Submitted into Contest #51 in response to: Write about someone who has a superpower.... view prompt



“So, explain this to me again,” Sam said. “Why would you not want your superpowers? Being able to fly is pretty icy.”

“What if you're afraid of heights?”

“Why would you be? You can’t fall. You can use your mind to keep you off the ground.”

“You don’t grip it.” Christie turned away from him.

“I’m trying to understand.”

Christie sat watching as Sam fished. She looked at his curly hair bright in the sun, his blue eyes. Her eyes were the color of sunlight. They’d been friends since the day he stood up to a bully that was picking on someone else. She had saved him from taking a bad beating. She had been thirteen then with her powers just manifesting at puberty. Three years later and she was still getting used to them. No, she didn’t have to worry about falling. Still didn’t mean flying wasn’t a bit strange, the ground so far away. What if she lost focus? Had a stroke or something? She just couldn’t get comfortable with it. And Sam couldn’t grip it. He was fully human, and probably wanted what he couldn’t have. Typical, she thought.

As if you’re any better, a voice in her head replied.

A tree branch broke with a splintering sound and fell from a neighboring oak. “Ice down,” Sam said. “I know you’re mad, but you don’t need to take it out on an innocent tree. Throw some fish in my cooler instead. ” He baited his fishing line and threw it out.

Christie took a deep breath. A stone near her vibrated. She concentrated on it, and it stopped. “And right there's my problem. People want me to do everything.”

“Relax. It was a joke. When do I ask you to do anything I can't myself?” He gestured at his fishing pole.

Christie sighed. The truth was he was among the few that asked almost nothing of her. That day she had stopped the bully he hadn't asked her to. He never asked her to fight any battle he wouldn't himself. Sam didn’t even want her to take him flying. I've been in a plane, he said once. Close enough for me, thanks. Bring me a soda? You don’t have to. The day I can’t get up off my own behind, you’d better smack me upside the head with the soda can.

  “You know what people say about how we came to be here. Some even want reparations for their families. Like we personally had anything to do with that.”

Sam had a bad habit of speaking before he thought about it. “No offense, but whadya expect? They say some of those humans weren't- icy with the experiments.”

“Not my fault!”

“I know. It was over a hundred years ago. Still.”

Sam and Christie had learned it in school. Her teacher had sugared it the best she could. Encounters of the seventh kind she called those meetings. The teacher didn’t mention the encounters of the sixth kind. At least the newcomers had inadvertently picked the right year. No one was paying attention to extraterrestrial activity in 2021. The humans were already beaten down by a pandemic, two hurricanes, an economic depression, and murder hornets. Presumably, thought Christie, her ancestors weren’t in much better shape. At first, the newcomers had pleaded, used only the willing or so they said. Of course, no one believed the stories at first. They called these women insane or said they must have been dreaming. Just like they’d done with anyone who told these weird stories of getting alien abducted. By the time everyone realized what was going on, these offspring had been assimilated into various societies. The original aliens were dying. It had nearly caused WWIII, but in the end, everyone accepted the children. Especially when that one kid almost burned down half of downtown Orlando after the FBI tried to take him in for questioning.

 Christie lifted a stone with her mind and skipped it across the water. “I’m not making excuses but-“

“Come on! You’re disturbing the fish!”

She ignored him. “The newcomers were dying and unable to reproduce on their own. At least before they did die, they taught humans how to regrow the Amazon rainforest, reverse climate change, and brought back many species from the brink, including the honeybees.”

“Yep,” Sam said. “And if they had to mind control a few world leaders to make it happen who cares? Long as the earth gets saved.”

“If you could have mind-controlled Hitler, would you?”

“Now,” Sam laughed, “you sound like Ms. Moron.” Their teacher, Ms. Maron, wasn’t particularly liked. Besides, Sam thought it was old, boring history that should be left to die. “Look, it seems foolish. You have a talent. Use it.”

Christie shook her head. “You read the books,” she said. “Have you ever known a superhero that had a good life? They all have PTSD, are psychopaths, lonely, and in dire need of therapy.”

Sam sighed. “You’re talking about the old comic books from the twentieth-first century, right?

“Yeah.” She clenched and then relaxed her hands. “But they were right. Do you watch the news?”

“I know the crimefighters have it hard. But most grown-ups are probably in dire need of therapy. You’ve met my old man, look at him. That last android nearly killed him before he found the off switch.”

“The money’s good in those cage matches, right? And you said he has to feed you all.”

“My mother’s worried he’s going to kill himself one of these days. Even with his modifications, there’s only so much his body can take.” Sam sighed, thinking of the other night when he heard his mother crying to her sister about his father’s gambling and drinking. “He could retire. Just doesn’t want to.”

Christie wasn’t listening. “The old books say with great power comes great responsibility.”

“Christie. It’s a comic book. From what, 2000, or something?”

