I just have to preface with the fact that standards for current villains are ridiculously high. You know how hard it is to get away with anything nowadays? There are cameras literally everywhere. Once upon a time, my great grandfather was able to murder somebody in cold blood and stand next to said cold blood, with the very same blood on his hands, and the police were none the wiser.
“I wonder who could have committed this murder?” they asked. I don’t know, geniuses, your primary suspect with the evidence directly on his hands. Goodness gracious! My great grandfather told my grandfather (who told my father and so on and so forth) that he wished beyond wished that the authorities would get it together. Oh, Great Grandfather, your wish has been granted. But not in your lifetime. Instead, I’m stuck with a bunch of hyper-smart police with forsaken DNA testing. Who needs fingerprints when you can directly sequence somebody’s DNA?
“That sounds illegal,” I said to the police when I went on an under-cover investigation with my father. “How do you have a person’s permission to take their DNA and keep it on record? You could clone them!”
The police told me it was all in the name of fighting crime. Piffle. As if stealing and cloning weren’t crimes in themselves.
Once upon a time, there were entire schools for villains. Can you believe that? There were entire gothic, dark, spindly mansions with large signs that read “Academy for Young Villains” and for centuries the heroes never tried to pop in and stop the operation. The antiheroes tried, I’ll give props to them, but the heroes never until somebody’s sidekick said, “Hey, look at this obviously villainy building. Perhaps we should investigate.”
Then the schools all got shut down and the villain parents had to homeschool, but homeschool in secret, because it is generally frowned upon to teach your kid how to annihilate. My father told our neighbors—all background characters, so otherwise irrelevant, don’t worry—that we were an anti-vax family and kicked out of the school system. They avoided us pretty well after that.
I like to call myself clever. Like I said before, standards for current villains are very high. I try my best to reach those standards. Using logic—and the fact that I reach those standards—I am quite clever. However, when one is smart, they reach the Paradox of the Bright, in which they finish all their necessary tasks super quickly but are too afraid of their unaccustomed failure to start anything more difficult, and instead prefer to lie about complaining.
“I’m bored!” I had started my Sunday just like any other: lying on a carpet in my father’s house’s living room, wining. “I’m very, very, very, very…very-to-the-hundredth-power bored.” I opened my mouth and moaned in a wail reminiscent of a lost baby fox—don’t ask why I know what that sounds like.
“Go and murder somebody’s mother.” My father was occupied microwaving some tea. One time his father had told him to go and bother some British people. He started an entire gang fight after bringing a portable microwave to various teashops. I aspired to reach that level of bad, but alas, I lived in New Jersey, where nobody cares what you’re doing unless you cut them off on the Turnpike.
“Beloved father,” I sat up, “I can’t murder anybody’s mother because everybody’s mother is dead.”
Once upon a time, when my grandfather was villain-aged, murdering mothers was a thing. Like, it was really popular. The go-to way to bother the hero. Then all the heroes ran out of mothers and, as revenge, they started murdering all the villains’ mothers back. Now nobody had a mother. There were entire laws stating that mothers couldn’t be murdered until after giving birth—for population purposes—but a recently-induced mother is, quite simply, a tired mother, so the mothers never really stood a fighting chance.
It meant that I didn’t have a mother but, more unfortunately, that I would have about a thirty-year life expectancy unless I were to dutifully avoid getting pregnant. My father didn’t understand exactly how stressful that prospect was and liked to joke about mothers.
“This is why your great grandfather only wanted sons.” He paused his microwaving and stared at the ceiling in silent salute for five seconds. “Boys don’t think critically. They just go and do. Girls think about consequences. It’s why girls were never villains.”
“No, misogynist.” I crossed my arms. “Girls were never villains because they were too smart to get caught.”
“Which wasn’t very, considering the intelligence level of the authorities.”
“Sure, but it shows you how dumb boys must have been to even be under suspicion.”
See what I said about higher standards? I was a much better debater then my father, but still annoyingly bored.
I lowered my voice. “Do you have anything I can do?”
“I though you girls were too smart to need my assistance.”
I rolled my eyes. “We need to get our story straight in case you need to come and bail me out.”
My father sighed. “I need some allergy medicine-“
“No.” Too much medical fraud meant that the pharmaceutical companies had unionized and decided that prices would be raised with each subsequent theft. I didn’t want to do that to the poor population. If they were going to die, I wanted it to be because of me, not Capitalism.
“The hardware store has a cash box-“
“I won’t harm small businesses.” Like I said before, Capitalism.
And what was even with my father insisting on such elaborate, dramatic crimes? He was the only one who took himself seriously. I was literally just a bored teenager. He acted as if the stakes of my actions were the entire reputation of the villainous population.
“I don’t know!” My father shook the teacup angrily, wincing when the beverage burned his palm. He perpetually seemed surprised by the fact that microwave tea still could burn. I figured it was because he had really lost to the British gangsters, and they undoubtedly convinced him that microwaves were less efficient than kettles. “Percy has a cat: Percy the Third.”
“Oh, great!” I smiled. “I’ll steal that.” And return it, because I figured there was nothing fun about stealing and keeping a cat compared to stealing, returning, and repeatedly stealing the cat.
