Episode 5: Frozen Fisticuffs
Erik didn’t really have a plan of action after he left Bryson’s apartment. He had decided that he wasn’t going to his class. There was just too much on his mind to focus on schoolwork. A pleasant stroll through the park might be just the thing he needed to clear his head. When he was about halfway through the park, he started to hear noises. He slowed his pace and left the path. From behind a stand of bushes, Erik peered into the big picnic area, which was situated right in the center of the park. What he saw, he could hardly believe. There were two… for lack of a better word… monsters terrorizing a family near the barbecue pit.
One of the creatures looked like a mythological centaur. The centaur was a female. Her long chestnut brown hair matched the color of her horse body exactly. The second monster was something like Erik had never seen before. It had the basic shape of a man, and Erik could see that it had human facial features, but the skin had a reddish hue, and things that the family threw at him bounced off as if the skin was a hardened shell. The creature’s left arm ended in a relatively normal-looking hand, but the right arm ended in what looked more like a giant claw. Erik wondered to himself if this could be his own fate. Were these monsters caused by the effects of the blue meteors? Would he turn into a monster? He’d have to find an alternate path to get home. Erik snapped a couple pictures with his phone, then turned and ran back towards the school.
Two ambulances pulled into Newville General Hospital and dropped off their patients. There was a flurry of activity in the emergency room. Both William Fuller and Brett Greene were in critical condition when they arrived. William had numerous broken ribs and internal injuries. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and nose. Brett had cuts all over his face and upper body. He also had a broken left arm and crushing injuries to both legs. Both men had glowing blue rocks in the pockets of their jeans.
“Ashton! Wait up!” Harvey yelled as he closed ground on his friend.
Ash heard someone yell his name and stopped. He turned around and saw one of his closest friends, Harvey Kastala, running to catch up to him. Ash took a seat on a park bench and waited for Harvey.
Slightly out of breath, Harvey sat down next to Ashton. “Hey, Ash.”
“Why are you here, Harvs? Shouldn’t you be in class right now?”
Harvey waved the hall pass in front of Ash. “I’m in the bathroom. Duh!”
Ash rolled his eyes. “Go back to school, Harvey. I’m fine.”
“What happened? I saw the vice-principal walk you off school property?”
“I… I’m not sure what happened. My desk fell apart, and they blamed me. Destruction of school property. It’s been a weird day, Harvs.”
“I know. My dad’s unit is on high alert because of the meteors. They think there’s more to it than that.”
Ashton’s eyes grew wide. “Do you know what they think is going on? Are the meteors dangerous?”
“Ash, what are you not telling me? What happened at school?”
Ashton sighed. “You know me too well.”
“You’ve been my best friend since kindergarten. Now spill it!”
“Ok. Alright. Well my strange day actually started before I got to school. I was passing by the antique store on Park Avenue, well where the antique store used to be anyway. It burned down in one of the fires last night. I stopped to check it out, and I noticed a bright blue rock in the ashes. It was stunning so I picked it up. The damn thing started glowing and made my whole body feel weird. I don’t know why, but I kept it.” Ash pulled the rock out of his pocket and showed it to Harvey.
Harvey started to reach for it, but Ash pulled it back. “No! Don’t touch it. At least not until I finish my story. Then you can decide for yourself.”
“It may be too late for that.” Harvey reached into his pocket and pulled out his own four small blue stones. “They’re a lot smaller than the one you have, but I felt the same energy pulses throughout my body that you described. So, please, I need to hear the rest of your story.”
Ash reached out and placed a hand on Harvey’s forearm and stared deep into his bright blue eyes. “Oh, Harvs, what’s happening to us. I hope to God that you don’t experience what I did today.”
“Tell me. Ash, what happened?” Harvey asked.
Ashton relayed his story to Harvey. He told him about the floor tile and about the pencil and finally about the desk collapsing. He explained, to the best that he knew how, that none of it was intentional. His body was vibrating so fast that he could barely follow his own movements, and he had no conscious control of it. “So, that’s my story. It can’t be a coincidence. It’s gotta be related to the stones, right?”
Harvey was about to respond when an older boy came running out of the park. Harvey thought he recognized him. Erik? Something like that. He thought the boy graduated with Gavin. “Dude, where’s the fire?” Harvey said as the boy ran over to where Harvey and Ashton sat.
“There’s not a fire, but there are two monsters in the park, and I think they’re chasing me! We have to get out of here!”
