When the Fire Burns Brightest

March 3, 2011
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The shining metallic handle of the Martial Arts school’s door burned to the touch, the sun casting it’s unrelenting rays upon it late into the day. Jake soon found that on a hot summer day, a wiser mind is much more valued than a fast hand when opening a door for a lady. He gripped his cherry red hand in agony as he scooted in behind her remembering the lovely chime the bell made every time the door was opened. It wasn’t present anymore. A shrill shout startled him back into reality as the familiar calls of his former instructor’s harsh voice rang out above the students. Not wanting to give it anymore attention than it deserved, he shoved his hand in a pocket and allowed himself to reminisce.

Forgotten memories from ten years back flooded into the forefront of his mind like the breaking of a dam. This was his home. His childhood. Master Park began counting in Korean as the determined sea of faces before him stepped in perfect form. Jake nearly joined them out of habit. Like always, he followed the recognizable voice of his old Master and shuffled towards him. Jake never missed a beat, simultaneously removing his shoes from his feet and stepping onto the dusted old blue mat. For the first time in a while his feet were comforted. The familiar smell of sweat and ferocity lingered in the air, intensifying with each intimidating yell, like the beat of a drum.

Master Park caught Jake’s movements out of the corner of his eye, recognition sweeping over his face.

“Little Jake! My how you’ve grown!” his wrinkled smile sent Jake back in time to a day when he was just barely above his Master’s waste. Now he towered over the man like a giant, bear hugging him with incredible force.

“Its so good to see you again.” He replied, finally letting go. “My God, has it really been 10 years? Master Park you haven’t aged a day!” The old man shuffled back towards the class slowly, a sly grin inching its way across his face.

“Well I’d like to believe that Little Jake but these old bones seem to disagree.” He groaned. “Students! I would like you to meet a very good student and friend of mine from many years back, Jake Simper.” He presented Jake with all the pride a grandfather could have in his grandson. However, it meant more than that because the two weren’t even blood relatives. Master Park leaned closer to Jake drawing him in with one arm. “I was hoping you might be able to show them a few good techniques? Some things a brittle man like me is far too old to perform.” He stared at Jake intently. “You have been practicing haven’t you?”

“Of course I have! Can’t say I’m any better though. Haven’t had a martial arts class in…well…” Jake’s voice trailed off too focused on Master Park’s enormous smile. A pat on the back was all he needed to get going.

Jake made his way to the center of the training room, the typical mirror behind him extended out across the vast wall making the place seem bigger than it actually was. He warmed up briefly with a few basic stretches, realizing just how rusty he was about to look. Hardly knowing was he planned on showing the students, he did what came naturally to him. Kicks. In a fantastic display of speed and power, adrenaline filled the atmosphere as Jake tossed his body into the air like a helpless ragdoll. In two arcing motions he extended both legs independently of each other, spinning with careful precision like the blade of a helicopter. His landing was near flawless as he planted both bare feet on the mat with a silent crouch. Jake was far from finished. Showing just how deadly the human body could be, the students watched in amazement as Jake let loose an unrelenting assault of front, side and roundhouse kicks without dropping his leg. A final stylized flourish ended the string of combinations sending the students into a uproar of applause.

Jake, embarrassed, placed both hands in his pockets glancing at the mats.

“Really, that was just a bunch of fluff.” He added. “Competitions are great but in a real fight that would have gotten my butt kicked. Trust me. If you want a good suggestion, fight smart.” The students continued to cheer even as Master Park instructed them to continue sparring. They reluctantly did so as the two wandered off separately to converse. With enough time, however, their reminiscing chat was broken by the sudden and painful cry of a student.

“Get off’a him!” one yelled.

“Master Park!” screamed the other.

Jake followed Master Park back to the training room just in time to witness the brutal fight between two students. In fact, Jake found it to be more like a murder.

“Damien! Release your grip now!” Master Park’s voice was more intense now than Jake had ever known it to be. With enough time, they had both pulled the student called Damien off the bruised and bloodied teen. “I have told you time and again Damien, now get into my office and wait!”

Damien glared intently at his master as he shouldered his way past students to the office. Jake assisted the students in helping clean up the injured boy as Master Park walked off to deal with the real issue. The walls only seemed to grow thinner as Damien and Master Park became more at odds with each other. Jake couldn’t help but overhear every single detail.

“I’m afraid there is no choice in the matter, this discussion is over.”

“You can’t do this to me Master Park! My parents are paying for this class and they’re not about to waste their money on some stupid old man!” came the muffled yelp of Damien. His voice was pleading but a hint of intimidation hid beneath it.

“You’re parents will be refunded but you are no longer allowed to take lessons at this school again. You refuse to heed my advice and control your emotions so this is what will come of it.”

Jake remembered the first time he had this talk with Master Park. He used to be in the same situation. A passionate fighter with no control, no father to love him. Instead she sent him to this school unable to handle his anger, hiding behind daily excuses for why he couldn’t be at home. But Master Park had changed him completely and had been the father he never had. But Damien was different. He seemed worse.

Damien stormed out of the office, preparing to slam it shut in a fury.

“Fine old man. You want to see this place burn tonight? Go ahead and get rid of me. See what I care.”

“My decision is final.” The door slammed shut causing the trophies to shiver in their cases. Jake was slipping on his shoes just as Damien walked out. The door chime was still missing, bothering Jake greatly. He opened the door slowly to find Master Park sitting as his desk with his head in his hands. The same familiar old school photos were taped across the walls depicting past tournaments.

“Want me to hang out here a little later Master Park? I know you live here and-“

“I’m not afraid of him Jake. You don’t have to do that.” His voice sounded farm more aged than it ever had before. “I’m an old man, and old men don’t need to be the company of the young. Live your life Jake…don’t worry about me.”

An ominous presence followed Jake back to his apartment and even into the night. Jake hardly regretted much, but not staying was the worst decision he could have made. Driving all the way to the school fingered the keys of his phone, preparing to dial 911. Pulling into the parking lot, his eyes widened, dropping the phone entirely. The building burned with a scarlet rage, the flames licking at the painted letters of the sign. His heart racing, Jake rushed past the doors swearing that this time he could hear it chime. Dust filled his eyes and a suffocating smoke filled his lungs. Gasping for air he searched the area frantically, the heat tearing at his flesh. In a slumped pile of medals and awards, Master Park sat completely oblivious to the danger around him.

His eyes were closed shut as if sleeping through the night, a bullet wound dripping with blood from his right shoulder. The flames closed in around them, Jake’s heart nearly stopping. No longer in control of his actions, he dragged Master Park out daring only once to look back. He watched as all of his childhood memories faded away to dust, the ceiling caving in, the whole building collapsed. He leaned in close to Master Park’s body, checking for a pulse. Years of his life were now instantly gone, their slow burning death accompanied by the sound of wailing sirens.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

TheGoodTwin said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Another great story by Stephan.....*sigh* great. 

But, i was wondering, where did Damien get the gun?? and who is the "she" in Jake's life? his mom?

 

 
TheAuthor95 replied...
Apr. 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm

If you were reffering to the lady in the begining, then she's just a woman who walks in the Martial Arts school before he does. Nothing too important. Now that you mention it though, what ever happened to her? Why did she walk in there in the first place!!! Argh...

Well I'll admit a few of the details need to be worked out a bit. >.<

 
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