Inktober 2021: Week Three

Oya everyone!

I had a fun week. Went to a football game, a pumpkin patch, acquired more geese for my army of goons. Very good week. Now you get stories. Enjoy!

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Day 12: Stuck

There is a specific kind of fear caused by being in an elevator. Not everyone experiences this fear. Some brave souls — or those that may or may not live on the edge of madness, I won’t judge — are perfectly fine with elevators. They enjoy the enclosed, inescapable space. The aura of social awkwardness that hangs in the air like cigarette smoke. They find a thrill in the knowledge that they are suspended precariously above an effectively bottomless pit. An effectively bottomless pit where countless victims of conveniently accidental deaths in mystery books meet their demise. They can somehow ignore the constant threat of the elevator stopping in a position where you cannot get out.

It is a little harder to ignore that threat when it stops being a threat and just becomes. You know. What is currently happening.

“I don’t like this, actually,” Bree whispered, pressed into the corner so hard her shoulders were probably going to be bruised later. 

“Oh, wow, who would have guessed,” Jackson hissed. “I thought you were having fun.”

Allie waved her hand at the twins, ear pressed to the wall. “You really are just not helping.”

Jackson folded his arms. It was understandable that everyone would be a little prickly. They had been stuck in this elevator for about twenty minutes, which was nineteen and a half minutes too long to be trapped in an elevator. 

Xavier paced back and forth, three steps, turn, three steps, turn. Allie flexed her fingers, watching them slowly disappear. Going invisible wouldn’t help anything, she’d already tried, but what else was she supposed to do?

You’d think the main elevator in a building full of superheroes would be an okay place to get stuck in. Because. You know. Building full of superheroes. An elevator is no match for the people whose literal job is to rescue people.

Apparently it is, though, because they’ve been in here for twenty minutes.

The problem was a mechanical issue, they’d sussed that out pretty quickly. Jackson had tried to jumpstart the electronic part of the elevator mechanism already, but that had. Not gone well. Due to the sudden surge of lightning the safety measures in the building had activated so none of their comms or phones worked, as well as probably locking down most of the building. Which was just lovely. 

Bree was useless in a small space. What was she gonna do, run really fast until the gears unstuck or whatever was happening out there? Xavier would NOT be using his powers, thank you very much, things were already bad enough without adding fire into the mix. And Allie’s invisibility did not include becoming intangible. 

So they were still stuck.

“Bottle episode,” Xavier muttered, flipping the tuft of dark hair from his eyes that escaped the bandana around his head. 

“No, not bottle episode.”

“Not yet. Once we start bonding or whatever, then it will be a bottle episode,” Xavier pointed out to Bree. 

Jackson snapped his fingers, watching the little sparks that flew with the impact. “Do we need to ‘bond’? We’ve already been a team for like. Months.”

“There can never be too much bonding.”

“That is not true. It just isn’t.”

Something thudded loudly against the doors, making all four of them jump and Allie disappear. Without warning the elevator jerked up, coming to rest with a ding as the doors slid open.

A kid a little younger than the superheroes stood in the gap, one hand on his hip and the other holding some large tool over his shoulder.

“Have fun?” he quipped, grinning.

Bree ran out of the elevator so fast she was merely a vaguely pink blur and probably didn’t stop until she was outside the building four seconds later. The others settled for stumbling to the giant windows. Allie glanced at the intern, one of the few non-powered people in the building.

“Thanks,” she said, feeling guilty that she couldn’t remember his name.

He shrugged. “Part of my job, believe it or not. Don’t worry, Twitter won’t know a thing about it.” The kid smirked. “Yet, anyway.” 

Day 13: Roof

Have you heard of the story of Theseus?

Old Greek tragedy, lots of different parts to it. Killed the Minotaur, exiled by his people, dead father, a ship that turned into a philosophy problem. 

The end of his story is probably the most famous. He was pushed off a cliff.

A lot of people call me Theseus. I singlehandedly defeated a villain who called himself The Minotaur about four months ago. He was a real annoying fella, huge, some kind of mutant with a cow-looking head. I’d call him unoriginal but what else was he gonna call himself?

Anyway, the fight wasn’t anything epic. He was picking on some civilians, destroying property, pretty standard villain stuff. But then one of the civilians got hurt, and as it’s kind of my job to make sure that doesn’t happen, I took him out. The police and a low-level hero or two got there just a handful of seconds before I got out. Vigilantes aren’t exactly legal.