First of all, who names their kid Percy? Second of all, who names that kid’s cat Percy the Third? What happened to Percy the Second? And were there no other names the cat could have? Talk about narcissism, naming your cat after yourself directly. As I hurried over to Percy’s house, which was right at the end of our block, a bunch of mid-20th century-built split-level houses lined up neatly, I justified my thievery by Percy’s glaringly flashy self-appreciation.
“Hey!” somebody hissed from high up. I squinted into the sun and saw the outline of Percy’s father—what was his name? It didn’t really matter—calling to me. “Hey, you?”
“What?” I shouted in a loud whisper, ducking behind a shrub. "How do you know I'm here?"
“Your father called!" Of course. "You’re here to steal Percy the Third, right?”
I nodded in confirmation. “Unless you want me to steal Percy the First?”
He chuckled slightly. “No, I do want to keep my son. But the cat you can take so long as you return it before sunset.”
I rubbed my eyes. There was a slight chance I was delirious. I had sat up from lying down on the carpet very quickly. “You’re helping me?”
“Yes…” Percy’s father said slowly. “I am. Because I’m a hero-"
I held up one hand. "Cut the dramatic speech."
“And also Percy the First needs to learn conflict resolution and basic coping skills,” he admitted.
That made more sense.
“So you’re encouraging me to cheat?” I kept my expression neutral so that Percy’s father couldn’t deduce anything about my intentions. “You’re actively encouraging me, a child just as old as your son, to cheat, in hopes that he will grow? How is that being a good role model?”
Percy’s rather rubbed his forehead. Heroes never do well with guilt. “Goodness, when did you villains become so moral?”
“Never,” I confirmed. “I’ll help you.”
In a world of highly-monitored crime, one must make do with any psychological entertainment they can salvage.
After a few minutes, Percy’s father came out with the cat. He was round, orange, and generally cranky. Percy the Third looked like the type of cat who would gauge your eyes out, sharp claws and all. Though I guess his face was cute. I took him home.
“You’re quick,” my father commented.
“I know,” I smirked. “Thank you.” I went to my bedroom and retrieved a wooly blanket, wrapped Percy the Third up in it, and sat by the front window, cradling the blanket and monitoring any outside activity.
It was very warm and…peaceful, I guess, would be the proper word. At some point my father went to some obscure corner of the house to, I don’t know, build something diabolical. It seemed so complicated and cumbersome. I got the cat; what more would I need?
Whoops. There came Percy, headed directly for our house. He wasn’t a full-on idiot and, being a hero’s son, knew that we were the closest villains on the block and the most likely to steal his cat.
I sighed and headed to the back of the house, to a small closet with mothballs and winter coats and, most importantly, no windows. I heard Percy knocking at the door, but it sounded distant and faint. If he were to accomplish anything in life, he really ought to learn the virtues of picking a lock. Or carrying a sledgehammer. Or knocking loudly.
Percy the Third hadn’t made any noise at all, barring the soft hum of his breathing—saving me from the panic of thinking I had smothered the cat. He really was a sweet pet. I figured he was just grumpy because his owner was a weak-knocker in need of a parent to micromanage all his escapades. He didn’t deserve such a sub-par owner.
I held Percy the Third closer to my chest, the dark enveloping us like warm fireplace air or a feathery pillow or…I guess what a mother hugging you would feel like? I couldn’t really comment on that specifically. Either way, it was warm, calm, sweet, and fluffy, like if a marshmallow were to become a moment. The best way to start a Sunday, I decided. Good luck to Percy’s father if he thought he would be getting his cat back.
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Haha.. Very well written. Loved reading this.. Look forward to reading more from you.
Interesting...I'm particularly enthused by the concept of knowing your role in your story. You know who is the villain and who is the hero, and everyone seems to enjoy or at least accept their roles. I've always toyed with the idea of writing a story where the protagonist doesn't realize they're the villain, but I've never done it. You did a great job with this one, Meggy. I'll be keeping an eye out for more intriguing tales!
Thank you so much!
And also, if you're interested in villain-y protagonists, my Cracked Cases series has a few of them, but they do get a bit long and the characters are aware that they're being nasty. So if you're interested then please check it out, but if not then don't worry!
Not exactly a "fierce competition" but certainly a fun one. The light-hearted tone played well with the subject matter and made for an enjoyable read. One note: "the type of cat who would gauge your eyes out" – I believe the word you were looking for was gouge. Well done! Stay safe and keep writing!
Thank you so much for your feedback and reading! I greatly appreciate your lovely commentary! Stay safe as well!
Haha I love the humor in this so much! So many great lines, and I like the explanation of why characters never have mothers. I was looking forward to seeing what was going to happen between the MC and Percy the first, and it ended pretty abruptly without resolve, but otherwise I enjoyed this a lot! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much! I'm sorry about the abrupt ending (word counts, bleh) and I will keep your feedback in mind when I continue writing. Thank you for reading!
I love this! Wonderful philosophical piece on villains. Here's my favourite bit: Percy’s rather rubbed his forehead. Heroes never do well with guilt. “Goodness, when did you villains become so moral?” “Never,” I confirmed. “I’ll help you.” It's golden! Only one grammatical error this time: a missing end quote for this line: I held up one hand. "Cut the dramatic speech.
Thank you so much! I am so happy you enjoyed it! I will edit that bit right now. Thank you :)