Episode 6 – A Firefly and a Pocket Watch
The black van pulled into the Newville Community Credit Union’s rear parking lot, and the driver parked far away from the other cars. Carl Chambers shook his head, his golden mane flying wildly around his face. He glanced into the rearview mirror at Danielle Gordon, sprawled out on the middle seat of the van. “That was interesting. Even everyday things like driving will take some getting used to with our new bodies.”
“Yeah. We’ll have to customize everything. I can’t even sit properly with this tail. Some of us won’t be able to move around in public without attracting attention.”
Carl looked thoughtful. “You’re right. Especially once we begin our plans, we will have to find a new headquarters. Somewhere secret. They would find us at the union hall. We’ll move the meteorite and anything else important out of there tonight.”
“You ready for this, Carl? We’ve mugged people, robbed gas stations, and other small stuff, but this is big.” Dani pointed at the bank.
“I’ve been ready for this for years. Let our reign of terror begin.” Carl threw his head back and roared.
The lion and the scorpion walked through the credit union’s front doors, and everyone stopped and stared. One of the security guards sauntered over with a smirk on his face. “Y’all can’t come into a bank wearing those silly costumes. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Dani sneered at the guard. “Silly costumes? How dare you address the Zodiac Club in such a bold manner!” Dani’s tail swung around and hit the guard square in the chest, sending him flying backward out of the front window. He landed on the sidewalk in a shower of broken glass. The second guard barely had a chance to move before Carl grabbed him and threw him through the window to join his partner on the sidewalk.
Carl looked around the bank. He pointed at the customers with one big furry paw. “All of you get on the floor facedown, and you just might live to see another day.”
As the customers laid on the floor, Dani walked up to the closest bank teller and set a pile of bags on the counter. “Hello. My name is Scorpia. My friend Leo and I represent the Zodiac Club, and we would like to make a withdrawal from your bank today. Fill up all these bags, and don’t try anything heroic. I don’t want to kill you, but I will.” To emphasize her point, Scorpia smashed her tail down onto a nearby desk, splintering it into kindling. The bank tellers quickly got to work filling the bags.
Gavin slammed the front door shut and locked it. He turned to his brother, “Logan, go to the family room. Stay away from the windows. We don’t know if that thing followed us. Hell. it might be able to track us!”
“That was scary, Gav, but you were awesome!” Logan said as he walked into the family room.
“I… I’m not sure what I was or what happened.” He looked down at his hands, which were still covered with a light frost. Gavin wiped his hands on his jeans to try and dry them off. He sat on the couch and picked up the remote. “Let’s watch the news and see if there are any reports of other creatures like the one that we saw.”
“Wow,” Logan said in awe as they watched short homemade video clips play on the television. “If we didn’t see what we saw, I’d think the footage of that minotaur was fake news!”
“Looks like the army is setting up checkpoints all over town. We should try and get in touch with dad and find out what’s up.”
“Ok. You text dad, and I’ll text Harvs. If the high school hasn’t closed yet, it will soon.”
Grace paced back and forth in front of the entrance to Justyce Labs, peering through the windows. She saw no signs of movement, and Caleb had not answered any calls or texts. She didn’t want to drive back home yet, so she decided to go for a walk while she waited to hear from her friend. She was close to the high school, so she decided to explore in that direction. Bryson had told her that he had seen fires near the high school last night. Maybe Grace could find a large piece of this meteor that was causing all of these problems.
The only unusual thing that Grace saw at the high school was that it was deserted. The school must have let out early today. She wondered if that was related to all the strange events going on. It had to be. She kept walking past the school but stopped short when she reached the baseball field. There were scorched patches of grass all over the area and a sizable crater right where the pitcher’s mound should be. Grace opened the gate and walked onto the field.
Grace didn’t see any evidence of blue stones near any of the scorched patches of grass around the field. Finally, she made her way to the crater. She guessed that someone else must have removed the meteor that caused the hole, but she didn’t see any tracks anywhere near the field. Grace knelt down and examined the indentation at the center of the crater. That’s odd, she thought. It looks more like the outline of a body than the shape of a rock.
As Grace stood up, she never noticed the other shadow that merged with her own. Just before she reached the top of the crater, Grace felt a cold chill run up and down her whole body. She shivered and rubbed her arms. Grace stepped into the sunlight and never gave the weird feeling a second thought.
