Authors: Kashif Ross
I can hear how much fun my classmates are having, running through the halls. I wonder if I would feel better if I just took a peek in the classroom once and released a single scream.
So I dash down the hallway. I should probably wait in the room, but a minute can’t hurt. The faster I run down the corridor, the more thrilled I become. Before I reach the classroom, I find myself staring at one of professor Gonzales’ crossbred pets face-to-face, nose-to-nose.
The creature is both gorilla and wolf. Using the element of surprise, I punch the wolf’s face hard enough to break his jaw.
“Now you can’t bite me,” I mock. The beast responds by releasing its claws. I had that coming.
It swings twice, cutting my armor. For a second, we’re both distracted by the glow from my gear.
This time, the gorilla-wolf responds first and swings again. At that moment, I feel the armor harden enough to hardly take in a scratch.
The barcodes on my spine glow underneath my bandages and I kick him in his man parts. Bet he didn’t think I’d go there on an animal.
As the beast screams, I snap its neck. Then, I continue my sprint towards Professor Gonzales’ classroom. Before I can even open the door, I see blood splattered on a wall with a demigod friend of Wesley’s next to it.
“Looks like you’ll live,” I say to the freshman as he reaches towards me.
Though the student’s injuries seem bad, I’m concerned about my friends. Once I open the doors, I see an all-out battlefield. A few Apes are crouched over their friends, screaming and crying. Both demigod and god level students are being backed into a corner by some of Gonzales’ more advanced creatures.
Though the room appears well lit to me, it seems they were ambushed by monsters that can see in the dark. Because none of our classmates have weapons, they’re at a huge disadvantage.
I notice a few students using their tattoos to sense where the animals are coming from. Selena’s curled in a corner using her ears to dodge attacks. She’s my first priority because the pretty girl’s too bewildered to fight.
I sneak into the dark room and take out the creatures one-by-one until I make it to Selena. I lead her towards the larger group.
With Selena trailing behind me, I approach several animals and beat them until they’re unconscious or dead. My suit develops gloves with heavy brass knuckles, which possess an electrical charge to stun the animals. I’m damn impressed and ready to see what else it’ll do.
Eventually, I make my way to the final four that are surrounding my friends. However, before I can reach them, Selena trips over a dead creature and falls flat on her face. The four beasts spin around and stare me down. A twin headed dog barks loudly as the others surround me.
Either a short giraffe or tall ostrich head-butts me into a wall.
As I recover, a tiger-zebra charges with its fangs bearing. I’m almost bitten because I spend too much time thinking about what he’ll taste like.
Snapping at my audience of friends, I shout, “Take the raccoon, hawk, bird-thingy flying around out first.”
Wesley throws Kyle into the air, who wrestles it into a cage. They’re much better than me. I’m well aware that we’ll have to pay for killing the demon-woman’s animals, but I’ll take that any day over having one bite me.
I start screaming when something grabs my leg, “Is that a snake? Is it a snake? Wes, is it a snake?”
“No it’s a...” he stops to think about it.
“Is it a snake?”
“No it’s part ostrich and giraffe, dude.” He sounds as confused as I was when it first hit me.
With my phobia out of the way, I grab the giraffe by the throat and choke it until Hannah swoops in and binds its legs. I plan on breaking the neck until it drops me. Lucky for the beast, Wesley drags it into a cage.
The wannabe Cerberus walks into its prison on its own, shutting the cell behind him. Then, we gang up on the tiger-zebra that tries to bite me again. This time, I smack it once in the eye with the brass knuckles. Once more, Wesley throws it into a cage.
After a bit of searching, we find the lights. I scream, “Snake,” while jumping into Wesley’s arms.
A garden snake slithers on the ground.
“I got it!” Yukio shouts with his pinky finger dug deep in his nose. We laugh after the snake roars like a lion. The injured Apes don’t seem to understand how we’re actually having fun.
I check for injuries. Kyle’s the only god that seems to need immediate care. He’s bleeding from his waist pretty badly. “Man, I’m getting blood on my new armor.”
“Washes right off,” I reply.
Hannah asks, “Spencer. How did you make your armor give out that weird red light?”
