Here we are, everyone: The thrilling conclusion to Empowered: Act 2! I’ve had this ending scene of this act in my head since even before I wrote the story, and everything I’ve written thus far has been building towards it. It’s truly the turning point of the story, and I hope those of you who’ve been reading are both satisfied with the progression and eager to see where the story’s going to go from here. As always, I’m happy to bring you a new installment of this story, and I can’t wait to show you how the whole thing ends. But I won’t get ahead of myself. For right now, let’s focus on the apex of Carl Freeman’s downfall in the Act 2 Finale of Empowered!
Gym class was the only class where Carl, in theory, was equal. Wanting to test students on their ‘natural’ athletic abilities, schools outfitted gym classes with nullifiers that suppress the gene that gives a person his or her power. Originally developed to better contain convicts in prison, the nullifiers leveled the playing field for physical education. Only those with physically manifested attributes, such as Wing, partially retained their abilities. In his case, his wings remained; however, he lost the ability to manipulate wind.
Until today, Carl had been on Wing’s team each time they played dodgeball, and he had little to no reason to not enjoy the sport.
Getting hit in the face for the fourth time that period, he could hear Wing say to a friend, “Even with the Carl-makers, he still doesn’t stand a chance.”
“ ‘Carl-makers,’ that’s was always really funny, Wing, you fucking used tampon of a human being,” he muttered to himself as he rubbed his right cheek and took a seat with his teammates who’ve also been ejected from the game. Carl, whose mind was permeated with thoughts of his recent breakup, had been too distracted to play effectively, and Wing had taken full advantage of that fact.
After four more minutes of play, Mr. Woods blew his whistle, ending the second round. “Okay,” he said, “the score is 1-1. Next game decides it.”
“See you out there, Imp,” Wing called out from the other bench.
“Watch it, Kong,” Mr. Woods stated, having heard the antagonizing remarks. “I don’t want to have this conversation with you again.”
Superficially, Wing replied, “Of course, sir. My apologies,” then quickly following his words with devious smirk at Carl.
Carl shook his head as the lividity rose within him. With his current emotional state, it meant that Wing’s actions were more caustic to him than usual. Every time Wing antagonized him, the anger in Carl was stirred harder and harder. Usually, Carl’s goal was to just do his best to not make his team lose; today, his effort was to be focused on cracking Wing across the face with a dodgeball.
He missed the first shot he took at Wing. And he missed the subsequent five times he tried to hit the lithe young man, who was too quick for Carl to successfully land a blow. Fury replaced precision as Carl impetuously – and unsuccessfully – launched ball after ball at Wing.
And as each ball harmless flew past him, Wing would laugh harder and harder. And every time he let out that loud, deep, mocking laugh, Carl’s anger was stirred even more.
The agitation was clear on Carl’s face; he saw no need and no use in hiding it. He wanted to hurt Wing. Badly.
“Missed again, Imp,” Wing taunted as he deftly swerved out of the way of the red rubber ball that was about to connect with his head.
Carl immediately found another by his feet and sent it on the same course towards him.
“Don’t try too hard, Imp,” you’re just embarrassing yourself now. “Come on; I’ll make it easy for you,” he said. Then expanding the feathery protrusions on his back to their full length, he smiled as wide as his wingspan and gestured with his hands that he wanted Carl to throw the ball.
Though panting hard with exhaustion, Carl obliged Wing, but his throw was a weak and lifeless one. As the ball neared his enemy, a small flap of his wings was enough to send the red rubber projectile off course.
“That’s enough, Kong!” Mr. Woods yelled. “You know the rule about powers; you get a zero for the day!”
“Pity,” Wing remarked, feeling the failing grade for the day was more than worth the embarrassment now painted across Carl’s face. “It was an admirable try, Imp.”
Wing then turned his back to take his place on his team’s bench. As he did so, Carl, feeling a resurgence of strength, picked up another ball a few feet away and held it tight against his chest. Forfeiting any integrity, he wound up and released the ball, hitting Wing in the back of his head and interrupting his graceful stride.