Logan wandered into the kitchen, looking for his brother. “Hey, Gav, Harvey still isn’t answering texts. I even tried calling, but it went to voicemail.”
Gavin gulped down the rest of his Mountain Dew and frowned. “I saw on the news that the high school closed and sent everyone home. He should be here by now.”
“Any news from dad?”
“Yes, but just vague stuff. He won’t be home tonight. Don’t worry. Don’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary.” Gavin shrugged. “He’s probably not saying anything specific in case the army monitors his phone.”
“Should we be worried about Harvey?”
“If he’s not home in another half hour, we will go looking for him. In the meantime, keep texting him. Hopefully, he’ll answer soon.”
“Got it.” Logan wandered back into the family room to watch the news for more updates about the strange events taking place all over town. At the same time, he continued to text his younger brother.
Oliver Mills was having a dreadful day. His girlfriend left him. His landlord was nagging him about his late rent. His car wouldn’t start. He missed the bus. Now, he’s walking to his job interview and running almost a half-hour late. He was about to ask himself what else could possibly go wrong today when he heard the screaming. Great. Someone is robbing the credit union. Ollie ran across the street and hid in a clump of bushes. He peered out just in time to see two security guards flying backyards out of the credit union front windows. Ollie knew he should run in the opposite direction, but curiosity got the better of him.
There were more screams from within the bank, and then Ollie saw something that he couldn’t believe. A lady with a scorpion tail and a lion-like creature standing on two legs came out the credit union’s front doors carrying large duffel bags, presumably filled with money. Ollie took a step back, to hide within the bushes, and his foot slipped on a metal object. He knelt to look at whatever he almost tripped over. He dug it out of the dirt and brushed it off. It was an old pocket watch. Ollie doubted if it would even still work. He opened the front case and cleaned the glass face. The time looked right. He checked his phone, and sure enough, the watch’s time was exact.
He pulled the crown to check if he could still set the time if needed. The watch looked antique. Maybe it was worth something if it still worked perfectly. He was about to push the crown back in when he noticed something odd, well something else odd. Everything today was weird, but this was extra odd. A butterfly hung in the air right in front of him, just floating there, not moving. He looked up and glanced around him. He could move, but nothing else moved. He peered through the bushes. Even the monsters stood frozen in place. He absentmindedly clicked the crown of the pocket watch back in place. Everything roared back to life.
Caleb didn’t even bother knocking when he got to Christine’s house. He was too excited to see this boy she told him about. He rushed into the kitchen and found his sister sitting at the table drinking tea. “Where is he? You didn’t let him leave, did you?”
“No. Of course, he’s still here. He’s finally awake. He is in the living room. I turned the tv on and made him a couple of sandwiches. I don’t know if he’ll talk to you, but you can try. He doesn’t seem to remember what happened to him.”
“What about the wounds on his back? You said his blood is blue and glowing?”
“Yes, and he’s healing remarkably fast. The cuts were open and raw last night. Now, they look like they’ve been healing for a week!”
“Amazing! Let me go talk to him.” Caleb said and rushed out of the room.
Caleb crept into the living room and stopped just inside the doorway, his breath catching in his throat. At first glance, the scene could have been mistaken for millions of similar scenes worldwide. A teenage boy was sprawled on the couch watching tv while practically inhaling sandwiches and potato chips. Then Caleb noticed the boy’s eyes. He had the brightest blue eyes that Caleb had ever seen, but that wasn’t what caught Caleb’s attention. The boy’s eyes weren’t exactly glowing, but they were shining in the dim light. It reminded Caleb of how a cat’s eyes reflected low light allowing them to see in the dark. The boy turned his head and looked directly at Caleb. A momentary jolt of fear shot through Caleb, but when the boy smiled, Caleb knew right away that there was not one evil bone in that boy’s body. Caleb slowly moved further into the room. He didn’t want to spook the boy. Finally, he reached the opposite end of the couch, and tentatively sat down.
The trauma surgeon stormed up to the Emergency Room Nurse’s Station and slammed his fist down on the counter. “What happened to my patient. The guy with the two crushed legs. I expected him in my operating room fifteen minutes ago, and now I find out that he isn’t even in the hospital anymore! Why wasn’t I updated! Where did he go?”
