it still cracked a bit. My head was ringing, and everything was spinning. I shook my head.
Come on! I told myself. Walk this off—they'll kill you. THEY'LL EFFING KILL YOU!
That's when I knew I had to get serious with these guys. My eyes finally refocused enough so that I could see Brute Boy's fist heading right for my face. I gasped audibly and barley managed to lunge to my left.
His fist slammed right through the fake leather of the chair and into the wall. He got stuck. He tried to yank it out, but it wouldn't budge.
My evasion had taken me right out of the chair, and although my head was still spinning, I knew I had to take this opportunity.
I went to town on him, punching and kicking with everything I had. It all became a blur, all became a series of punch, kick, punch, kick.
He couldn't do much in return to me because his left fist was the one stuck, and his right hand couldn't reach over his massive body to get at me while I let the sucker have it.
Dazed and battered, he finally managed to yank his fist out of the wall. I took that in stride, got up against the wall next to the hole, and kicked him with two feet, pushing him backwards.
He fell onto his back, splashing water.
I made a waving gesture with both hands, followed by a deep pushing gesture, and the water all around him conformed under him. Then he was sliding along at him speeds across the walkway to the north. He could do nothing save for flailing his limbs about in a panic.
He hit the concrete wall head first with a concordant BOOM and CRACK. He was buried up to his chest in the wall. He did not move.
I gulped in air, and wiped sweat from my brow. I hurt all over, and my nose felt like it had erupted into a volcano. I didn't dare touch it; I could feel blood pouring down from it and onto my split lips. Everything would heal—painfully—in a day or so.
White Hair was watching me carefully. He'd been watching the whole time. Watching how I fought, how I reacted, defended. Everything.
He was a hunter.
My eyes narrowed and locked with his. This hunter was about to become the hunted.
"Come here often?” I asked him, walking out to the center of the battle floor. We began circling each other, eyes never leaving each other. He, predictably, didn't say anything.
"Let me guess. You're a sensitive guy, but you know how to take command. You have dreamy eyes, like long walks on the beach, and know how to drive a girl wild.”
Still nothing. “You're going to wind up all alone if you don't put yourself out there, man. I'd hate to see that happen to you.”
Yeah, I know it's stupid to entice him, but making dumb jokes is how I focus, how I win battles. I try and lower their defenses by making fun of them and catching them off guard. And since I move so fast and dodge so effectively, I feel as if I have all the time in the world to come up with material.
It had always worked before. Except with this guy.
I saw his hand twitch, and I suddenly got very mad. I looked him dead in the eye, and said straight from the heart:
"Bring it, bitch.”
Then he threw both “lama de moartes” or whatever he called them. I didn't even try for an eloquent evasion, dude. I just threw my body to the right and hoped I didn't get shredded to pieces.
They flew by, but then came back around. “Crap!” I screamed. I was in a push-up position on the ground, and using every ounce of muscle I had, I pushed off the ground, almost defying gravity, and flew high into the air almost ten feet off the ground, arms and legs spread-eagle.
He could control them mentally, I guess, because they sort of angled upward, but they still missed me.
I landed on the ground feet first in a crouch, taking the impact in my knees. I stayed like that for a half-second before standing straight. I put my hand on my hip and said almost conversationally, “I'd tell you to put those down and fight me like a man, but I wouldn't want you to break a nail or something. I mean, God forbid, right? Where did you get those things DONE! I mean wow!”
He brought his left arm down and back, then lashed it forward in a sweeping motion. I twisted left, but half the thing still caught me in the shoulder.
I saw blood well up from the paper-thin cut. When I looked up, he was charging me, right arm held upward with remaining blade in hand. It could be used as a melee weapon too, apparently. His arm reached out and he slashed down at me.
I pivoted on my left foot, so that I was now facing sideways to him. I pushed the outstretched arm away from me and brought my right leg up to knee him, pivoting on my left foot again and using my hips to give the knee power.
