Uncle turned back and rested Rayan’s body. He laid him down, closed his eyes, tucked his tongue into his gaping mouth, and folded his arms over his head. He clapped three times and uttered a prayer that both Enteng and Joey could not understand.
Enteng angled his head to listen as they moved forward.
“It’s not Japanese.” Joey shook his head. “I think.”
Enteng shrugged, patted George, and limped towards Uncle’s house. He did his best to hide it. There was no need to relieve himself, currently, but his butt had been clenched for so long that everything below his waist had gone numb. He worried, too, that a heart attack was coming his way as he felt nothing on his left arm, but it’s probably him in a trance due to the damage he’d taken. Everything seemed normal, except for Uncle, who walked it off as if nothing happened.
He didn’t get to die, so he got to suffer instead.
And they were met by a tragic silence.
No one did cheer. Joey raised his brow. They were dumbfounded. Of course, they would be. They just took down this behemoth that could not be injured by any other means. They wanted him to die, and yet he didn’t.
Joey whistled. He was able to relieve himself. A single punch ain’t a biggy. He just had to scream internally at a nearby tree as he wished to not piss some blood due to some internal bleeding if that’s how his body worked, but that didn’t matter. He won. He proved these pieces of shit that he’s worth something. This silence didn’t mean shit. They’re probably thinking of another thing to tell him to do.
He wouldn’t do it anymore.
Unless someone really wanted to.
Beating something like that would have its merits. He would get their respect, their admiration. He would be able to stand there and be king while the others worship his name. He would be sitting on top of a gaming chair with his leg dangling on its other arm with his mouth open. He chuckled. There would be like two fans—three fans. He needed his throne to be properly ventilated. Then, there would be these people coming up to him, feeding him grapes and chicharron.
But he would only do that unless the others wanted to serve him.
He needed to step up for himself, for the better.
Joey set his foot on the porch. He clicked his tongue and licked his lips. He wiped the grime off his face and combed his long hair at the back of his head. Narrowing his eyes, he raised his chin and looked around, scrutinizing the faces of those that did not follow him to battle.
“So,” he smiled. “I know that all of you,” he waved. “are thinking about why I am still alive.”
One of the boys raised their hands. “We’re actually glad that you’re alive…”
“Well, sorry to disappoint you!” Joey raised his voice, spreading his arms wide like a mighty eagle hungry for attention. “I am alive. I’m strong. I’m doing well. I got punched in the face, and it felt like I got hit by a truck, but I am alive.” He winced from the pain riding his back. “That’s what matters.”
One of the girls with bleached, short hair crossed her arms. “Please…”
He hunched his back, exaggerated his scowl, put his arms close to his side, and flailed his hands as he raised his pitch to copy the voice of a kid. “Well, so sowwy, I couldn’t die. I was too stwong. Uh-woo. Twoo bad the big bad couldn’t beat good ol’ Joey like he should.” He gritted his teeth. “Because Joey is weak. Joey is useless. We can push Joey around. Joey would always do everything he should do as long as we say thanks. He’ll make it happen if we pressure him enough. He’ll do fine. He’s great. He’s used to this. He’s a good guy, right? Right.” He straightened his back and looked around. “Well,” he chuckled. “not anymore.”
Enteng followed, but he stopped upon looking at George. The cactus was peering into his soul, stopping him. He couldn’t figure out why, but he shrugged and let the man of the hour continue.
“Not anymore.” He screamed and grimaced at the pain that shot to his side. “I’ve had enough of this shit. This Good Guy Steve is gone.” He licked his lips and glared at those looking at him. He pointed at them one by one and led their sights into his own. “This Good Guy Steve is gone. Gone, you hear me?” He whispered, keeping that eye contact. “The soldier. The weakshit that you’ve trampled, the one that you’ve said that doesn’t belong here, is gone. I am not of pure heart. You know that. I am not the mighty Hercules who had been blessed by my parent’s blood that I could do anything that I wanted. I am no man that’s super enough to fly, shoot laser beams with my eyes, and get super strong because I’m breathing in the same piss-tasting atmosphere. I am no Samson so beloved by God and my powerful magical hair that I could beat people and monsters alike even with the jawbone of a goddamn donkey. But you know what makes them different from me?”
“They’re dead, and some don't even exist!” Joey paused, reeled his head, and licked his lips again in deep thought. “Right, they’re heroes.” He stomped the ground once more to get their attention. “But that’s not the point,” he proclaimed. “The point is…” He narrowed his brows and held his hands in front of him as if he’s holding a piece of an unseen string on both ends. He grinned and deepened his voice. “I have gotten into the inner, teenie, I—inner, workings of your brains. You believed you could command me. You’ve believed that you could tell me what to do.” He looked away. “Ah shit. They’re the same thing.”
“So, what’s he up to?” Uncle tapped Enteng at the back.
Enteng showed George to Uncle and they both shrugged.
“Anyway!” Joey shouted, stretching his words. “I have deemed myself worthy of the Big Man serum. I am the hero now, bitches.” He widened his grin. “I have almost pissed my pants across the length of these hours. In my stomach remains a ball of shit that I have not been able to throw because there’s no running water and toilet paper around. But I have gotten my hands on that milk of destiny, the thing that turns me into a legend! I have met the test of fate. I have taken the experimentation of destiny. I have been taken into the chambers of wolves, where something went horribly wrong. I screamed. I almost cried. But I fucking took it. I took destiny with my hand. I woke up…” He spread his arms wide, heaving and drenched with sweat. “I have re-awakened into a fucking super-soldier. I am the shield. I am this country, what’s left of these people, personified. With me, you shall gain peace. With me, you shall give power. With me, you shall gain protection. With me, you shall gain revenge. It’s Buffed Steve Time, bitches.” He flexed his muscles. “For I have become—” He coughed. “I am your first avenger, you filthy commoners!”
“Did he just—”
“Yeah. That’s the plot of Commander America.” Uncle cut off Enteng.
“But what’s next?” The girl with bleached hair asked.
Joey shrank and tilted his head, pouting. “I’m sorry?”
“What should we do from here?”
“Well,” Joey nodded thoughtfully and pointed them all at Enteng with a bright smile. “That’s for him to decide.”