The nurse took a deep breath before answering the angry surgeon. “Please do not yell at me or any of the nurses, Dr. Jackson. All I know is that two men in lab coats came in with paperwork from hospital administration. It that gave them permission to transfer your patient and the other guy that came in at the same time.”
“Where did they take them? They were in no condition to be moved.” The doctor said wonderingly.
“I’ll check the records and see if I can find out.” The nurse replied. She hit some buttons on the computer, clicked away with the mouse for a few minutes, and then looked back at Dr. Jackson. “Looks like they were transferred to Justyce Labs. That’s weird, isn’t it, doctor?”
“Very. There’s nothing we can do about, though. Caleb Justyce donates more money to this hospital than all the rest of the donors combined. I don’t know what he plans on doing with those two young men, but the hospital would never say no to him.” The doctor scowled and left the nurse’s station.
Erik nearly screamed, and he started beating at his body with his hands to try and extinguish the bright yellow flames. “What the hell? Why am I on fire, and why am I floating?”
cancer sneered and stepped closer to Ash and Harvey. “While your fiery friend is beating himself up, I’ll take care of the two of you. I can sense the blue stones. Give them to me, or the consequences will be severe.”
Ashton pulled Harvey’s unconscious body further away from the crab creature, then stood up between his friend and the terrifying monster. “You’re not getting the stones, and you’re not getting to my friends without a fight!”
“Ash! Duck!” Erik yelled.
Ash looked behind him and saw Erik with his arms out in front of him and a look of intense concentration on his face. Ash didn’t hesitate a moment longer. He dove on top of Harvey to protect him from whatever was about to happen. Just as he dove, Ash felt a searing heat above him. He looked up and saw a stream of yellow fire emitting from Erik’s hands and striking Cancer directly in the chest.
When the flames stopped, Cancer ripped his burned shirt off and threw it on the ground. “That hurt, boy, but I’m still standing. What else you got?” Cancer said, taking a step toward Erik.
“Damn! Those flames were hot, but they’re too light and airy. I wonder if I can adjust the heat levels?” Erik mumbled to himself. He was keeping an eye on the advancing crab creature and tried to take a step backward. He was still floating, so he lost his sense of balance and nearly did a summersault in mid-air when he stepped back. Erik growled and concentrated on regaining his balance. Once he was upright again, he threw another stream of fire at Cancer.
The crab slowed his advance. “That’s annoying, boy, but you’re going to have to do better.”
Erik clenched his fists and closed his eyes in concentration. He pictured himself creating a massive ball of fire to throw at Cancer. Erik felt himself fall, and his feet hit the ground. He stumbled, but he stayed upright. When Erik opened his eyes, the flames covering his body had changed from a bright yellow to dark orange, almost reddish color. Also, he was holding a giant ball of fire. Erik threw the fireball as hard as he could. It hit Cancer with a thud, knocking him off his feet and sending him twenty feet backward.
Erik glanced over at Ashton. “Get Harvey out of here and help the others down in the park if you can. I got this.”
Harvey was awake now. Ash helped him get groggily to his feet, and the two friends disappeared into the trees heading toward the main section of the park.
When Ash and Harvey cleared the tree line and looked down into the park, the centaur was still firing arrows at people as they tried to run away. Ashton put a hand on Harvey’s arm. “I’ll be right back. Let me go and help these people.”
“I can help. Just let me clear my head. I’m still a bit dizzy.”
“Sit down, Harvs. I’ll be right back.” Ashton said and was gone in the blink of an eye. Harvey looked around and then spotted Ash fifty yards away, knocking an arrow out of mid-air and helping a lady escape into the trees. Harvey couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His best friend was a bonafide superhero! He took out his cellphone and started taking pics and videos of the action.
“Hello. My name is Caleb. My sister,” Caleb motioned toward the kitchen, “said that you’ve been hurt. What is your name? Can you tell me what happened to you?”
“I…” The boy got a look of intense concentration on his face. “I think my name is Obadiah, but I am not sure. I can’t remember much of anything before last night.”
“That’s ok, Obadiah. Take it slow. How did you end up here at my sister’s house? Do you live nearby?”
“I woke up in the middle of a field. It was raining, and everything around me was burning. My back hurt. A lot. The only light that I saw led me here.”
“Can I see your back, Obadiah? I promise I won’t hurt you.”
