“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...
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.
“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.
“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.
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.