Armor in a Band

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

a short story that a friend and I wrote.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else these pages must show.”
My name is Arnold Wilkes and I live in Kettle-Corn, Kansas. It is said to be one of the smallest towns in the U.S of A. Being a southern boy, it was always my life-long dream to explore the world around me, to get out of this small town and into the city life. That is why I was ecstatic the day I got my college acceptance letter, aka my “golden ticket to Hollywood”. It meant that I could get out of my dusty old town and head off to college. I was going to the University of Tulsa, and I was going to have the time of my life. Or at least that was the plan.
It was a Tuesday. Yesterday was the annual square dance competition in the local market. All the townsfolk gathered to enjoy a rousing afternoon of dancing and fun. As the sun began to set, I slowly packed my luggage into the trunk of the car. As I waved goodbye to my parents, I began my three hour journey to freedom. My old home slowly faded into the distance.
My first week in college was a rush. I met new people, took new classes, and enjoyed my new dorm life. Mornings were filled with working in the campus bookstore, and after lunch I would head over to Kennedy Hall for my classes. I decided to study journalism, in hopes of one day being a world renowned reporter.
On the second Monday night of school, the fraternity Phi Alpha Kappa, was hosting a party to introduce all of the incoming students to their upper classmen. Even though I had been to a few college events in the past few days, I decided to go because I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to meet different people and make friends.
As a naïve, stereotypical country boy, I did not expect what I found at that party. I remember music playing so loud I had the impression it was pulsing through my veins, and I also recall people drinking a wide variety of alcohol. Let’s just say I don’t remember much from that first night of hard partying—but when I woke up, there was a strange bracelet on my arm and a picture that I will not describe drawn in black Sharpie on my chest. The bracelet was solid, black and thick; it had silver spikes and the fraternity’s symbol on it in red.  As hard as I pulled, I couldn’t get the bracelet off. I searched for a clasp but couldn’t find one. I even tried putting butter on my wrist to slide my way out, to no avail. Finally, after glimpsing at the clock and realizing that I would be late to work if I didn’t leave soon, I got dressed and headed straight out the door, still wearing the bracelet. 
On my way to work my mother called me. My parents were such worrywarts. They thought that they could just call me whenever they wanted and check up on me as if I was still their little boy. “When are they going to realize that I’m not their baby anymore but a grown man? I even have the chest hairs to prove it!” I thought. But I figured that since they are still my parents, a quick conversation wouldn’t hurt. So I picked up the phone.
 “Arnold? Arnold?...”
“Yes mother.”
“Darling, How are you? Have the boys been teasing you??”
“No mom, everyone’s nice here.”
“Have you been eating enough dear? You really ought to get some meat on your bones.”
“Don’t worry, there’s plenty of food here.”
“Well are your clothes warm? Because I won’t have my son freezing when his mother could send him perfectly warm clothes.”
“I’m fine mom, really.”
“Well alright then, pumpkin. You stay good.”
She handed the phone over to my father, who proceeded to ask me the same exact questions my mother had. “What a relief,” I thought, “that I’m not still living with them.”
As I hung up the phone, my arm felt heavy. I looked down and once again saw the bracelet lying on my wrist, only this time it appeared to be slightly wider. “That must have been some party last night, if its effects are still able to play with my imagination today.” I thought, as I hurried the rest of the way to work.
Work was as mundane as ever, so I headed out around noon for a quick lunch at Snack Attack, one of my favorite hangouts. They made the best tortellini in town. One bite into their tortellini and I promise, you will be in tortellini heaven. When I got there, the place was packed with college students; and I mean packed! I decided that the tortellini was worth the wait. Everything will be much better once my teeth get to chow down on the world’s greatest pleasure! Mmmmmmmmmmmmm……
As I was approaching the counter I overheard the cashier say to an ordering customer that my tortellini was sold out! This could not possibly be true. I was extremely frustrated. I’ve been waiting for THIRTY minutes for nothing. Suddenly my heart started to pound and pound. My breathing slowly shortened and shortened. My arm started to get heavy again. I looked down and the bracelet seemed to be even wider than before. “I must have not been wearing my glasses earlier,” I said to myself. “This bracelet is certainly larger than I remember seeing before.”
 I couldn’t think straight. I had to get out of here. I rushed out the door leaving behind a crowd of whispers. I ran as fast as I could, which was not such a great idea. I ran so fast that I tripped on myself, fell on the floor and banged up my knee real bad. It was hard for me to pick myself up. I tried asking for help from the passing pedestrians but they all ignored me. They just passed me by pointing and laughing as if I was an attraction at the circus. I felt as if no one cared about me; as if I was a nothing, a zero, a loser. I couldn’t believe how cruel humanity was. “What kind of world do we live in that no one will stop a second and help a fellow brother?” I asked myself. I had no other choice but to try and pick myself up. That made me even more frustrated. When I got up, I noticed that my bracelet looked even larger. Frustrated, I tried smashing the monstrous bracelet against a metal pole, but all that accomplished was injuring my wrist. I was on the verge of tears so I hurried to my dorm without any further interruptions. As soon as my head felt the cushioning of my pillow my eyelids shut and I was soaring in a world of dreams.
