A SOFT RAIN FELL THROUGH THE JUNGLE CANOPY.
William Nuñez watched the droplets slip down the tree trunks and reflect on the dim jungle floor. These soon became small streams and brooks. They seemed so uncaring. It reminded him of Colombia, in a way.
Nuñez stared out of his small wooden alcove he’d found high in the trees. From within it, he could watch for all signs of danger. Be it the rampaging lions, the occasional viper, or whatever else the Maintenance Department put in this forsaken jungle when they converted the arena in-between matches.
He shook his head, shaking some of the droplets of his cap. The Maintenance Department really knew what they were doing. Inside the maze of vegetation, one couldn’t see out. But the seniors and spectators were safely watching the match on Guerrilla Wolves TV. Brother Ray insisted the students go indoors in the weather, much to the students’ dismay.
If he looked hard enough, he’d see cameras hidden in a few nooks and crannies all about, shining back at him. These American Corporations profiting on the unpaid labor of overtime teachers. Those guys made him sick.
He forced a smile. What a show he would give them, but not yet. So he waited.
El Zorro-Nuñez would normally be out hunting his prey in the shadows, his espada in hand. This, however, was anything but normal. In this place, he was the prey. Her prey. His adversary could be anywhere. She would be the dark crevasse under two trees in the distance. Or the oddly shaped bush to his left. Or even none of those things.
She was a master of surprise and cunning. He knew he wouldn’t find her. She would choose when the battle started. His only thought of consolidation was that she couldn’t find him either.
He went over his arsenal. Bullwhip and espada. Check. Stylish black bandana and cape. Check. La chanclas. Check. He instinctively reached for his flintlock, but only found air. He sighed, remembering the board of directors’ decisions. No firearms, they said. It would be too jarring for the children. He reached in his pocket and clenched onto his most prized and dangerous weapon. He smiled. This would come in handy.
A sharp crack echoed along the jungle floor. He tensed. Most sound was lost in the downpour, but Nuñez’s trained ears heard it loud and clear. He glanced out the alcove to the ground below.
She had arrived. Standing in the rain in her normal school attire, Denny Charbonnet didn’t look that menacing. She actually looked lost, but Nuñez knew not to underestimate her. He had done research on his opponents between his Doulingo Arabic lessons and Shakira music videos.
He tossed his music player from the alcove.
La Camisa Negra blared a few lengths away from Denny. Immediately, several forms of the director clad in props dashed out of hiding and surrounded the speaker. “What is this,” the Dennys hissed in unison.
Señor smiled. As expected, it was a trap. He was a little disappointed in her lack of creativity. Being the drama director and all, she played the easy attack victim pretty poorly. Before making any action, El Zorro-Nuñez thought, This is TOO easy. Too easy generally meant a trap.
One of the Denny replicas casually tossed a prop at the player, leaving a scarred patch of earth. Explosive props, huh. Impressive. These doppelgangers were stronger, faster, and more deadly than the original. Nuñez would never take them on alone. He grasped the pommel of his blade and tipped his cap. But El Zorro would.
With a crack of his whip, he landed with a crash in the center of stunned Charbonnets and released a flurry of chanclas. A few of the forms dropped; others quickly knocked the sandals aside. The surprise didn’t last long, however, and they were upon him.
His spade flashed in the darkness, and two of the forms fell and dissipated. One dashed at him. He didn’t have time to think as it grabbed onto him and pushed him against a tree with a loud cry of “Haghhh!” She grabbed for her prop, but Nuñez was faster. He quickly knocked the prop from her grip and kicked her back. Then, he casually kicked the prop forward, sending the prop and that replica Denny to an explosive end.
He quickly glanced around. Despite downing about a dozen foes, only more took their place. He saw them crawling out of the shrubbery and vegetation around him. Even El Zorro got tired, and he could already feel his sense of exhaustion growing inside him. He couldn’t keep this up for much longer. Fortunately, he didn’t plan to.
He knew the real Charbonnet would never join the combat willingly. That would leave too much up to chance. What if he got a lucky hit on the real one? No… she would stay back and hide to let her limitless minions deal with him. But she had to be close by to maintain control over her creations. This gave him an idea.
With a crack of his whip, Zorro rose to the jungle canopy and crouched down on the edge of a branch. The doppelgangers began to rise, clinging to the tree trunk as they climbed to meet him. He let them rise to a good height, then he reached in his pocket and unleashed his most devastating weapon.
The cowbell’s ear splitting and deafening roar echoed through the jungle. Dennys began to fall from the tree, too busy trying to cover their ears from the onslaught to climb, and dissipated as they crashed to the murky ground. Even after they had all vanished, he didn’t relent.
There. Near the odd shape bush, a form crumpled with a splash into the water. Señor smiled. He dropped to the forest floor, careful to avoid the discarded props. As he closed in on her, he noticed that she was still holding her ears in shock and didn’t even notice his approach. Bending, he picked up one of the props. He balanced it in his hand, armed the device, and tossed it.
Ringing. That awful ringing was all she could hear. Her senses were in so much pain she could barely register her own thoughts. She had to keep fighting. What would the theatre children think of her if she lost to the Foreign Language Department? Despicable.
She unclenched her eyes, blocking out the pain. She was rewarded by a cold splash of water, and then another loud explosion. She appeared on the rim of Hunter Coliseum overlooking the jungle, her ears ringing, soaked to the core in the rain, and very much defeated, and by one of her own props.
“That wraps up this round of Deadliest Teacher,” said Parker Layman over the Guerrilla Wolves TV. “Join us next time to witness the brawl of the century. A battle of titans: Jeff Ramon vs. Sean Moser!”
(graphics by Kyle Hladky)