Authors: Niall McCreanor
Tags: #Science Fiction | Superpowers
Copyright © 2015 Niall McCreanor
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The only superhero I have ever known.
Jacinta and Oisín,
My reason for being.
I would like to thank Jacinta Moonan, Gerard Sands, Seamus McKenna, Noelle McCreanor, Niall Busby, Dr. Marty Reilly, David Carolan,
Paddy Hall and Andrew Hanratty for helping to guide me through
the creative process.
White knuckled, Lee gripped the armrests of his chair – the centrepiece of his virtually empty apartment. He turned the volume of the ballgame on the TV up to full to help drown out the abrasive noises coming through the ceiling, but they became increasingly difficult to ignore. Lee could feel his heart rate speeding. This wasn’t a new situation to be in, but neither was it one that he would ever get used to. He and his brother, Tom, had been brought up alone by their dad, so his experience of arguing parents was based purely on the friends he had visited, which admittedly was few and far between. But even so, he knew that the heart-wrenching cries of the young woman upstairs, accompanied by the ominous baseline of her husband’s terrorizing taunts was not normal in any household.
Lee tried to block it out and focus on his plans for the day. It was his day off and the pressure was on to do something with it, to be productive before the onslaught of his job at the local newspaper weighed him down. Tomorrow he would have a mountain of articles to fact check and proof read before they would inevitably be scrapped for a nice family-friendly story. But he already felt weighed down. A day to celebrate his life. Yeah, maybe for some, but for him it had always felt like celebrating the death of his mother. Because let’s face it, if he hadn’t been born she would still be alive. Lee let his head fall back onto the cushion behind him and redirected his brain down a different route. He knew what he got like when he became lost in these thoughts. His problems with control were hard to mask, especially when idiots like the guy upstairs were concerned. Just as his heartbeat calmed the sudden sound of fist striking plaster jerked his head up. He listened carefully as the silence coming from upstairs spoke volumes to him.
Lee knew how this normally went. She had done something, probably pathetically inconsequential and her husband had exploded, no doubt taking his own self esteem issues out on her. Usually it was just shouting and crying and the odd door slamming, but he knew it was a more serious situation. There was always more going on than he might guess from the shouting he heard. He had seen the subtle pull of a sleeve over a bruised wrist as they passed in the corridor and the way her head hung a little lower when she walked behind her husband. She would probably be quite attractive if she washed her hair and pulled it back from her face, but Lee never looked for too long, for fear of what that prick might do. He didn’t even know her name, but he’d heard her mutter her husband’s name, Jimmy, in a quiet childlike voice often enough. There was no knowing what he might be capable of, and all too often, as Lee had learned on the playground, people only showed their powers when you least expected it. She must have a defensive power, he had told himself, thinking that surely a woman would protect herself when faced with an abusive man, if she could.
The walls must be paper thin
, he thought, as the sounds of her whimpering drifted down to him. He could hear her husband saying something, but his voice was so deep he couldn’t quite tell exactly what. But this time she answered him back and the response was instant. Perhaps a vase thrown or a shattered plate, but the sound of it clattering against the wall made Lee rise from his seat, his heart beating in his ears. With knees slightly bent and fists clenched, he was ready to move. Today there was a shadow resting over him and if this idiot next door wanted to push him, then he deserved to feel the full force of his fury.
A guttural scream propelled him to the door, but he ambled up the stairs and nervously knocked on the door, knowing there would be a confrontation but not knowing what really lay on the other side.
Lee continued to knock, muttering out loud, “ H… Hello!” There was no response “Is everything ok in there?” Again his question was only met by silence. Filling up with an equal measure of confidence and rage Lee now banged on the door and assertively shouted, “Open up!”
Ignored again, Lee reached his hand down to try the handle on the door. Locked. The loud crash of what could only be a small woman onto a piece of furniture kicked Lee into action. Rage overwhelmed him and any hesitance dropped away as his instincts took over and he became a passenger to his own training. Planting his foot on the ground Lee raised his other leg, leaned back and kicked the door clean off its hinges. His keen eyes saw everything as he took in the scene unfolding before him. The place was a complete mess, whisky and beer bottles littered the living area. He entered the apartment and followed the abusive screams to the kitchen. Pushing open the door, his eyes moved straight to the girl cowering on her knees, a clump of her hair caught in Jimmy’s fist as he bent over her screaming into her face.
The intensity of the fight blinded Jimmy to the intruder in their home, allowing Lee to make his move before the neanderthal had a chance to put up his defences. Lee moved behind him, placing one knee in the centre of his back and sweeping his elbow under the guy’s arm and neck, holding him there as he released the hair his hand was clutching onto. Quickly the woman pushed herself along the floor, with her back to the wall, staring at this quiet yet familiar stranger in her home. Lee watched her move away before he made his next move, but Jimmy was one step ahead of him. Out of nowhere a mug came flying at his head. He ducked just in time but felt it splintering into pieces as it hit his shoulder.
He looked around the room trying to gauge if there was a fourth person in there with them, but instead the refracted light of the tail of an electric whip caught his eye as it lassoed a vase, throwing it towards Lee.
Pushing Jimmy to the floor, Lee landed a kick powered by the full weight of his body into the centre of his chest, giving himself a moment to work out what was going on.
