It happened again,
Stay calm,he told himself, you can't loose it now, not in front of so many people.
He looked around the cafe to see if anyone had noticed but no one gave any indication that that had been the case. He had purposely taken the seat nearest to the exit and farthest from the main array of dining tables to allow himself plenty of opportunity to run if something, untoward happened and also to be able to watch the people's reaction should he not notice another bout of his 'condition'.
He could feel his skin moving, metamorphosing to be precise, into what he didn't know, he had never allowed himself the chance to fully understand what was happening to him. All he'd known was fright since the first time he had felt it, felt it in his gut and seen what he had done. He'd pushed it back, denied what was clearly a terrifying and exhilarating experience, refused to believe that he, of all people, someone who had never thought of himself as anything out of the ordinary was something else…..
You're a mutant you idiothe scolded himself, that much was obvious. What wasn't as clear was the nature and power that the rare and indiscriminate 'X-factor' he obviously had gained was granting. He'd seen the news reports about mutants, seen how the media had twisted the truth for their own devices, he'd seen them portray mutants as 'evil', he'd even seen some channels portray them as 'heroes' but he'd never seen them like he felt now, frightened, alone and unable to understand the changes his body was going through whether he welcomed it or not.
He wished Alex and Danny were here.
"Over here!" Shouted David, running wildly up the line trying to indicate that, in fact, the ball should be passed to him and not that idiot Sam. His hands flew about in the air, hoping to catch the attention of the central-midfielder, and best friend in training, Alex Cantell.
He's gonna give it to Sam, he's gonna give it to Sam.He told himself, waiting for yet another moment of acute irritation as Al side-stepped one midfielder, hit a nifty little through-ball down the middle, onto the waiting Sam's feet and cast his apologies to David with his eyes. Sam then propelled himself across the pitch, running several of the opposite team members ragged while trying to catch up with him and, in a moment of arrogant impudence, trotted to the penalty area where he kicked the ball with all of his venom and watched it fly into the back of the net.
"Oh YES!" Cried Sam, running wildly around the pitch, with his arms in a victory salute, like he had just scored the winning goal in the World Cup Final. "That's another one to me, why don't you kids pack up now and let some real men try and take me down for once."
"Oh for God's sake Sam" Alex moaned, angry at himself that he had even thought about passing the ball to the arrogant jerk let alone acting upon it, "You really are a complete tosser aren't you?"
"Here, here" agreed all of the opposite team and half of his own.
Sam stood there hands on hips, not caring what anybody thought, as long that little bastard on the wing hadn't managed to be part of any more than a handful of eventful moments in the game he was happy. "So Dave, how is it that you're still here? I thought you would have realised that the team wouldn't need your pointless running down the wing by now and given up to run home to Mummy."
David didn't budge, he knew what was coming, in fact had managed to put up with it for the past six weeks after joining Alex in his favourite sport. He knew no-one here liked Sam but they also had to admit that he was, by far, the best football player they had in the team. Why Sam had taken an immediate disliking to him was a mystery to be solved later but he knew why he didn't like Sam. One of the most annoying things in the world, to him, were people who would take the piss out of other's but couldn't handle receiving the same treatment in return. Although not religious in any sense of the word, he believed vehemently in the Christian adage, "Do unto others as you would do unto yourself." It seemed to be almost common sense to him that if you treated people with disdain and hatred then you deserved to be treated in the same way but if they were going to win that pub competition and the 'Free Booze for a Weekend' prize, he knew that all of them would have to put up with him just so that they could plan their revenge and make up for the crap he had given them ever since he had entered their lives.
"Well, I was going to but then I thought if I went to your house I'd be able to get a cup of tea and a blow-job so I decided to stick around for a while." David sneered, not in the mood for yet another one-sided barrage of insult's but he regretted it as soon as he'd said it. Along with being the best football player, Sam was also one of the biggest and, easily, the most volatile of the group.
