February 2016



Kryptonite

By: Matthew Shuirman

Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him!The hymn of two hundred bloodthirsty teens echoed throughout the abandoned rock quarry and up into the night sky. “Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him!Gavin and Ayn, leaning against the side of Gavin’s Jeep Wrangler, silently watched the fight from up on the fourth tier. “Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him!

The teenagers had turned the rock quarry into a coliseum. The four ten-foot tall steps cut into the rock served as their oversized stadium seats, and the bottom of the quarry had become the arena floor. Someone with fire abilities had lined the rock walls of the bottom of the quarry with flames, which filled the entire arena with a shifting orange glow.

Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him!

The third fight of the night was nearing a close. The brawl had been between Blake ‘The Hulk’ Bennet and Harry ‘Snowball’ Sheer. Harry put up a good fight, but in the end his ice powers proved no match for Blake’s super strength. Blake had Harry pinned against a boulder, and everyone knew Harry’s end was near. Blake’s hand was wrapped around Harry’s throat. He raised his other hand in the air and motioned for the crowd to make more noise. They obliged, chanting “Fin-ish him! Fin-ish him!with redoubled enthusiasm.

Satisfied with the crowd’s support, Blake palmed Harry’s head and smashed it into the boulder with all his super strength. Harry’s head exploded like a squashed watermelon.

The teenagers roared with delight.

Blake let Harry’s body slump to the ground. He beat his fists against his bare, blood-splattered chest as the crowd showered him with
praise. Throwing his head back, he howled at the moon.

Ayn trembled inside Gavin’s oversized sweatshirt. She closed her eyes in a vain attempt to shut the gory scene out of her mind. Gavin elbowed the side of her arm. “You’re up next,” he teased.

That marks the third win for The Hulk,Lazarus announced over his bullhorn. “The fourth challenger of the night will be Ayn Williams, with the power of super speed. The next fight will begin in ten minutes. Ayn, please make your way down to the Preparation Table on the second tier.

Gavin put two fingers on Ayn’s chin and turned her head towards him. Ayn opened her eyes. “Hey,” Gavin said with an encouraging
smile. “Hey, why the long face? You’ve got this, Ayn. You can literally run circles around this guy.”

He’s...” Ayn got choked up, and the words caught in her
throat. She looked down at the arena floor. Blake was still celebrating his victory. “He’s going to
crush me. You spent all your savings to pay for my entry fee. If I...If I don’t win this, we’ll never make enough money to get out of this town.”
Gavin stroked her cheek. “Look at me. You
will win. And if you don’t, we’ll find a way. We always do.”
Ayn took off Gavin’s sweatshirt and handed it to him, exposing her arms to the cold air. The chill was invigorating. “I should probably head down to the Table.”

You’ve got this, Ayn. I believe in you.”

***

The Preparation Table was a folding plastic table covered with an assortment of melee weapons. It had everything from knives to a mace to even a samurai sword. Where the hell did Lazarus get all this shit? Ayn wondered. There were so many weapons that they were threatening to spill off the table.

Here,” said Lazarus’s servant. He was holding out a dark green Kryptonite tablet and a paper cup of water. “Take these.” Ayn took them. “Have you ever taken Kryptonite before?”

Once,” Ayn said. She popped the tablet in her mouth and downed it with the water. Not a fun experience.

Well, I’ll give you the rundown anyways. Your powers will kick in after only thirty seconds. You’ll feel a little lightheaded in the beginning. The new tablets also have anesthetics laced in...”

Do you ever wonder why they call it Kryptonite?” Ayn blabbed. The words came tumbling off her tongue unbidden. “I mean, I get that it’s from a comic book, and that it’s dark green and all that, but Kryptonite takes away Superman’s powers right? So when you think about it that way it’s a pretty shitty name for a drug that gives you super pow...”

The servant cleared his throat.

Ayn felt her cheeks flush. “Sorry. I start talking uncontrollably when I...when I’m nervous.”

