I’ve been researching and outlining a “super hero” novel for a little while now. I spoke about the main character, the one who becomes a super hero, in a previous post. Today I’ll share with you a little short story, just 1,200 words, that was a little exploration of mine regarding a normal person getting super powers. It lead me on to come up with some “rules” about what a super hero character is and where they come from. So here it is:
All In A Day’s Work
“Hey,” I said, waving to Karl.
“Hi,” he nodded.
I walked to the cupboard and took my chipped coffee mug. Karl was at the coffee machine, watching the brown liquid drip into his cup.
“How are the super powers working out?” he asked.
I shrugged, though he couldn’t see me.
“They’re not all they’re cracked up to be.”
“I wish I had super powers,” Karl said, turning to me, his eyes crinkled at the edges. “I’d be a hero, it would be great.”
“I bet you already are, in your own way.”
Karl paused, raised his eyebrows and then continued.
“Nothing much heroic about me. You on the other hand… You can fly, you’re super strong and wicked fast. How is that not heroic?” he asked.
The coffee machine beeped. I nodded at it. Karl took his mug and stepped to the side, reaching for the sugar.
“OK,” I said, putting my cup under the still dripping spout. “I’ll tell you some of my heroic efforts.”
“That’d be cool,” Karl poured milk into his coffee. “Milk?”
He left the carton on the table then shuffled back to the sink and leant against it, waiting for me.
“You remember the other week? That earthquake in Japan?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I didn’t hear any stories about you though…”
I grinned and shook my head, eyes on my slowly filling mug. Dorris from accounting poked her head into the kitchen and looked around. Without finding what she wanted, she popped back out.
“So it was a Saturday arvo, I had just finished mowing the lawn.”
“Bet you did that quickly, yeah?” interrupted Karl.
“Heh,” I snorted. “Yeah, I can mow the lawn in under a minute and that includes getting the mower started. Anyway, I heard the news and it was like a bolt of lightning had struck me. For weeks I’d been wondering what I was supposed to do with my powers. I raced out my front door, leapt into the sky and flew as fast as I could to Japan.”
“Wow, just like that? That would be so cool.”
“Only one problem Karl,” I turned to face him, one corner of my mouth quirked in a sardonic grin. “Even at my top speed it took me ten hours to get there. Do you know how big Japan is?”
Karl shook his head then sipped his coffee. Martin from customer support stuck his head in the kitchen and said ‘hi’. Karl nodded to him and I raised a hand in greeting. Martin, like Dorris, withdrew and continued with his morning.
“Well, Japan is big. It’s all mountains and cities and forest and so on. It took me another three hours to find where the tsunami had struck. It was a good, probably, eighteen hours since the earthquake, if you include how long it took for the news to reach me. Local rescue teams were at the site and the worst of the damage was done.”
“You didn’t get there in time?”
“No, not really. I saved a few people stranded on roof tops, helped a mother find her child. That sort of thing. Don’t get me wrong. Those people seemed pretty happy I had turned up and I don’t regret doing it, but twenty eight thousand people died in Japan that day and I managed to save maybe ten. Of those ten, I think only one of them needed saving, the others would have been picked up by the helicopters sooner or later.”
“Twenty eight thousand? That’s rough.”
“I know, and saving just one, though like I said, I’m glad I did, isn’t as heroic as the teams on the ground.”
“What did you do then?” Karl asked.
The machine beeped. I took my mug out and poured myself some milk. I sipped and looked at Karl as he took a biscuit and dunked it. The coffee was hot and bitter. Good coffee. I sighed.
“I came home.”
“But there were aftershocks, there was more you could have done, surely?”
The corner of my mouth quirked up again and I even chuckled.
“Mate, it was Sunday morning and it would take another ten hours or so to get back. I had work on Monday.”
“Work? That seems a bit banal doesn’t it?”
I took another sip of coffee. The warmth spread down my throat. It really was good coffee.
“How am I supposed to pay the mortgage? I’ve got a wife and a little girl to look after too. There isn’t any money in flying about watching emergency teams mop up after a natural disaster.”
“No, I guess not,” agreed Karl. “But what about crime fighting? Here, locally I mean.”
“That’s what I wondered. In all the super hero movies and comics, the hero goes on ‘patrol’ and foils master criminals and such.”
“So did you try that? I would.”
I arched my brow and rolled my eyes.
“Remember I was late to work last Thursday?”
Karl nodded and took another biscuit.
“Wednesday night I went on patrol. I flew around the city using my super hearing and super vision to search out crime.” I stepped away from the coffee machine when Martin came in again, this time with his mug.
“You telling Karl about your heroics?” asked Martin, flashing a quick grin first to me then Karl.
I nodded and took the opportunity to grab a biscuit.
“I spent all night flying around. The only thing I discovered was that the police force is quite capable of preventing and solving what little crime there is.”
“What do you mean?” Karl asked, his eye gone wide.
“Well, most ‘crime’ is just people doing stupid things. I don’t think there really are criminal masterminds at work. I found one guy with a knife. He was threatening some cops. I was going to swoop in and save the day, but the cops pulled pepper spray and subdued him.”
“Why were you late to work then?” asked Karl.
Martin laughed, his back to us watching his coffee mug fill.
“You aren’t married are you Karl?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.
Karl shook his head and looked to me.
“When I got home, my wife got stuck into me for flying off without telling her. Apparently the baby spat the dummy and she was up all night with her. Normally I’m there to help out…”
“I see,” said Karl. He looked into his empty mug and shrugged. As he started to leave he stopped. “So your powers haven’t really changed you? You still come to work, go home and all that?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “But it isn’t my powers that have changed my life. It’s my daughter’s super power that has me in a spin.”
The machine beeped again and Martin took his mug out. He turned around and locked onto me with curious eyes. Karl cocked his head and waited.
“And?” he asked. “What’s her super power?”
“Her smile,” I said and walked out, past my stunned co-workers. It knocked them speechless too, it seems.