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The Hero

My name is Melanie Danner and I’m a craptastic superhero. Honestly, other people call me the superhero. I struggle to hold my life together with duct tape. Since The Event, three years ago, I’ve had ten jobs. Several of these jobs lasted only a few hours. To be fair, I lost plenty of jobs before The Event. I have crappy luck with my alarm clock. Only recently have I broken down and purchased one of them old fashioned ones that you wind up. That has been the only thing to get me up on time. Hell, I use them so much, I bought five of them when I scraped up the money.

I used to work at Garver Shipping. In fact, to date, that has been my longest stint of employment. I was there five months when The Event hit. Granted, if it weren’t for The Event, I would have been fired. Instead, it gave me the excuse to be late, along with everyone else. So, I dragged it out another three months. Right as I got fired, I  purchased my first, and best, wind up alarm clock. It afforded me the opportunity to be on time for the bus that always ran late, regardless of the driver.

While waiting for the late bus, I decided to walk the three blocks to the next stop. It passed me half a block out and didn’t stop. I ran. That was how I figured out I could move fast. I overshot the next three bus stops and rolled to a devastating, and disastrous halt at another bus stop. Yeah, I really need a car. Standing up, I dust myself off and fix my hair. I step into the convenient store at the stop and pick up a bottle of water and a candy bar for later. Interestingly enough, two thugs ran into the same store. They had shoved their heads into pantyhose, blurring their features. They brandish pistols and threaten the guy behind the counter and the other two people in the store. The blue and white bus pulls up and I drop my stuff and head for the door. If I go longer than a week without a job, I’ll be evicted. Thug One decides I have to stay and see the entire robbery. Placing a hand on my shoulder he shoves me. The weird part, I didn’t even feel it. He falls backward onto his keister. It didn’t dawn on me then, but that was when I had the super strength.

His buddy sees me and levels his gun at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the bus pull away. I sigh and level my eyes at Thug Two. There was no thought process, just action. My hand touched the gun and I bend the barrel at an extreme angle. His eyes widen as he looks at me then his gun. “You made me miss my interview,” I said and punched him in the face. He flew through the glass window, over the sidewalk, and into traffic. I don’t know what happened to him, and at the time, I didn’t care. Did I say I’m a crappy superhero?

Thug One struggled to his feet and aimed his gun at me, too. He was more of a danger to the nearby items than me, the way his gun was shaking. I felt my back teeth grind, a bad habit when I’m frustrated. “You have two choices. You can stand here and end up like your boyfriend out in the road. Or, you can run away.” I’m pretty sure he never ran that fast before. By the time I got to my interview, they had filled the position. Whatever.

My mother always said to look for the bright side of things. A man put a sign out for help wanted in front of his butcher shop. I applied and he hired me right on the spot without so much as an interview or even a job description. He walked me to the back and handed me a jacket. I had to work in the cooler cutting meat. By hand. It took me two days to figure out it was my strength that was allowing me to cut through the cold meat. Once the job got easier, I took it up a notch. It took me a month to get the butcher to a point where he was ahead. Once he was, I had to slow it down a bit to keep my paycheck at the right amount. Three months later my bosses nephew showed up asking for work. Guess who got the ax. I got two month’s severance, which was nice.

The first place I decided to go was the bank. Smart, right? No. I get there and find the armored car being held up. The man doing the robbing didn’t have a mask, just some type of colored glasses on his eyes. His clothes were simple black and fit him well. Honestly, if he wasn’t robbing the armored car, I might have dated him. Which would have automatically made him a looser.

Anyway, I walk up to the situation and the skinny man turns and points this little ball thing at me. “Lady, you might want to step back. I won’t hesitate-” I punched him. It was a reflex. My BS detector went off inside my head so I swung, sue me. He flew back several yards and crashed into a cement wall. It surprises me when he stumbled forward, but kept his feet. There wasn’t even a mark on his face. He shook it off and pulled something from a pocket. It looked tiny, but he did something and big blue beam hit me in the chest. I felt weightless, for the first time in my life, and then slammed into the armored truck. My head hurt and it was hard to breathe. Everything I looked at had a blue tint to it.

“That was for punching me,” the man said. “I have to say, I’m surprised. You’re stronger than you look. Plus you took an oscillating plasma laser and are still intact.”

“Just lucky, I guess.” I shifted my arms by my side, which felt like 500 pounds. Pushing was another thing. Breaking free required both my arms and legs. When I did get free, I fell on my face. Literally. On my face. It was a good thing I was in jeans and sneakers. If I land another office job, I’ll have to spend a fortune on a wardrobe. I struggled to get to my feet, but the guy grabbed me by my collar and yanked me up so my feet dangled in the air.

“Who are you?” He looked me square in the face as the spit flew from his lips.

“Nonya.” I punched him again. He clipped the truck as he flew away. Whatever he had in his hand was sent sailing in another direction. Thinking fast, at least for me, I ran after him. He slid through the parking lot. When he stopped up against a curb, I bent over and punched him again. It was wicked awesome to see his face as he opened his eyes and I was there with my fist back. Surprised followed by cringe. I guess you had to be there. Anyway, he didn’t get up right away.

The guards vouched for me to the cops and the bank gave me $500 for stopping the robbery. Yay, me.

I ran across him a few more times. The newspapers called him Over Lord. Egomaniac was more like it. There would be months with him nowhere near and then he’d show up and do something stupid. Most of the time, the regular cops would fend him off. More recently, he carried a belt with lots of stuff dangling from it. Now the cops jump straight to S.W.A.T. or something.

