Their fists struck her face hard as she fell to the cold pavement, her sense of hearing faded as her eyes fought to stay open. The gang from the new neighbourhood she had moved to, had greeted her with fury. She had been tricked, she thought they were her friends but now they were stamping on her limp body. As the rain came down they ran away laughing. Some how, some way Holly made it to her feet and in the wet night stumbled home holding her side. Holly made it to her front door, blood ran down her face with her make up. She struggled to put her key in the lock, her dad heard her and opened the door. She collapsed in the doorway and school would not be seeing her tomorrow.
A few days in bed and visits from her local doctor speeded up the healing process, she was brave and held a strong spirit. Her father quizzed her about what happened but she didn't tell. She knew that he'd go up the school. Then life would be worse, the bullies wouldn't stop. Holly lay on her bed and began to cry, she was going back to school tomorrow and was scared of Casey and the other girls. She hugged a photo of her mother whom she had lost to cancer one year ago, she loved her dad but didn't want him to worry. He had brought her and her baby brother up while working shifts in a local factory.
Holly walked the school corridors holding her books, she walked alone with silence and looks. Casey and her cronies struck fear into everyone, she was top dog and popular. Big blue eyes and blond curly hair disguised the image of a horror queen there. Holly continued to walk on with hope in her heart, but inside she was falling apart. The girls spat nasty words at her and began to follow her home. Holly tried to ignore them, but they were getting closer. A pack of Wolves moving in on their pray.
Holly was brave and turned to face them, 'Leave me alone. I haven't done anything to you.'
'Yeah? You been saying things about me ain't ya!' Casey's words were sharp, words hold power.
Holly jumped back flinching. And then once again they all pounced on her, punching and scratching. Holly curled herself into a ball on the ground and tried to think happy thoughts of her mother. Suddenly the attack stopped.
Holly reached up for the hand that was offered her. She could see the bullies running away. It was the gardener of the school, the old man that the children take no notice of had saved her from another beating.
'Hello there, my name is Tom. Thomas Chang.' Tom was wiry thin and half Chinese. He helped Holly to her feet. He then continued to rake up the leaves.
The following night Holly walked past the Gardeners office. She heard grunts, so had look in the window. To her surprise she found old Tom doing some type of martial art movements. She watched as he crouched low them jumped and kicked, and slammed his arms into a self made sandbag. Tom then began doing push ups on his fingers, despite looking 60 odd. Holly watched on while lowering her rucksack, now Tom was balancing stones on his forearms and squatting. Holly coughed and Tom continued, he knew she was there.
'Come in Holly.' said Tom politely.
Holly pulled up a chair, 'That looks fun, can I join in?'
'Of course.' Tom shook his arms off. 'You see that tank over there? In it's my pet praying Mantis. It's a small insect, Chinese legends has it that the Mantis style of kung fu was developed after a pupil witnessed this tiny insect fighting off a huge blackbird. It is a brave insect, and it's arms can lift up many times its own weight. The style is good for smaller people, who can use their opponents strength against them.'
Holly was really interested, and somehow felt that Tom was talking about her.
Tom closed the door, 'Well...shall we begin?'
'Begin what?' asked Holly sounded worried.
'I, I can't. My dad wouldn't allow it.' Replied Holly saddened.
Tom fed a cricket to his pet Mantis, and watched the hunt. 'Oh, is that so? I have spoke with your father. He assures me he doesn't mind as long as he picks you up.'
'I'm sorry. I used to work with your father, a good man.'
3:15 every day in the school holidays, Holly began learning Preying Mantis Style of Kung Fu. She learnt to do finger tip push ups, and hold low stances for long periods of time. She struggled in the beginning but was getting there.
'Hit! Hit! Move! Move! Mantis grab!' Sifu Tom trained her on the sandbags, Holly's arms were hardening up. 'Grab here, now pull, strike!' Holly worked hard to grab the thick tree branch that Sifu Tom kept hitting her with. In the end she could tare tree from bark. Holly was getting fitter and her spirit was strengthening. She was happy in herself, and had a photo of her mom with her when she trained.