Pick a weapon.”

After thinking through her options, Ayn chose a kitchen knife. It wasn’t the most menacing of the weapons on the table, not by a long shot, but she figured it would work well for her. The smaller the weapon, the more easily she could jab her opponent and then dash out of his reach.

The servant gestured with an open hand towards the ramp that lead down to the quarry floor. “The Quarry awaits you.”

The ramp, which was right next to the Preparation Table, was thirty feet long. Ayn’s legs took one step after another, descending. She felt the heat emanating from the unquenchable fires burning along the walls of the quarry floor.

Entering the Quarry floor now is Ayn ‘The Bullet’ Williams, who will be facing off against the undefeated Hulk. Everybody, give it up for The Bullet!
The crowd hollered and clapped for Ayn. The echoing applause crashed down on her, making her feel small. She was all too aware of the four hundred eyes watching her every move. Her head spun. Blake glared at her, beating one fist against his bare chest like a war drum.

Girl!” he said, pointing at Ayn like Babe Ruth calling his shot. “I’m going to tear you limb from limb from limb from limb!”

Ayn's legs kept moving, dragging her towards the middle of the quarry. They finally stopped once she stood about thirty feet away from Blake. She tightened her grip around the handle of her knife. Her heart was threatening to beat out of her chest. What if my powers never kick in?! What if...

Let the fight...BEGIN!

Ayn and Blake watched each other closely, each waiting for the other to make a move. Then in one continuous motion, Blake scooped up a bowling-ball sized rock off the ground with one hand and hurled it at Ayn. She barely had time to lean out of the way as the rock soared by her and dissipated into dust against the wall behind her.

Blake picked up another rock. Just as it left his hand, Ayn ran a few feet to the right. At least, she intended it to only be a few feet. But she felt a rush of wind in her hair, and next thing she knew, she was a whole ten feet away from where she’d been standing! The rock flew through the empty air where her head would have been and smashed against the back wall. The crowd cheered.

I guess my powers kicked in.

Blake was breathing rabidly, his chest heaving up and down. “Stop playing games,” he growled.

Ayn didn’t budge. Her feet remained planted in the dirt, paralyzed by fear. After a few moments, Blake grew impatient and bolted at her. She sped away reflexively, and he barreled through the empty space where she’d been. He reeled to face her, face red, and charged again. Ayn blurred away from him with ease.

The Hulk’s face writhed with anger. “Coward!” he spat before rushing at her for a third time.

Ayn remembered the kitchen knife in her hands. This time as Blake came at her, she only moved a few feet out of his path, holding the knife out as he ran by. He barreled past her, making a grunt as he ran by.

Blake stopped and looked down at the new gash on his thigh. Blood drooled down his leg. He touched the wound with his fingers and, making eye contact with Ayn, he brought his fingertips up to his mouth and sucked the blood off. A chill ran down Ayn’s spine.

Come and get me,” Blake said, making ‘come here’ motions with his hands.
Ayn took a long breath out, her cheeks ballooning. “It’s alright,” she muttered to herself. She bounced anxiously on her toes. “You can do this, Ayn. You already cut him once, you can do it again."

Before Ayn had time to talk herself out of it, she took off. The world around her blurred into lines of light, like the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace. She held her knife up in front of her and hoped for the best.

Then, just before she sunk the knife into Blake’s chest, something smacked her hard on the side of her left arm, forceful enough to knock her off her feet. Blake had backhanded her, she realized as she flew through the air. A car going seventy couldn’t have sent her sailing as far as his super-strengthed slap.

Oooh!” the crowd gasped in horrified delight.

Ayn's left shoulder crashed into the flame-covered wall. She lost a few second to blackout, and the next thing she was lying on the
dirt. Something - many things - on the right side of her body were broken. A tall tongue of flame had sprouted on her shoulder. She beat it out with her left hand, and even that small movement sent waves of pain rippling through her midsection. She winced. Luckily for her, the new Kryptonite tablets doubled as anesthetics. Still, this was more pain than she had ever experienced in her life.

