It feels like blood is rushing to the front of my face. All this pressure I'm feeling, I don't think I can move. The floor is cold. Or at least, it would be, if I wasn't on fire. The heat should be enough to keep everybody outta my space, but it's not. I'm a light to these stinkin' moths.
Face huggin' the ground, lyin' flat on my belly, arms spread out. I try to glance around the hallway. Chris disappeared again. Noah's pantin' as broken shards of ice fall around him. Everyone's useless.
Will someone for the love of God get this dang demon off my back!? The giant, bear-sized, wolf has me pinned down. It tries to bite at me, but the flames surrounding me keep it from getting too close. It tries to put the fire out by patting at it with its dark, gaseous, monster-sized paws, but as soon as it smothers somethin', I ignite another to take its place.
I bring my arms in close to my chest, an' try to push up off the floor. My eyes are closed. I'm gruntin' an' strainin' myself. This is the hardest push-up I've ever done in my life. Feels like ten tons are on my back.
The fire around me grows in size. It spreads outward an' upward, stoppin' just shy of the ceiling. Now I see Noah tryna rush in to help. The orange flames are too much for him, though. He can't get in too close, an' if I let down this heat shield, then I'm dead. Besides, another bear-sized wolf forms from the shadows an' jumps him from the left. He's got his hands tied.
An' I'm on my own.
Now it feels like twenty tons. Now, I know in my head that twenty tons would crush every bone in my body if it was pushin' down on me, but that doesn't change what I feel. Sorry that I can't give you an accurate measurement of what my neardeath experience is, but tough!
All I know is that I'm mad.
An' can't do a dang thing about it.
I hear a loud, boomin' sound. With it, comes a huge forceful wind. The lockers clack an' bang. Some fly off their hinges, like somethin' just passed through them an' made them explode. There's a heavy pressure that comes with the boom. It hits all of us. Like a violent, forceful wind. The sound was like a gun poppin', an' just as soon as it happens, it's gone. Nothin' but the evidence of destruction in its wake.
An' all of a sudden, the weight on my back lightens, tremendously. I look up to find the wolf is gone. Like it completely disappeared. I don't know what to make of it, but I ain't complainin'.
Then, I look up an' see Chris facin' off against two wolf-bears. He looks insane. Dumb ol' smile on his face. Is he actually enjoyin' this? He an' the two wolves disappear. I blink, an' they're back. Another loud, forceful shockwave shakes the foundation of everything in the hall.
I look to my right an' see some black fog appear outta nowhere. I'm not givin' it a chance to form. I aim my hand at it, an' fire streams out, overtaking it. A wolf forms from the fog to instantly get flash burned. Its body fades away in broken shadows.
The fire surroundin' me grows. I look down at my hands, an' clench them together. I've just about had enough of this.
I look Noah's way. A wolf swings its paw across his cheek. Noah impales it with a five foot ice shard through the chest. I aim my left hand at it and fire a stream its way. The flames ignite its back. Noah's taken by surprised an' takes a step back as he watches the wolf burn to cinders, then fade to shadows, then disappear.
I bring my hands together again, then look down at the hall. Wolves all around. With both my arms out in front of me, palms facing out, I shout out, “Gangway!!”
Chris appears down the hall an' looks my way. The fire I shoot out bursts wildly. The stream is huge. Takes up the entire way, from end to end, top to bottom, wall to wall. Chris disappears, an' one by one, the random bystanders frozen in time disappear, too.
The demons left aren't so lucky. They get scorched. Their bodies ignite an' crumble into a misty, murky dust, ultimately fadin' out of existence.
As the fire makes its quick an' abrupt end, all the bystanders reappear in the last spot they were at. As the last one is placed, Chris makes his way towards me an' Noah.
“We still alive?” Chris asks.
“Barely,” Noah says in the middle of his heavy breathing.
“Did we win?” I ask.
“Negro, is you crazy? Whatchu think?”
“I think we got the firepower to take out whatever they throw at us.”
“Homie, I'm movin' so fast, I'm makin' sonic booms, an' I still can't keep' pace wit' 'em'! Any hit you happened t'land was cuz they was playin'!”
“This whole time?” Noah asks. “But why? What was the point?”
To answer his question, more shadows form out of thin air from above, and come crashin' down. Another pack of wolves surround us. I'm the first to react. Instantly, I shoot flames at them. Like a beam. The fires burn out. The wolves are destroyed wholeheartedly. Nothin's left of them.
An' then time resumes.
The hallway is burnin'. The hallway is dismantled. The smoke detector is goin' off. The fire alarm is blarin'. The lockers're left beat up from all those sonic booms made. Sprinklers go off from the ceilin', rainin' on everything underneath. Everyone in the halls are panickin' an' shovin' people outta the way as they stampede to the nearest exits.
“Oh dat's dirty,” Chris says.
“What just happened?” Noah asks.
“They playin' wit' us, man!” Chris answers. “We can fight 'em off, sho' nuff. They may get hurt, may get killed, but it don't e'en matter so long as they messin' wi' time! At the end a' the day, when it's all said an' done – ”
“We'll be the ones ta blame,” Noah finishes.
“What tha hell do you boys think you're doin'!?” His loud, commanding voice startles us all. We turn to see Mr. Mayer: our grumpy old assistant principle. He marches right at us, in the midst of all the mayhem. Why us? With everything goin' on, what makes him single out – oh, that's right.
Hall's on fire.
An' so am I. Put it out, put it out, put it out.