"Why you little fucker" He snarled and raced after David as he began to run to the relative safety of the middle of a bunched-up pack of friends. "You're gonna be sorry you said that you pathetic little bastard, I'm gonna rip your head off and shit down your neck!" He exclaimed as he fought to get into the closely-knit group of people.
Alex saw all of this and managed to grab Sam round the arms, pinning them to his sides, and pulling him back from the huddled mass. "Get a grip Sam, for pity's sake, can't you take a joke?" Trying to turn his friends remark into something he clearly hadn't intended it to be. "He didn't mean anything by it, we all like to take the piss out of each other and don't really mean it, you've got to lighten up a bit."
Alex was the only person capable of calming a mad Sam down. Mostly because he was the only one who could more than hold his own against him and Sam knew it. As he slowly backed away, Alex's tight grasp around his arms pulling him back faster that he would have liked, Sam made his final thoughts clear. "After the final this afternoon David, you and me are gonna have words, in fact forget words, you and me are gonna have something your not gonna be able to walk away from."
David bit his lip to stop himself from saying "What are you gonna do, bugger me to death you fucking poof?" Which would have resulted in nothing more than his immediate death instead of a slightly postponed one and kept himself hidden as much as possible in the security of his temporary bodyguards. He also didn't have anything against homosexuals and thought that it would be an insult to them if he included them and Sam in the same sentence let alone describe him as one.
With the matter ended, at least for the time being, Alex left the fuming Sam to walk up to the pub entrance with a fiver of his money (an ingenious strategy of calming Sam down and getting a pint at the same time) and came down to the waiting huddle of footballers.
"All right people, now that the show and practise are both over I'll see you here in an hour for kick-off OK?" The muffled agreements told him that everyone had heard and the small whimper in the middle told him that David had the sense to be wary of Alex's feelings to his friends earlier retort. "And David, what the fuck were you thinking? Have you any idea how much trouble you've made for yourself and me come to think of it?"
"Well, I'm inclined to agree with you but so many people heard what he said that if I turn up mangled and broken in some dark and dingy alley then it's likely the police will put two and two together and go knocking on his door before long. Besides, " David ventured, "You could always avenge my death!"
Alex grinned, he couldn't stay annoyed with David for long, mostly because he couldn't blame him for the totally unreasonable way Sam behaved towards his friend. That and the fact that Dave was always ready with a quick one-liner to diffuse, or incite, situations that would have otherwise brought a large dollop of trouble their way. "I'll remember to get my Spiderman costume out and at the ready then, just in case! Come on I'll buy you a drink but stay out of Sam's way, he's not gonna do anything to you before the match as you're the only decent crosser of the ball we've got and we can work out an escape route for you while we sort out how we're gonna get the wanker back for all the shit we've had to take off of him."
"Fair enough." David said, he was grateful for the friend he had in Alex, it was always useful to be friendly with the biggest person around, especially when you seemed to be a magnet for the insane and pathetic, but it was more than that. He had been introduced to Al years ago at a mutual friends party, the size of him along with his shaved head and tattooed arms had made him come to the stereotypical conclusion that he was a thug and not much more, but his character couldn't have been more different from his outward appearance. Al had recognised the smaller mans reaction to him and, although tired of having to dispel everyone's fears about him, he had heard enough about David to want to give the correct impression of himself. They realised they had much in common with each other and, despite his initial reaction, David felt at ease in his company almost immediately after that. He stayed in contact with Alex but had always lived too far away to really get to know him well. Since he had moved into the same town as Alex, three months ago they had formed a close friendship which he valued greatly and would hate to lose.