Obadiah frowned, but he turned his back toward Caleb and gently lifted his shirt. Caleb’s eyes widened, and he nearly gasped. The wounds were still raw, but they looked like wounds that had been healing for days, not overnight. Glowing blue blood still oozed from several spots, but the wounds had mostly scabbed over. Caleb sat back and looked intently at Obadiah.
“I know that you don’t know me, and there’s no reason at all for you to trust me, but I would like for you to come to stay with me at my laboratory. I’m a research scientist, and I think that I can help you. If you went to a regular hospital, they wouldn’t know what to do. Hell, they’d probably ship you off to the army base, and no one would ever see you again.”
“No! I won’t be locked away by the soldiers!” Obie looked directly into Caleb’s eyes. “I think I can trust you. I will go to your lab.”
“Do you remember anything at all from before you woke up in the field, Obadiah?”
Obie thought really hard. “I was falling. IT felt like I fell forever. I think I was falling away from people who hurt me, but I was also falling toward someone. Logan! I was falling toward someone named Logan. Caleb, I will go with you, but only if you help me find Logan.”
Caleb nodded. “Of course, I will. Maybe Logan will know more about who you are and where you come from.”
“Thank you.” Obadiah stood up. “I am ready to go with you now.”
Caleb said goodbye to his sister and led Obie out to his car. Caleb glanced at his phone and saw about a dozen missed calls and texts from Grace Santos. After listening to and reading the messages, he pulled his car out onto the street and sped off toward Justyce Labs.
Cancer got up and charged at Erik. Erik tried to form another fireball, but the crab was on top of him before he could get one ready. Just before Cancer reached him, Erik tried to float up into the air, but he couldn’t get off the ground. Cancer struck Erik right in the midsection, and the two tumbled to the ground. Cancer knelt on Erik’s chest and raised his claw above his head, ready to strike. Erik raised both hands and shot a small fireball right into the crab’s face. Cancer rolled off of Erik, and Erik leaped to his feet. He willed his flames to get hotter again. His whole body glowed with yellow fire, and he rose off the ground. That was the key. The orange and red fire was heavier and better used for fireballs, and the yellow fire was hotter and lighter and perfect for flight. Erik was starting to figure out his power. He wondered to himself what else he could do. He’d have to do some experimenting when he wasn’t fighting for his life!
Now gaining a little control over his own body, Erik fired some shots of the yellow fire at Cancer, making the crab yelp in pain and roar in anger. Erik knew that he couldn’t defeat the monster this way, but he tried to lure the creature away from his friends and the innocent bystanders in the park. Erik led Cancer to the east, away from the high school and toward the docks.
Down by the lake, Ashton was busy dodging arrows and carrying people out of harm’s way. His confidence grew with each person he saved. Unfortunately, with overconfidence comes complacency. Ash failed to notice Sagittarius leap up on top of the boathouse to gain a broader range for her arrows. Ash set a small boy down inside the tree line and turned back toward the lake. Before he could move out of the way, Ash was struck in the left shoulder with an arrow. The force of the blow caused him to stumble, and then another arrow imbedded itself into his right thigh. Ash fell to the ground moaning in pain.
Harvey saw the scene unfolding right in front of him, but he couldn’t do anything to stop it. He yelled for Ash to turn around, but his friend was too far away and couldn’t hear him. Harvey stood up, sliding his phone into his pocket, and ran as fast as he could across the park. He reached Ashton’s side just as the other boy fell to the ground. Harvey looked up at the centaur, standing on top of the boathouse. “Leave my friend alone! What do you want? Why are you doing this?” Harvey barely noticed that his entire body felt like it was tingling, and blue electric sparks were running back and forth between his fingertips.
“I’m here for the blue stones and to kill anyone who has them. I will also kill anyone who stands in my way. That means your friend must die, and you too by the looks of things.” The centaur said as she notched another arrow into her bow.
“I won’t let you kill him,” Harvey said. As Harvey’s anger rose, the electrical sparks multiplied and were arcing in the air all around him. Harvey looked at himself in wonder, not understanding what was happening. Harvey didn’t even notice as Sagittarius let loose the arrow and let it fly directly as his chest.