The knife, she remembered. It was a few feet away from her, she saw. Her desire for self-preservation propelled her to pick it up. Pain shot through the right half of her body every time she inched her right elbow forward. When she got to the knife, she picked it up in her left hand instead of her right. Her right was her dominant, but that entire side of her body was useless now.

The Hulk! The Hulk! The Hulk!”

As Blake basked in praise, Ayn struggled to her feet. She felt like fainting, like vomiting. Like quitting. I could dash out of here. Run to Gavin’s arms. The thought was so enticing...

No.

Gavin had put up the money for her entry fee. He was counting on her to win so they could get enough money to finally leave this godforsaken town. No. She wouldn’t let him down.

She ran at Blake again.

But her injuries made her slower than before. When she got within arms reach of Blake, he reeled back and smacked her again. This time he hit her on her right side, her broken side.

The pain drove Ayn unconscious.
When she woke up on the ground, she couldn’t tell how much time had passed. A second? A minute? A day? She didn’t know or care. The pain made everything seem distant, false, dreamlike. Blake was marching towards her. That was important. Why was that important, again?

Somehow, she rose to her feet. Blake was strutting towards her. He took his damn time. Showing off for the crowd. Ayn had to kill him. She couldn’t remember why, but she did.

She rushed at him for the last time.

Her legs felt sluggish, even though they moved at sonic speeds. Blake reared back to smack her again.

But before she got within his reach, she threw on the brakes. Like a hockey player stopping on ice, she turned her feet sideways and let her shoes grind her to a halt. Blake, not expecting her to slow down, swung his arm, whiffing at the air. He swung so hard that he lost his balance.

Ayn stepped forward and punched the kitchen into his gut.

Blake shoved her to the dirt, but by then the damage had been done. He stumbled back, looking at the handle of the knife sticking out of his gut in wonder. Blood gushed from the wound. The crowd was still.

Then Blake ripped the blade out, looked at it, and tossed it over his shoulder casually.

Shoot.

Fin-ish her! Fin-ish her!”

Ayn’s hands scrambled around in the dirt, looking for anything. Her fingers found a small, sharp rock, and she clutched onto it tightly.

Fin-ish her! Fin-ish her!"

Blake squatted over her. A wide grin stretched across his face. Ayn swung her arm, trying to strike him in the temple with the rock. He caught her hand, then squeezed until she yelped. Her hand loosened, and the rock fell to the ground.

Fin-ish her! Fin-ish her!”

Blake raised his other hand up to the heavens, where it lingered among the stars. Then he plunged it into her chest. When it came out again, it held her still beating heart.

The crowd went wild.

Ayn looked down at the gaping hole in her chest. Then came darkness.

***
She awoke staring at the stars. There was something soft under her

instead of rock. The crowd was irritatingly loud - another fight had already begun.

A quick look around told her that she wasn’t on the quarry floor anymore. She was sitting on the second tier, on top of a picnic blanket. Blake sat off to her left, watching the fight. All his wounds had been healed.
Kneeling before Ayn was a boy her age, with long blonde hair and

an encouraging smile.

How did I get here? Who is he?

The images flashed back to her, fragments of a forgotten dream. Blake, standing over her. Her heart, ripped out of her body...She panicked and clutched at her breast, but found that all was back to normal. She could feel her heart racing, which was a good thing. The only thing out of place was her clothes - she had some guy’s T-shirt on instead of her white tank top.

"Wha...what...?”

Don’t worry,” said the boy with the blonde hair. His voice was soothing, like water to a parched throat. “I brought you back from the other side. Everything is going to be alright.”

You...you’re Lazarus,” Ayn said. It was a statement more than a question.

Yes.”

All of the memories came flooding back. She’d expected this. She knew she’d wake up after the fight with Lazarus standing over her, even if she died. Gavin had told her that Lazarus could bring people back to life.

