Episode 3 – Monsters and Heroes
Bryson Indiana stepped out of the shower, still thinking about all the strange fires he saw the night before. He absolutely had to go investigate. After getting dressed, he checked his appointment calendar. No clients were coming in today, just a reporter that he had to meet up with later that morning. His private investigator business had finally started to take off. Three new clients in the last week! He really didn’t need a new problem to solve, but his curiosity wouldn’t let him not have a look around. Those fires were beyond weird. Besides, he needed to walk to Starbucks to get his morning coffee anyway. He finished tying his shoes and pulled on a hoodie. He grabbed his favorite beanie on his way out the door. Autumn had finally started to take hold in northern Virginia.
Carl Chambers woke to the sound of a crash. He opened his eyes, but his vision wouldn’t focus properly. Carl got shakily to his feet and stumbled into the union hall bathroom. His body felt weird, and he was having trouble concentrating. His head ached, and he put one hand up to massage his temple and felt a massive amount of thick curly hair. Hair that hadn’t been there just the night before. He looked down at his arms and saw they were covered with what looked like golden colored fur. The muscles in his arms were rippling and appeared to be growing right before his eyes. He rushed to the mirror and saw a face that he barely recognized. His appearance was still warping and changing. He rushed to the doorway and called out to his best friend and right-hand man, Rick Myers. “Rick! Rick, get in here! Something is happening to me!”
Carl heard the same clip-clop of hooves on the wooden floor that he heard last night just before he blacked out for the second time. Then, he heard Rick’s voice, but it was deeper and more gravelly. “Something has happened to all of us, Carl. Something strange and powerful.”
Rick turned the corner, and Carl jumped back in surprise. What Carl saw, he barely recognized as his best friend. He could still make out Rick’s facial features, but that face was now covered in brown fur and horns were growing out of the sides of his head. Rick was now close to seven feet tall, and his shoulders were broad enough where he would have to turn sideways to enter most doors. As Carl continued to gape at his friend, he noticed that Rick’s legs now ended in massive hooves instead of feet.
“Oh my God, Rick. What is happening?”
Rick waved a hand at Carl. “You tell me, boss man.”
“I think it was from the meteor last night. I felt the power emanating from it, but I never expected these physical changes. I don’t know for sure what is happening, but I feel incredibly strong!”
“Carl, I have horns growing out of the side of my head. It’s weird, but you’re right. I feel so powerful!”
“You said it’s happening to everyone? Are they all still here? I want to see.”
“They’re still here. Some are just waking up. Some are happy, but not everyone. I think we may need to finish that meeting that was interrupted last night.”
“You’re exactly right, Rick. This could end up being the best thing to ever happen to us.” The two best friends strode out into the union hall meeting room to assess what had happened to the rest of their friends.
Bryson walked to the edge of Newville Park, noting scorch marks on several trees. He knelt down to get a better angle to take some photos, and his trained eyes noticed a couple odd looking blue stones. He picked them up to take a closer look, and nearly dropped them again. He felt a surge of energy rush through his entire body. Peering at the rocks in the palm of his hand, Bryson observed that they seemed to glow and pulse with energy. He looked around to make sure no one was watching, and then he slipped the two blue rocks into the pocket of his jeans.
Bryson stood next to one of the scorched trees and oriented himself, so he was looking straight at the portion of the docks where he had seen the fire last night. Spinning around one hundred and eighty degrees, he was now facing directly at the high school baseball field. He still needed that coffee, but he was in an investigative mode now. Starbucks was too far out of the way; he’d settle for the Dunkin Donuts next to the school. He walked slowly, scanning all the buildings he passed for signs of fire.
By the time he reached the antique shop, Bryson had four blue rocks in his pocket. ‘Brett’s Antique and Thrift Store’ must have been the destination of some of the firetrucks that passed his house in the night. He was just about to continue on toward the school when he got a text message from Erik Reilly.
Erik: “Bryson, I need to come over and talk to you about something. It’s kind of important. Are you home?”
Bryson: “No. I’m on a case. Can it wait?”
Erik: “I don’t know. Something weird is going on. Did you see all the fires last night?”
Bryson: “Yes. That’s what I’m investigating. I’ll go home now. Come right over.”
Bryson slid his phone back into his pocket and nearly ran home.
The boy woke up lying on a wooden floor in front of a big fireplace. He was disoriented and couldn’t remember where he was at first, then the events of the night before came back to him. After he stumbled away from the muddy field, he walked towards the only light he saw. It led him to this house. He didn’t know what else to do, so he knocked on the door. A lady answered the door, and then the boy didn’t remember anything else. He must have passed out. He couldn’t remember much of anything. When he tried to remember before last night, all he could remember was the feeling of falling from a great distance. The boy was still exhausted. He laid his head back down and fell asleep.