Wing turned to face Carl, his face as red as the ball that had hit him. Sentiments had been quickly switched as Carl felt a wave of satisfaction and Wing a deeper loathing for Carl than ever before.
Mr. Woods blared on his whistle three times, ejecting Carl from the game as well.
“Freeman!” he screamed. “You’re out, too! Failing grade for the day, and you’re lucky I don’t fail you for the quarter for an act like that!”
Carl was silent. He didn’t know what had come over him, but he felt no regret for what he had done. Like Wing, the chance for humiliation greatly exceeded the desire for a passing grade in gym class.
“Nice shot, Freeman,” Wing sneered from the opposing bench, “but I suppose we all get lucky once.”
Carl said nothing and instead scowled at the young Chinese boy, accompanying it with a smirk of self-satisfaction.
When class ended, the boys took to the locker room to get dressed, but before Carl and Wing could go inside, Mr. Woods called them to stay behind.
“Kong! Freeman! You’re not going anywhere just yet,” he yelled. “Everyone else inside; this is none of your business.”
The other young boys, always eager to hear a fellow classmate get reprimanded by the teacher, groaned and slowly marched in to the locker room, hoping to at least hear the introduction to Carl and Wing’s verbal berating.
“I don’t know the problem you two have with each other, and frankly, I don’t fucking care,” the gym teacher growled, not concerned with sugarcoating his language. “If I see either of you pull anything like that in my class again, we’re going to have a serious problem. Do you understand me!”
Carl looked at Mr. Woods in shame; Wing stared at him in indifference. The teacher let his words linger on the ears for a moment before continuing. “Now shake hands like men and put this behind you. And I’ll repeat myself: I better not fucking see this kind of behavior again. Do I make myself clear?”
The boys simply nodded before turning to shake hands. Carl was trying – and failing – to keep a calm composure, but the anger in his eyes betrayed him as he looked at Wing. As they shook, Carl noticed how icy Wing’s grip was, starkly contrasting the furious heat in his own.
“Go,” Mr. Woods finished. “I don’t want to look at either one of you right now.”
The two remained silent before entering the locker room. The moment the door closed, Wing’s antagonism resumed.
“Must be nice, I’d assume, not being a freak for a change, even though it’s only for forty-five minutes every other day,” Wing whispered. Although better at hiding it, he was filled with as much indignation as Carl.
And Carl, whose anger never had a chance to fully subside, was being stirred once more.
“Really, it must be nice,” he said again before walking past Carl and towards his locker.
Carl reached for his own locker and began to turn the dial, hoping in vain that this was the last he’d have to deal with Wing for the day. Under his breath, mumbled the combination to his lock. “Zero three, three zero, one two.”
With a *clunk*, the lock came off, and the door opened up. He spent moments applying body spray and putting his normal clothes back on. Wasting no time, he slammed the locker shut and began walking towards the exit and out in to the hallway.
“See you later, Freakman,” Wing uttered coolly after exiting a few moments after Carl.
Turning around and getting in to Wing’s face, Carl growled, “Listen, you piece of shit, I ain’t afraid of you.” Even angrier than he was before, he the finished with “Back the fuck off before you regret it.”
A crowd of students began to gather as they heard the raised voices. El and Octane, both on their way to their gym period, were amongst them.
“Oh, Imp, you’re so much fun to be around…” Wing spouted with a fiendish sneer and narrowed eyes. “It’s a wonder why Spore ever dumped you, isn’t it?”
Wing, taken off guard, now laid on the ground with bloody nose while Carl’s right fist felt as if it had just been struck by a hammer.
Voices emanated throughout the hall:
“Did you see that!”
“Carl knocked him on his ass!”
“Should’ve done it years ago.”
“You gonna take that, Kong?”
“Get up, Wing! Or are you too scared to get hit again by a ‘freak’!” Carl screamed at him. “Get up, you b—”
It was then that El grabbed him and exited out of the school before the situation could escalate any further. Luckily, no teachers had been present for the altercation.
