“This is it,” he reminded himself, suppressing any doubt that was stirring inside.
Clark had been contemplating this moment since pimples started forming mountain ranges across his chin and the sight of cheerleaders made strange things happen behind his zipper. Puberty transformed every fiber of Clark’s being, including his brain.
As his limbs, blemishes and cerebellum grew, so did the distance between Clark and the rest of humanity. While boys and girls timidly flirted in the lunchroom, Clark isolated himself in the library behind a fortress of comic books. When his family gathered around the TV for supper, Clark excused himself and retired to the basement, where he spent the rest of the evening lifting the rusty weights his father had been neglecting since his college days.
Clark outgrew the home gym within a month of his first bicep curl. Even the heaviest dumbbell on the rack – the 50-pounder – failed to challenge his rapidly developing arms. He peddled to a nearby gym in search of a heftier test, only to be turned away on account of his age. He pleaded with the owner to make an exception, but he wouldn’t look past the business-destroying lawsuit that would ensue if an unsupervised minor were to get injured in his facility.
Clark channeled his rage to his fists and slammed them into the counter like a sledgehammer, sending shards of glass scattering to the ground like a shattered basketball goal. As amazed as the owner was by the feat of strength, he was even more taken aback by Clark’s injury-free hands.
Clark fled the scene before the owner snapped out of his daze. When he rounded the corner he found a malnourished man hovering over his bike. He followed the track marks down the man’s arms to the pair of bolt cutters he was positioning around Clark’s bike chain.
Rage reignited, Clark bent down, grabbed a stone and chucked it at the junkie before he could bear down on his tool. The stone disappeared the moment it left Clark’s hand, reappearing in an explosion of blood, cotton and flesh as it tore through the thief’s right shoulder. The skittish man fell to the ground, clutching his bolt cutters until he became one with the parking lot.
“YOU SHOT ME,” the criminal yelled, gripping his shoulder as he squirmed on the concrete. “YOU FUCKING SHOT ME?”
Clark didn’t respond. He sprinted to the rack, unlocked his bike and lifted it from the bar one-handed as if it were a children’s tricycle.
“Where do you think YOU’RE going, you fucking PUNK,” screamed the injured crook.
Clark straddled the seat and turned the bike away from the criminal. He placed his left foot on the pedal and pressed down like a motorcyclist starting his engine. The wave of flexed muscles surging from his glute to his foot sent his shoe and the pedal crashing to the pavement. The metal square beneath his forefoot embedded in the asphalt like a cookie cutter. He wiggled his foot free from the strap and dismounted the bike.
“Take it,” he said, pushing the damaged goods towards the speechless drug addict.
The bike remained upright until the front tire collided with the thief’s knee, bending his joint with a deafening crack of bones and ligaments. He ran home as fast as his legs could carry him, which, according to the speed detector in front of his old middle school, was 38 miles per hour. Clark looked back to see what car triggered the radar, but he was the only object in motion at the moment.
Clark took a small hop and turned his sneakers sideways, attempting to stop on a dime like a professional hockey player, but the physics didn’t add up. As the soles of his shoes dug into the weathered sidewalk, the seams that held his footwear together exploded, sending fabric particles, and Clark, flying through the air.
Clark was ejected from his shoes like a driver without a seatbelt. He landed in a bush almost 30 yards from where his soles remained, once again, without the slightest hint of injury. Clark continued to sit in the heap of broken twigs and crumbled leaves.
“What. The. FUCK?” he asked.
As unlikely as it seemed, he could only reach one conclusion.
“I’M THE HULLLLLLLK.”
Clark sprung from the rubble as if floating on a cloud of indestructible joy. Fueled by adrenaline, he began putting his supernatural strength to the test. He knocked down a 30-year-old pine tree with a single punch. He lifted a car by it’s back bumper and pushed it around a parking lot like a wheelbarrow. And then, he saw the train track.
Clark returned the car to its parking spot and sprinted through the field. Fearing someone would mistake his actions for a suicide attempt, Clark ran along the locomotive road until civilization was out of sight.
When the train finally appeared in the distance, Clark got down in a three-point stance and prepared for the ultimate game of chicken. The morning fog cloaked him from the conductor’s unsuspecting view until they were too close for brakes. The conductor pulled down on the train horn, hoping to force some sense through Clark’s ears, but his mind was as one-tracked as his steel opponent.
At the point of no return, Clark reared up like an angry grizzly bear and flexed every muscle in his body.
The librarian bent down and removed Clark’s headphones.
“Class or detention, Clark? Your choice.”
Clark scoffed, saved his progress and shoved his laptop into his book bag. He rolled back from the table and wheeled off to class as fast as his hands could push him.
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe
Written by: Mark Killian