It came in the mail. An announcement that the Superhero Comic Book Development was making their newest comic, Enigma, in bulk and releasing it to the public on June 26. But that wasn’t all! This time around they were changing things up a bit. Five out of the billions of copies made contained a golden superhero silhouette. Whoever found one and presented it to the Head of Development would receive a tour through their most secret and illustrious factory. The tour would begin once all of the tickets were found. Of course, once June 26 arrived there were crowds and crowds of people flocking to the comic book store buying copies upon copies of Enigma. By the second hour, a little girl had found a ticket. It was plastered all over the news, the first to find a golden ticket! A week later, twins from Argentina found tickets and were put on the list. There were only two tickets left! A month after the release of Enigma, a middle-aged man was the proud owner of the fourth golden superhero. But the fifth and final ticket was yet to be found….
Michael plastered himself against the storefront window and eyed the shiny, new copy of Enigma. It was displayed among boxes upon boxes of other Enigma copies. Michael loved comic books. Every year for his birthday, Michael and his father would go to the bookstore and buy him a comic of his choice. This year his family was having hard times and that tradition was forgotten. Michael had turned twelve and found his parents were already off at work. He had grabbed his backpack and walked to the bookstore to at least stare at the comics he couldn't have.
Michael peeled himself from the glass, leaving a hazy imprint of himself, and went inside the store. A cheerful bell rang as he opened the door and stepped inside. The cashier didn’t even look up at Michael as he was very preoccupied with a whining boy and the boy’s equally whiny mother. Michael ran his fingers against the spines of the books breathing in the homey smell of fresh paper and ink. But the commotion at the front caught his attention:
“But mommy! I want it! I want Enigma!!!” The boy collapsed on the floor in a puddle of his own tears and snot.
“I already told you, Honey Cakes, I’ve bought you too many copies of the wretched comic book!! No more is what I said, isn’t that right?” The mother, coffee in hand, turned to the cashier who seemed to sink a bit lower behind the counter.
“But I want it! I want it! I WANT IT!!” The boy screamed and banged his fists against the concrete floor. The mother tried to grab his leg and drag him out of the store.
“Mommy will buy you a lollipop! Mommy will buy you a new toy! Just SHUT UP!!” The mother screamed back. But the boy kicked and wriggled free and managed to upend his mother's coffee cup. The cup made a beautiful arc across the space and splattered over a shiny, new copy of Enigma on the counter. It got the cashier in the process too. The mother didn’t even apologize, she grabbed her kid and scuttled out the door.
Michael helped the cashier sop up the mess and winced at the stained, wet comic book.
“It’s ruined.” The cashier told him, wiping his shirt with a paper towel. “Might as well throw it away.”
“Could I take it home with me instead?” Michael asked hopefully. The cashier shrugged, “Sure, whatever kid, it's no use to me now.”
Michael carefully took the comic, tucked it safely in his backpack, and walked home.
Michael lived on the third floor of a building in the heart of the bustling city. It was an ugly structure that had not been remodeled since his grandparents were kids. Wallpaper curled in the lobby and wooden paneling lined the walls, but it was home. Michael walked into the lobby and took the staircase two at a time until he reached his floor. He and his parents lived in a corner apartment which afforded them a bit more room. Michael slid his key into the lock and twisted the knob to get inside. His parents would be at work until seven so he had time all to himself. The first thing Michael did was take out Enigma and lay it on some towels to dry. He made sure to tuck napkins between pages so they would not stick together. Thankfully only the front of the comic was wet, the back of the comic had somehow survived and was in good condition.
Michael left it to dry and went to his room. His room was full to the brim with comic books and posters of superheroes. Michael didn’t like to admit it, but secretly he thought he was obsessed with superheroes. Superheroes were the people he looked up to, the people he inspired to be. Before he knew it dinner time had come and went and the sound of a key turning in the lock woke Michael from his comics.
“We’re home,” His mom called from in the kitchen. Michael rolled off his bed and walked into the living room.
“Have you had dinner yet?” His mom asked while setting her purse and keys on the counter.
“What’s this?” His dad asked, pointing at the rumpled comic.
“I got it at the bookstore!” Michael said excitedly. “A kid spilled a drink on it and ruined it and the cashier said I could keep it. I’ve been letting it dry.”
“Have you checked for a golden superhero silhouette?” His dad asked jokingly.
“I doubt it would have one.” Michael murmured trying to push down the glimmer of hope that rose up.
“Who wants pancakes?” His mom pulled the pancake mix box off the shelf and rummaged around for a mixing bowl. Michael and his dad gave their assent and started helping with dinner, but Michael couldn’t help glancing at Enigma every now and then wondering if it held a ticket. After a full meal of eggs and pancakes Michael untangled the comic from its wrappings and tried to smooth out the pages without tearing it. Flipping slowly to the back Micahel checked the pocket: It was empty. Michael felt his face fall, inwardly he berated himself. Of course there was no ticket! There were millions of copies of Enigma out there, what are the chances of him getting it? Michael went to bed that night feeling the weight of disappointment on his chest.
In the morning Michael grabbed his backpack, put Enigma inside, and headed out. He sat at a park bench in the cool morning air and reached into his backpack for the comic, instead his hand withdrew a golden superhero silhouette. Michael stared at it with wide eyes. He had the fifth ticket!