Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 12
Challenge #6: Write a story involving a wannabe character in which it is implied someone dies in a spectacular fashion.
It was a beautiful evening, the tranquillity of the gentle pink sunset marred only slightly by the battle raging on between every superhero in the city and the skyscraper-sized fire-breathing dinosaur that had emerged from the harbour an hour or so earlier.
“Hi, Mr. O’Nuclear,” said Tina, rather suddenly.
Mr. O’Nuclear jumped. He hadn’t realised anyone else was on the roof.
“You know you can just call me Therm, right?” he said.
“My mum says it’s rude to call grownups by their first names,” explained Tina, opening the door of the pigeon loft.
Therm considered this. “I think that’s a bit old-fashioned, but it’s good that you do what your parents tell you.”
Tina began to feed the birds.
Therm watched a cloud drift lazily across the horizon.
The dinosaur fired a ginormous laser beam from its face.
“Why are you wearing a big green onesie?” asked Tina. “And a cape?”
“Well,” Therm chuckled. “I suppose there’s no harm telling you this now. The truth is, I’ve been a superhero for about six years now. Ever since I jumped into the path of an intercontinental ballistic missile to prevent World War Three.”
“Oh, cool!” Tina walked over. “Do you have a superhero name?”
Therm swept a hand in front of him as if revealing invisible words in the air: “Major Megaton.” He paused. “I was pushing for Colonel Kiloton myself, but they didn’t want to promote me that far just for the name. Come to think of it, I reckon that’s probably why so many superheroes are ‘Captain’ something-or-other.”
“Got any superpowers?”
“Besides having a 100 kiloton warhead lodged in my ribcage, not really.”
The dinosaur in the distance demolished the headquarters of the Daily Bungle with a swipe of its tail. On the bright side, Therm considered, the thing was getting farther from the city centre.
“I’ve always wanted to be a superhero,” said Tina. “But there aren’t a lot of girl ones out there.”
“Well…a lot of superheroes start out as soldiers, or scientists, or billionaire CEOs, and since women are still under-represented in those fields there’s kind of a knock-on…” Therm realised this probably wasn’t a helpful way to address the issue. “But I mean, that’s all the more reason for you to do it!”
“Do you really think I could!?”
“Yeah! You can do anything you put your mind to!”
“Can I help out with the dinosaur, then? That would be so cool!”
“Ooh. That’s… Look, that dinosaur’s a biggie. Literally. I mean, you don’t want to tackle something like that on your first try. They wouldn’t even have called me if it wasn’t really, really serious.”
“Oh.” Tina looked at her shoes. “Okay.”
Therm watched the last little snippet of the sun vanish below the horizon.
The dinosaur swatted at a biplane peppering it with machine-gun fire.
Therm wondered when the historical aviation society had gotten involved.
“So…why aren’t you there now?” Tina asked.
“I need to let the other heroes draw the creature a few miles from the city before I can…you know…do my thing,” explained Therm.
“So it doesn’t fall on anyone when you defeat it?”
“Umm…” Therm gave a nervous smile. “Something like that.”
“Superheroes spend more time waiting around than I thought.”
“Oh, it’s not like that! I mean, sure, it is for me. And anybody who relies on one of those big searchlight symbols pointed at a cloud. And then there’s stakeouts…” Again, Therm felt as though he wasn’t exactly doing his bit to encourage the next generation of superheroes. “But there’s much more to being a hero than just waiting for a bank heist to foil. For a supervillain to punch. For a fire-breathing dinosaur to blast to smithereens. The most important things are the small things. Speaking up when someone does something bad. Recognising when they do something good. Being there for your friends. Making new friends! It sounds goofy, but those are the things that are really important.”
The sun, at last, dipped below the horizon. The dinosaur was well out into the suburbs by now. Therm figured that if he had anything else to say, now was the time to say it.
At last it came to him: “The big stuff…” he began. “The big stuff will turn out okay as long as there’s at least one person there to do it. But the small stuff, that’s up to everyone.”
The dinosaur was moving at quite a pace—whoever was in that biplane really seemed to have riled it up—and if Therm was honest with himself he knew he’d already put off leaving longer than he had to.
“Why do you want to be a superhero, Tina?”
“I want to punch bad guys and shoot monsters with eye-beams and use a grappling hook to climb a building!”
Therm nodded. “Those are all really good reasons. But you have to remember that as much of a difference as those things make, what really matters is that people know you’re looking out for them. Because then they’ll look out for each other too.”
“Okay,” said Tina. “But I still think shooting eye-beams at monsters is important too.”
“It is,” conceded Therm, “but that’s not something I can help you with.”
He took an item from his utility belt.
“Maybe this’ll do instead.”
“No way!” Tina took the grappling pistol. “Can I have this? Really?” Then she thought for a bit. “Don’t you need it?”
“Naah. I’m sure you’ll get more use out of it than me.”
Therm dropped off the edge of the building and landed in a dramatic pose before sprinting off towards the dinosaur in the distance.
Tina watched him until he vanished between the buildings.
“Still feeding the pigeons?” asked her mother, stepping out of the stairwell. “Come on. It’s time you went to bed.”
“Can I heat up the hot chocolate with my eye-beams?” asked Tina, excitedly.
“Only if you’re very, very careful,” said her mother. “I’m not replacing the fridge again.”