“Tell that to my dad.”

At least your dad thinks you’re worth something. Sam didn’t say that. Instead he said, “Those superheroes were vigilantes. No one’s asking you to do that now. You’d work with law enforcement and get paid. Very well. You don’t even need to fight crime if you don’t want to. Some super-people are involved in movies as stunt doubles. Or even the arts. Did you see that ballet group? They’re-”

“Lucky exceptions. People expect us to fight crime,” Christie said, mind-flinging another rock. “You’ve been on Sharetalk. They’re saying, why should we even have human firefighters that can die when we have supers that can do the task without being harmed? Same with police officers. Of course,” she added bitterly, “when we accidentally use too much force or tear apart a building fighting a super-villain, we get blamed for it. Excessive force, they say. Like the villain is holding back or something. But still when there’s trouble, we’re the ones that get called. Every day someone is bugging me about some stupid bully.

"It never bothered you before. You and I even fought them together. Why is it bothering you now?"

"People complain too much. Protesting our tactics. I told you that."

Sam reeled the line in. Yep, some fish had managed to eat his bait. Again. He gave it up as a lost cause. “It’s that one idiot who ruined it. Called himself Poena. Sounds like a girl’s name.”

 “It’s Latin for punishment. I read that somewhere.

“Yeah, unconcerned. Poena got off on violence, and so did that other guy Fireslinger. They ruined it for you.” Sam shook his head. “They were criminals that played at being superheroes. Anyway, they’re in a penal colony on Mars now. Everyone who knows anything agrees they are rare exceptions, and most crimefighters are doing their best. Besides, we have androids that fight fires.”

“No, not everyone agrees we’re doing our best."

 “After Poena, I can see people being concerned. The others are just cowards on Sharetalk. Don’t take that scat-what's that?” For just behind them, they heard faint voices getting louder.

“Leave me alone!” It sounded like a girl’s voice.

“Aw, come on, hon,” said another voice, male, rough with liquid courage. “Just one kiss.”

“I told you stop!” said the girl’s voice, now high pitched and shaking.

Sam stood up. Christie grabbed his hand. “Let it be,” she hissed.

“She sounds like she could be in trouble,” he said softly.

“Or she can take care of herself for once. I know who that is, Sam.”

Sam turned and looked at her. Christie’s eyes were dark-rimmed and wet. She wiped them violently with her shirt sleeve. Sam could guess the problem. It wasn’t only the victims at school that sought her protection. Sam’s father was two steps up from being a bum. Christie’s father, in a way, might be worse than his. He was loving, doting, a great guy who was always kind to Sam. He was also a retired crime fighter who still patrolled their neighborhood. Lately, he had signed up Christie for defense classes. Last year he took her to the League of Crimefighters, where Christie worked a summer internship. She had only been fifteen but he wanted her to follow in her footsteps. What people say on social media doesn’t matter, he’d told her once. We of all people should be asking what we can do for our country.

Never mind that her dad’s boss had said, “she shows promise, but honestly, she needs stronger powers to go against the super-criminals we do. As it is, she could get seriously hurt or killed. She should work in human law enforcement if she wishes that path. And that’s the other issue. She may not have the drive needed to succeed in crimefighting.” Sam knew this. She had shown him the report after the internship. Yet her father still pushed her, saying she was young, that her powers had not fully manifested themselves.

“Who is she?” Sam asked.

“A local girl. Patricia Klein. She’s always going off with the wrong sort of men. Do you know how many times I’ve gotten her out of trouble? Too many times. Let her deal with it, and maybe she’ll learn a damned lesson if we don’t rush to her aid.”

There was a high pitched scream.

“Christie, this sounds bad.”

She sat still as stone. “The last time I helped her, she ended up bailing the moron out of jail. It’s probably the same one too. No more. I just can’t. Not with her.”

Sam could understand this. His father could give lessons to a mule as his mother said, and the rules never applied to him. His last employer had given him chance after chance to show up to the job, not to pilfer tools he claimed were his, to be responsible. Because when he did work, he did the job very well. He wasn’t stupid, although he thought he was. He was only ignorant and too ashamed, too beaten down to try any book-learning. But there’s only so much one can take so finally his employer had given up. Another bridge burned. And that was why his old man was battling androids in cage matches. But yet-

“I can’t just sit here.” Sam got up, still holding his fishing pole and ran in the direction of the scream. Once he looked back, and she was still sitting by the river watching him. Sam ran along the trail and stopped behind some bushes. He peered through a break in them. The man Patricia was with slapped her. Hard. His tan face was twisted, his two small eyes slits. She fell against a tree.

“I think you’d better do as I say, human trash.”

Is he a hybrid? Sam tapped the metal implant at his temple. “Christie,” he thought-texted her. “She might be tangling with a super. He just called Patricia human trash.”