“Whatever drugs you’re taking, you need to quit,” Ash said just before an arrow flew out of the trees and stuck in the bench right between Harvey and Ashton.
Bryson was nearly out of breath by the time he reached Grace’s apartment. He took a few minutes to gather himself and then went upstairs and knocked on the door. He heard Grace from inside the apartment, yell out, “Come in!” Bryson opened the door and went inside.
“Bryson, what happened to you? Your clothes are all torn. Are you okay?” Grace asked.
“I need your help, Grace. Even more now than when I called you. Have you seen the news yet this morning?” Bryson was pacing nervously as he talked. The events of the morning had him pretty freaked out.
“Are you talking about the meteors and the fires? Yeah, I’ve seen all the footage. What’s that have to do with the fact that it looks like you just went ten rounds with King Kong?”
“Turn on your TV. Maybe you can see it for yourself. You gotta see this, or you won’t believe it. I don’t believe it, and it happened to me.” Bryson waited while Grace turned on the TV.
“What is this, Bryson? This can’t be real. Is this a movie stunt? Wait… is that you?” Grace looked from the TV to Bryson and back again. “What…what is that thing?”
“It’s not a movie stunt. I just fought a freaking minotaur or something close to a minotaur anyway. It called itself Taurus the Bull. It was after two other people, but I found myself right in the middle. It was looking for these.” Bryson pulled the blue rocks out of his pocket.
“Are they pieces of the meteor?” Grace asked, reaching forward.
Erik closed his fist around the rocks. “Don’t touch them. Something happened to me when I picked them up. I… I’m different now, Grace. I could read their thoughts, the two injured guys in the car, and Taurus. His thoughts were jumbled, but I know he came from the docks, and there was a big explosion down there during the meteor shower. It has to be all tied together. I think that the rocks turned him into that monster and gave me powers.” He lifted Grace’s coffee table up with his mind, spun it around, and set it back down.
Grace was in complete shock. She could not believe or understand what she was seeing, even though it was happening right before her astonished eyes. Bryson had been right. If she hadn’t seen it for herself, she would have never believed it. She didn’t want to believe it even now. “This is a lot to take in, Bryson,” Grace said, running her fingers through her long dark hair. “What else can you do?”
“So far, I can read minds and move things with my mind. If I can do anything else, I haven’t discovered it yet.”
Grace looked closely at Bryson. “Your eyes have changed. They are a much brighter green than they were before. You’re not wearing colored contacts, are you?”
Bryson ran to Grace’s bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. He came back into the room and sat down again. “They are brighter. It has to be connected. My friend Erik Reilly found a meteor, and his hair changed color. Give me a minute to send him a text. I have to see if he’s experienced any other changes yet.” Bryson sent Erik a text, which was not immediately answered. “I have to go look for him. Will you help me find out what’s happening, Grace? The army showed up while I was fighting Taurus. I know you have high-level contacts in the government.”
“I’ll do what I can, Bryson. Go look for your friend. Keep me in the loop. Lay low. You were on that video clip. The army will probably come looking for you. You may want to stay somewhere other than your apartment.”
“That’s a great idea, Grace. I didn’t even consider that. I’ll find Erik and let you know if anything else happens.”
“Buy a new phone. Call me when you and your friend are both safe. I’ll contact my sources and wait for your call.”
“Thank you, Grace. I knew that I could count on you.” Bryson practically ran out of Grace’s apartment and down the street toward Erik’s house.
“Gav, I know we gotta check in with dad, but just promise me that we can come back and look for Obie. I know he’s close. I can feel his presence through the feather.” Logan said as he reached for the car’s door handle.
“Ok, Logan, I promise. As long as dad doesn’t say that we can’t, I’ll bring you back here.” Gavin started to go around the car to get into the driver’s side, but before he could, he heard a loud yell, and he looked back just in time to see a large shape hurtling toward the car. “Logan! Get down!” He yelled.
Logan looked around, and his eyes widened in shock and fear. He dove toward where his brother stood, barely getting out of the way in time before something big hit the car with a crash. The car windows all shattered at once as the car was hit with enough force to knock it onto its side. Logan rolled onto his back and looked to see what had hit the vehicle. He couldn’t believe his own eyes. What he saw stood on two legs like a man. From the waist down, it could have passed for human, with one exception, where its massive legs muscles burst through the jeans, long dark grey fur showed through the rips. The same hair covered the creature’s bare upper torso. The beast’s upper body was humanoid in shape. It was just over six feet tall with broad shoulders and heavily muscled arms ending in larger than average hands. Logan could see the once human face, which was now distorted and covered in the same grey fur. Its ears were pointed and closer to the top of its head than human ears, but the most shocking feature of all was the set of enormous, curved ram’s horns protruding from the sides of its head.