Tuesday’s afternoon schedule was pretty hectic. I had a three hour lab and a writing class. However, I wasn’t able to concentrate the whole time. I couldn’t help but wonder about my new and mysterious bracelet. After class I headed over to the quad to play football with some friends. It was a little cumbersome to play with my bracelet, but my team still managed to win no problem. We had a celebratory dinner at Grus’ Grill, and of course the losers treated. When I got back to my room I was determined to get the irritating bracelet off of me! My mom called me as part of daily her check-ups. We had a fascinating chat (at least she seemed interested, while I, not so much) about the Johnson’s cat who had just died, and my mother filled me in on all the details of the funeral that would be taking place in two days. The conversation was very aggravating. My mom just kept going on and on. She wouldn’t shut it. Finally when this punishment was over, I set off on my mission to get this bracelet off.  
The bracelet seemed to have grown even more from the time I ate dinner! I didn’t know how that was possible, but the bracelet now seemed to be consuming three-quarters of my right arm. Worse yet, it felt very tight at the top, as if it couldn’t decide whether or not to cut off my circulation. I grabbed a hammer out of my roommate’s toolbox and began to bang away at the bracelet. When that didn’t work, I tried placing my wrist by an open flame, hoping the bracelet would melt. When that was a failure, I decided that since removing seemed impossible maybe I should figure out the reason the bracelet grows. I racked my brain for ideas. I realized that, come to think of it, the bracelet had grown every time I talked with my mom. Either I was entering the twilight zone, or my mom’s voice was somehow causing my bracelet to expand. I tested this theory out by calling my mom again, pretending to have dialed the wrong number. However, when I hung up the phone the bracelet had not crept up. The sun was rising and I still had no idea what could cause this monstrosity to take over my arm. Despite the pins and needles that were now setting in, I headed straight for the library to do some research about “mystical” bracelets.
While trying to filter through my search results on Google for an answer to my predicament, I saw Mike, a guy that I had met at the fraternity party. I told him about my problem, and while at first he accused me of making the whole story up, he later told me a legend he had once heard about a man called the “Hero of Steel.”  This “Hero of Steel” was said to be someone with armor growing on his body. According to the legend, the armor originates from a bracelet. Every time the user gets frustrated or annoyed, the armor will begin to grow. I gasped. As fake as this story seemed, I couldn’t help but wonder if this story had anything to do with my bracelet.
“Are you suggesting that I am this “Hero of Steel?” I asked.
“C’mon man, it’s only a dumb story. But if you were, that would be pretty cool.” he answered.
“Well, what else do you know about this hero?” I asked, while at the same time reminding myself that any notions I had that this story was talking about me were insane.
Mike went on to tell me that this hero was destined to fulfill a “sacred” task. This task, which to me seemed totally and utterly preposterous, included several steps. First the man had to drink a concoction made of ragweed, rose petals and honey. He then had to run 13 miles (apparently in order to build up his strength). Next the “Hero of Steel” had to swim across the Sapone Lake (which, eerily, happened to be right in the neighborhood); at the end he would arrive at a cave where he would find the one and only Prince Francis Roger Michael von Beaulin, a handsome and weeping groom who would be waiting for his “fairy-tale” rescue. Not sure what to make of the story, I thanked Mike and went back to my dorm.
As soon as I walked into my room I heard a voice calling “AAArnooold…..AAArnooooldd….Arrrnooold.” I looked all around to find where the voice was coming from. Eventually I found the spot- the voice was coming from under my bed! Slowly a man began to crawl out from under his dusty hideout. This man, who referred to himself as Radagast, had a crooked and pointy nose, bushy eyebrows and a violet cloak with a star pattern and a matching cone-shaped hat. He was short and fat, and looked like he had come out of a fairy tale. By the time I opened my mouth to speak, he was gone. In his place was a leather-bound book with big, silver letters across the front cover that read: “A world that will never make sense. TRUST ME!!” I was exhausted, and needed a long and peaceful nap to try to process all of the day’s events. However, I decided to have a look inside the mysterious book of nonsense. The pages were very old, and were stained and wrinkled. But when I opened them up to read, I found the same exact tale as the one Mike had just told me! It talked about the “Hero of Steel,” and the whole story of his bizarre but daring expedition. I knew that for some strange reason I was picked to save this groom. I didn’t want to save this groom. I didn’t even know this fellow. “Why should I care about him if others didn’t care about me?” I thought. This whole bracelet business was getting on my last nerve.
