"God, I can't believe that this could be so hard!" Zack Anderson had complained for the millionth time
"If you don't like it, then shut up" Leon Stormer answered back as always with the same cynical tone
"Yeah, but having to look for people to join the football club is boring" Zack shot back "Can't we just force 'em in? That'll be much faster, dont'cha think?"
The two friends were walking around school campus as they tried to get people to join the Phoenix High football team as instructed by their coach. It was difficult, as football wasn't so popular in the school. Instead, people looked up to rugby and basketball, much to Zack's dismay. He loved football, loved it with a passion. Why can't others see just how epic it was?
'Why were these two forced to look for more members?' you may or may not ask but I'm going to tell you anyhow. Well, it is mostly because of the upcoming interschool competition which the coach wanted to win so badly. The champion team gets a large sum of money, money that the school desperately needed. Thanks to our two current protagonists, the school needed to have money to fix their roof. Let's just say it involved a can of soda, five dollars and a wayward truck.
Their first target was their timid friend, Greg. He at first declined and said that he had asthma so he can't really play well. Of course, that was when Zack gave his 'agree or die' smiles which was always just the right push to make Greg agree to join them. Obviously, he will regret it in his future life but hey, who cares? He's not the main character.
Sammy was the next victim, as he was a brute with strength that matched that of an elephant. Of course, that's what everyone expects. He's actually a nice kid who shies away from all the battles and just wants to be left alone. Persuading him was the easy part; the only thing they fear now was the fact that he's going to be unpredictable on the field.
After that, their attention was turned towards Daniel. He wasn't a risk taker, and calculated all the odds before doing something. His brain started running calculations in his head as Zack and Leon came up to them and asked him to join the football team. No doubt that he wasn't going to be of much help in the team, but he didn't want to let his friends down. In the end, he agreed under the terms that he is always on bench. Obviously, Zack takes this as an opportunity to make him help (Read: force) to look for new recruits. He agreed and dashed off.
Half an hour later, Daniel returned with about fifteen others. This amazed Zack and Leon, who were struggling to look for players just a while ago. In fact, they even noticed that some of the people in the finalised group were actually people they have asked but rightfully declined. Even Jerry, who had claimed to have a broken finger and can't join, was there standing with the crowd.
"How'd you do that?" Zack asked bewilderedly at Daniel who was wiping his glasses
"Variables" he answered back
"Something's wrong with this picture, though..." Leon sighed as he pointed at a girl in the mix of boys
Her name was Alisa Breeze, fifteen year old younger sister to Zack and Leon's classmate Alan Breeze. She was a very soft-spoken and enthusiastic girl, but that only made all the boys swoon over her more and more. In other words, she was cute. Damn cute. The coach didn't take mind, though. He only cared that people had actually joined the football team in the first place, boy or not.
"Frozen Soul" Zack had spoken up when the coach asked for a name for the football club
He didn't know why he actually chose that name, he just liked it. Maybe he read it at the back of a cardboard box once while having breakfast, or maybe it was when he watched an ad on canned soda. Hell, he doesn't even care. Everyone loved it, and he was chosen to be team captain. What could possibly go wrong?
"Good luck" Alisa would always say to the other nineteen boys as they practiced every single day to get even a slight chance at winning the preliminaries against the other schools.
The funny thing about Alisa is that she doesn't know a damn thing on football. It was just the fact that her brother, Alan had decided to join in as well and she wasn't one to be left out from anything her brother did. Plus, she had always wanted to know what it was like to actually be amongst boys and act as an equal, not like a sort of sexual object that the boys always look at the innocent girl as.
Amongst all the boys, she was closest to Zack next to her own brother. He was always the one to bring her spirits up and cheer her on even when she slipped up. This was different from her brother, who was always so high-spirited he actually forgot how to be high-spirited. Always shouting out encouragements and helpful advices, he never realises that those things he shout never actually make any sense and does little to nothing to lift anyone's spirits up.
"Hey, Zack?" Alisa would usually say when they were on break "What do you think it would feel like to fly?"
"Hmm" Zack answered
"I mean, to go into the sky and soar with all the birds and all that" Alisa continued "To feel the wind flowing through your hair as the clouds dance all around you, it must be so calming. And the clouds! Have you ever wondered what they would feel like if you touched them? Maybe they could feel like cotton candy, or even like ice cream!"
"And then when you're done, you could go anywhere you wanna go. No traffic, no people pushing you around, nothing. Then when you're done, you could just soar back up into the sky! Of course, I have to make sure I don't wear a skirt, because you know how boys are like, right?"
That was how most break times are spent. Alisa, with her vivid and unparalleled imagination would keep on talking and talking while Zack would answer every time he heard a full stop being used. She had a ton of creativity, and mostly asked and spoke of things that made little to no sense. Once, she was asking whether or not cows had feelings. Well, that shocked Zack all right.
