“Roll call!” ordered Danny.
Arthur snapped his arms to his side and raised his left arm to his head in a mock salute. His long black hair instantly covered his hand and hovered just above his eyes, which held his patented neon blue thick-rimmed glasses. “Sgt. Justice reporting in, sir! With my X-ray vision, no enemies can hide from my patriotic gaze!”
Ruby did a little twirl while moving her arms in a rhythmic movement until she thrusted them into the air as if she were calling out to the heavens. Her hands were covered in rings that she had “borrowed” from her mother’s jewelry box. “Gemstone, lighting the way! With my mystic rings, I can control the elements and bend them to my whim. Mother nature herself is on our side!”
Skyla moved her hand up to the bill of her New York Yankees cap and pulled it down until her deep green eyes glistened majestically within the shadow it created. Her long, unkempt brown hair was tied in a ponytail and threaded through the cap. She kicked her left foot out, tipped her Louisville Slugger bat upward, and placed it lackadaisically on her right shoulder. “Babe Bambino here! With one swing of my mystical baseball bat of healing, I can save the weak and the helpless.”
When his three friends finished their introductions, Danny Lewis flexed his arms and made a show of picking up a rather large rock that he had placed strategically next to his feet. It wasn’t too heavy, but from the way he was acting, a normal person would have guessed that it weighed at least ten tons. He let out an exasperated grunt as he threw the rock about two feet in front of him. He raised his hand above his eyes and looked toward the horizon, as if he’d thrown the boulder farther then the eye could see.
He puffed out his chest, flexed one last time, and said proudly, “The Uber King, leading the way. My amazing strength makes me stronger than anything on the planet. It also helps me jump from one side of the planet to the other and run faster than an F14 fighter jet!”
The group of heroes then rushed over to Danny’s side and posed around him to show the neighborhood that they were indeed ready for battle. They stayed that way for a good minute, allowing the pedestrians to soak in the pristine vision of real-life superheroes.
For the past month, the children had made it a habit to gather in the park every Friday after school to play together. Danny and Ruby had been friends since before either of them could remember. Both had instantly became friends with Arthur when he’d sported a Rockman backpack on the first day of second grade. As for Skyla, she was the newest of the group, and they had met her right there at the park. She didn’t go to the same school as the three of them, but even then, she’d been wearing her Yankees hat while dragging her baseball bat at her side.
After the Uber King was satisfied with their heroic display, Danny Lewis jumped out in front of his friends with a wide grin on his face – clearly content with himself. There was one thing, though, that he just couldn’t quite get over, and he had the hardest time wrapping his head around it.
Cool super names? Check.
Tragic backstories? In the works.
A handsome leader the ladies swooned over? Without a doubt.
He looked over to Skyla, who lifted her hat up slightly so she could see again. He looked down at her bat, and that’s when he realized what the problem was. He swung over to her side then wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
He cleared his throat, proceeded to inch closer to her ear, and whispered, “Skyla, can I have a moment?”
She frowned at him and answered, “I thought we were only supposed to use our superhero names today, Uber King.”
“Oh, that’s right. How careless of me, Babe Bambino,” he said as he led her away from the others with his hand still on her shoulder. He made his face look grieved to stress the severity of the issue. “Let me say this. I love everything about your superhero character, but can I make one suggestion?”
“What’s that?” Skyla asked curiously.
“Well, I don’t know if I’m really feeling your superpower,” he said in a purely professional manner.
“My superpower?” she repeated, looking slightly deflated.
“Yeah. You see, it’s great that your baseball bat can heal people, but it doesn’t really help us in a battle,” Danny said bluntly. “If we fight some dastardly fiend, it doesn’t help if you go out swinging your bat and heal the guy.”
A dawn of realization swept over Skyla’s face, and she let go a small sigh followed by a pitying smirk. “I thought it was obvious! The baseball bat only heals the people I want it to heal!”
Danny now felt a little silly. It was a baseball bat. He played little league himself, and he couldn’t even count how many times his coaches had told him to watch where he was swinging the darn thing. Although he hoped he would never get hit by a baseball bat, he knew that getting hit by one would indeed hurt. However, he now had the solution to the problem to put his mind at rest.
Danny motioned to her bat. “Okay, there’s a simple solution, then. Your bat is now a mystical baseball bat of healing and pain! It brings the pain, yet heals the maimed.”
Skyla held up her baseball bat to get a better look at it. She took a couple of steps away from Danny, bent her knees, stuck out her back elbow, and took a mighty swing that seemed to nearly tear the fabric of time and space.
