Chapter 2: The Game Of Rugby
A loud piercing sound entered the ears of the students as the whistle was blown. It served as a reminder to everyone out on the school field that it was time for their daily warm-up, meaning they had to run two big laps around the school field.
School lessons may have ended, but that didn’t mean it was the end of the school day.
Staring off into the distance, Gary watched the large clock placed on the front of the school building. He was squinting hard, trying to make out where the two hands were on the dial, not because the clock was too small, but because his eyesight had gotten terrible.
Still, Gary had always refused to wear glasses. He felt like if he did, it was only admitting to himself that he had bad eyesight. He was afraid that it would only deteriorate quicker if he gave in, and it would prove that he had bad genes. Something Altered , did not have.
After placing his hands by the side of his head, he pulled slightly, narrowing his field of vision, allowing him to focus in. A technique he had learned when trying to see the screen at the back of the class.
‘Three-thirty, I still have a lot of time left.’
“Get a move on, broccoli head, unless you want my size twelve feet in your backside!” Mr Root shouted. He was a large man who towered not only above the students but also all the other adults.
His last name was very fitting for a man like himself. If Gary didn’t know any better, he would have sworn that his teacher’s genes must have been mixed in with some giant ancient tree. He was that large and sturdy.
Not wanting to anger his teacher further, he joined the rest trodding along at the back of the class. There he ran side by side with his friend Tom, who was huffing and panting away.
“Why…do…they…want…to…kill…me?” Each time he uttered a word, he had to take a deep breath before being able to say the next.
“Did you know that it’s easier to breathe if you don’t speak and run at the same time?” Gary pointed out. He was doing just fine and could have passed his friend, yet he still chose to stay at the back.
It was the same every day, and it didn’t go unnoticed by Tom. He was aware that Gary was staying behind because of him.
In the end, Tom decided to give up keeping up with the rest of the class and started to slow down his pace. “That’s better. According to the internet, when you’re jogging, you should jog at a pace where you can still talk to each other.”
“Yeah…but I don’t think they meant this.” The two of them were now moving so slow that they were practically walking. Trying to make their loss of tempo less obvious they were swinging their arms backwards and forwards, imitating those running in front of them.
Unfortunately, this didn’t get past Mr Root, and the rest of the students were now busy waiting for them.
“Just get over here, you vegetables!” he commanded.
Once the students were all lined up Mr Root placed a rugby ball on the ground right in front of himself. Out of the lineup, he selected the largest student named Blake.
He was the pride of their class. The type that was too good to be true and usually only appeared in movies as the main character. However, this wasn’t a movie,and he was right in front of his fellow students.
Blake had golden tanned skin, with wavy brown hair that had just the right amount of curls. To top it off, his body was that of a naturally lean muscle builder, seemingly designed to excel in sports.
“You know, they say ten percent of the boys match with ninety percent of the girls,” Tom whispered to Gary while looking at Blake. “On Binder I mean. Not that I’ve used that app myself. Seriously, what’s the point when I know nobody would swipe for me. That’s why I go on the app,just to swipe the other direction. That way I’ve rejected all of them before they could ever reject me.”
“I thought you just said you didn’t use the app?”
Looking at his buddy, and then looking at himself, Gary was a little disheartened. It wasn’t because someone like Blake must have girls lining up to be his girlfriend. No, it was because people like him were the perfect candidates to be chosen to become an Altered. As long as there were people like Blake in the world, how would he ever get selected?
“I won’t mince words. We all know that Blake here is the best on our team. Too bad for you lot, that there are hundreds of Blakes out there on other teams as well.” Mr Root gave his very ‘motivating’ pep talk… “What this team lacks is a good line of defence. People who can tackle. We’re here to find our tacklers.”
The aim of today’s training was to try to either A) get the ball off of Blake while he was running towards you, stopping him from reaching the white try line, or B) tackle him to the ground.
After watching the first few students attempt and fail, it became clear that it was an impossible task. Eventually, it was time for Gary to have his go at it.
Mr Root didn’t really have any high hopes for Gary, but according to school regulations everyone deserved an equal chance.
The whistle was blown, and Blake started bulldozing his way towards him, gripping onto the ball tightly as if it was a newborn baby.
‘Hey, hey, can’t you go easy on me?’
‘Seeing the tight grip on the ball, my weak small hands aren’t ever going to be able to rip it off him. The only thing I can do then… is go for a tackle.’
Charging forward, Gary summoned the will to face Blake. If there was one strong point making Gary stand out from the rest then it would be his lacking sense of fear, something even Mr Root had to admire.
When they were closing in on each other, Gary bent his knees slightly getting into a lower position. Although it may have looked like he wasn’t paying attention to others, Gary had picked up on multiple details and habits.
‘Whenever, Blake feints, he does so with his right foot first. The extra weight can be seen shifting in his body to that side. The grass field is soft today, and his feet are sinking deeper than usual. All of this is done so he can push himself forward, spinning his body over to the right side.’
Knowing all of this, Gary went along with his feint, aiming to go in for the tackle, but stopped at the last second, and went to his own right. Just like he had predicted, all of these little details had Blake’s plan of spinning around to avoid the tackle, but Gary knew where he would end up.
Going low, he saw the legs and was ready… only to see Blake’s colossal knee slam towards his face and wack him right on the nose, followed by a loud crack that even the onlookers might have heard.
Blood started to pour down in an instant, and Gary laid there on the cold grass field.
‘Sh*t. So what if I’ve figured out where he would go? It’s not like I have the body to do anything about it.’
From the years of watching Altered fights, Gary was great at picking up habits and seeing the way people’s bodies moved before they did. He would see through patterns that maybe even the person themselves wouldn’t realise they have.
Alas, it was all useless.
“Hey man, I’m so sorry. Are you alright? Let me take you to the doctor.” Blake said as he helped Gary off the ground to see if his nose was okay.
Touching his nose lightly, blood started to gush down even more. “I think it’s broken,” Gary said more to himself.
“Oh, man, I’m so sorry. Let me take you to my family’s clinic. I’m gonna tell them what happened, so they won’t charge you.”
The worst thing about Blake in Gary and Tom’s collective minds was that despite being so popular and seemingly having been handed everything in life, he was actually a nice guy. At least in the movies or TV shows, someone who was this perfect would have a bad side and act arrogant, probably even bullying the geek in class, but in real life that wasn’t the case at all.
No one hated Blake, everyone loved his gentle soft side. Including Gary and Tom, who were merely jealous.
“Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t your fault.” Gary muttered under his breath as he walked off to be with Tom on the side. “It was my fault for trying anyway.”
Walking past, Blake had heard Gary’s word. Out of everyone who had tried to tackle him today, Gary was the only one that had managed to predict where he would be going. This classmate of his obviously had talent, and Blake wanted to tell him that, but he had already gone off to the side with Tom, who was accompanying him to the nurse’s office.
“You should have seen your head fly back!” Tom teased his friend, all excited. “You know when you came back from the summer holiday, with your head all dyed green and that? I thought you had changed, but turns out you’re just the same idiot as always.”
Usually, the two would laugh about something like this, but it seemed like today, Gary wasn’t in the mood to be joking around. He didn’t respond at all to his buddy’s little whims.
“Why do they even make us do this sport, anyway? Oh, that’s right, because our country has an obesity crisis. So they made it mandatory for every student to take part in a sports club every day, so we don’t turn out into pigs like most of the adults who came with that stupid idea,” Tom continued, but this didn’t get a response out of Gary either.
“Hey, so how’s your sister doing?” Tom asked, trying to change the subject.
“You can’t date her,” Gary replied instantly, still holding pieces of tissue up his nose.
“What, I didn’t mean it like that. Although she is growing up to be quite the beauty. I can already picture it, in a couple of years, she’ll be embarrassed to be hanging around with her big brother. She won’t be like she is now. You should treasure these days.”
