“Whatcha doin’, spider-freak?” Ben asked the hunched over girl. She was alone in the middle of an overgrown field when Ben and his group spotted her on their walk from school. The girl, Justine, became the talk of the town the day she turned 16.
On their sixteenth birthday, all children get their familiar: a magical animal that can share its attributes with its master. Mammals were most common; lions and tigers and bears. Birds and fish were known to happen, but that had always been the extent of it. On her 16th birthday, Justine’s familiar appeared as a basketball-sized furry brown tarantula. The same tarantula that was on its back when Ben showed up; Justine was tickling its abdomen and giggling. Justine looked up at Ben and his two buddies, then she looked down again and resumed playing with her spider. It wiggled its spindly legs energetically.
“Freaky spider stuff,” Justine replied with a flat tone. Ben smiled and balled his fists.
“There’s no one around, Justine,” Ben sneered as he used the name. “I don’t even need an excuse.” He cocked his fist and borrowed the strength of his bear. Ben launched a bear-strong punch directly at Justine’s face; but, it was gone by the time his fist reached the spot. Without her body there to interrupt the blow, Ben punched a hole in the ground, then he screamed with fury.
Justine leaped out of the way as soon as Ben loosed his punch. She flipped over his head and landed behind him as his punch hit the ground.
“I hate that name,” Justine took a moment to remind the group, then she swept Ben’s legs out from under him as he screamed. He landed flat on his back. The heavy thud knocked the wind out of his lungs and interrupted his scream.
“Get her!” One of the two remaining thugs shouted. The heavyset teenagers charged forward and fell flat on their faces. Justine’s tarantula crawled over them toward. The pair of troublemakers struggled themselves to a sitting position to check their legs. Their feet were bound together by dense spider webs.
“Nice one!” Justine giggled while the spider crawled up to her shoulder like a pirate’s parrot. She took a single step away from the fallen trio then stopped in her tracks. Over a dozen black portals opened around the teens. Armored and armed soldiers walked out of dark holes with their guns aimed at Justine.
“Hey dumbass,” Justine said to Ben as he was pushing himself off the ground. “Are these dumbasses with you?”
“No. BORIS!” he yelled. A giant grizzly bear materialized next to him and roared at the approaching soldiers. A single one stepped ahead of the others.
“We’re only here for her. You guys are free to go,” the soldier said to Ben.
“Oh,” Ben said. “Cool.” Boris disappeared. Justine turned around to ask, ‘What the Hell?’, but she was met by a solid punch to the face. It knocked her unconscious.