Puck hit the football field with her bladed hockey stick. Ice rapidly spread from out of it until the whole football stadium was frozen. Everyone except Puck was turned into a popsicle, including the up until now unstoppable Pigskin.
Puck grinned, waltzed over to him, and leant on her bladed hockey stick. ‘Feelin’ a lil’ stiff there, buddy? That’s my Zone Special for ya’. For one minute, everything around me becomes my winter wonderland.’
Fenrir burst out of the ice beside her. ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING, RUNT!? KILL THE BOAR QUICKLY!’
‘Relaaax, it’s not like he’s going anywhere.’
Puck scanned Pigskin’s body for injuries. He just had little scars all over. This guy’s defensive Zone was insane. Did he even have an offensive Zone? No, wait, his neck had a nasty gash full of metal shards, bullet holes, shrapnel, pieces of obsidian, and shark teeth; it was going foul and bleeding ceaselessly. The Lonely Hearts hadn’t died in vain; they had worn him down for her.
Puck raised her bladed hockey stick. ‘Rest in pieces, Pigskin! No, wait, I have to think of a cooler line than that….’
Fenrir gnashed at her. ‘RUNT!’
‘It’s cool! I’ve got it, I’ve got it…! No, I forgot.’
The ice around Pigskin’s face crumbled. His eyes flashed orange. The stadium shook around them. A volcano burst out of the centre of the football field and oozed lava. Puck’s winter wonderland cracked, shattered, and melted. The heat was overwhelming! It melted her ice skin, her defensive Zone! It burned her real skin, dried her eyes, and parched her throat. Puck swung at Pigskin’s neck, but he smashed her bladed hockey stick with his wrist and balled his hand into a fist.
Puck’s life flashed before her eyes: it was one long sporting competition.
She put all of her Zone energy into regrowing her ice skin. She had to survive this strike!
Pigskin punched her. The impact shook her bones. The world became a spinning blur.
Dizzy, pain, heat, burning, impact, chairs.
When she recovered, she found she was lying in the spectator seats. Her shoulder was torture. She screamed. Pigskin’s strike had turned it into burning, melting mulch.
‘Damn! Zone Technique: Christmas Miracle!’ Her shoulder tingled and healed itself. She panted.
Ahead, Jack, Mezu, and Sam were rushing Pigskin.
‘Zone Technique: Slash-and-burn!’ said Jack.
‘Zone Technique: Breaking Wave!’ said Mezu.
‘Zone Technique: Cyclone!’ said Sam.
Fire, waves, and wind formed about their slashing weapons. They slashed at Pigskin’s neck together.
Pigskin hit Jack and sent him flying. He hit Mezu and sent him flying too. He hit Sam, but her power armour absorbed the blow.
Sam smiled. Her eyes were hard but tears were streaming out of them. Was this badass Sam or coward Sam? A mix of both?
A skull helmet with the flag of Texas painted on it formed over Sam’s head. ‘Someone help meee!’
A mix of both.
Sam and Pigskin exchanged a salvo of hatchet strikes and magma punches. The damn fool Mountie was actually going toe to toe with him! Her power armour was getting punched to pieces! Sam slashed at Pigskin’s eyes, forcing him to shut them to keep from getting blinded.
Sam quickly hacked at his neck gash. The hatchet hit home, but the blade was too small to cut his head off! Pigskin opened his eyes. He used his warthog tusks to rip open the chest of her power armour. Sam stumbled back.
Pigskin slowly walked backwards.
That scumbag! He’s going to take a run up and kick her over the field goal! I’ve got to stop him, but what can I do?!
Fenrir burst out of the chairs beside her. ‘ATTACK THE BOAR WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAVE! YOU’VE RUINED THE HUNTING METHOD, SO LET YOUR INSTINCTS GUIDE YOU!’
Puck nodded, tripped through the chairs to the football field, landed and rolled on the grass, and skated towards Pigskin. Her ice skin was mostly intact, but she had no slashing weapon to go with her offensive Zone! What should she do?! Bite the neck gash?! Claw at the neck gash with her fingernails?! No, this was rational thinking. She had to use instinct now. She took a deep breath.
Puck could taste the hot rage of the volcano, smell the sour ambition of the reporters and camera operators, hear the wailing despair of the grass.
She could feel the Earth turning beneath her feet: a hungry world in universe of prey.
An image of a caveman punching a boar in the snout flashed through her mind.
I need to hit him in the face!
Pigskin took a run up and kicked Sam. She went screaming over the field goal.
Puck skated up to Pigskin and punched him with everything he had.
His soul spasmed out of his body and shrieked. Puck punched him again and again and again. His soul spasmed faster and shrieked louder. Soon, Jack and Mezu were with her smashing their fists into his head.
Memories of what the Houston Hogs Coach had said flashed through Puck’s mind.
He collapsed and died while trying to score what would have been the winning touchdown.
The cause was internal bleeding he’d received over the course of the championships.
Pigskin started acting screwy one day, so we took him to the doc for a head scan. Brain damage.
Puck gave a wolfish grin. Pigskin was a revenant, a man who had come back from the dead to exact revenge on the people who had let him die. He was powerful because his rage was great, but all he used was his defensive Zone, so his fear was undoubtably great too. The injuries that had killed him had traumatised his soul. They’d all been slashing and shooting him this whole time, but his physical, mental, and spiritual weakness was his cause of death: blunt trauma.
Puck moved all of the ice on her skin to her hand. She buried her fist into Pigskin’s face.
The soul went still and bled from the head.
Pigskin’s body returned to that of a third-degree burn victim.
The volcano crumbled, the lava hardened into rock, and the heat dissipated.
Everyone stopped punching.
‘Did we’—Jack panted—‘did we get him?’
A fiery pit opened up ahead of them. A giant creature emerged. It had a ram’s skull for a head, bat wings, a snake for a tail, and the body of a flayed man.
Puck couldn’t believe her eyes. A demon from the depths of Hell had appeared.
The demon stomped towards Pigskin’s body with outstretched claws. Puck, Jack, and Mezu backed off.
From darkness of the night, a hooded yellow robe descended.
The King in Yellow.
The demon gave a lion’s roar and clawed viciously at him.
It did nothing.
The King in Yellow brought out the Dagger of Life and Death and cut the demon lightly across the chest.
The demon fell into the fiery pit, which closed after it.
The King in Yellow turned to Pigskin’s body and stretched out his hand. He made the body levitate, stripped it of its football uniform, its skin, its muscle, and its skeleton until only the soul remained.
Then he sucked the soul into the mouth of his Venetian carnival mask.
The King in Yellow turned and bowed to Puck, Jack, and Mezu before ascending into the night’s sky.
A long silence.
Everyone just stared at the night's sky.
‘Wow,’ said Puck.
‘Hey…’ said Jack, ‘I just thought of something…. If all Pigskin wanted to do was kill the Houston Hogs Coach…why didn’t we just let him and see if he went away?’
Puck shrugged. ‘Because we’re dumb.’ She flashed a grin at Jack. ‘And where’s the fun in that?’
Sam burst out of the spectator seats and raised her fists. ‘I’M ALIIIVE!’