Chapter 39

Gyan stumbled backwards as the door burst open and the Superhero League burst through the opening leading The Brotherhood and known enemies, Crunch and Bounce.

"What the…?!" he exclaimed as he watched them charge off into the distance, oblivious to his presence.

His immediate instinct was to follow them and he ran several hundred metres before hesitating. Were they running to something or from something? How could The Brotherhood, at the very least, not have seen him, let alone acknowledge him? And why was the enemy running with the League? Something wasn't right.

Glancing between the retreating League and the building they'd just come from, Gyan fought his instinct to follow and went with his intuition to head back the way they'd come. He ran back to the open doorway and listened, hearing the muffled laugh of someone inside.

He entered cautiously but quickly, spurred on by the urgency of knowing that if he was wrong he would need to catch up with the League. He followed the sound of laughter and entered a broad room where O'Shay stood over a still body that looked just as seductive in death as he must have looked in life.

"O'Shay!" he called out. The Irishman looked up and suddenly Gyan's vision blurred. He was in a great hall. Gyan dropped to one knee and bowed his head. To be in the presence of the King was an honour, but for the King to have emptied the Great Room to give him undivided attention was an honour beyond comprehension.

Gyan remained bowed as the King approached.

"So you think you can be my new Champion?" the King asked.

"It's what I live for, Sire," Gyan responded.

"Then show me your strength."

Gyan rose to his feet and stripped off his shirt, revealing his muscular frame. He flexed, hoping his ample biceps would convince the King he was worthy.

"You think a nice body can do me justice?" the King asked. "I need more than that. Push ups. Now!"

Gyan dropped to the ground and started pumping out push ups. By eighty he was feeling the pinch. After ninety push ups he was beginning to slow. On his one hundreth push up, Gyan was straining. Only his determination to impress the King was keeping him going.

The King stepped over him and sat on his back. Gyan dropped to the floor exhausted, unable to carry the extra weight of his King. He lay on the floor panting when the King's arm wrapped around his throat.

"Worthless!" the King exclaimed and tightened his choke.

Gyan gagged, daring not to fight against his King but fearing for his life as the grip squeezed against his throat. How could a benevolent King do this to him? He came for the honour of defending his sovereign and instead was being punished with death.

As the air thinned in his lungs, Gyan's vision blurred and suddenly he was back in the stark cold reality of the empty concrete room, lying face down on the floor with O'Shay choking him. He grabbed at O'Shay's arm around his throat and bucked, knocking the Irishman off him.

Gyan rolled away and staggered to his feet as O'Shay slowly stood up before him. It was the smile on O'Shay's face that sent shivers down his spine.

"What's happening?" Gyan asked, disoriented by the sudden change of reality.

"Nothing," O'Shay answered. "Everything is normal." And Gyan's vision blurred momentarily. He was a starving pauper begging for leniency for his famished family, willing to do anything to keep them safe. His children cried; his wife wailed for salvation. All he could do was offer himself to the gentry to save his family. He stood proud as The Law walked towards him and pounded a fist into his stomach. Gyan doubled over, knowing The Law was just trying to intimidate him. A fist to the base of his neck dropped him to his knees and he fought back the tears of pain that instantly welled up. A few deep breaths soothed the agony and the thought of his family urge him to suffer through the torment.

"First you, then your son!" The Law growled and panic welled up in Gyan's mind. He could take the torture himself, but not his family! Anything but those he loved! His world fragmented and blurred. Suddenly he was in a concrete room again with O'Shay looming over him. The truth hit him. O'Shay was a Mind Muse. It was the rarest of abilities that created entirely new imaginary worlds and trapped people in them, never aware that they were living a lie.

Could that be what was happening to him? Was that why the Superhero League and its sworn enemies were working as one?

O'Shay smirked, seeing the realisation on Gyan's face. And suddenly Gyan's vision blurred again…

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