“I like it!” exclaimed Skyla while beaming at Danny.
Danny looked at Skyla with a sense of pride as she took a few more practice swings until she was slightly out of breath. Danny called over to both Arthur and Ruby, barking out the same orders he did every Friday: “Infinity Pack! It’s time to go out there and do some good!”
The superhero team proceeded to wander around the perilous city of Grand Junction. Their first heroic act of the day was helping Old Lady Lefkowitz. This was always their first stop of the day, as the children had a solid route through the city and they knew she always made her way back from the grocery store at this time of the day.
The Infinity Pack escorted her across the street and then heroically protected her until she arrived at her domicile, where she promptly awarded them with chocolate chip cookies and strawberry milk.
Their next heroic duty was finding the tragically lost Mr. Hairball. Mr. Hairball had a devilish side of him that only festered as the cat got older. He would always make his way to the local fish market and terrorize the shop owners. If they didn’t stop Mr. Hairball quickly, then he would eat the entire supply of fish in Grand Junction. What was even worse, there was the horrible possibility of one of the fish being radioactive and turning Mr. Hairball into their archnemesis, Doctor Mew. The dastardly fiend had already been restored to a normal cat thanks to the Infinity Pack, and they would hate for him to return to a life of crime. Luckily, the team was able to prevent this through their beautiful teamwork and the stellar leadership of the Uber King.
It was around this time that the sun began to set behind the taller buildings of Grand Junction. This was a sign for all the young superheroes to return to their hideouts for some well-deserved rest. The team did this by saying their farewells at the same park, and they soon disbanded.
Arthur would be the first to leave. He had rather strict parents who would start screaming his name across the entire city if he wasn’t back before the first street light went on.
Next, both Danny and Ruby would leave, as both lived on the same street and even lived in the same apartment building. He lived on the seventh floor, and she lived on the sixth. They had discovered that Ruby’s room was directly below his, and they each learned Morse code so they could talk late into the night.
After every Friday, they would walk home together and wind up at one of their apartments, where they would sit on a couch, go through their parents’ old movies, and usually microwave up a hefty bag of popcorn with plenty of butter. However, something was different this time.
Danny didn’t know why he’d thought about it on that specific day, but now that he had dug into the deep center of his mind, there was absolutely no way he couldn’t ‘unthink’ it.
Danny had no idea what Skyla did after they left the park on Friday. In fact, he hardly knew anything about Skyla.
He knew she was always at the park on Friday.
He knew she loved the Yankees and her baseball bat.
He knew they were friends.
And after that short list, he could honestly admit that he knew nothing about her. How could he even call himself her friend with such a pathetic display?
There was also a touch of guilt dashed in with his conflicted emotions. He had always assumed that Skyla went home after the three of them left the park, or that her parents picked her up, but he didn’t know that for certain. He pictured Skyla walking home by herself in the dark streets of Grand Junction. There, in the darkness of the night, she would be left completely exposed to the vilest of creatures – strangers. And that was the one thing he, neigh, Uber King couldn’t allow.
After escorting Ruby back to their apartment building, Danny told her that he had forgotten “something” at the playground and he would meet her later for movie night. Ruby didn’t put up any fuss and quickly went upstairs.
Danny didn’t know why he had lied to her. If he had asked, he was sure that Ruby would have followed him to the park, but he couldn’t explain it no matter how long he racked his mind over the subject – something was inexplicably different about tonight.
Danny rushed down the street and retraced his streets back to the park. As he rounded the corner, he stopped and darted back behind the building. He hugged his body tightly against the wall and slowly crept his head around its corner.
Sitting on a swing, completely alone, was Skyla. Her baseball bat was lying beneath her feet, her ponytail was placed over her right shoulder, and she was whistling gently to herself as she swung her feet lazily back and forth.
Danny’s head immediately swam with thoughts, each worse than the last.
Did Skyla have no place to go? Danny had never met her parents.
Did she live in the park? He only went to the park on Fridays, so it was a possibility.
Danny was such a horrible friend. He had already convinced himself that all this time, Skyla had been suffering all alone and he had never once noticed. How could he ever make it up to her? Maybe if he asked his mother and did extra chores around the house, his mother would let her live with them.
Danny gathered his resolve and then stepped out from behind the building, but he quickly stopped in his tracks. At that exact moment, Skyla had become motionless.
She had stopped swinging.
She had even ceased whistling.
Skyla jumped off the swing with a light thump, quietly bent over, and picked up her baseball bat. She dragged the baseball bat behind her as she walked toward the center of the park. Then she just stood there. She didn’t move a single muscle; she just stared out to nowhere, as if she were waiting for something.
