Gale Stone enjoyed her stroll through the park. It was a cool, sunny day and most of her city was at work or school. The park was mostly empty and she was surprised to hear several voices coming from a cluster of trees.
She approached silently and peeked around a thick oak. A familiar teenage boy, Jimmy, was balled on the ground surrounded by a trio of laughing jocks that Gale also recognized. They wore letterman jackets but were all graduated already; two years in the case of Thomas, the tallest one. Jimmy was only 17 at most, but Gale felt like he was closer to early 16. She only knew him because he’d dated her daughter a few times.
He still looked as pathetic as he did when Gale’s daughter broke up with him; blubbering like a child. The trio just stood and watched while laughing. Cadence insisted it was a general “romantic incompatibleness”, but Gale knew better. If her daughter was anything like her, she couldn’t stand to be seen with the weakling. It didn’t help that he was two years younger than her. Now Cadence was off to college and Jimmy was in a puddle of tears. No matter how you sliced it, this was a clear case of men picking on a boy.
Gale was surprised when she found herself growing frustrated, and she couldn’t immediately pinpoint why. She watched them for a couple of minutes already, but the bullies weren’t actually doing anything. They surrounded the pile of inadequacies and laughed, occasionally kicking dirt and grass on him. But it didn’t feel right. Maybe it was because Jimmy was that pathetic, or maybe he reminded Gale of her daughter enough to intervene. Whatever the reason, Gale let herself sink into the Earth.
“What the hell is that?” Thomas yelled. A woman’s head grew out of the ground a few feet from Jimmy’s head. She continued to rise up and reveal the rest of herself. Her hair consisted of long green, flowering vines that almost reached her waist. Her complexion remained fair, with a slight green tint to it. The jeans and t-shirt she wore were covered by a green-brown bodice woven entirely out of roots and vines.
“Oh shit, it’s Gaia!” One of the jocks yelled;
immediately all three men turned to run away in different directions.
“Boys…,” she said. Each of the three men tripped and landed face-first on the ground. “Don’t be in such a rush.” Snake-like vines tangled themselves around the men, then lifted them off the ground; all three were forced to face Gaia and Jimmy.
“I happen to be strolling by and I noticed what you were doing to this poor, pathetic, child. And I thought to myself, ‘those boys need a lesson’.” Jimmy looked up timidly from the ground at Gaia. He’d always heard she was the worst villain to bump into. She was cold, ruthless, and many called her just plain evil; he couldn’t believe she came to defend him.
“And who better to teach you that lesson than me?” Gaia asked, then she smiled down at Jimmy; she encouraged him to stand up. The boy did and dusted himself off while casting a smug gaze at Thomas. Jimmy knew they’d never bother him again after this.
“We didn’t mean-,” Thomas’ outburst was muffled by a mouthful of vines.
“That’s the problem with this generation,” Gaia sighed. “You never mean it. I can’t believe how much plain, boring, old humiliation passes for bullying these days,” she rolled her eyes. “Everyone focuses on, ‘words will never hurt me‘ while forgetting all about ‘sticks and stones‘.”
Jimmy felt a deep sense of dread in his stomach at the same moment he noticed a vine wrapped around his legs. He looked up and saw the trio of men were being released by the vines. He opened his mouth to protest, but a ball of dirt covered vines rushed in before he made a sound.
“Now boys,” Gaia smiled. Several broken branches rained from the treetops at once and landed all around them. A wrapped and wriggling Jimmy was lifted into the air by a tall curving vine that dangled him like a piñata. “It’s time to learn about real bullying; grab your sticks.”