“Get the fuck off me, man! What the hell are you doing!”
“Making sure you don’t get fucking expelled; that’s what I’m fucking doing, you dick! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I knew what I was doing! I was giving that dickhead what he had coming for years!”
“Oh great, you hit him and you’re the one kicked out. You’re fucking lucky a teacher didn’t see that! Think for a change! Christ!”
The voices of the two were raised as Octane, who had followed along immediately, tried to diffuse the situation.
“Both of you, chill out,” he said calmly with his hands up and facing outward. “It’s over.”
“Yeah, and you just got it all figured out, don’t you? Perfect fucking Elcsum Gray needs to use his strength to save Carl and tell him what he did wrong,” Carl replied, ignoring Octane’s pleas for amity.
“Oh do not even start with this bullshit again, man! I’m tired of having your back and then you treating me like an asshole because of it! You’re lucky you even have friends after how big of a dick you’ve been this past year!”
Octane interjected again, still trying in futility to end things before they escalated.
“Carl, he was just trying to help. And El, he’s told you this before; he doesn’t want you doing things for him. You’re both-both-both acting like children.”
Also paying no attention to Octane, El continued his rant. “Getting pissed at me for looking out for you, forgetting about me and Ock the second you get a girlfriend then calling when you only when you need something. Want me to go on?” The frustration in El’s words was seething with months of anger and resentment.
“Yeah, then if I’m such a piece of shit, don’t talk to me anymore,” Carl said as he begin to turn away from his friends and back to the school.
“Spore was right,” El uttered.
“Fuck,” Octane whispered to himself as he shook his head.
Carl stopped in his tracks and turned around. It was El who was now stirring his anger.
“What?” Carl replied, incensed and walking up within inches of El.
“Spore was right. You really are selfish,” El replied.
“Fuck you!” he yelled, pushing El back.
“What, are you going to fight me now? Get a grip,” El said, rolling his eyes.
“Fuck off, man!” Carl exclaimed.
“Guys!” Octane screamed.
“I’m tired of this ‘woe-is-me’ bullshit, Carl! Yes, your girlfriend dumped you, and yeah, you don’t have a power. It sucks, but fucking get over it already! Grow a goddamn pair and act like a man for once.”
“Go fuck yourself, El. You could never possibly understand what I have to go through. You have it so fuckin’ easy.”
“You know what?”
El then grabbed Carl, and within moments, he jumped them so they were far enough from school grounds and to an empty parking lot nearby. Octane followed in short order.
Immediately upon landing, El looked at Carl and, in a very matter-of-fact way, requested, “Hit me.”
“You heard me, Carl. You’ve wanted to for a while now. Hit me,” he said again, this time giving him a small push on the shoulder.
“Don’t push me, man.”
“What’s that matter? It’s what you want, right? To kick my ass? That’ll make you feel better, won’t it? That’ll make you feel powerful, right? Come on, kick perfect fucking Elcsum Gray’s ass, or are you a pussy?”
Carl’s forgot the pain in his right hand as it balled in to fist on his side.
“Carl…” Octane pleaded. For once, he was at a loss for words.
“Too scared, Imp?”
Carl, for the second time in a matter of minutes, hit a man in the face. This time, it was the face of his best friend instead of his worst enemy. Like Wing, the blow knocked El to the ground, and as Carl saw his friend’s face now swollen and covered in blood, he looked at his hand in terrible awe over what he had just done.
He couldn’t believe himself.
El slowly lifted himself to the ground and brushed the dirt of his clothing. With his tongue, he gathered the blood that had filled his mouth and spat it on the ground. Turning to Carl, he asked him one simple question.
“How powerful do you feel now?”
END OF ACT 2
His girlfriend, best friend, and worst enemy, in such a short span of time, he was able to piss them all off. Carl’s angst has hit its peak, and Act 3 will be about his retribution. Carl’s fallen hard, but will he be able to rise? And will he learn what it means to be truly empowered? Find out when Empowered: Act 3 continues in two weeks! I’ll see you then.