After efforts to write stories about the gaps between action, about day-to-day life, it was refreshing to write something simple and heroic. And so, a simple action scene.
My world is, right now, the few square feet behind an overturned table in the far corner of a classroom that burns around me. Cold night air from the shattered windows whips the flames that consume the corridor into the room, books and shelves begin to catch light, and I can hear footsteps drawing closer. I can only hope she made it out to get help, because I don’t want to have done this in vain.
“They’re… going to call this a mysterious fire. No survivors, very sadly, a couple of stupid children broke in and sadly PERISHED!” The voice cracks with directionless rage. It doesn’t hate me particularly for who I am, it just hates whatever has got in its way.
If I wait much longer the room will be completely aflame and I probably won’t be leaving it. But at the same time I don’t think I’d be able to outrun him without some kind of head start. The other door to the classroom is closer, but I don’t know where he’s standing.
Metal and wood under strain crack and scream.
Grabbing my parka with one hand and using it to reach through the wall of heat and take the fire extinguisher I run for the door just as the light fixture falls from the ceiling and the blackboard cracks. I realise as I shoulder-barge through the failing door I haven’t the co-ordination to actually use the fire extinguisher, but I swing it as a club, clumsy as I haven’t the strength to do much more, and it meets a head with a fleshy thud and I’m able to run towards the stairwell.
Downstairs. The familiar turns of the main corridor past the staff room, the infirmary-
The infirmary. I pull the door open and then wonder why I ever did. A locked medicine-cabinet, the abandoned swivel-chair the nurse uses during the day, and beds surrounded by curtains. Not much use, the fire is going to spread. There’s a window, though, and-
I smash the fire alarm button and jump for the window, expecting it to break as easily as it would in a film. It doesn’t quite; I bounce off it, but it’s cracked and I throw the chair through to finish the job.
Using my parka to try and minimise the cuts, I climb out. The school is burning well now, the second floor almost completely consumed and the clocktower a smouldering orange beacon in the night.
Part of me wants to run. Run as far as I can towards home, let someone else deal with this. I’m just an ordinary student, I just came back to the school to get some things I’d left behind-
The back door out to the playground explodes outwards and he’s standing there unharmed, holding the dented fire-extinguisher by its hose so the canister drags on the ground.
“It’s very unfortunate you were here when I was testing this gift I was given. But wait, wasn’t there another one? Where have they gone?”
“You won’t get her.” I shouldn’t have brought her back, so I won’t let her die because of my mistake.
“Perhaps I won’t yet.” His fingers are spidered over his face, and I notice now as I look at him there’s a light in his eyes that filters through them. His mouth seems distended into a drooling, feral slash overfull with ragged-edged teeth, and the more he speaks the more his voice seems to be failing. “But once I’ve dealt with you, who knows?”
I want to run. I could probably get away from him, lose him in the back-streets… but then he’d just start burning the town. I have to do something. She said she’d get help. But what… what even is this? How can somebody be able to do this? Who can help us?
He has stopped. He’s not walking forward any more. Instead he arches his back and laughs. “Why aren’t you running? You can’t fight me! You can’t buy her time!” Lines of red splinter the ground around him, and in a flash of light the broken playground tarmac is floating in spears, waiting to lunge toward me. “But I… I can do ANYTHING!”
NOW I run. I break for the gymnasium. Rubble crashes around me, and I can feel heat from the burning school. I don’t know what to do. So I run.
And then there’s a crash, not the shotgun-impacts of the rocks he’s throwing but something heavier, more purposeful. I hear a strangled, cut-short yelp and dare to look around. He’s been launched back into the burning building, a corner of the concrete smashed to bits by the force. And someone else is standing there. I can see a scarf rippling in the wind, a tall figure recovering from the force of a just-thrown punch.
“You won’t take a step further.” He extends an armoured hand and snaps his fingers, and with a green flash the thing that was chasing me is lifted up and slammed back into the building. “For I will not allow it.”
I don’t know what is happening. I should carry on running, but… I want to watch. I want to see this out.
My pursuer stands, almost unaffected by the pounding he has just taken, and I can see signs again of the rabid fury. Tongue lolling, he cricks his neck and tries to smile. “Ah… they warned me you might have something to say about… my… GIFT. But you won’t… disrespect… the GENEROSITY of my patron!” Without any visible effort he launches burning desks, one after the other, at my saviour. I don’t know why but I just know that won’t work.
It doesn’t. My saviour pushes off from the ground, jumps forward and starts running, each footstep cracking the ground. His eyes – the gleaming lenses of a helmet – flash white in the night and then he hits. One punch, another to follow, and then a shuffle back into a roundhouse kick that sends the once-human monster spreadeagled into a pile of rubble. There’s a hesitation. My saviour adjusts something at his wrist, leans forward into a lunge, and then he’s flying towards the downed opponent, body burning with energy, and there’s one final explosion. Only one remains, silhouetted by the burning school. I can hear fire-engines approaching.
“Everything is all right.” Despite the helmet he wears, his voice is clear, calming, strong. “For I made sure of it.”