As time passed, I managed to get other jobs. I started my most recent job last week. It’s an office job, so the pay is better. Plus, the boss has said that if I take half of his workload, I’ll be gainfully employed for the rest of my life. Not sure I want to be a personal assistant for the rest of my life.

So there I was, running late. Like usual. OK, not usual. It was only five minutes late. Normal is fifteen or more. Traffic was stopped dead. I saw a parking spot at a pay-n-park so I took it. A few days before, I discovered I could fly, so getting to work won’t be an issue.

Walking three blocks, I see people running from their cars and down the sidewalk. “If that ain’t a sign, I don’t know what is.” Weaving through the crowd I see blinking lights of cop cars. Somebody says something over a PA system, but I can’t make it out. A gap in the running people and I see him. Over Lord, douchebag extraordinaire. His head jerked and I saw his lips moving. Having dealt with him in the past, I know he tries to be a drama queen and sly at the same time. Eventually, he’ll figure out those two things don’t mix well. When his shoulder flinches, that’s when I know.

Scanning the stuff nearby, I figure I can toss one of the abandoned cars if need be. I opt for a small one cause I can lift and throw it. The car is lighter than expected, so my throw is off. It connects with something that Over Lord launched at the suit he was talking to and blew up. “Hopefully that is covered by insurance.”

The force of the explosion knocked be sideways, and I trip on the curb. A snap sounds and I have broken the heel of my shoe. “Great! I was only a few minutes late before. Now, I have to limp and buy a new pair of shoes.”

“You’ve been warned before,” I shout, pointing at Over Lord. That’s when I see the chipped nail. Bastard. “I am now officially late for my job and I’ve only been there a week. I just hope my boss is delayed by this traffic jam.” Two cars separate me from him, and I single handedly shove them to the side. “Brainiac, you’re smart enough to know this is stupid. Just get a job, like the rest of us. It lets you buy stuff.”

“Where would the fun in that be?” Douchebag’s hands flew over his belt. “I enjoy our tête-à-têtes. They are so invigorating and get my blood flowing.” His shit-eating smile reached his eyes as he turned away from me. “Besides, we both know what they will use their devices for. I’m just being honest about the whole thing.” When he turned back around to face me, he threw something, maybe the size of a softball. I wasn’t sure what it was, so I blasted it out of the air with my eye beams. The wind gusted, taking the dust and smoke with it. I hate smelling like smoke. It lingers for hours.

Over Lord looked at me. “Eye beams? Really?” He shook his head, and I think I saw his eyes roll.

I cleared the smoke in front of me. “They dry my eyes.” My blouse is stained and there’s a rip in my pants. “Son of a bitch! I just bought these.” The growl built up in my chest and went out my mouth as I charged forward. Aiming for the cheap seats, I let him have it.

There was something around him when I hit him. It looked orange and he was still standing there, the smug look begging to be wiped from his face.

“Force field, bitch,” Over Lord said. The gleam in his eyes irritated me. He imitated a five-year-old and said, “You can’t hit me.” Then he made a mistake and turned away.

Screaming, I lunged at him and pinned his arms to his sides. My hands didn’t touch, but I kept at it. He started dancing and flailing like a little girl. It did make it hard for me to get my arms around him.

I got two fingers hooked, then the entire hand. Once I locked them together, I squeezed. This had to work like a tube of toothpaste with the lid on tight. Something would give.

“NO!”

The bear hug was starting to hurt my arms. It felt like when you touch a sunburn. The orange glow thingy blinked and then went away. My arms encircled Over Lord’s bird chest and I heard a loud crack, and he started crying. It wasn’t me, so I assumed I broke his ribs. Good. He deserved it for making me late and ruining my clothes.

His head hung into his chest, but he’d done that before and punched me. Fool me once, shame on me. To make sure he was out, I slammed him into the road. I’ve never seen a person bounce on the pavement before that moment. He wasn’t moving anymore.

I checked my cell and saw I wasn’t that late. If I worked it right, I could use this fight as an excuse. Cops swarmed towards me, and I don’t like cops. Except for Mike. He’s nice. I made my way to a side alley and left.

Once I landed in the alley, I made my way to the front door of the Tribune building. Flashing my badge to the guard, I tapped the button for the elevator. No one else got in, so it went to floor eight. In my office, I opened the desk and pulled out my backup shoes and shirt.

A reporter stands there open-mouthed and staring. “What do you want?”

“Uh,” she said and shook her head. “Hank said you would cut my check.”

I tapped on my keyboard and looked at the email. “OK. He’s approved it. Give me a second.” Pulling out the checkbook, I fill in the amount. Out of the corner of my eye, I see she keeps staring at me. “Here you go.”

She reaches out and takes the check. “You’re her.”

“I’m who?” Closing the checkbook, I look at her.

“You’re The Woman.” She leaned on my desk. “You just beat up Over Lord. Again.”

I folded my hands on my desk and painted on a plastic smile. “I am. What of it?”

“I knew it.” She slapped my desk. “I knew it. Oh my God.” She ran a hand through her hair and sighed. “What are you doing here?”

“I have to eat.”

“But. But. But.” She stood and paced to the door and back. “You need a costume.”

“I’m not really a superhero, so no.” I looked over at my computer screen. “Don’t you have a deadline?”

“Oh shit!” She bolted from the room.


Continuation

Published inshort storySuper ShortsSuperheroSupervillain

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