The two friends ambled up the steep slope towards their favourite pub , the 'Dog and Bone'. David had always been amused with the strange and sometimes downright bizarre names that patrons gave their drinking establishments, this one wasn't as bad as some of the pubs he and Alex had frequented over the last few months. His favourite being 'The Slug and Lettuce' which he had refused to enter on the general principle that anything named after such a slimy creature wasn't likely to have the most sanitary of insides. It had, in fact been one of the nicer ones and was almost sad to go to another one as he had enjoyed seeing the faces of friends when he had told them of his pub's strange name. The 'Dog and Bone', however, had won their competition of which pub to make their local for the simple reason that it had both of their favourite beers on tap, they showed the football on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, the pool table was cheap and they were also undefeated in the pubs doubles competition. A winning combination if ever there was one, he chuckled to himself.
It was situated on the edge of a large playing field, including the football pitch for the final this afternoon, in the middle of an estate a couple of miles outside of London proper. It was a one story building of the Victorian persuasion although whether that was due to a conscious decision on the patron's part or it was actually built in the Victorian times David couldn't decide. The pub had a welcoming appeal, the porch was small and cosy and the wooden door gave a satisfying creak as it opened into the main room.. Inside it looked like any normal pub, pointless shit was hanging from every available space on the walls, from pictures of men in kilts that had probably never left their highland homes to the odd shiny oilcan and fishing rod. The bar was long which was another important factor, David had always liked a pub where you could stand at the bar from the moment you walked in, and the staff had always been friendly. Now that he had been coming regularly, they knew him well enough to have his pint waiting for him as he walked up to Alex and sat on a bar-stool facing directly at the giant T.V. that had, somehow, been placed in the top right-hand corner of the ceiling so no matter how many people were in there you could always watch the match.
"I'm only letting us have one before the match Dave, otherwise we're gonna be slipping and sliding all over the place with the amount of rain we've been having ." Alex said craning his neck around a pillar that was spoiling his view of the pool-table. "But the tables free so do you fancy a game?"
"Not 'arf!" David joked in his best Yorkshire accent. He got to his feet and shook his trousers, listening for the tell-tale sign of jingling money. "Sounds like I've got a bit of change so I'll go for this one and whoever loses pays for the next." He said smiling, knowing full-well that if he was on form then Al would be paying for the next few games at least.
"WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, WE'RE OFF TO WEM-BE-LEY!" The singing could be heard from the other side of the estate and only a few people didn't know what it was about. The competition had been so popular that it had taken almost two months for all the entered teams to play and reach the final and the huge crowd that had turned up for it was a good indicator for the success of the idea.
The game itself had been a tight affair, the opposing team, 'Tidy Tigers FC', had scored in the first fifteen minutes which had left the locals, 'Sportsman Smokers', in shock. The tide turned back in their favour in the thirtieth when Alex and the other central-midfielder, Mike, had played a clever one-two between the oncoming defenders and then caught the goalkeeper completely out of position with a perfect through-ball for Sam to get a hold of and slot into the undefended goal. It had stayed like that for the rest of the second half, shots were poring in thick and fast at both ends but neither team were able to take advantage of any of the opportunities that came their way.
With five minutes of golden-goal time remaining, David picked up the ball just inside the 'Tigers' half and began to run with it down the line. As a defender came in with a sliding tackle he deftly turned inside, away from the oncoming legs and shot forward towards the penalty area.
"Pass the ball you idiot!" he heard someone shout and realised that it was that prick Sam and chose to ignore him and take it forward himself.
"Pass me the fucking ball!" Sam screeched, if anyone was going to score the winning goal then it certainly wasn't going to be the person who he'd as soon as spit on than look at.
David ignored him and instead concentrated on the rest of the team's encouraging cheers behind him and slipped past another defender as if he wasn't there. With only the goalkeeper to beat he concentrated, pulled back his right leg and fired a rocket that flew past the keeper before he could even see it and made the back of the net billow out with the force of the shot.
The cheers came thick and fast and the rest of the team raced around the shocked David as they carried him on their shoulders, singing madly and leaving the forgotten Sam in a furious rage in the middle of the pitch.