But the people were grateful. And as I started doing some more stuff, they started calling me Theseus. Which I kind of hated at first. Heroes with Greek myth names are usually just pretentious and annoying. But . . . you know, it grew on me. People got attached to Theseus, they loved him. Not many heroes bothered with the part of town I patrolled. They appreciated that someone cared enough to protect them.

Of course, names have power. And the universe loves its malicious little ironies.

I have to admit, fighting a high-level hero on a rooftop wasn’t something I’d planned for today. I’d figured on maybe doing a little patrolling, maybe practice with the new jump-boost sneakers I’d . . . found. Yup. Definitely not defending myself against Willow on the fifth tallest building in the city.  

Strands of multicolored light whipped past my ears, nearly tugging off my hood. I dodged to the side, wincing as gravel dug into my knees. 

Willow hissed through his teeth. “Come on, Theseus, give up already,” he bit out, sending another whip of illumination at me. I jerked my head to the side before it could snatch at my mask. 

“I don’t think I will,” I responded, glancing up at the sky. He had to have backup coming, he was just trying to stall. “You’re really annoying.” My voice-changer buzzed a little. Dang, I’d have to replace the speaker later . . .

I’m annoying!?” A poison-green strand flicked out to wind around my ankle. 

“Uh, yeah? You’re the one keeps chasing me.” I kicked the light away, ducking a fuschia ribbon coming for my head. “Kinda rude, y’know?”

“If you would just turn yourself in I wouldn’t have to chase you!”

See, this is where it doesn’t make sense. Plenty of crime happening on the streets, plenty of supervillains and mutant troublemakers going about their business unhindered, and the heroes decide I’m a threat right now? Pathetic. Hypocritical, even. Mostly just rude.

“I enjoy my life of crime.” I pushed back to my feet, skidding across the gravel as I tried to make it to the door back inside the building. An enclosed space wouldn’t be great for continuing this fight but I couldn’t get away from up here. And I may be incredibly skilled and powerful and good at everything, however, I don’t have superpowers that can. Like. Be used in a fight. 

I never made it. 

Willow must have figured out that his weird light-manipulation powers weren’t working out very well, because a gloved hand grabbed my arm with an unfairly strong grip. I let out a yelp that my voice changer didn’t quite catch so it sounded much higher than it should have, scraping my boots against the gravel as I was dragged away from escape. 

“I’m done with you, Theseus,” Willow hissed. A shivering spasm went through the arm that wasn’t held in a deathgrip. “You vigilantes, you think you can do whatever you want with no consequences, huh? This is a game for you?”

I could have said no, I could have said that I’ve almost died probably just as many times as he has, I could have said that doing hero work when both the villains and heroes are out to get you is exponentially harder and pretty darn lonely. 

Instead I tried to pry his hand off, kicking at his armored shins. “Get off me! Let go!” I shouted, like an idiot. I was panicking, okay? 

He obviously didn’t listen, because even though he’s an idiot he’s a different brand, and only continued dragging me. Wait. Where was he dragging me, we were going away from the only exit and we were on a roof–

He wouldn’t.

No, surely not.

Surely not.

A weird little high pitched noise came out of my throat, garbled by the voice changer. 

Willow was still ranting, but I didn’t hear. I clawed at his arm, yelling nonsense, freezing when I felt the lip of the rooftop against my legs. 

“Please,” I whispered, my wide eyes meeting the ones hidden by protective gear. 

The hero snarled at me. “Not so brave now, huh?”

It was stupid, what I did next. I shoved against his chest with my free hand. I wasn’t thinking straight, I was caught and panicked. He was knocked off balance, let go of my arm, almost fell off but caught the little concrete railing just in time.

I didn’t.

I fell.

Theseus the Greek hero died a horrible, splatty death when he was shoved off a cliff by a king.

Theseus the tryhard teenager who did his best to be a hero lived what should have been a horrible splatty death when he was shoved off a roof by a superhero.

Willow screamed, strands of light reaching out to catch me, but it was too late. I plummeted and my lungs couldn’t even expand enough to scream. Somehow I caught a railing of a fire escape on the adjacent building, finally screamed at the pain in my shoulder and ribs as I slammed into it, lost my grip. Fell the rest of the way to my ground and screamed again when things cracked against the concrete.

It hurt, it hurt so much, but I was alive.