Resurrection,” she said. "That’s your Kryptonite power. You can resurrect people.”

Lazarus nodded slowly. “You fought well. Rest up - I’ve entered you in another fight tomorrow night."

 

 

Matthew Shuirman is a 17 year old currently attending Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.
 



What my Dog Taught ME

By: Savannah Morgan

They are the ones we tell our secrets to, the ones we cry to, that ones we would save in a disaster because they are more than just an animal. Many people buy them, but a few generous souls rescue them because no one else will. They are considered man’s best friend,  right hand man, and companion; the canine. Again and again, they prove to be the gift that keeps on giving because they will serve you with everything they possess until their very last, dying breath.

As a puppy, “Bacardi” was found chained  to a pole in the yard of a rickety old abandoned house. Her living quarters consisted of a circle of worn earth and two bowls that each held nothing but rainwater and fly carcuses.

This abandoned dog left for dead eventually ended up with my cousins, a whole new dog, with a whole new name- Skylar. She was taught basic obedience and learned to tolerate a crate. However, the days began to dwindle and the nights long for Skylar. My cousins unexpectedly became parents and Skylar was forgotten.

My cousins ended up filing for bankruptcy and moved back into their parents house. Skylar was locked away in my aunt’s garage in a makeshift crate that she could not stand up in. She was fed the cheapest dog food and was only allowed water when she was let out to use the bathroom twice daily. She wasn’t neglected entirely, but the care she received was the bare minimum. There’s no debating that she wasn’t given any real love a sweet dog like her deserved.

This was around the time when I first laid my eyes on her stocky little self. I was babysitting my cousins’ kids at my aunt’s house when I was told to let Skylar and my aunt’s dog, Haley out. Skylar was the absolute cutest little thing I had ever seen. As soon as I got home I blabbered on about her curly tail, floppy ears, and soft golden hair to my mom. I soon learned that my cousins were in the process of trying to get rid of Skylar. They had finally realized that they could no longer give her the affection that she so desperately deserved.

We ending up picking her up the night after my grandfather had lost his battle to pancreatic cancer.  She was the remedy to my mother’s aching heart and the solution to the void that existed in my life. Life began to return to normal again with a dog, as it should. Every single day she managed to bring joy to our lives. She made us die laughing when she would roll around on the floor trying to scratch her back. She always managed to impress us with her many obedience skills and even had this habit of attacking the cicada bugs that were on our back deck. Skylar pawed and even picked the bugs up with her mouth making them “WAAA” in annoyance. She was always  full of surprises.

One of those surprises included liver cancer. I work at a local veterinary clinic.  When I brought her in for a routine check up, they  noticed she had a lump wedged in the bottom of her rib cage. Alarmed, Dr. Bob had my co-worker Krista take a blood sample and test it for white, red and platelet cell counts. The reports were not hopeful. My best friend ended up only having a percentage of sixteen red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for oxygen production and without adequate oxygen she could be subject to seizures and major irreversible brain damage. With her diagnosis of liver cancer and anemia, she was given a prognosis of just two weeks left to stay with us.

The night of  September 9th, 2015 she started to dry heave and became limp in a matter of seconds. I instantly knew what was happening so I urgently bundled all thirty pounds that was left of her in my arms and  had my mother drive us to the emergency center. Her red blood level was below fatal limits: eleven percent. We knew what had to be done. She died on September 9th, 2015 via veterinary euthanasia.

Her journey lasted 3 months, a lot longer than anyone had predicted. She had her blissful days and her treacherous days but through it all she hid her pain. All in all, that is what affected me the most. The strength that she illustrated was immense. Most human beings are too selfish to even attempt to muster through something like that. That is why dogs are the definition of  perfect companions. Dogs are made to be strong, made to be happy, and made to be carefree. I appreciate everything she did for my family and we will never, ever forget Skylar’s constant loyalty and lovable demeanor she emoted day in and day out.

 
Savannah Morgan is a senior at Cosby High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia.