Daryl and Gaines ran towards the track. Unlike the rest of the 001, the monsters had extra training. They were late. Daryl couldn’t even fathom what DS Foote would do to either of them. Gaines was literally going to be the death of him.
“How could you forget that we had extra training tonight?” asked Daryl as they ran towards the pull-up bars.
“Relax, Kerns,” said Gaines. “We were going to be punished anyway. We’re the enemy here.”
“We’re not the enemy. We’re receiving training. We’ll be heroes just like everyone else.”
Gaines said nothing, and Daryl really wished he would agree and reinforce his belief. Every day, he was losing faith, and he hated that more than anything.
Daryl could see Baranski and Poseidon standing in formation. The looming figure of DS Foote stood before. He looked relaxed, and surprisingly he was smiling. It was nervewracking to see a DS smiling.
As they got closer, Daryl could see that even Baranski and Poseidon were relaxed and smiling. Where were they? Did they just step into the Twilight Zone?
They turned into their direction. Daryl kept running, preparing for the inevitable browbeating he and Gaines were about the receive. They fell into formation and waited for the consequences.
DS Foote’s countenance did not change. He was cheerful, radiating a jovial aura that bordered on the edge of thankfulness. Strange.
“So,” DS Foote remarked. “You finally decided to join us? I take it Gaines was running late? For an individual who beat everyone in the 3-mile run, you sure don’t know how to be on time.”
Gaines stood silent.
“Listen,” DS Foote went on, “First off, I don’t believe in group punishment. You two will be punished for being late, but Baranski and Poseidon were early. Be early. Second, and I want to preface this with ‘I’m not your friend,’ I understand. Gaines you’re not motivated. Your only motivation right now is to beat everyone else. I can see that. Beat them in every category. That includes your character. You will not escape here; I’ve tried.
It will probably not come as a shock to you, but I’m what is known as Big Foot. I was blissfully unaware of this monicker until about 4 years ago I was captured and brought here. I’m just like you.
That being said, this is only a prison if you choose it to be. Eventually, you will gain the trust of your peers, just as I have, and you will be able to live a decent life.
Now… That’s enough of that. We have training to do, and I would like to begin with everyone transforming into their monster forms. I’ll start.”
DS Foote, though already ape-like in appearance, tensed up his muscles flexing, and then, with what sounded like a pop of every single bone in his body, he grew about a 3rd bigger than he already was. His feet stretched and nearly ripped through his boots. His baggy uniform became taut, his palms looked like dinner plates, and tusk-like fangs protruded from his lower jaw. He was massive.
“In this form,” he began, “I have full use of my strength. Just like Gaines and Baranski, I’d wager, my power is halved when in my, relatively, human form. My “monstrosity” is considered A level. We’ll go over “monstrosity” later…
Daryl was starstruck. The Big Foot was going to train him. Would it be like Obi-Wan and Luke? Only time would tell.
“Kerns!” DS Foote said. “Stop daydreaming and transform!”
Everyone was looking at him expectantly.
“Oh!” said Daryl. “You see, Drill Sergeant, I don’t really transform…”
“Just show me Kerns,” he looked impatient.
“Alright. Here goes,” Daryl said. He spread his legs shoulder-width apart and created a triangle in front of his chest. ‘Got to add some flair to this…’ he thought.
“ASSSSSSTRAL PROJECTION!” he shouted, and with that, his soul shot out of his chest and into the sky like a rocket, his body fell limp to the ground. From there he circled the group a couple times, making sure his whispy black form was visible…
“Quit showing off, Kerns,” said DS Foote, “I want to go to bed sometime tonight.”
Daryl stopped his performance and settled his form right over his body, hovering about an inch. His astral form sleek and dark, with a white moth imprinted on his face.
No one said a word. DS Foote placed his hand on his face, examining, judging Daryl’s form. Daryl already felt uneasy with the rest. Their lunchroom conversation was still fresh in his mind. The question kept popping up: ‘Am I good enough for this?’
“So, you’re an ethereal?” said DS Foote. “No… not quite an ethereal. Something else. Most ethereals are only spirits. They don’t have a body. Their spirits are all there is. Like the Air Rods that live in the forest.”
“Air rods, Drill Sergeant?” said Gaines, but his eyes were transfixed on Daryl like he’d never seen anything like it.
“Yes,” said DS Foote. “I hate the term. It’s not forthcoming. Air rods are ethereal creatures. Some say they exist in another dimension. Others say they are animals that have surpassed the need for a physical body. I’ve always called them animal spirits. They can be good or bad, and they can shift to a physical form, but like ghosts, they can only hold it for a limited time.”
“Ghosts?” asked Baranski.
“Uh-huh,” said DS Foote. “Kerns has probably seen ghosts. Haven’t you Kerns?”
Daryl pondered it for a moment. He really wasn’t sure. “Drill Sergeant, I. I don’t know. Maybe?”
“You have. Until you train your eyes correctly, they’ll just look like normal people. You’ll learn.”
So far, DS Foote was the best DS they had. This WAS going to be like Obi-Wan and Luke! Just with some other side characters… Ah man! Does that make Gaines Han Solo?
Daryl turned in Gaines direction.
“What?” said Gaines.
“Gaines,” said DS Foote, “I heard your form is pretty big. Show me.”
Daryl watched as Gaines furrowed his brow. He looked like he was concentrating hard, but nothing was happening. “Sorry Drill Sergeant, I typically need a strong emotional catalyst to transform.”
“I’m not a sorry Drill Sergeant,” DS Foote said. “And I’m going to get you there by the end of the night. We’re going to get you more in touch with your monster side.”
“Drill Sergeant,” he said, “I really don’t want to transform. I get out of control when I do. I’ve killed people.”
Drill Sergeant looked at him, his eyes absent of sympathy. “I’ve killed people too, Gaines. You will get past your hang-ups. I don’t know what they are yet, but if you think you can control it without understanding it, you’re dead wrong. I’m here to teach you how. I can’t do that without your full cooperation.”
He turned away from Gaines and looked to Baranski. Gaines hung his head. Was his transformation really that bad? Daryl wondered. He was incredibly curious. Gaines was really annoying, but he couldn’t help but admire his strength. Maybe his admiration was misplaced.
Baranski tensed her body up just like DS Foote. Her eyes turned yellow; her mouth opened wide, like a viper, exposing two long snake-like fangs; her short hair grew longer and mane-like; her hands like tiger paws with claws stretching out. She went on all fours and her feet slipped out of her boots, long and slender, powerful, like a kangaroo, and a long serpent tail ripped out from the back of her pants.
Daryl, instinctively, backed away. Her tongue flicked out of her mouth.
“I smell your fear,” she said, as she turned her head towards Daryl. Her face resembling a scaley, cat-human hybrid of a beast. Daryl gulped. ‘If I was in my body I would have crapped myself,’ he thought. ‘I hope I didn’t!’
DS Foote smiled. “That is impressive. You are one ferocious-looking creature. What is your origin, Baranski?”
“Russia,” she hissed.
“We’ll see soon enough, I think,” he said, turning towards Poseidon. “So, lastly we have the princess. How is your father?”
Poseidon stood silent. Any mirth she had before completely dissipated.
“Is that a, ‘fuck you, Drill Sergeant Foote,’ I’m hearing,” he asked.
She softened. “I haven’t seen my parents in almost two thousand years…”
Daryl had never seen her use that face. Her usual loud and proud attitude seemed to scuttle into a dark corner of her mind as misery overtook her. It wasn’t pleasant. It didn’t seem like her at all, and Daryl wished there was something he could do to cheer her up.
“Transform, private,” said DS Foote, “We’ve got some things do before we call it a night. That goes for you too, Gaines! Transform now! I haven’t got all night.”
Poseidon looked like she went into a seizure. Her eyes rolled back into her skull and her light skin started to darken into a grey, scales formed as if the skin shifted down a reptilian evolutionary pathway, her clothes ripped. Daryl’s eyes widened, desiring to see Poseidon’s nakedness, but he decided it would be best to turn away, and looked over to Gaines. Gaines was staring right at her, but there was a change in him as if some sort of animal was clawing at an invisible cage in his mind.
DS Foote noticed too. His eyes left Poseidon to Gaines, curiosity imbued in his eyes. DS Foote took a step back to watch as both changed.
Poseidon clothes completely ripped in two, shredded from neck to ankle as her head became more serpentine; horns grew out of her head, and her neck elongated. Her body took on the shape of a dinosaur, her hands and feet became like clawed paddles, almost like a sea lion but scaly, a short tail finished her form; she was definitely the loch ness monster Daryl dreamed about.
She huffed as her front legs propped her up, her breaths emitting a mist. “Drill Sergeant?” she inquired, but he was now focused solely on Gaines.
Gaines’s skin turned as red as a tomato. His eyes glowed yellow; his hair turned white and grew down past his back. His top ripped under the growing of his torso; his chest and shoulders broadened, his arms thickened with muscle. All that was left were his pants, but his feet became cloven; his legs bent like a goat’s, and two ram horns curled on either side of his head.
Again Daryl checked his pants.
DS Foote smiled. His triumphant gaze gave Daryl’s astral body goosebumps.
“So… Emotional triggers. Lust?” he wondered allowed. “Well, we’ll figure this out…”
“Drill Sergeant?” pleaded Poseidon, “This transformation is very taxing on my body. Can I transform back? I need a body of water…”
DS Foote looked at her. “Yes. Everyone transform back. Baranski, give Poseidon your blouse. I brought a case of clothing…”
Baranski and Poseidon’s bones cracked and popped as they shifted back to human form. Baranski was quick to give Poseidon her top. Daryl popped back into his body. “Good, I didn’t crap myself,” he said out loud, accidentally.
Gaines did not change, his eyes locked on Poseidon. Baranski stood in front of her, eyes locked on him. DS Foote stepped up to Gaines, transforming back himself.
“Gaines,” said DS Foote, “Let go of your emotion.”
Gaines growled and reached out to DS Foote’s throat. He switched back quickly and grabbed Gaines’s hand before it could clench. Daryl stood up and backed away to Baranski, his eyes locked on their hands. They were massive.
“Gaines!” growled DS Foote, “Release your emotions!”
“I don’t know how,” said Gaines.
“You’re doing it! Focus on me!”
Gaines’s fist relaxed and he slowly shifted back to normal.
“That’s it.” said DS Foote, “Keep going. You’re almost there. Damn, private, we really got to work on that.”
Gaines fell to his knees, his face wet with tears. Daryl stepped forward. He took off his blouse and handed it to Gaines. Gaines wiped his face on it and muttered a thank you between choked breaths.
‘That was Gaines…’ Daryl thought. ‘Damn!’