A picture started to form in Tom’s mind, of a slim curvy girl with short brown hair and perfect shaped large eyes. Only his vision was slightly altered in a particular area. Instead of melons, they were the size of watermelons.
“I know,” Gary sighed in defeat, aware that soon enough he might have to fight off his sister’s suitors.
After visiting the nurse’s office to have his nose looked at, she informed him of what he had already guessed himself. His nose was indeed broken. The nurse recommended he visit the hospital if he didn’t want it to remain crooked like that. It was possible to do a surgery to fix it later on as well, but it would be easier to do it before it healed crooked.
That’s when he noticed the time, and Gary rushed out of the room.
“Thank you, I’ll promise to have it looked at!” he called back.
But he wasn’t rushing off to the doctors. Instead, he was running back home.
Leaving school, he rushed outside the gate and started running as fast as possible to get back home. They lived in a small town , so it was quicker for him to run rather than get the bus. Not to mention, there was another reason why he wanted to avoid using the bus. He didn’t really want to spend any money on it, especially since he could be back home within ten minutes if he hurried.
Litter filled the streets of his neighbourhood and there were patches of graffiti near the apartment blocks. He was aware that their area wasn’t the greatest compared to others.
It was by no means the worst place to live in, but it certainly wasn’t the best either. Eventually, he reached an apartment block. The buzzer attached to the side of the door had been broken a long time ago and had never been fixed, allowing anyone to come in as they pleased.
The only thing left was the gruelling task of walking up six flights of stairs. The apartments had no elevator, and their family was ‘lucky’ enough to be placed on the top floor.
Finally reaching the top, he felt like someone was reaching into his stomach and trying to pull out all his organs. He was huffing and panting louder than Tom had been out on the field.
He waited a minute to catch his breath before entering apartment 604.
“Welcome back, Darling.You’re just in time for dinner, although I’m gonna need a couple of minutes. Do you want me to leave it out for you tonight as well?!” His mum shouted from the kitchen.
“Yes, Mum. I’ll be going out with Tom tonight as well,” he shouted back, rushing into his bedroom.
Their apartment was relatively small, only consisting of two bedrooms and a kitchen that simultaneously was the dining area as well as the living room when not in use. It was all his family could afford and since there were only two bedrooms, it meant…
“Gary, what the hell happened to your nose?!” His sister, who had been lying on her bed, noticed her brother’s arrival. She was still in her school uniform and listening to some music on her phone. Just moments ago, she had been singing away until a certain someone had bulldozed into the room.
“Amy, don’t worry about it, I’ve got to go,” Gary replied, as he quickly changed out of his school uniform and into something else. “And please don’t tell mum.”
That was right, the two of them shared rooms with each other. Even though he was sixteen and she was fifteen, only a year younger than himself. Of course, both of them kept this a secret from their friends. If people found out, they might spread rumours about them being some sort of a freakish family who got up to some strange things.
But it wasn’t like the siblings had much of a choice. Their family situation wasn’t the best, and they both knew that. They had never once complained about their situation to their mother, since the poor woman worked harder than everyone else to raise her teenage children to the best of her ability while working multiple jobs.
After changing clothes, Gary quickly rushed out of the apartment and was heading off. On his way, he would constantly look at his phone to check the time, and it was now five-thirty.
‘I made it, with even some time to spare as well.’
He had arrived outside a well-known nightclub. Above him a sign read ‘Basement’. It was in the town centre, and he wasn’t here to meet Tom. He had lied about that part.
‘I promise I will make our lives better,’ Gary thought as he walked through the doors.
Inside, there was a group of men in suits who greeted him. The only one sitting on one of the sofas was a man with a cigar in his hand at the back. Two more men stood close to him obviously acting as his personal bodyguards.
“I’ve been waiting for you, kid,” the man spoke with a smile as he let out a puff of smoke.
Gary had a deep, dark secret that he had been hiding from everybody. Not just his family, but his closest friends too. There was a reason for sudden change in his appearance over the summer.
Unbeknownst to them all, he had joined a gang.
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