“W-what are you?” Logan said, his voice shaking with fear.
The beast turned toward Logan and snarled. “I am Aries the Ram, and you will give me the blue stones, or I will crush the life from you and take them anyway.”
Gavin leaped in front of his brother and faced Aries. “Stay away from my brother, you freak. If you want anything from him, you’ll have to come through me first.” Gavin turned his head to look at Logan. “Get behind the car, Logan. Hurry!” Logan scrambled backward and crouched behind the overturned car. Gavin set his feet and faced his foe.
After Bryson left her apartment, Grace Santos scrolled through her contacts. She almost clicked on one of her top government sources, but then thought better of it. She didn’t think that anyone in the government would give her a straight answer to this even if they knew. Instead, she called a number that he had not called in years. He called an old college friend, Caleb Justyce. She didn’t exactly hang out in the same circles anymore, but Grace knew that this problem was something that would pique the interest of Caleb. The call went straight to voicemail, but Grace left a message and waited.
Bryson ran the three blocks from Grace’s apartment to Erik’s house and banged on the front door. Erik’s father answered the door. “Hi, Bryson. What brings you here?”
“Hi, Mr. Reilly. is Erik home?”
“No. The last I saw him, he said he was going to see you. Didn’t he show up? That was quite a while ago.”
“Yeah, he was at my place earlier. I thought he’d be home by now. I guess I’ll walk through the park and see if I can meet up with him. He’s not answering my texts.”
“Is everything alright, Bryson? Is it something important?”
“No, Mr. Reilly, there’s nothing to worry about. When you see him, just tell him to text me.”
“Ok, Bryson. It was nice to see you again.”
Bryson was a little alarmed that Erik wasn’t home yet. He should have had plenty of time to get here by now. He turned and started walking quickly toward the park.
“You are either brave or extraordinarily stupid,” Aries sneered.
“I will not let you hurt my brother,” Gavin stated, fists raised in front of him.
“Gavin, come on! Let’s run!” Logan yelled from behind the overturned car.
“Too late for that, boy,” Aries said as he butted his horns against the car, pushing it further off the road.
“What do you want from us?” Gavin asked.
“The blue stones. Give them to me willingly, and I might let you live.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t have any blue stones,” Gavin said, slowly backing away from Aries.
Aries sniffed the air. “I can smell them. You can’t lie to me, boy. I’ve had enough talk. Prepare to die.” Aries lowered his head and charged.
Gavin dropped to his knees and raised his arms over his head in an effort to protect himself. He gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and prepared himself for the impact. The impact never came. Instead, Gavin heard what sounded like breaking glass and then a loud thump which came from behind him. He opened his eyes and looked warily around. There were shards of ice all around him, and Aries was now between Gavin and Logan. Gavin couldn’t figure out what had happened, but he quickly sprung to his feet to place himself, once more, in between the monster and Logan.
Aries’ eyes narrowed. “I knew I smelt the stones. You’ve been affected by them, so now you must die!” Aries charged at Gavin.
Gavin side-stepped the charge and swung his fist at Aries. Before his punch struck its target, Gavin felt an extreme coldness run through his body. A cocoon of ice formed around his fist just as the blow landed. The ram was nearly knocked off his feet as he stumbled away from Gavin. Gavin looked down in awe at his ice-covered fist. He thought about how cool it would be if his whole body were protected by the ice, and then it happened. Gavin was now covered in an icy armor from head to toe.
Aries watched as the ice formed around Gavin. Hoping to catch Gavin distracted, Aries lowered his head and charged. He hit Gavin full-force in the mid-section with his horns. Gavin was thrown back and smashed against the car. He was unhurt, but the icy armor shattered into a million pieces. Gavin saw Aries closing in on him. He tried to move out of the way, but he was pinned up against the car. Gavin raised his arms in self-defense, wishing he had something to throw at Aries. Streams of ice shot out of Gavin’s fingers and struck Aries square in the chest, knocking him backward. Frost continued to stream out of Gavin’s fingers until the ram’s legs were frozen solid.