The refracted electric strip of light appeared again, this time tossing a small table in his direction, but Lee had the chance to see the source of the light – Jimmy – or more specifically, Jimmy’s wrist. So this was his power. He kept his distance, still unsure of the extent of this ability. He’d never seen anything like it before, but then again, everyone’s power was always slightly different.
Jimmy paused for a moment as the pain of Lee’s kick still tremored through his torso, but within a flash was hauling his body upright, taking in Lee with one long sweeping gaze.
“What the HELL are you doing here?!” he yelled, his voice like gravel. Turning to his wife with a disgusted sneer, his voice sank a notch lower, “Have you been talking to this one as well, you’re pathetic!”
She looked between the two men and pushed her body further into the wall, seeking solace in its hard protection against her back. The light flickered around her, ever so slightly. Lee kept his body turned towards Jimmy, aggression screaming from every muscle, but moved his head ever so slightly, watching the air around the woman flicker. A forcefield, it’s got to be. Well, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about protecting her, as he beat the life out of her husband. She must really love this idiot if she didn’t even use her own power to protect herself from him. Maybe that’s what love did to you though. He focused his eyes on Jimmy, shaking off the melancholy thoughts and tuning into the obscenities he was shouting at his wife. He could almost see the pain hit her as each word landed, the forcefield offering no protection from them.
Jimmy whipped his arm towards Lee and a ribbon of light passed across the room, wrapping around Lee’s waist, pinning his arms to his side. The harder he fought the tighter it squeezed.
“Shut your whimpering,” he shouted at his wife. “As soon as I’ve dealt with this interfering pansy, you’ve got a lesson to learn.” His lip curled as he looked her up and down. “And I’m gonna enjoy beating it into you.” Her fingernails dug into the carpet underneath her as she looked down into her lap.
The ice in his voice sent a jolt through Lee’s body and with a slight twist he managed to slip his thumb out from under the lasso. His hand followed, allowing him to break free, but Jimmy was quick to move, firing objects at him one after the other. As Lee showed no visible ability yet, Jimmy seemed to gain in confidence as he tried again to restrain him, but there was no denying that Lee was nimble. He whipped his arm, sending the jet of light across the room and around Lee’s thigh, twisting up his body. Lee was pinned to the spot, sweat breaking out in beads on his forehead and his eyes darting around the room looking for a weapon, an escape, anything. Jimmy slowly moved towards him, a vicious glint in his eye that said he was used to getting his own way, eventually.
“This is a useful little weapon, isn’t it? I find it particularly useful for making people pay attention to me. In fact… I might hold you there a little longer, so you get a front row view of the lesson I have in store for Beth here.” His body shuddered as if with laughter, but no noise escaped his lips.
Seething with disgust and anger; every bone in his body, every muscle fibre ached to get hold of this primitive tyrant. But as Jimmy was delivering his speech, Lee had been working his phone free from its protective rubber covering, and held it in his hand waiting for the perfect moment. Jimmy’s confidence grew as Beth’s whimpers turned into sobs and he partially turned his back to Lee. He bent the rubber case around his hand, using it in a slicing motion, moving through the path of the electric lasso, cutting off its beam for a second, long enough for him to break his way out of its hold.
Before Jimmy had a chance to react, Lee had thrown himself on him, reigning down punches as he fell to the floor. He pinned him down with his knees and channelled all his anger into teaching this idiot a real lesson. As each punch landed he felt Jimmy weaken, until finally there was no resistance at all, yet still Lee’s fist pummelled down into his face and chest. He moved his arms, one after the other, hearing and seeing nothing, not even the screams of Beth as she watched her abusive husband fall into unconsciousness.
His punches slowed and he raised his fist back to deliver another, only to see Beth’s head and shoulders move into focus, bent over her husband’s body. He paused for a second, seeing the light around her flicker as her protective force field went up, surrounding her. But it wasn’t just her she was protecting; she was also surrounding her husband.
Lee’s eyebrows knitted together as he blinked, trying to understand. Beth tentatively looked up, fear in her eyes as she waited to see what Lee would do next. His lips tried to form words, but he didn’t know what to say. Instinctively he wanted to apologise, but this idiot deserved the beating. If he hadn’t come upstairs, who knows what he would have done to Beth. But as he looked at her, cowering over her husband’s limp figure, lying on the floor, the bruises already forming, he knew what she saw. He’d seen that look in people’s eyes before. To her the devil she knew was a safer choice over the devil that was Lee.
All rage, anger and confidence drained from him with one exhaled breath. Feeling a deep sense of deflation and numbness Lee turned and made for the door. Passing through the doorway he reached down and gripped the handle. Pulling it from the ground and placing it in back in the frame he had kicked it from so violently moments before, leaving Beth and her abusive bastard of a husband to their privacy and to make the inevitable phone call to the cops to report what he had just done.
Walking down the stairs, opting not to return to his apartment, he left the building to seek a vantage point to await the influx of cops coming for him. Crossing the street Lee walked to the corner of the block where his favourite coffee shop was. Going inside, and sitting by the window he could see both up and down the entire block. There he quietly waited for either the waitress to come and take his order or for the cops to come and arrest him. Resigning himself to whichever came first, he knew it was out of his hands. He was, after all, powerless.