As soon as Logan was up, showered, and dressed, he ran downstairs. He wolfed down a quick breakfast and threw a couple pieces of fruit and some trail mix into his backpack. He wasn’t quite sure where he planned on going yet, but he could still feel Obadiah’s presence nearby. He slipped on his shoes, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and poked his head into the living room. “Harvey, I’m going for a walk. I don’t have a class until ten. Tell dad and Gavin for me, please.”
Harvey glanced up from his phone. “Really? Ok, bro. See ya after school.”
Logan left the house and started wandering up and down the streets of the town. It’s not like the feather was a GPS that gave him specific directions. He could only get a faint sense of direction and distance. About ten minutes later, he heard police sirens, and soon after that, he saw two army helicopters fly towards the center of the city. Thankfully, the feather was leading him in the opposite direction. He’d been walking for another fifteen minutes when he passed by the high school baseball field. The feather started glowing just like it had last night. Logan turned and walked into the field. Everything looked burnt, and he could still smell the smoke.
In the center of the field, right where the pitcher’s mound used to be, Logan found a huge crater. In the mud, he saw footprints leading away, but he didn’t see any footprints leading toward the crater. He crawled down into the hole and saw what looked like the muddy imprint of a body. The feather pulsed and flashed in his hand. Did something happen to Obie here? He was now even more determined to find his friend.
Logan crawled out of the crater and followed the footprints. A blue glow off near the edge of the field caught his attention. He walked over and looked down. He found two small rocks that glowed with the same blue light as the feather. He picked them up and felt them pulse in his hands. A wave of energy washed over his entire body. He felt different. Changed somehow. Maybe Obie could explain what happened when he found him. Logan put the two rocks in his pocket and continued following the muddy footprints.
Carl walked out into the union hall’s meeting room and scanned the room. The creatures, his closest friends, were all spread out. Carl leaned his head back and let out a ferocious roar. All heads spun toward him, and he spoke, “Friends, gather around the table and let us continue our meeting.”
You’ll excuse me if I don’t sit at the table,” quipped Lisa Jensen.
Carl turned his head to speak, “I expect…” he stopped when he saw Lisa. From her head to her waist, Lisa looked exactly the same, but where her lower torso and legs should be was now the body of a beautiful chestnut-colored horse. Carl began again, “No. Take the end of the table across from me.”
Brent Irons pounded his fist on the table, a fist which now was more claw than fist. His hand was bright red and hardened into a shell-like substance. Brent’s fingers were fused together, and his thumb was elongated and had a serrated edge. “Do you really expect business as usual, Carl? Look at us! How can we even go out in public? We’re freaks! Jayden was suffocating for no apparent reason, I’m not even sure if he’s still alive, and you want to continue a business meeting?!”
Carl looked around. “Where’s Jayden now?”
“Luke took him into the kitchen,” Brent answered.
Carl tapped Rick on the shoulder, “Go check on them.” Then he turned to the rest, “Let me address the questions that Brent brought up. Can we go out in public? Yes, I say, and let them fear us! We are not freaks. We are amazing and powerful beings. Do I expect business as usual? Hell no! I expect that now instead of ruling Newville Heights… we can rule the world!” By the time Carl was done with his speech, the rest of the assembled group were pounding on the table and cheering.
Harvey turned the game off on his phone to finish getting ready for school, and when he did, he noticed a text from his dad. The text was a group text which was also sent to his two brothers. The text read: “Boys, they activated my unit this morning. There are reports of strange activities and possible terror attacks in the city. I may not be able to come home tonight, or possibly for a few days. Watch out for each other. Stay safe. Dad.”
Harvey flipped the television on and turned to one of the twenty-four-hour news channels. He could hardly believe what he was watching. Could this be real? They were showing amateur film clips of glowing blue meteors racing across the sky and fires raging all over the city.
He was still watching when his oldest brother, Gavin, walked in and stood behind him. “Harvey, did you get a weird text from dad?” Gavin looked up from his phone. “What the hell are you watching?”
“The news, I think. Weird, right?” Harvey said.
“With this text from dad, I’d say it must be accurate, or at least the army thinks so. It sounds like the army thinks it’s more than just meteors.” Gavin said.
“Should I go to school?” Harvey asked.