The air around Danny became chill. It wasn’t the normal chill that came naturally with the night. It was a chill that only came when he was frightened, the same chill he had after waking up from a horrible nightmare or after sensing the scary clown that used to live in his closet when he was five. Sparkles the Dancing Clown, and it wasn’t the fun kind of dancing, it was the dancing of the dastardly.
When the air cooled, Danny watched in astonishment as a dense fog flowed down the streets and rose until it covered the entire city. He could hardly see his hand in front of his face, yet he could still see Skyla standing in the middle of the park.
She didn’t even pay the fog a second glance. She placed her baseball bat on her shoulder and then lifted her left leg and kicked into the dirt just like a baseball player. She did this a couple more times until she was satisfied and then repeated the action with her right.
Just like before, when they were playing, Skyla bent her knees and raised her back elbow. She had gotten into her batter’s position. Everything had gone quiet. The busy streets of Grand Junction no longer had any cars. The only people who existed now were Skyla and Danny.
A low, dim hum appeared from within the fog; it nearly sounded like a growl. Danny’s head turned toward the sound, but he couldn’t see the source. Skyla had been staring in that direction the entire time, as if she knew it was going to appear. The growling grew fiercer, and with it, a shadow formed within the fog – a shadow with bright yellow eyes.
The shadow leapt out of the fog, and Danny could only see the beast for an instant. It had dark red scales, and spikes that seemed to span out in almost every direction. It had no tail, which he thought was kind of lame, but before he could form any other opinion about the beast, it was too late.
In one fluid motion, Skyla moved her left foot forward and twisted her entire body as she swung the bat. Danny thought the bat would shatter on the beast’s scales, which seemed like impenetrable armor, but the complete opposite happened. When Skyla’s bat touched the beast, the creature broke apart and scattered in almost every direction, leaving only a pile of ash behind.
An almost infinite amount of the creatures erupted from the fog now. Skyla, every time, shifted her weight and thoroughly dispersed the beasts like they were nothing. When everything was said and done, she still stood in the center of the park, but scattered on the ground was a pile of ash that was now slowly being spread throughout the city.
Skyla, the girl Danny now realized he knew nothing about, quietly took the tip of her hat and lowered it slightly. She twirled the bat to her left shoulder and then proceeded to walk down one of the streets that led to the park.
“Skyla!” Danny yelled.
Her name came out before he even realized it.
Skyla froze in her steps and turned, horrified, to see Danny. She released the grip on her bat, and it rolled off her shoulder to the ground. “What…what are you doing here?”
He didn’t know what to say to that. He had forgotten why he had come. He stood there with his mouth agape as he struggled to find the answer to the question of why the hell he was at the park, and that was when he saw it.
Another shadow within the fog that hadn’t attacked with the others. The beast saw the bat that had killed its brethren, and it saw a single defenseless girl. Danny’s feet moved before his mind could even give the orders. He ran faster than he had ever run before and jumped with his arms outstretched. He made it just in time to push Skyla out of the way of the beast’s claws, but he wasn’t so fortunate. The razor-sharp blades that were the beast’s claws slashed across his arm.
He cried out in pain as he fell to the ground, but before he could even see the damage, Skyla scrambled to her bat. As the beast circled around for another attack, she haphazardly swung at it. The bat soared through the air, and luckily, it met the beast’s head. The beast burst into ashes, coating the two children, who were still sprawled out on the ground.
Danny clutched at his arm and saw his blood coat his hand in a matter of seconds. He was only a child, but he knew he was hurt badly. He started to cry, and he was certain that he was going to die.
The brave Uber King’s last heroic action was to save his dear friend, and now that the idea crossed his mind, he realized it wasn’t so the worse way for a hero to die.
“Stay still!” Skyla told him, trying to calm him down. She pointed her Louisville slugger bat toward him and tapped it lightly against his arm.
The pain stopped.
Danny let go of his arm and stared at it. It was completely healed. He stared at her, astonished, and he could only ask, “How?”
She chuckled and beamed at him.
“Weren’t you listening? This is my mystical bat of healing and pain,” Skyla said as she got back up to her feet. She gave her best heroic pose and proudly said, “And I am the Great Babe Bambino!”
As the Great Babe Bambino helped Danny Lewis to his feet, he noticed for the first time that she was slightly taller than him. She started to walk off, but before she left his gaze, she turned back to him and waved. She called out and said, “See you next Friday!”
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