Hero is a strange word with various definitions. To most people, and in most comics, they are portrayed as strong, tall men with flowing capes and suffocating tights. They have bulging muscles and slicked back hair in order to swoon their damsel in distress.
To most little boys across the world, this is what they strive to be, no matter how unrealistic it may be. This story begins with one little boy in particular who strove to make something of himself. But in his case, all he wanted was to be a few inches taller than his fellow classmates.
The red rooster alarm clock cooed and cawed at little Henry Albert Devin, urging him from his slumber. Henry lifted his pillow, smushing it over his ears to drown out the sound.
His door slowly creaked open, a soft voice coming through the crack. “Henry, time for school. You don’t want to be late for a class field trip to Warlow Theater.”
Henry groaned, further smushing the pillow over his ears. Perhaps he would be excited to see Cars 3, his favorite movies of all time, but only if it were not with his classmates. They were awful to him, constantly mocking him of his miniature height. It was unbearable to think about.
“Henry,” his mother said, firmer than the first time. “You need to be up in the next five minutes.” The door closed shut with a firm click and Henry threw the pillow to the side.
No matter how much he struggled, he knew his butt would end up on that bus seat on the way to Warlow Theater. It was never any use arguing with his mother.
As instructed, Henry Albert was up and ready within five minutes and was then standing at the bus stop in the midst of his third-grade class. He stood on the tips of his toes, peeping over his classmate’s shoulders. Once the bus arrived, his classmates pushed him this way and that, nearly knocking him over. He huffed, straightened his backpack, and sauntered in last. The other kids stared and scooched closer to the windows of the bus, as to avoid any slight contact with Henry. He rolled his eyes, sliding into the seat at the very back of the bus. As he sat down, he felt a squish near his bottom. Lifting up, a sticky piece of freshly chewed gum stuck to his trousers. “Could this day get any worse?” he grumbled.
As they rode, the kids shrieked with laughter, nibbled on snacks they were told were strictly for the movie, and played games looking out their window. Everyone except Henry, of course. He was still confident the day would simply get worse and worse. Perhaps, he was right. That is, until they stepped foot into the theater itself.
Henry Albert strolled the aisles of the theater, having quickly lost track of his class due to his stocky legs, and sighed. No sign of them anywhere. The theater was filled to the rim with classes from various schools and parents who had tagged along. There was only one row, in the very back once again, that was completely empty. The air around him chilled as he walked towards the empty row, and he hugged himself tightly. He looked around cautiously and, as he began to lower down on a seat in the corner, a hat appeared below him. He jumped up, nearly sitting on it. “What the…”
Henry reached out to touch the top of the hat with a frail finger. The hat was dark green and hard. It resembled a combat hat that Henry had once seen in a movie. It was small, as if it were made specially for him. He gently held it up, turning it around to gaze at all sides, and placed it on his head. He didn’t know what he was expecting from such a peculiar hat—perhaps some fireworks, applause, a wave of power running through his veins. But nothing happened. Not a single thing. Henry ran a hand over his face and plopped down onto the theater seat.
The movie continued—kids shrieking and laughing, parents shushing them in fear of being kicked out by an usher—and Henry stayed still. His arms were crossed over his stomach and a frown decorated his face. When the time came to exit the theater, Henry stomped his feet and stood up. But something was different. When he glanced down, the ground seemed to be miles below him. His hands had grown twice their size, resembling his father’s, and his feet splayed out below.
His breathing became rapid and he sunk down in order to hide his new transformed body. It was hard, given he was now twice his original ten-year-old size. He crouched down behind the theater seats, watching crowds pass with wide eyes. When he spotted his classmates, he made a run for it, escaping through the opposite side door.
The sun glared at him as he exited the theater and people began to stare at him in disgust. No, not disgust. In…awe. Their eyes were wide and astonished grins decorated their faces. They pointed and nudged their friends, exclaiming how tall Henry was.
“Tall?” Henry whispered. It was a word he always dreamed of hearing but never thought he would. Henry smiled, stood a little straighter, and waved at the people passing him. They waved back with awestruck expressions and some even attempted to high five him. His ego grew to be the same gigantic size as the rest of his body, for better or worse. He didn’t think too much of it.
Henry did not go back to his class that day; he didn’t even bother to look for them. Instead, he traveled the streets he had walked for eight years with a new perspective. He walked proudly, aiding anyone who looked to be in need. He safely rescued stranded kittens down from trees, returning them to their frightened owners. He reached trapped kites from in between branches, helping the discouraged owner take flight with a gust of wind. By the end of the day, Henry Albert was known as The Mighty, and he reveled in that name with pride.
When the sun sank behind the trees leaving only a glimmer of light before darkness, Henry made his way back home. He quietly snuck into his house, taking the hat off and tucking it inside his jacket. His mother was chopping up vegetables for dinner and his father sat at the table, carefully reading a newspaper.
“How was your day, honey?” his mother exclaimed.
Henry gently squeezed the hat tightly under his arm and felt a smile tug at his lips. “Good, just another ordinary day.”