After receiving the power to meta-morph, both Andrew and Mark must learn to harness their newfound powers.
Andrew wasn’t able to concentrate on his work that Thursday morning. All he wrote on his notebook was today’s date: 3/16/07. Andrew pondered about what Madam Renee said to him. His mind drowned out the History teacher’s voice. He wasn’t sure if she existed, if last night was a dream. Suddenly, a voice brought him back to his senses.
“Andrew!” the History teacher yelled. “If you want to sleep, sleep at home. Do it again and I’ll send you to detention.”
“Yes, Mr. Gigs,” Andrew replied, feeling embarrassed.
The class laughed as he sank further into his seat. The bell gonged. Soon, the hallway was flooded with students and faculty as first period ended.
Andrew headed straight for the gym. The gym was rather large, but still had that old moldy look to it. Long jagged cracks ran along the off-gray walls and the hardwood floors had dents in it. Andrew sighed as he went downstairs to the locker room.
The locker room was much worse. Leaky pipes ran along the cracked walls and the smell of sweat and soap filled the air. Even the concrete floor had seen better days.
Andrew opened his dark gray dented locker and began changing into his gym clothes. As he took off his blue collared shirt, one of Andrew’s classmates stopped behind of him and examined Andrew’s back. It was Josh.
“That tattoo is tight Andrew,” he said, trying to throw up gang signs at Andrew. “Wish I had the balls to do it.”
Josh Watts was an inch shorter than Mark with shaggy dark brown hair that would cover his deep dark brown eyes. His lean stature made him appear fragile. Josh wore blue shorts and a white t-shirt.
“Uh…thanks,” replied Andrew not knowing what he was talking about.
To Andrew, Josh was…special. Andrew ignored him and continued to change. Suddenly, Mark, wearing a green t-shirt and blueshorts, came downstairs with a nervous look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” Andrew asked putting on his black shorts.
“I have a tattoo of a panther on my back and I don’t know how it got there.”
“I have one too,” replied Andrew and whispered in a low voice, “I guess Madam Renee is real after all.”
“But still, how do you explain the tattoos on our backs? I know we weren’t drunk and went to a tattoo joint last night.”
“I don’t know,” Andrew said shrugging his shoulders.
“Alright ladies, it’s time to do some laps!” exclaimed the coach, who was standing a few feet behind of them.
Andrew could hear the enthusiastic moaning of his classmates as they walked onto the field. At least outside was warm. It was a perfect day for running, not that any of them wanted to run.
“I want you ladies to do four laps around the track in less than eight minutes,” said coach. “Begin now!”
It started off as a big blob of people running, but soon began to spread out. Mark and Andrew were in the middle running as fast as they could. They both began to wheeze, knowing they couldn’t catch up to the fast-paced runners. Even the chubby kid was slowly catching up to them. Their minds were filled with embarrassment as they soon realized they were trailing behind everyone.
If only I were faster, filled their thoughts as they felt like giving up.
Suddenly, their legs began moving faster. Their wheezing slowly disappeared, becoming more rhythmic. Time seem to slow down as they passed the slow runners and quickly approached the average runners. Seconds later, Mark and Andrew were ahead of the class. As they passed coach, he looked at his stopwatch and noticed that only a minute had passed. Soon, Mark and Andrew were on their fourth lap. They bent over, breathing hard as everyone finished their last lap. Everyone couldn’t believe how fast Mark and Andrew had become. Even coach was amazed.
“May I see you both for a moment?” coach asked, approaching Mark and Andrew.
“What’s up coach?” Andrew asked.
“Have you two thought about joining the track team?”
“C’mon coach, you know that Mark and I can’t run.”
“Did you know that you both clocked in at two minutes flat?”
Their eyes widened. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
“You’re joking, right?” Mark asked.
“I wish I was, but you boys should try out,” coach said. “With some practice, you boys can lead this school to Nationals.”
Andrew thought about the tattoo on his way home from school. He couldn’t believe that his tattoo gave him the chance to run track. Still, it seemed too good to be true. As he crossed the street, something in the air smelled off. His nose twitched as he sniffed the air. He detected a faint smell of cheap cologne and it was coming from a nearby alley. Andrew ran over there as fast as he could. Two guys in suits were coming out from the same alley. Andrew slowed down and walked passed them, trying not to show any interest in what they were doing. From the glimpse Andrew got of them, they seemed pleased as they wiped their hands in a handkerchief from their back pockets. They left. Andrew immediately went into the alley. Even though the light grew dim, he was able to see where he was going. Suddenly, Andrew saw a teenage boy, about his age, dead on the floor with a bloody streak on the alley wall behind him. His body was covered with multiple stab wounds to the chest, his eyes were rolled back, and his tongue was cut off. Blood leaked from his mouth and dripped slowly onto his ice blue t-shirt. Andrew didn’t know the boy’s story, but it looked like he was a hustler, like the rest of the poorer kids in the Bronx. He stared at the body with clenched fists. His fist pounded the wall as everything Madam Renee told him became clear.
Friday was a boring day, especially in Mr. Smith’s Algebra class. The guy sounded and looked like Ben Steiner. Andrew couldn’t listen to him as he talked about inverse functions. All he could hear was “blah-blah-blah.” Andrew covertly yawned as he mindlessly stared at Mr. Smith. Sometimes he wished he were in another class. The bell rang for dismissal. Andrew immediately ran out the door before everyone, leaping for joy.
As he exchanged books in his locker, Mark walked up to Andrew with a grin on his face.