Ollie scowled. No. It couldn’t be. It’s not possible. He pulled the crown back out, everything froze in place. No way. He thought to himself, “If giant scorpions and lion-minotaurs are real, why not magic pocket watches that stop time?” He looked down and at the watch and back up at the scene in front of the bank. He spun the hands of the watch forward. Everyone moved forward at the same pace at which he moved the hands of the watch. They all stopped again when he stopped moving the hands.
Ollie noticed that, forward in time, the scorpion lady drove her stinger into one of the security guards’ chest. He stepped out from his hiding spot and twisted the hands in reverse. He watched as the tail pulled out of the guard’s body, and the wound closed. Even the clothes knitted back together. Oliver Mills realized that he was now in full control of time.
Ollie thought about his day and decided to take fate into his own hands. Luck and fortune had spit in his face for years. This changed everything. He left the crown, pulled out, and slipped it into his pocket. The first thing he did was pull the security guard out of the range of the scorpion’s tail. There, that was his good deed for the day. Now it was time for him to take care of himself. He found a pick-up truck parked on the street, the driver frozen in place just outside the truck. Ollie took the keys from the driver’s pocket and pulled the man onto the sidewalk. Then he went back to the front of the bank. One at a time, he took the duffel bags from the monsters, emptied them into the cab of the truck, and returned them full of rocks.
Ollie sat in the truck and then took the watch out and pushed the crown in. He started the truck and drove off. He was gone before the owner of the truck realized what happened. He never looked back, or he would have seen the scorpion strike the sidewalk full force with its stinger and yell in rage and pain.
Erik was still leading Cancer around the edge of the park when he caught a whiff of ozone in the air. “That’s weird.” He thought. “There’s not a cloud in the sky, much less a thunderstorm.” He shot another fireball at the crab and floated higher into the sky to have a look around. He looked toward the lake and spotted the female centaur on top of the boathouse. She had her bow raised. Erik looked to see what she was aiming at and saw his two friends. Ashton was on the ground, and Harvey was standing in between him and the centaur. Erik saw that Harvey was the source of the ozone smell. Blue electric sparks were dancing all around Harvey as he stood defensively in front of Ash. Erik noticed that Harvey was not making a move to get out of the way of the arrow, so he turned toward his friends and flew as fast as he could, shooting flames out in front of him the whole way there.
Harvey felt the heat before he saw the fire. He looked up in time to see a flaming arrow disintegrating on its way toward him. Then Erik was landing next to Harvey, covered in bright yellow fire. The centaur cursed and reached for a new arrow, but Erik let loose another stream of fire. Sagittarius reared up to get away from the flames, causing her to lose her balance. She fell to the ground but quickly got to her feet. Sagittarius reached for her bow, but it was ablaze on the ground near the boathouse.
Cancer ran up, slightly out of breath, to stand next to Sagittarius. “You can’t beat us! The Zodiac Club will destroy you all!”
“Just watch me!” Erik said, his eyes glowing white. Erik floated even higher in the air as his flames got even brighter and hotter. The yellow flames first turned bright white then started to become tinged with a blue light. Cancer first covered his eyes, then gave up and jumped on Sagittarius’ back, and the two galloped off into the distance as fast as they could.
Ash and Harvey also had to back away from Erik. The intense heat drove them back, and they shielded their eyes from the bright light. Both boys were yelling as loud as possible, trying to let Erik know that the monsters were gone. He didn’t seem to hear them. Erik’s flames just kept getting brighter and hotter.
Ash looked at Harvey. “What will happen if he can’t stop heating up, Harvs?”
“I don’t know, Ash. I just don’t know.”
A voice from behind them startled the boys. It was Bryson Indiana. “Harvey? Ashton? What is going on? Is… is that Erik Reilly?”
“Yeah,” Harvey said quickly. “He can’t hear us. We were under attack by monsters, but they are gone now. We’re trying to tell him that he can relax and cool down, but he won’t listen! Can you help us?”
“Let me try,” Bryson said. He knelt down and closed his eyes. Bryson tried to focus on his newfound powers. He sent calming thoughts out toward Erik to connect with his friend.
Erik’s mind was awash in flames. He couldn’t find his way out. He frantically tried to regain control, but everything just kept getting hotter and hotter. Then a familiar voice called out to him. It was Bryson. Erik closed his eyes and let Bryson’s voice guide him out of the flames.
Coming Soon: Episode 7 – Puzzle Pieces