Like foot soldiers making the last few steps in formation toward the enemy battalion, the marching band marched on. Their instruments reflected the lights of the football field all across the stadium, blinding some of the fans with their brilliance. The band kept their heads held high and played triumphant songs. They would win this day. They had to.
On the other side of the field, the football team prepared their offensive formation. The words of their coach still ringing in their heads and making them feel as though they could take on anyone. They were adorned in their armor, the high-school sanctioned football equipment passed down from player to player, and they were ready for their opponent. They would win this day. They had to.
As the marching band left the field, the home team prepared their defense. The spectators in the stadium roared with excitement. This final game would determine this year’s winning team. The fans of the home team of the Spartans all cheered the name of Matt Duke, the senior star quarter back who all say is destined to join the Professional League. Matt waved to his fans from the sideline, himself anxious to prove his greatness.
The kickoff was flawless from the home Spartans. The Trojans received the ball and pressed their offense with vigor. Like gladiators of old, the players crashed into each other with a clap of thunder. Half the stadium stood and cheered as the Trojans fumbled the ball. The Spartans were quick to react, recovering the fumble and taking control on the fifty yard line. As the teams switched out, Matt Duke rushed in to take control. Again, waving to his fans before barking the orders to his team.
Matt’s offensive line shuffled to the left as he shouted his orders. The defense looked confused as the entire offense shuffled in unison to the left. Some even shuffled into the sidelines and stood as if poised to tackle the cheerleaders. After a few more moments only Matt remained on the field.
The defense stood up in confusion and looked around. Why hadn’t the refs said something? Hell, why hadn’t their coaches said something? And who could possibly hike the ball to him now that the entire offensive line was pressed against the side of the stadium, shuffling in to each other and against the wall like a swarm of confused ants? Matt smiled. This was just the kind of way he liked to play.
The overcast evening sky rumbled with fury causing some spectators to look up into the darkness. The warm air smelled of rain. Matt took hold of the ball and eyed the other team. A little bad weather would not stop this play. Maybe it was not the smartest play and he would likely hear from the coach on this one. However, he wanted to start the game by confusing the Trojans and keep them guessing for the rest of the match.
Matt stood alone on the field with his team standing off to the side. He huddled down and called out “Red 22, Red 22.” As he called, two men ran onto the field behind him. The Trojans’ coach jumped toward his team calling out for caution. The spectators on the home side all cheered Matt’s name “Matt Duke, Matt Duke,” as the Trojans’ fans all yelled in disbelief. Matt yelled, “Hike” and tossed the ball behind him where the receiver caught it and placed it on the ground for the kicker. The Trojans rushed the three Spartans motivated by their coach’s words. The kicker successfully kicked from the fifty yard line. Matt smiled as he watched the ball sail over his head and the oncoming team.
Just as Matt saw the ball just make it over the goal he was hit hard by a tackle from two large Trojans. The entire stadium gasped in disbelief and the Trojans’ coach yelled from the sidelines his comments on the bad sportsmanship. He was also frustrated by the play but a call for unnecessary roughness will cost the Trojans dearly. The whistles from the referees called out and the players stood up from the tackle. However, Matt Duke remained motionless on the ground. The referee checked Matt and called for the medical team. Matt’s coach ran onto the field and bend down to check the condition of his star player. Rain started to fall as the coach saw Matt’s eyes were still open with a smile on his face, but it was obvious his neck had been broken and Matt Duke was no more.
Duke Mattson, the Spartans’ head coach, grimaced. Since Matt was out, he knew what had to be done, but he desperately didn’t want to. “Matt! If we tie you to a dolly and have one of the linebackers roll you around, could you still play?” The coach asked in one final, desperate attempt to avoid calling in the backup quarterback. Matt didn’t respond. He couldn’t.
Duke stood up and resigned himself to his fate. “Call in…” his throat closed up at the mere thought of saying it. He took a moment to calm himself then tried again; “call in Darkwater Stormcloak.”
Mist rolled onto the field from the Spartans’ bench. The space around the mist seemed to go dark, although the bright lights were still shining onto the field. The mist began to coalesce into a black shape in front of the coach. The shape became a six and a half foot tall column of pure darkness. The coach put his hands up, ready for what was next. The column shattered into thousands of small shards, scattering in every direction and turning to black rain as it approached the ground.
Where the column once stood, there was now a man. He wore a black leather vest over a tan deerskin shirt. His pants were made of some kind of slick cloth that appeared to be made of the same darkness that preceeded his grand entrance. His hair was shoulder length and black, except for the one gray section lying directly in front of his left eye. His right eye was pure black, with only a small red pupil in the center. The left eye was a normal shade of blue, but was obstructed by the hair that never moved out of its way. The remaining features seemed normal enough, but could look almost serpentine if inspected for too long.
“Darkwater Sssstormcloak, at your sssservissss my coach-liege.”
“God, that’s so annoying,” the coach thought to himself, “if you’re going to legally change your name and you have a serpent tongue, maybe you should pick something without an ‘s’ in it.”
As Stormcloak suited up and made his way to the field, almost the entire stadium began to boo and hiss. The Trojans’ coach could be heard yelling and making dramatic hand gestures toward the Spartans, “That’s some screwed up Harry Potter Bullshit right there!”
Matt Duke’s body was removed from the field as the teams took their positions again. The Spartans were up by three points and the Trojans now faced a new quarterback. The rain fell hard as the Spartans made the kickoff.