“What are you so happy about?” Andrew asked looking at him strangely.
“I saw the girl today, dawg,” he answered shaking Andrew’s shoulders. “I was walking to the bathroom when I saw her in her Art class, painting a picture of a cat. I think her name is Tracy.”
“That’s nice. Can we go now? I need to go to the store to get some milk for mom.”
As they walked down Baychester Ave, the warm March weather kicked in. Mark and Andrew’s backs were filled with sweat as their bookbags clung to them. Mark continued to talk about the Tracy-girl while Andrew ignored him, watching people and cars go by.They approached a small park with a metal slide and monkey bars on the grassy field. Something was off.
“Hey, you listening to me?” asked Mark angrily.
Andrew stretched his arm out, blocking Mark. Andrew wasn’t familiar with this area, but he knew kids would be outside playing. Something caught his eye. He signaled Mark to look left. Mark looked and saw four thugs dressed in sweat-clothes, bothering a small kid in the park.
The kid looked like he was in elementary school and wore black jeans, a white t-shirt and a Sixers jersey over it. He had very short brown hair, large dark brown eyes, and a round face.
It seemed those guys were after the kid’s money. Mark looked at Andrew with a “don’t make me do this” look. Andrew looked back at Mark, giving him the puppy dog stare. Mark knew he couldn’t resist that look. He sighed, praying they would make it out alive. Quickly, Mark and Andrew ran across the street.
“Hey dawg, leave the kid alone,” said Mark to the thugs.
The thugs turned around simultaneously. They stared down Mark and Andrew with evil eyes. Mark gulped as he stepped back.
“Wanna start something, runt?” the leader asked.
Mark nervously showed his fists. “Let the kid go.”
“Looks like we got to teach these runts a lesson or two,” said the leader and then snapped his fingers signaling his men to fight them.
Mark and Andrew stood with their fists ready. Mark’s legs trembled as two guys came towards his right. He dodged, rolling onto the ground. He felt a hand grab his shoulder as he was hoisted up. A blow came to his stomach. Mark fell to his knees and began coughing up blood.Andrew rushed over to help, but felt a blow to the cheek, knocking him sideways. He regained his balance. Andrew spat into the ground. His green eyes burned with determination as he stared at them. He charged towards the thugs. He swung wildly, trying to connect to one of their bodies. Mark watched in horror as Andrew was being tossed around like a beach ball. Andrew collapsed, battered and bruised. His body twitched and ached with pain. The thugs surrounded him. Their evil grins were all he could see as they cracked their knuckles. Their leader grinned with glee as both Mark and Andrew were going to meet their demise.
Can’t let it end like this. Damn, if only I was stronger, Mark thought, trying to summon the strength to move.
He slowly rose to his feet, clenching his stomach. Suddenly, his back began to burn, with the imprint of his animal spirit glowing brightly. The thugs stopped and quickly looked at Mark. Confused and intrigued, they approached Mark. With unprecedented speed, Mark charged at the thugs, knocking them down one-by-one. Blows to their face, chest and stomach came at all angles. One felt a powerful blow to his chin, knocking himbackwards. Andrew watched in amazement as Mark’s jabs and kicks connected fluently.The ground rumbled as each thug’s face met the hot cracked concrete. The leader’s eyes widened as his men were on the ground moaning and groaning in pain.
“What the…?” the leader managed to say.
“Let the kid go or I might pound your face into the ground,” Mark said cracking his knuckles.
Without hesitation, the leader handed the kid over to Mark, helped up his comrades and then ran off. Mark walked over towards Andrew and helped him up. He could see the huge gash on Andrew’s forehead and left cheek.
“I never thought I would actually beat them,” said Mark sarcastically and then chuckled. “Your mom’s gonna flip when she sees you.”
“Shut up,” Andrew replied angrily.
He wobbled as he got up. Mark stood by him, giving him support. Andrew clenched his right arm as he slowly approached the kid.
“You a’ight, kid?” he asked looking at the boy.
The kid nodded. “Thanks for your help. Next time, don’t swing so wildly. You’ll leave too many openings.”
Andrew’s heart sank. A mere kid was giving him fighting advice, after he risked himself to save him. He hung his head low and kept his eyes on the ground. Mark smiled and told the kid to hurry home. The kid smiled and waved goodbye. They watched as the kid left the park and went down Baychester Ave.
“Cheer up, Drew,” said Mark, patting Andrew’s back. “You did your best.”
“Easy for you to say,” replied Andrew grumpily. “You’re the one who sent those thugs running. And you were able to harness your powers. I still can’t do that.”
“Hey, I don’t know how I did it. All I know, I just wanted to save you and the kid. And the next thing I knew, I was Bruce Lee on speed. Kinda felt cool. Now I know how Superman feels.”
Andrew limped away, giving him the cold shoulder. Mark ran after Andrew and apologized. Andrew was reluctant, but soon forgave him. Together, they headed for the general store a few blocks down from the park. Andrew got a few stares as he searched for the milk and bandages. One child boldly walked up to him and asked if he was okay. Andrew knelt down and smiled at the child, patting his head.
As an apology, Mark bought the milk and bandages. Theywalked out of the store, heading for home. The sun began to hide behind the apartment buildings. Andrew looked up at the sky as the red mixed in with the blue and a few stars twinkled brightly. With each passing minute, the blue slowly engulfed the red and moon’s face began to poke out. Andrew smiled, for it was the most beautiful paintings God could have ever created. What a way to end the day.