He doubled over my knee taking the impact hard, and I momentarily lost my balance. But then he flipped over it and sailed into the air. He twisted himself around, one arm stretched out backwards, body parallel to the floor.
I realized why his arm was out behind him the second before he swung it around blindingly with the blade he'd thrown earlier. It came right for me.
I did a sort of ducking move, taking my torso down to trace an imaginary semicircle. I came back up a bit winded, but ready for the rest of the fight. Good thing I was braced, because his heavily booted foot hit my already broken nose with a force that sent me flailing backwards into Macy's.
I hit the customer service counter and took a moment to catalog my injuries. Nose, broken twice over. Shoulder, a bit cut up but functional. Perhaps a few cracked ribs. Many more hurt areas, but I knew what I needed to protect.
I staggered to my feet and heard the whistling. Using the desk as a support, I hitched my butt up on it and swung my legs around, rolling on my hips. I saw the sliver of enchanted metal coming at me as my right leg passed out of my field of vision.
Dear God, I said, please let me have timed this correctly.
Everything seemed to go in slow-motion, then. My left leg was coming up, and the blade was getting closer. Yes, it'd make it!
The blade was just over three feet away when I kicked it out of the air with my left foot. A whoop of joy sprang from my throat as I threw myself off the desk.
White Hair was storming towards me, seeming angry that he hadn't been able to kill me yet.
I stretched out with my senses, looking for water. I felt some. In water bottles, scattered around. I called what was within my mental grasp to me, but out of sight so White Hair couldn't see it. The small streams came around along the floor on the other side of the customer service desk and waited there.
"Okay,” I said, panting heavily. I didn't have to pretend all that hard that I was exhausted. “Okay, I'm done, you got me.”
He folded his arms over his chest, still holding the remaining blade. His eyes flicked to the one I had kicked, and it skittered along the floor towards him before jumping into the waiting hand on the bottom of the fold-across.
"Before you kill me...what did you want? How did you know I was here?”
White Hair seemed to regard me. “You are a highly worthy opponent. I was sent here to collect a bounty on your head.”
I noticed that he'd used the lone “I,” instead of the collective “we.” Implying that those goons we was with...
"You mean you weren't a team?”
He shook his head slightly. “Hardly. We were only given a place to kill you at, that was it. I was unaware more would be here.”
I gulped. That made sense. If they had been working as a unit—pooling all their deadly resources and skills together—they could have taken me. Easily. They almost had working as disjointed as they had. I assumed Things 1 and 2 were a pair, though. They were the only ones that had worked in concordance with one another.
Who's trying to kill me?” I said. Not like it was a short list, but I needed to know who'd go to all this trouble of hiring five separate bounty hunters to take down a single target. They'd be dangerous in the future, and I'd need to take him or her out before they could hurt me, and possibly those I was with, further.
White Hair smiled. “Now that, you'll just have to die with.” He raised his hand...
I unleashed about a trillion tiny little ice daggers upon him. He was certainly taken by surprise, but still managed to knock half of them away.
The rest burrowed deep into his forehead, a few shooting out the other side.
He dropped dead to the floor, his blades clattering beside him. I shuffled by him, not even glancing at him. He'd turn to ecto-plasm in a few minutes, all the cops would find is a pile of goo next to a couple of weirdly shaped blades.
I was rather dismayed to find that the ice boxes holding Sword Man and the Things were shattered, the demon bounty hunters having escaped intact. I glanced over at Brute Boy to see a pile of goop in place.
Two out of five ain't bad. But they'd be back. And I hoped they would. Because I was going to get answers out someone, so help me. I shivered at the prospect of seeing the Things again.
I sort of hoped Sword Man would come for me.
I shambled off before the cops could arrive, thinking of a good excuse to give my friends concerning where I'd been and how I'd gotten the living crap beat out of me.
One thing was certain for me.
I was never going to the mall during the holidays again.