Yukio agrees. “Yeah. I couldn’t see anything until you walked up. I mean it wasn’t that bright, but it was better than nothing.”
Shrugging my shoulders, I reply, “I don’t know.” I hear something rattling over our heads, but I take a few seconds to inspect Hannah’s injuries. She flirtatiously slaps my hand before thanking me.
Leo jumps out of a cage suspended from the ceiling saying, “It’s really difficult to explain, but let’s just say the suit becomes a night light in large spaces.”
Kyle clinches his fist and barks, “You mean if you weren’t hiding in a cage, we would’ve been able to see?”
“No. I didn’t add that feature to my suit yet. I still have to put mine up to Spencer’s level. Don’t hit me please.”
Hannah and Yukio giggle. Wesley’s too tired to join them. He’s never one to pass an opportunity to laugh. With this being his first time facing Gonzales’ creatures, I understand his fears.
Observing all of the Apes fallen victim to the attacks, my eyes glance past the door quickly enough to see dreadlocks blowing in the wind. I hear a scream echoing from the opposite direction. Though it’s a loud screech, I swear the person is calling my name.
My heart tremors wearily, and my tattoos throb lightly. Closing my eyes, I’m able to sense every presence in the room, and down the hallway. My tattoo recognizes a code that my body is intimately connected to. Without hesitation, my legs rush forward to save her.
I shout for the others to get the injured to the hospital and make sure the cages are locked before I run out of the massive room. My personality change seems to have frightened the others enough to respond quickly because I sense them clearing the room rapidly.
With my arms pumping and my heart throbbing, my legs race destructively towards her with tears threatening to blur my vision. Slapping myself in the face, I hasten my already brutal dash towards the classroom where I should have stayed.
A few steps away from the room, I see two behemoths—the strongest monsters Professor Gonzales is allowed to bring to campus. These creatures are so terrifying, they’re not allowed on the first floor. Behemoths live in prisons near the Apes, but these two have found their way downstairs on Kode’s first day of school. What a coincidence.
Gonzales’ behemoths were purposely bred to resemble the mystical monsters described in most textbooks. The one nearest Michelle is blue and the one now facing me is red.
My blood frantically ignites as I notice Michelle is holding her left arm. In spite of the pressure she applies, she’s bleeding excessively. I want to get to her, but the beasts obviously want to keep us apart until the blue creature finishes her off.
“Hey blue-boy,” I shout, well aware that Professor Gonzales teaches her creatures to understand English. “What’s wrong? You’re letting Red over here do all the work for you? I was expecting to fight the stronger of you two. I’m so disappointed.”
The blue behemoth walks towards me, but the red bull-looking creature stares at him as if to say,
Nuh-uh I’m stronger.
They fight until, against my wishes, Michelle tries to sneak in to slay one.
Her lions flash a bright pink as she tries to land a kick in the red behemoth’s ribs. His partner notices the leg flying from the corner of his eye, and he punches her before she can connect.
Michelle tumbles backwards, flipping on her head and rolling on her shoulders. She tries to distance herself so she quickly stands to her feet and stumbles back a few yards before landing on her butt.
The red creature chases her down as the blue one blocks my path.
“Michelle! Jump.” Following my instructions instinctively, she bolts from the ground roughly.
Before I can finish my command, blue-boy charges me rapaciously. With my barcodes ablaze, I tackle the beast while pushing him towards his buddy. Michelle reaches the height of the fifty-foot door before making a decent. I speed things up, smashing blue-boy into Red, until we’re all crammed against the wall behind the area I assume Michelle will land.
Instead of hitting the ground, she smashes her leg right between the eyes of the red monster. If it doesn’t kill him, he’ll pray for death in the morning. Once she’s on the ground, I grab the horns of blue-boy and smash him into the floor.
Check me out. My armor evolved again. This time, my shoulder pads have expanded. My boots are wider and arm guards have stretched up to my elbows. The suit’s heavier, but I feel more stabilized.
Michelle holds onto my chest plate while trying her very best to restrain tears.
“It’s okay.” Normally, I couldn’t relate to someone’s fears and concerns, but I’m interwoven in her data. I finally understand. And for some strange reason, we’re sharing every trembling breath and shivering finger. She feared death. She wanted help. And that scream was only for me.