No answer. Sam sighed and went back to watching. He didn’t want to rush in if it was a super. Christie always called him idealistic, ever seeing the light at the end of the tunnel even when no one else did. But he wasn’t stupid. Humans had been known to lie about their genetics. This guy hadn’t done anything more than hit her. Hard enough, yes, but not with superhuman strength. He could see that because she was able to struggle to her feet.

“Please, don’t hurt me,” she whispered.

What to do, though? For whatever reason, Christie wasn’t coming. He couldn’t assume this moron didn't have powers. He looked around for a weapon. The fishing pole would be useless. There were some rocks nearby that were fairly heavy. Sam wasn’t a super, but he had a couple of talents. One, due to years of fishing and casting, was deadly aim. Sam took careful aim and nailed the guy with a rock. It didn’t knock him out, but he staggered back, blood dripping onto his shirt, his hands. Sam hit him on the shoulder with another. A third missed as the guy rushed towards the bush he hid behind.

“Run!” he screamed at Patricia and took off, the man in close pursuit.

“Bastard!” the man screamed. “I’ll kill you!”

Sam was blessed with another talent-running. He was lean and tall with long legs. The guy wasn’t sober, much heavier, and slower, super or not. Still, Sam was sure he could feel the guy’s heat, taste the beer smell, feel his fingers at his shirt’s collar. He hoped Patricia listened because now it was everyone for themselves. Sam wasn’t even sure he could save himself. Christie, could use you right now, he thought. But it wasn’t her that saved him. It seemed to be a tree root. Sam stepped on it, and his ankles instinctively turned, his foot curling as he stumbled off it. He righted himself and then he was on firm ground, never stopping, running fast again, breathing hard, telling himself to go, go, go. The man, only intent on what he’d do to this little ass who had ruined his fun, caught his foot in the root, and fell. Sam heard the thud but didn't stop, barely noticed he was alone until he got to the parking lot and the small museum at the park’s entrance. He bent over feeling like he'd vomit but he managed not to. He looked around. No one. He ran inside the museum and reported, barely able to breathe, what had occurred. It was then he noticed, to his great pain, that he’d lost his fishing pole. It already added to the heartache he was suffering. For once the tunnel was dark, the light turned off.

That night Christie came to his window, knocked on it, although he was on the second floor. Sam opened it and stood there, watching her floating in mid-air.

“You’re not letting me in?”

“It’s late,” Sam said quietly. “Dad might hear, and he’s in a mood.”

“Never stopped you before.” She held out a hand, but he didn’t take it. “You’re angry,” she said.

“I could’ve used your help is all,” Sam said very softly. “He nearly caught me. And I lost my fishing pole. My best one.”

"I did help you. Who do you think tangled the root around his feet?"

Sam didn't answer.

I also," she said, a bit loudly, "told you to leave her alone. She's done this before. She'll never learn."

Sam turned away, thinking of his old man fighting those damned androids and burning bridges. Of how even when you give up on a person you never really do. How you keep hoping that against all odds, something will change. Even a tiny bit. Because it’s been so long, you don’t know how to do anything else but hope. Pray, even as you’re walking away. You want to kill them. You want to help them. Both those things in the same breath.

He turned back to Christie. “So, we shouldn’t help her? Let her get hurt or worse?”

“At some point, Sam, people gotta learn to help themselves. We can’t keep doing it for them. Even a super gets tired of it.”

“What happened with you?” he whispered.

“I didn’t hear you,” When he didn’t answer, Christie came to the window. “I can’t read minds.”

“I texted you for help,” Sam said. “That’s all.”

"I heard. I flew overhead and watched you to make sure you were all right." Christie looked down at the ground. "You could always run fast."

Sam shrugged, "Thanks, But still, I was the one who went."

"I told you. She'll only do this again. You'll see that and one day you'll be tired of it too."

"And you didn't come say good-bye or anything."

“I followed you out of the park. Then my dad texted me. I'm sorry, I had to leave. It was dinnertime and he was angry I wasn't home..”

“Well I reported what happened.” Sam shrugged. “But they were both gone by the time the police got out there. They said they would talk to Patricia, but they’ve dealt with her before themselves. They said they keep trying, but they can’t force her to get help. So, I doubt anything will happen.”

“She needs more help than we can give." Christie held out her hand. "I told you the League said I’m not cut out for crime fighting. I guess they're right after all.”

Sam nodded. “Sure," he said. “I’m exhausted. It’s been a busy day and all. I’ve got to get some sleep.”

She left without replying. But Sam woke at dawn. Unable to sleep, he walked outside to see the sunrise. On the porch, like an offering, was his fishing pole. He sat on the stairs staring off into space for a very long time. When the sun has fully risen he tossed the pole aside and went into the house, slamming the door.

July 25, 2020 03:48

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