Gavin leaped to his feet and rushed around to the other side of the car. “Logan, come on! That probably won’t hold him for long. Let’s get out of here.”
Logan’s dark brown eyes were wide open and staring. “Gavin, you’re a superhero!” He ran over and hugged his brother.
“Whatever! All this might make me believe your story about angels a little more, though. We can talk at home. Let’s get out of here before he breaks free,” The two boys turned and ran down the road as fast as they could, leaving Aries behind.
Grace sat at her desk and thought about her visit with Bryson, trying to wrap her mind around not just what he told her, but what she had witnessed with her own eyes. He picked up her coffee table using his mind. An hour ago, she would have laughed at the idea. Now her focus was on trying to figure out how it happened and how to proceed. There wasn’t just Bryson to consider, there was also the monster that he fought. How many others were out there? She knew that Caleb was the best shot at finding answers. Grace glanced at her phone again. Still no return call from Caleb. After a while, she decided to go straight to Justyce Labs and talk to Caleb, face to face. Caleb was the smartest person that Grace knew. Caleb had graduated from high school when he was fifteen, and he had a master’s degree in mechanical engineering by the time he was eighteen. When Grace started college, Caleb was twenty-eight and working towards his third master’s degree. Now, he was thirty-seven had his own research lab. If anyone could figure out what was happening, that man would be Caleb Justyce. Grace left her apartment, avoided downtown, and drove as fast as she could to Justyce Labs.
Harvey and Ashton both leaped off of the bench. “Dude! I thought you were joking. Who is chasing you?” Harvey said.
“Yeah, I thought you said monsters, not crazy bow-wielding maniacs?” Ashton quipped.
“I did say monsters, and I meant it. One is one of those half woman and half horse things from mythology. She has the bow. The other one is a guy who looks like he has a shell and a mutant claw for a hand! They’re not chasing me, but we need to get out of here! They’re in the middle of the park, terrorizing everyone in sight!” Erik replied, pacing back and forth.
“A centaur and a crab man? Are you trying to prank us? Where are the cameras?” Harvey said.
“Harvey, duck!” Ash yelled!
Harvey looked up and saw another arrow, this one heading straight for him. He didn’t even have time to react. Then something barreled into him, and Harvey landed on the ground on his back. The breath was knocked right out of his lungs. He coughed and blinked and tried to roll out from under whatever landed on him, then he saw that it was Ash. “Ash? How? You were way over there.”
“I… I’m not sure.”
“I was looking right at you, and I didn’t even see you move. One second you were next to me, and then there was a blur and a gust of wind, and you were on top of your friend.” Erik said.
“A lot of weird stuff has been happening today,” Ash said, getting up off of Harvey. “Maybe we should do like Erik said and get as far away from here as possible.”
Harvey leaped to his feet. “No! If they are hurting people, we need to try and help! I want to at least get a few pictures to send to my dad. These creatures may be the reason that his army unit was activated.”
“This is a stupid idea, but I’ll show you where they are. As soon as you see them, you’ll change your mind and agree with me.” Erik said in frustration, but he led the other two boys through the trees and into the picnic area in the center of the park.
“I thought you were exaggerating, but that does look just like a centaur,” Harvey said.
“She’s firing arrows right at that family. Harvey’s right. We have to at least try and help.” Ashton said and took a step forward, and then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
“Ash? Where’d ya go? Erik, what happened?” Harvey said, looking all around.
“It’s the same as when he tackled you. A gust of wind, and he was gone. Wait. Isn’t that him over by the pond?”
“It can’t be. That’s over a hundred yards away. How would he…”
Erik heard a thump and turned to see why Harvey stopped talking. The first thing Erik saw was the mutant crab monster, but then he saw Harvey lying face-first on the ground at the creature’s feet. Erik clenched his fists. “Get away from my friend, you freak!” To Erik’s surprise, the monster took a step back. Then Erik felt a gust of wind, and Ashton appeared.
“Harvs!” Ashton yelled and knelt by his best friend. Ash looked up at Erik, and his eyes grew wide. “Erik! You’re on fire… and you’re… floating!”
Erik looked down at himself, and his own eyes widened in shock and fear. Ashton was right. His entire body was engulfed in flames, and he was floating a foot off of the ground.
Coming Soon: Episode 6 – A Firefly and a Pocket Watch