She’s more hurt emotionally than physically. Michelle’s a tough girl. She despises the vulnerability she suffers from being near me. Tears fill my eyes. She understands that I’m comfortable enough to show my weakness to her as well.
“Michelle,” I say gently, “You can trust me. Let it out.”
Stop resisting. Let go
Why do I want her trust so badly?
Michelle slowly ties her arms around my body before unleashing her pain. I do all in my power to apply pressure where the horn cut her arm as I carry her to the hospital.
I feel an indescribable sadness for her. Even with the nurses treating her wounds, she holds onto me, trembling in despair. Hannah watches fearfully for her friend while the nurses wrap her cut in bandages similar to mine. When I try putting her down, Hannah begs me to stop. Michelle’s frantic screaming is too much for her best friend to bear.
For the second night, I sleep in the hospital with Michelle. This time her best friend stays nearby.
Most students made it through their entire weekend without hearing a word from their parents, especially Kyle and Wesley. Even Michelle’s dad was more concerned about her safety than the actual breaking and entering. I, on the other hand, live with the chancellor of Colt Academy. Though he can hardly find time to greet me in the morning or congratulate me for saving students, there’s always a moment to spare for chastising.
But wait! There’s more.
On Monday, after the bloodied and beaten students were cleaned and sent back to school, except for three Apes still in the intensive care unit, my entire group of friends were reprimanded, yelled at, punished, and shunned. The worst part, we got the lecture of a lifetime from Professor Jules.
What’s worse than hearing adults talk for countless hours about responsibilities as though we didn’t know we were wrong?
Hannah nearly burst into tears after being spoken to firmly by the teachers, and Leo may dedicate his life to a monastery in reverence. The boys and I on the other hand, just wanted them to shut the hell up.
Why? Why do these carry on for so long?
Gods please give me community service, trash duty, or prison, but don’t have another professor lecture us today.
The one bonus about forth period is that it belongs to my grandad, and he doesn’t care about the creatures or Professor Gonzales’ pets. In fact, he only wants to know why we never told him about the event. He’d love to turn over one of her desks and write unsavory things on her projector.
Casey does his best to cheer us up, but after hearing the most boring professors on campus talk about responsibility and respecting each classroom, we’re not in the mood for laughter.
My grandad runs his fingers through his full set of blond hair. “Well, I’m sorry to see all of you bummed out.” Casey kicks his feet up and leans in his chair. “I guess I’ll just cancel class today. I want everyone to feel better.” The class cheers. A few people shake hands secretively. We knew Casey would make us feel better. “It’s such a shame though; I thought the gods would love having first choice of their weapons.”
I’m not sure who asks first or last but many of us echo, “What are you talking about?”
“You…You know, going to the dungeon? It only happens once every four years, but you’d all rather sit in here and chill out, right?”
“No,” half the class shouts in unison. Yukio and Leo don’t seem to agree with us, but most of the class contains third and fourth year students. We’ve waited long enough for this moment.
“Wait, so you all want to get weapons after everything you’ve been through?”
The class proudly clamors, “Yeah! Let’s go.”
“Okay. Pack your things for the dungeon.”
“Dungeon?” Leo asks while gripping tightly to his table.
Casey casually replies, “Yeah. No worries though. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I mean, it gets pretty hot. Oh. Some nasty creatures very rarely pop up, but if you were in last night’s mess, the animals down there don’t compare.”
“Creatures?” Yukio says while gripping the edge of his desk as well. “Like little lion roaring snakes, right?”
“Snakes?” I screech.
“No, I think they’re bigger than snakes, but if you don’t go too deep in, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Casey walks to the far end of the large black and white classroom. We slowly follow him, but Leo and Yukio trail behind the group. Casey kicks open one of the squares on the ground, and reveals a set of stairs leading to the dungeon.
The stairs are a spiral set of stone without railings.
“Also, watch out for some students I lost down here a few years ago. I haven’t had any guests since then. Hopefully, they’ll be peaceful.” Some of the students around me look spooked. “They’re not that bad. I mean they attack our security occasionally, but I’ll be on guard today, and I think they’re stuck pretty deep in anyway.”