"Why can't I be Zack?" a boy had asked once "Must be great to be so close to Alisa like that"
"You're just jealous" Leon had joked with a smirk "You want to go and have your weird fantasies with Alisa, then you could do it in your head. There's no way she'd ever fall for any of us, after all"
"Go die in a fire" the boy only replied
This was slightly true, actually. Alisa actually had a heart for Zack, and the only thing standing between them was the fact that she was too timid to speak her heart out. Still, this was a good alternative. They were spending time, which sort of counts as a date.
On the day of their first match, Alan had given them a long and drawn out speech on the importance of teamwork, friendship and perseverance. Everyone slept through that, obviously. No one could stay up longer than the first words of "All right, guys!...". Zack came up next and spoke loudly and clearly for the whole group to hear.
"Lose, and you'll find your backbones in the same place you take a crap"
Everyone made a few awkward giggles, not knowing whether or not he was joking. When Zack had sat down, Alisa suddenly stood up as she twirled her auburn coloured shoulder-length hair which she always did when she was nervous.
The group exploded into a wild frenzy of cheers and whistles that made Sammy's eardrums almost explode form the sheer volume of the cheering.
The opposing team, the Eastern Knights from Laketon High, was an easy win. After all the vigorous training and hard work, they were ready for anything. Of course, it could be because nobody wanted to see a depressed Alisa. Or, it could be because of the fact that Zack had accidentally spiked the opposing team's drinks with sleeping pills, but that was an accident. Yup, an accident.
The next few teams went by in a breeze (Zack was not allowed one hundred feet close to the opposing team) and the next thing they knew, they had won the semi-finals. The coach was teary-eyed as he told them how proud he was of them. This was obviously one of the greatest days of his life, even greater than the time he had made Zack clean the whole school for accidentally destroying the gymnasium ("I was framed, I tell you!" Zack protested)
After a group meeting and some insults from the coach, Zack had walked home with a sly smirk on his face. Beside him, Alisa walked along cheerfully. It had become sort of like a ritual for the auburn-haired girl to follow Zack halfway home, then they would meet a junction and Alisa would have to turn a different way. Zack loved it when Alisa leaves, though it wasn't because he hated her. He didn't want anyone to know about where he lived, that was all. Nobody even knew his address.
"Oh yeah!" Alisa suddenly spoke
She dashed towards Zack and placed something in the palm of his hands. Looking at it, Zack realised that it was a small hand-knitted handkerchief. It was badly stitched and looked as if it was made with unsteady hands. Still, he could feel all the love that was sewn into each thread as it was made.
"For good luck" Alisa said, and quickly ran off back to her neighbourhood.
Pocketing the handkerchief, Zack felt a sense of relief. However, the closer he got to home, the less enthusiastic his face became. He was worried. Worried for his team, worried for his safety but most of all, worried for his father. He could see it right now, his father's face gazing at him with hollow eyes full of regret and sadness.
The door to his house opened up with the same loud noise that pointed to the fact that the house was not always kept in top shape. It was strange. For a guy who always struggled to look his best everyday by wearing hair gel and even perfume, always having friends surrounding him, smiling everywhere he went with a smile that radiated arrogance and pride, the house felt so lonely and sad. Anybody who passed through would never have guessed Zack lived in that house everyday, tending to his father.
Speaking of his father, perhaps it is time to introduce him into the story. The man sat on a wheelchair with a glazed expression. No one could fathom why, not even his own son. Ever since his mother had died, the old man kept to himself and did not have much left in him to continue in life. Zack did not actually know what happened to his mother, since he was much too young to remember that. Whenever the topic was brought up, tears swelled up the old man's eyes and he spoke nothing, looking hurt as he tried to suppress old memories.
"Hey, dad" Zack spoke to his father with a kind tone which was alien to anyone who knew him "I'm back"
"Yes... welcome back..." his father replied
"The team won the semi-finals, and we've got about a few weeks till the finals" Zack spoke once more "We're gonna need all the luck we could get to win it"
"Yes... Good luck..."
Zack was not even sure if his father was aware of his own existence. He was always the same, sitting in that trance-like state as his eyes looked at the door, waiting for a person that would never come through. When he first had to take care of his father, he tried to cheer him up. Well, he got tired of that after a while and just allowed him to stay that way for as long as he wanted. In other words, for as long as he could remember.
"I'm goin' out, dad" Zack said after a while "Have some things to work on, all right?"
He heard his dad speak a grumbled response as he left, closing the door quietly. It was going to be a harsh few weeks, of course. They would need all the rigorous training that they could muster up and the opposing team was said to be simply legendary. Plus, if they win this, the team would made official, football would become one of the school's niche areas and they could score some big cash. If anything, they needed the victory.
Zack trudged down the road and headed for the abandoned construction site near to his house. It was his quiet place, a place where he could think and practice all on his own without people interrupting his train of thoughts. No one knew where he lived, though, so it became a safe haven for him at all times. The area also posed as a great obstacle course for him to work on perfecting moves and skills, some of which he didn't want others to know of.
When he arrived there, football in hand, he started with the usual routine. Kicking the ball around the area, bouncing it on walls and other equipment, even balancing it on his head as he walked around the construction site. With a proud grin, he dropped the ball and geared up for his final trick.