Stormcloak’s supernatural speed and ability proved too much for the Trojans. At halftime, the score was Forty-Eight to Zero and many of the spectators had left leaving the stadium mostly empty. Either the rain or the painful defeat at the hands of the new quarterback caused their premature departure.
The teams left the field and the remaining spectators were all anxious to watch the halftime show. It was a highly publicized event that could likely change the mood.
The audience watched as the lone figure approached the center of the field. They weren’t sure what to expect from the halftime show, but they knew that they would finally get to see Sun Mat Duk in action.
Everyone in town knew who he was; he was the quiet young son of welsh – corgi immigrants who kept to himself and almost never spoke a word. He had never shown any interest in sports or exhibiting community spirit, but he took a sudden interest in performing the half time show for some unknown reason.
They didn’t know what he intended to do since he wasn’t even supposed to perform, but since Katy Perry cancelled after realizing at the last minute that this wasn’t the Super Bowl, the school administrators had no choice. They let Sun go out and hoped that he could do something incredible to liven up the crowd.
The crowd came to a hush as Sun stood ramrod straight in the very center of the field. He raised his right hand and produced an object so small and shiny most people couldn’t see it right away. After their eyes adjusted to the reflection, the crowd began to murmur. All he had was a triangle.
Sun Mat Duk raised his other hand and quickly brought the straight silver mallet inches from the triangle. Small sections of the crowd started groaning and exhaling disappointed sighs. Just then, Sun began to play.
He played the triangle with such enthusiasm that the crowd immediately hushed. His wrists moved with amazing speed as he seemed to be playing so quickly that it almost sounded like an entire orchestra of triangles. He began to march to the beat he had created until his March became more of a dance.
Sun’s routine became a breathtaking spectacle of one man’s dedication to an instrument generally reserved for calling farmhands to dinner in the 1800’s. He flipped the triangle through the air as he danced back and forth. His energy and focus seemed to be joined together in perfect harmony and nothing could stop him.
One hour and forty five minutes later, Sun Mat Duk finished his routine. The triangle and the mallet were visibly red with heat from all of the striking and his hands were clearly burned. No one came to help him; everyone was still in shock. Sun bowed to one half of the audience, turned around and bowed to the other half, and then turned and walked off the field in the same marching stride he entered with.
The audience sat in silence. No one knew what to say. Suddenly, violently, the entire stadium erupted with excitement. Tears ran down cheeks and hands clapped as fervently as possible. Shouts of encore filled the air and people whistled as loud as they could. No one had ever seen such an amazing performance and it was likely no one ever would again. Unless they asked him back next year. But that wasn’t going to happen because Taylor Swift agreed to do next year’s half-time show.
The roar of the crowd could be heard in the Trojans’ locker room. The team sat silent, gazing downward. Their coach, Mattson Duke-Duke, glanced over the letter in his hand. It was the same as the others he had received in the past. Apologies from the Spartans’ coach about having to bring out Darkwater Stormcloak yet again. More apologies regarding Matt Duke’s spine breaking yet again and how they plan to replace it with rebar soon. And even more apologies about having to play Stormcloak yet again simply because he’s the principal ‘ s son.
Mattson looked over the letter, but didn’t cringe like he usually did. His players were still glancing down at their feet, so none of them noticed the change. Mattson was smiling. He was ready for this to happen again, but this time he had a plan.
Mattson carefully folded the letter and tucked it away. He summoned his errand boy and instructed him to get Sun Mat Duk back with his triangle and hammer as quickly as possible. The teams took the field and prepared their formations. Stormcloak shouted orders to his team with determination. The crowd, that reappeared from under their umbrellas and plastic sheets as the rain stopped, remained unusually quiet. No doubt they all knew how the remaining part of the match would end with Stormcloak’s continued victory.
Sun Mat Duk walked up to Mattson with confusion in his eye. Mattson took the small framed boy by the arms, “you have to play your triangle for us!” Sun shook his head, I just played for the halftime show.” “No!” Mattson shouted, shaking the boy. “Play it for the team!” Sun nodded his head. Mattson let him go and Sun stretched his arms and shook his hands. “I’m ready!” During the Half-time show, Mattson saw Stormcloak stand seemingly magically captivated by the sound of Sun’s triangle. He hoped this would work.
Stormcloak took hold of the ball and looked for a player to pass it to. “Now!” Mattson said, pointing to Sun who started beating on his triangle with vigor. As the sound of Sun’s song hit the field, Stormcloak again became captivated. He dropped the ball and stood there staring toward Sun with a sparkle in his right eye. Mattson screamed at his team, “Grab the ball!” The Trojans recovered the ball from Stormcloak’s feet and rushed it through the Spartans for a touch down. The spectators sprung to life with excitement by standing and stomping on the bleacher steps.
Every time the Spartans recovered the ball and Stormcloak hiked, Sun would play his triangle to incapacitate the supernatural quarterback. Stormcloak’s couch argued with the referees about Sun’s music, but they refused to stop Sun because it did not break any rules.
As the final horn sounded, the score was Spartans Forty-Eight, Trojans Forty-Eight. It was a tie! The Trojans were all excited and were patting each other on their backs. While the Spartans all head their heads in shame. Stormcloak cried in the coach’s arms like a baby.
On the first seat of the bleachers in front of the Spartans, Matt Duke’s lifeless body was propped up in a lifelike sitting position with the same smile on this face.