6 weeks had past quickly, Holly faced Sifu Tom.
'Now that you are proficient in the Mantis Fist technique, you have to fight me.'
Holly's face dropped like a lead weight. 'I can't, Sifu.'
'Oh, I thought we erased CAN'T?' Use your spirit to keep me off you, remember what you have learnt. If you can stop my attack, without injuring me or yourself. It's time for you to move on.'
Holly replied, 'I like training with you Sifu, I don't want to leave.'
Tom placed his hands on Holly's shoulders. 'I know. But what begins must end. Your father tells me your brother is back from uni, did you know that I trained him in the Black Tiger Style? You go train with him now, and keep it in the family.'
Holly smiled, and then instinctively grabbed Sifu Toms arm as he hit at her. They both moved around each other at great speed, Holly managed to avoid most of her Sifu's attacks and put him off balance. This continued for 3 minutes.
Sifu got her in a advanced hold. 'Stop!'
They both bowed to each other. Holly asked Tom if she can still visit him.
Tom replied, 'I have been, and always will be inside of you.'
Holly was sad that her training was over but walked home that day without her dad coming for her or feeling afraid. She had gone through a change and knew that fear is the only thing you have to fear.
Monday night...school disco. Holly went along with a few friends, people were warming to her as she seemed more popular and out going. It was a nice night and she even was spoke to by Chad, whom she had a crush on. After the disco had ended Holly decided to walk home, it was only across the field. As she strolled merrily along the sounds of voices caught her attention. She turned around to see a large group of people coming in her direction. She could tell that they were pupils from the disco. She felt the adrenalin prepare her as she heard a familiar voice.
'Oi! What ya doin chattin up ma boyfriend?'
It was Casey with half the year with her, although they just wanted to see a fight.
A large circle contained Holly. It was dark on the playing field and light rain fell to visit.
Holly breathed from her stomach and turned calmly to face Casey. 'I don't want to fight, I just want to go home.'
Casey looked at her audience while spitting out her gum, 'Well... you know what I think!'
Casey ran at Holly scratching, Holly dropped to one leg just like a Mantis and Casey just toppled over her. The on lookers fell silent, this was different. Holly was different. Holly turned on her supporting leg, and put her hair in her bobble from her wrist. Casey had been drinking and staggered before launching herself again at Holly. Holly shot out her forearms and caught Casey's attack. Holly trapped her arms and with leverage turned her onto the grass. The crowd looked on in shock as Casey seemed to be fighting herself. Casey went for Holly's hair and kicked out at her ribs. Holly blocked everything and sweeped Casey's legs from underneath her.
Suddenly the other pupils smiled for Holly, it was out of fear that they was here. Their school bully was being humiliated right in front of the them.
Casey screamed in frustration and threw a swinging punch, but was caught by Holly. She turned Casey around and locked her neck with her arm. Casey screamed in pain.
Holly controlled the pressure. 'I'm going home now, and I suggest you do the same. Don't bother me ever again.'
Holly spun Casey around and stood her up straight. She began to cry and ran off into the night. Everybody flocked around Holly like she was their new queen.
Holly looked at everyone in the eye and said, 'You all are worse than Casey. Glory cowards, wanting to see a scrap.'
And with that, Holly turned around and went home to bed.
The following morning Holly walked into school, everybody included Casey was polite and friendly. Holly hadn't seen Sifu Tom for a while, and nobody knew of him around the school.
Even her dad denied ever working with him. It was like he never existed.
Wednesday afternoon in the school library, and Holly was doing some research on her school for her history project. What she found made her shiver. She began reading an old clipping from 10 years ago. It told the story of the school gardener, who's son was killed in a playground fight by bullies. He took his own life soon after...
...His name was Tomas Chang.
Holly walks with a great spirit within her, a gift. It is the Spirit Of The Mantis.