With a great amount of force, Zack kicked the ball straight towards two pipes, placed far apart by the teenager so they would be the same length as the goal post. The ball zipped right towards the pipe, but slammed on one which made it come flying back towards the boy. When it came close enough, he kneed it high up into the air. Coming back down due to Earth's gravity, he lift his left leg up as though he was about to kick it back towards the goal. However, he missed the kick, only to retaliate with his right leg which made a sweeping motion, sending it spiralling into the goal in a curved motion.
"GOAL!" Zack shouted at the top of his lungs
He had practiced for days trying to perfect his move, thankfully it was during the school holidays and he didn't really have much to do (other than homework, but that could be done on the last day of the holidays). Currently, he only managed to do it once during the semi-finals, but that move had actually made them attain victory. It was hilarious watching the slack-jawed faces of those in the opponent team as the ball soared through the sky and zoomed past the goalkeeper.
"Smooth moves, Slick" a voice said behind Zack
Turning around, Zack wasn't really sure how to react. He knew the voice, everyone in town did. The voice belonged to Blake Hunter, leader of the Weeping Devils football team. This person was the leader of the team that would be facing Zack's team in a week's time. He had a devilish face with dark, pointed hair to boot. His team was also said to use any means necessary to win, but no one could prove it to tell the authorities.
Now that Zack's team was starting to gain some recognition and he would be facing off with them, Blake had targeted their ringleader as their next guinea pig. It was simple: Cut the tip of the rope and everything else comes crashing down. However, he was desperate in trying to rid Zack from the team and his chosen attempts were all severe, one way or another.
"What do you want, Hunter?" Zack said loudly, not wanting to show the man any form of respect
"Oh, just hanging around with my guys when we thought it'd be fun to stop over and have a good chat with you, is all" Blake answered with a malicious twinkle in his eyes
Zack knew that spark anywhere, he had shown it every once in a while as well. However, this spark seemed to have more ferocity in them. Blake means business, and was going to win no matter the cost. He was flanked by two beefy guys with baseball bats in their arms. The realisation struck Zack too late as he took a sprint through the deserted area.
"After him!" he could hear Blake's voice
Zack was quick on his feet as he dashed past the area, dodging the landmarks and weaving through the pipes. He had the entire area memorised by heart and could run around blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back as he did the chicken dance while eating fish cakes (which he hated with a passion). However, he knew that he couldn't outrun them forever and at one point he will get tired. In order to keep safe, he had to dash off into the unfamiliar forest. It stood there, inviting him with its long twisted branches and roots that stretched out for what seemed like forever. However, it seemed to actually be paradise as he was being chased by Blake and his cronies.
Zack jumped in and ran past the trees, dropping some branches to try and slow down his pursuers. Their loud yelling could be heard behind him as they barrelled through all the obstacles. If by any chance that he doesn't get killed by Blake, he would probably die of starvation here in the forest because he was as sure of his location as a little five year old in a shopping mall.
"SHIT!" Zack exclaimed loudly when he stopped in front of a river.
It wasn't large, but it was large enough to make it impossible for any mortal human to jump over. He was trapped, unable to do anything to save his own skin. Silently, Zack cursed some more as he imagined a guy named Fate getting strangled to death by him. It was over, all over. He didn't even get to find a hot girl to settle down with and now he was gonna die? Not fair, so not fair.
"Found you" sang Blake as he emerged from behind a tree, his two beefy cronies following suit
The two followers lunged at Zack with all the force they had, which is a lot considering the fact that they were big and strong unlike our main protagonist. He had a normal build with some muscles, but it wasn't going to be enough to beat these two. He was cornered and done for. Oh, Fate. How does it feel like getting a mental stab to the face from Zack?
Before somebody could yell out 'Potatoes!', the two of them had jumped on Zack and raised their baseball bats. Unable to fight back, Zack was continuously beaten and kicked around. His face was distorted so much that not even a mother would love that face anymore. His body, bruised and battered. Why wouldn't they kill him? It must be the fear of getting caught, that's what's stopping them from fulfilling their lust for instant victory.
Just as he thought that it was going to be the end of him, Zack heard Blake call his men down. They stopped immediately, kicking him in the stomach first for good measure. They started to walk away form the clearing as they thought that they had done enough damage. However, Blake had one final trick up his sleeve.
"Nobody's gonna find you now" Blake said as he inserted his hand into Zack's pockets
He pulled out Zack's wallet and cell phone and threw them in the raging river. Zack cursed himself for bringing his wallet, his identification card and most of the money he had to take care of his father was there. Now, he was going to have to work overtime and get some extra money to take care of both of them.
The devilish boy was about to leave once more when he accidentally tripped over Zack, which caused a chain reaction leading to his legs kicking Zack in the ribcage. He screamed as he heard the bones break, but that wasn't the most of his problems. The kick was powerful, so powerful that it had accidentally pushed Zack into the river. Blake was breathless as he watched Zack's form disappear under the force of the rapids.
The last thing Zack felt was darkness, engulfing him as if inviting him to his doom.