“Yeah. Go ahead. I’m sure the school will cancel classes if whatever is going on gets bad. I don’t have a class until the afternoon. I’ll keep an eye on the news and watch for any more weird texts from dad. Where’s Logan?”
“He left already. He went for a walk. He said he doesn’t have a class until ten today.”
“Ok. I’ll try and get a hold of Logan; you just get ready and go to school.” Gavin sat down and sent a text to Logan, and Harvey finished getting ready for school and left the house.
Rick Myers walked into the kitchen of the union hall. Whatever he was expecting to see what he saw wasn’t it. Luke Adams was standing by the sink with his arm outstretched. Luke’s hand was held out palm facing upward, and his fingers were extended. Luke had a look of intense concentration on his face. The first shock, for Rick, was that the water that ran from the faucet arched upward and rained down on Jayden Stone, who sat on the floor and leaned against the sink.
Jayden, himself, was the second shock, though, at this point, nothing should shock Rick, considering his own transformation. Jayden’s skin had transformed into what looked like bluish-green scales. His eyes were narrow and a deep amber color. There were two slits on the sides of Jayden’s neck that were slowly opening and closing. Rick guessed that they must be gills and that they must be the problem with his breathing. Rick stepped further into the room and cleared his throat.
“Luke, Jayden, is there anything I can do to help?” Rick asked.
Water started spraying all over the room as Luke looked at Rick and lost his concentration. “Wh-what… Rick? Is that you? What is happening to us?” Luke got the spray of water back under control, but Jayden stood up from the floor, not looking quite so out of breath.
“Shut the water off, babe. I think I got this under control now.” Jayden said, between deep breaths.
Luke’s green eyes shone with concern. “Are you sure, Jay? What about the gills?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I think my body got confused when the gills formed and tried to breathe through them. I seem to be able to switch back and forth between the gills and my lungs. It’s actually kinda cool.”
Luke switched off the water and rushed over to his boyfriend. He wrapped his arms around Jayden and pulled him close. Jayden took a step back and pushed Luke away. Luke had a look of shock and confusion on his face. “Jay, what’s wrong?”
“Look at me, Luke! I’m some kind of grotesque freak! I have gills and scales. You don’t have to pretend to still want to touch me.” Jayden said with tears streaming down his face.
“I’m not pretending, Jay. I love you. You are still you, and that’s the only thing that matters to me. You are still beautiful to me.”
“I… we can talk more about this later,” Jayden looked over at Rick and motioned towards the meeting room. “What’s going on out there with everyone else? It sounds like a party.”
“Carl restarted the meeting. He’s getting everyone fired up. We should get out there and find out the details for ourselves.” Carl turned and walked out of the kitchen, followed closely by Luke and Jayden.
Harvey decided to take the shortcut through the park to get to school. On his way there, he noticed lots of burned trees and scorched grass. “Weird,” He thought to himself. “All the burned trees seem to be in a straight line.” The line of burned trees was, coincidentally, right along Harvey’s route to school. Right in the center of a burned patch of grass, Harvey noticed a bright blue stone. After seeing the news reports about meteors, Harvey bent down to take a closer look. He picked it up, and the stone began to glow and pulse in his hand. Harvey’s whole body felt weird. He shrugged and stuffed the rock into the pocket of his jeans. By the time he got to school, Harvey had found and pocketed three more stones.
Gavin fixed a quick breakfast for himself and sat down to channel surf and see if he could figure out what was really going on. He was engrossed in all the news reports of the weird meteors and fires causing damage and the conspiracy theories about the army taking over the investigation. After he grew tired of watching the same video clips over and over, he got up to go looking for his Logan.
Carl glanced over when Rick re-entered the meeting room, followed by Luke and a third figure who must be Jayden. “Good. I’m glad you three could join us. We were discussing plans for taking over the docks and then the entire town and beyond. We have to search the city and find as many of these blue rocks as we can. No one else must be allowed access to them.”
“What if others have already found them?” Lisa asked.
“Kill them. We can’t allow anyone else to gain the powers that we have. We should even name ourselves to strike fear into the people.” Carl said.
“Like individual names or the group?” Luke asked.
“Both. Let me think.” Carl answered thoughtfully.
“We could be The Freak Show,” Brent said with a laugh.
“No. No. Look around. It’s obvious now that we’re all here.” Carl said, looking from face to face. “We are The Zodiac. Literally. Look at us. Leo the Lion, Taurus the Bull, Cancer the Crab, all of us. We all fit the zodiac. That’s who we are… The Zodiac Club.” Everyone at the table looked around and nodded in agreement.
Coming Soon – Episode 4: Mid-town Mayhem!