"Three cheers for the man of the hour!" Alex cried at the top of his voice as he pointed towards the still slightly disbelieving David. The din of the pub muted significantly to begin the celebratory ritual showing just how impressed and happy the pub was with the man blushing profusely in the corner. Even the opposite team had to admit that they had been beaten by a spectacular goal and joined in with as much enthusiasm as the rest of the pub. Only one person refused to be part of the fun.
The applause ended and everyone went back to their respective conversations, after a while David took the opportunity to relieve his bowels who were screaming at him to go after already having drunk four pints. His way was hampered by a plethora of handshakes and verbal congratulations as he muscled his way through the throng and towards the toilets at the other end of the pub. As he stepped into the urinals, he noticed Alex already starting what he intended upon doing.
"Hey, it's Gary Lineker! How's it feel to be a super-star?!" Alex teased, already pretty drunk and loving every minute of his friends success.
"Aw, don't you start as well!" He sighed but with only amusement in his voice as he stood in front of the urinal. "It's getting quite embarrassing now."
"Yeah right!" He quipped, "Admit it mate, you're loving every minute of it."
"I'd be loving it even more if Sam wouldn't keep glaring at me like he wants to kill me." David said, bringing Alex back to earth hearing the worry and anxiety in his friends voice.
"Don't worry about him Dave," He said as reassuringly as possible. Although he hadn't thought about it much until that point, Sam had been worryingly quiet since the end of the game and the fact that the attention-seeking idiot had received no praise for his efforts on the pitch meant that Alex started to become increasingly concerned with his current state of mind. "He played a decent game and scored one of the goals so he shouldn't have that much to be pissed off about. Tell you what, lets have a few more drinks here and then get the rest of the team to come back to my place and make sure that Sam doesn't have the opportunity to carry out his threat."
Dave couldn't argue with that.
With this to look forward to David relaxed and tried to enjoy the celebrity status he had suddenly achieved, although his mind kept thinking back to the goal he had scored. He couldn't work out how it had been so accurate and so fast. He was also puzzled by the fact that he was sure that, although he had swung his leg and concentrated on the ball and where he wanted it to go, it had started to move towards the goal before his foot had touched it, he was sure of it but couldn't think of any explanation that would be within the realms of possibility. He didn't know what to think and decided that when he was next alone with Alex he would see what his friend thought about it.
The rest of the time spent in the pub went smoothly, all thoughts of leaving early evaporated with the premature departure of Sam and, by closing time Alex and David were both rather drunk and stumbling back to Alex's house.
"I tell you what I think Dave," Alex slurred out," I don't know what to think. If you say that the ball moved before your foot touched it then who am I to argue but I know your talking shit!" He teased.
"Wouldn't be any different from usual I s'ppose, but it was just so damn weird I tells ya." He replied, knowing that this probably wasn't the best time to get a decent answer out of the drunken man.
They carried on through the winding alley ways that criss-crossed the estate like a labyrinth, David trusting Alex's years of practise of walking through these confusing paths to take them where they wanted to go. As they turned a corner and entered one of the many little patches of grass area that broke the monotony of the claustrophobic alley walls, David saw something out of the corner of his eye. A man was coming towards them so he moved to get out of the way and then heard Alex shout out in pain and hit the ground, hard.
"What the…ALEX!" He cried turning again to aid his stricken friend and found him lying face-down, whimpering in pain. "Alex are you OK?" He felt something grab him and pull him backwards, smacking him against the alley wall and hitting his skull against the concrete. He held the back of his head, managed to regain his balance and looked up to see his attacker and found that he recognised him. "Sam? What the ….."
"Shut the fuck up you stupid little bastard!" He snarled, grabbing him by the lapels of his coat and positioning his face only inches from David's. "I bet you all had a good laugh at me in the pub tonight didn't you?" A worryingly insane laugh erupted from his mouth. "Christ, I'm gonna enjoy this!"