I take a deep sigh. My eyes are closed as I exhale. The fires along my body sorta fade into smoke. I open my eyes to see all the wrinkles on Mr. Mayer's dark brown face as he sternly stares on at the three of us. It's just like Chris said: the blame's all on us.
Mr. Mayer looks like he's about to explode. He takes a moment to cool down. I see a vein pop on the side of his shiny, sweaty, bald head. He sighs deeply, and then he goes on, “I know you boys aren't the reason the damn school is on fire! Please don't tell me you are!” Against his best efforts, he can't keep his voice down.
I look around. Even though the fire's out in this hall, the sprinklers are still raining down. The kids're still runnin' frantic. Noah's quiverin' in place as he cracks a halfhearted smile. Chris's head's in another dimension: not payin' attention to a dang thing.
“Don't go actin' shy on me, boys. Speak up! There better be a good explanation here.”
I look Noah's way. He returns the glance, then starts out with a, “Well, yeah.” Not very convincing. I raise an eyebrow, hoping whatever story he has brewin' makes some sorta sense. I'm willin' to back him up, but I need somethin' to go on. “We were—uh—trying to... um.”
I look at Mr. Mayer, expecting him to cut us off with a lecture of sorts. But to my surprise, I find him just standing there, starin' on, arms folded, lookin' down on us, doin' nothin'. Absolutely nothin'. It's like he's—shoot, don't tell me he's—frozen.
I jerk my head around. As I suspected: time's frozen again. Everyone, save for me, Chris, an' Noah, are as motionless as a picture-still.
“Are you serious!?” I cry out.
“This is such bull!” Chris exclaims.
Then the situation goes from bad to worse as more shadows appear along the ground. The shadows rise up an' take form all around Mr. Mayer. One by one, until about four or five of 'em, throw themselves on him. They wrap around him like a blanket, overtaking his being before seemingly disappearing.
But we all know they aren't gone. They're in him. They've possessed him. His glowing red eyes are a sure sign of that.
Before anyone can even register it, Mr. Mayer's clutching Noah by the collar. He has him pinned to a wall down the way. They were right next to me. How did they move a yard away?
My right arm lights on fire as I get ready to attack. “No!” I hear Noah cry out. He's got one arm around Mr. Mayer's arm, and the other outstretched towards me. Is he tellin' me to stop?
“No?” I repeat.
“We can't go around fighting assistant principals!” Noah shouts.
“He's two seconds from chokin' you out, an' you want me to do nothing?”
“Do something! Just do it without killing him – or me, for that matter!”
“I'm not even sure I can kill him!”
In the next instant, Chris is grabbing Mr. Mayer's by the arm from behind. The next, I see Mr. Mayer reel back from a punch Chris delivers to the man's cheek. The next, I hear a loud banging sound. Chris has Mr. Mayer pinned to a broken locker by the wall. There are at least six more banging sounds in the next second. Each from Chris shoving Mr. Mayer's back against the locker over an' over again.
Noah's dumbfounded self doesn't know what to make of it. He knows Chris is fast—I know Chris is fast—but seeing him in action still catches us by surprise. And since we've been messin' around with Hiro, I think he's gotten faster.
Now Chris has Mr. Mayer in the middle of the hall, still holding tight to his collar. Mr. Mayer looks unfazed. Chris tries shaking him back an' forth. A thick black fog starts surrounding Mr. Mayer, just like the one that shrouded him before. The fog grows bigger an' bigger, then it rises to the ceiling until finally it evaporates into thin air.
The sound of the roaring crowd of rowdy, frantic students lets us know that time's picked itself up again. Mr. Mayer looks down at Chris. His face hardens as he grits his teeth an' arches his brows. “Boy! he shouts at the top of his lungs. “If you don't get yo hands off me!” He is not amused.
Chris lets go an' raises his hands beside him, as he takes a couple steps back.
Mr. Mayer inhales an' exhales deeply. I don't know if it's my imagination, but I think I see steam shootin' out from his nose an' ears. Not demon smoke, but steam. I know this man is mad. I know if we weren't in school, he'd have some very choice words for us.
He rubs his hand across his face an' looks at us all this one last time. “Here I was tryna look into some commotion. Kids fightin' on tha south end. Kids rampagin' around breakin' thangs. Now they settin' off fires! Now they jumpin' me! I'm gettin' too old for this! I expect ta see each a' you no-goods in detention. An hour a day, for tha rest a' tha week. I'll let your parents know. Now get ta class!”
He stomps off in the other direction, an' shouts out, “Alla y'all! Get ta class, right now! There ain't no fire! School is still in session!”
The three of us look around the halls. Seems to've returned to normal. We wait around for a good minute. Still no time jumps. Are the demons done? Is this what they set out to do?
“Man, I can't believe these demons gon' come all the way outta Hell jus' t'get us in trouble!” Chris shouts out. He's mad, kickin' invisible pebbles along the floor, throwin' his hands up in the air.
I'm mad, too. I shove my hands in my pocket, an' look down the way. Still nothin'. The crowd of students slowly disperses. The sprinklers stop sprinklin'. My clothes are wet. All our clothes are wet. Need to head by the gym's locker room an' dry them off.
“This is stupid,” I say.
“Can we at least be thankful no one's dead?” Noah says.
I look at him with a cold glance. Chris looks at him with a cold glance. Noah forces a laugh. Chris an' I turn our backs on him, say “Shut up!” in unison, an' walk away.