At three o’clock in the morning I awoke to find the whole right side of my body covered in some sort of armor. I made numerous attempts to find the unlock button but it was no use. To make things worse than they were before, the more I tried to free myself, the tighter the armor got. Frustrated beyond belief, I decided that I might as well give the legend a shot, even thought I didn’t really feel like saving this prince. After all, it didn’t seem like any of the tasks would be too dangerous, and I was running out of ideas. Worst case scenario I could say I got a good workout.
A half hour later I was already dressed and ready to start this crazy plan. To make a long story short, I managed to find the ingredients for the special drink, and I then ran for 13 miles, amazed that I didn’t pass out. As I approached the end of my swim across the lake, I heard chanting coming from the island. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but was happy to see that when I finally arrived on shore, standing in front of me was a cave. I had to squeeze to get in (I think I was only able to get in because of the few pounds I had dropped exercising beforehand), but the inside of the cave was humungous. Luckily I brought a flashlight, because inside was pitch black. I called out “Hello,” but heard no response other than my echo. Suddenly I was stopped by a funny looking guard. He had orange troll hair, dental work of an eighty year old granny, a snout, and webbed feet. This “pickle-wrinkle” (the name I decided to give him) was of no challenge. All I had to do to get by was jump five times on one leg while placing my left arm on my head and say the following statement: “I am not smarter than a monkey but stupider than a bear. I am a fool to listen to a hippo while you shaved your sister’s head”; very simple. The minute I finished this ridiculous task, I was free to travel further into the cave, where sure enough, I found the prince.
Prince Francis Roger Michael von Beaulin was not at all what I’d expected. I had imagined him being the typical fairytale prince, a handsome, rugged man in his 20’s or early 30’s. However, this BOY was merely fifteen. He was tall, skinny, and odd looking with no sign of puberty. I greeted him but he did not respond, so I proceeded to cut off the shackles that appeared to be holding him hostage. Only then did he seem to come to life, and a huge smile spread across his face. I told him I was here to rescue him, and that I would take him off of the island he was stranded on, news to which he responded quite happily. However, when I went to lift him up, it felt like he weighed a thousand pounds! Apparently all of my strength had been used up by performing the arduous tasks earlier in the day, and I was now completely weak. Just then, as if by a miracle, the armor took over my body, and I picked the boy up no problem. It was also pretty easy to swim back with him holding onto me, and when we got back to shore I brought him to my dorm, hoping that my armor would disappear.
When I opened the door to my room, I saw about 20 people crammed in there. They immediately started clapping, while I just stood there, completely startled. Suddenly Scott, the president of the Phi Alpha Kappa fraternity rose from his seat.
“Arnold, do you have any idea why we’re here?” he asked.
“I haven’t the slightest,” I responded.
“Do you have any idea why you have mysterious armor growing on you?” he asked, in a way that made me think I was missing a very important piece of information.
“Um…” was all I could think of to respond.
“Well,” said Scott, clearly amused, “I have a little confession to make. The fraternity has been pulling a prank on you for a few days. I know you just completed what you think is a “sacred task” that makes you the “Hero of Steel,” but it’s all fake.”
“What?” I gasped, not really sure of what to make of all this.
“Well,” Scott continued, “Every year we pick one new student and put them to the test. We want to make sure they are qualified to enter our fraternity. Sure, everyone goes through the typical Rush Week, but there is always one person whom we make work extra hard, and this year it was you. Jason, our tech specialist, devised a bracelet that was sure to drive you insane. We put it on you after you had fallen asleep at the party. You see, the bracelet has special electrodes in it, which detect when you get stressed and cause the bracelet to grow. I won’t get into the specifics of how it works because frankly, Jason is the only one who understands it. But I’m sure you noticed that whenever you felt frustrated, the bracelet seemed to grow. The bracelet was made from a special plutonium and cesium alloy, making it virtually impossible to break or melt. In addition, the bracelet had a microscopic camera on it. This came in handy sometimes, such as when you were trying to rescue “Prince George,” who by the way is my little brother, and we needed to make your armor grow completely. But I must admit you completed your task with great strength and precision. We will now remove the bracelet, and then you will become an honorary member of our fraternity. When you become a senior, you will become president of the fraternity. After all, I also had to pass a similar test in my time.”
When Scott was done speaking, Josh rose and pulled a small remote out of his pocket. He explained that there were two buttons on the remote, one that allowed him to control the growth of the bracelet himself, and one that allowed him to deactivate it. He explained that when he pressed the latter button, chemicals that were held in a small pocket in the bracelet would be released and cause the bracelet to dissolve, but would cause no damage to me. I watched as he pressed the button, and immediately felt the pressure release from around me. The guys lifted me on a chair to celebrate, and we sang the fraternity’s secret song. Just as the festivities were getting underway my phone rang, and sure enough it was my mom calling. Ah, how nice it was to be a normal kid.
 
 


Submitted: October 03, 2010

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