"Sam please," He pleaded, "I don't know what your talking about, this isn't right…." Whatever he was going to say was lost when Sam turned his baseball bat on David and hit him in the stomach with a force that drove the air from his lungs. He went down to the ground, struggling for breath.
"Didn't I just tell you to shut up you simpering idiot?" He kicked him in the chest, sending him sprawling down the path. "You think you're better than me? You'll never be better than me!" Sam picked up the broken man and slammed him up against the wall. "You think you can take all the glory away from me? Well your wrong, DEAD wrong!".
"David!" Came a cry from behind Sam as Alex managed to get to his feet, head pounding from the blow that Sam had given him, and grabbed the attackers hair in his hand pulling him off of David. But Sam was too quick, he elbowed Alex in the ribs and swung round hurling the baseball bat in the air and bringing it down with crushing finality on his back.
The scream of pain that came from his friends mouth jolted David back into reality and felt something inside him snap. His anguish at seeing his friend go down and the look of pure hate in Sam's eyes was unbearable but all that came out of his mouth was frighteningly calm.
His skin started to ripple with unknown energies. Waves of what looked like tiny streaks of lightning flashed across his body as he stared at his attacker who seemed to be too far into his murderous rage to comprehend what was happening to his would-be victim. He felt a previously unknown power within him break its confines and erupt as his entire body began to glow and then become translucent, all that was on his mind was to stop Sam from harming his friend any more.
Sam advanced on David, his brain refusing to acknowledge the changes in his victims body or the calm and expressionless face that he had since adopted. He swing his bat around and brought it down with all his might upon David's head and then stopped. No damage, nothing at all, the only sign that the bat had indeed hit this glowing figure in front of him was the fact that the bat now had a sizeable dent in the side of it.
He stood, disbelieving what had happened, looking at the bat the only thing he could think of saying was, "What the fu…!"
He was stopped short as David concentrated on his foe and with a scream of rage sent a thunderous fist of energy from his chest at the now fully aware, and terrified, Sam, hurtling him across fifty feet of grass land and onto the waiting concrete of the far alley wall. The force of the impact shattering all of the bones in his body, killing him instantly, and blowing a gaping hole in the concrete wall behind him.
With his foe down, David, gradually losing his glow and returning to his normal body, rushed to Alex's side. "Alex? Oh God please be alright, you've got to be alright." He pleaded, grabbing at his shoulders and preparing to turn his friend over. Several lights in the nearby houses had since come on to see what the noise had been and a few people came out of their houses after seeing Alex lying on the floor.
"No don't!" Alex cried in agony, "I think I'm busted Dave, I can't move my legs and my back feels like it's on fire, if you turn me over you're gonna do more damage than good. You've got to get out here mate, I ….think I saw what happened to you. I definitely saw what happened to Sam and if others did as well then I don't want you hurt too."
David rejected that notion almost immediately, "Bugger that Al, I at least need to tell someone what's happened to you so no-one makes your injuries any worse, besides I don't think any of those lights came on until after….what happened."
"Dave, what did happen?"
"……." He didn't know, he hadn't allowed himself to think of what was happening to him, he'd only felt the need to stop Sam from causing any more damage to himself and his friend and refused to give it any thought until he knew Alex was getting medical attention.
"We'll talk about that later, right now lets get you out of here." With that he twisted round on his knees and shouted at the on-coming people, "Will someone please call an ambulance right fucking now, we need a doctor down here as soon as possible, as in yesterday!!"
"I'm on it," Cried a voice and with that left the ever-increasing hoard of on-lookers and bolted into the nearest front door. David stood up to greet the first group of people and suddenly felt his head spinning and the exhaustion hit his body. The amount of energy he had used up in the defence of his friend had taken a greater toll on his body that he realised and realised his legs were buckling underneath him.
He managed to blurt out, "Don't touch him, his back." Before his head hit the ground and blackness enveloped him…