After gasping for breath for a minute or so I forced myself to my feet, nearly falling back down again but I was nothing if not stubborn. A dim red glow sheathed my body in garish light, not anything like the pretty colors of Willow’s powers. Wherever the glow pulsed, bones shifted back together, bleeding gashes stitched themselves closed, pain ebbed into a dull ache. 

Comes in handy after a fight, my power does. 

I limped home, collapsing on my sunken couch in my dingy apartment and falling asleep without even taking off my suit.

Next morning my body ached but vigilante . . . ing (?) doesn’t exactly pay well, so I walked to Nellie’s bakery for my shift. 

Callum was there.

Callum is Willow, by the way.

He works a slightly earlier shift than I do, they overlap a bit. We like hanging out. He doesn’t know I’m Theseus, and he doesn’t know that I know that he’s Willow. 

The sight of him made little spasms go down my arms and my heart start racing but I’m a good actor, always have been, so I smiled at him and got to work setting things out and clocking in after he reminded me. 

He left an hour later and I laid my head on the counter and just breathed for a while.

Then I laughed a little hysterically because I just got pushed off a skyscraper.

Ironic, innit?

Day 14: Tick

Funny thing about mechanical hearts; they tick.

They beat too, obviously, if they didn’t that would be an issue but they also tick. Very very quietly, most of the time it isn’t even noticeable. 

You feel it, though, when you’re calm and just listening to your own heartbeat. It doesn’t happen much, but Aislinn enjoys it when it does. The ticking never changes pace no matter how fast the heart is actually beating. It’s always steady. The only thing that ever is. 

Day 15: Helmet

“What the heck are you wearing?”

Lily spreads her arms with a grin, jerking her head back to keep the helmet from slipping over her eyes. “Battle gear!”

Dan rolls his eyes, going back to his phone. “You know what, I don’t wanna know, I don’t even wanna know–”

“Me an’ Mark are gonna have a battle!” Lily continues, as apparently small children are unable to comprehend words. 

“With each other? To the death?” He’s pretty sure they could do it. Children are vicious little creatures.

“No!” Lilly frowns, shoving up the helmet again. The elbow and knee pads are entirely too big for her tiny infant joints, ending up hanging around her shins and forearms. “We’re gonna fight bad guys, obviously.”

“Oh. Which ones?”

Lilly hesitates. Dan can practically hear the cogs turning in her curly little head, echoing against the massive bike helmet covered in stickers. 

“The ones from Sassin Cree!” she eventually announced triumphantly.

Dan’s finger freezes on the phone screen.

 “The ones that you stab, an’ you jump on ‘em from the roofs, an’ they go all BLEGHGH!”

He rolls off the couch, crouching and pointing a finger at her. “No. You’re not supposed to know about that game.”

“But you play it all the time–”

“But you’re not supposed to WATCH!”

“I’m a big girl, I can watch your bideo games!”

“You are a child, an infant, a tiny impressionable human that I have corrupted oh no I am so grounded–”

Lily giggles and adjusts the helmet again, a sparkly yellow hairclip dangling precariously by about three strands of dirty blond near her chin. “Okay byeeee,” she sings, turning and running outside much faster than a tiny evil monster should be able to.

Dan watches a second longer before sighing and settling back into the comfortable little hollow in the couch cushions. Welp. Sounds like a Future-Dan problem, honestly. Sucks to be that guy. 

Day 16: Compass

Driving a pirate ship is considerably more difficult than one would expect. There’s the wind to account for, and the water, and the inherent difficulty of trying to steer something that is massive and floating.

Lacy would like to correct the first statement. It isn’t a pirate ship, it is a privateer ship, which is entirely different. Apparently.

Lacy would like to inform you that pirates are evil and stupid and anarchists, whereas privateers are evil and stupid and rich.

So anyhow driving a pirate ship is really hard. Using a compass is also really hard. It shouldn’t be, it really shouldn’t be, but it is. The red arrow always points north, David says, but somehow when the red arrow is pointing to a letter that isn’t N it gets confusing.

Lacy would like to add that she doesn’t get confused.

Usually the captain or the mate drives the ship, though, which is good. They are both amazing at it, as they should be, because they are pretty old and have been driving ships for most of their lives and if they weren’t good at it yet that would be concerning.

Lacy would like to point out that the correct term is not driving the ship. It is piloting, or conning. Not driving.

The captain has another compass, but that one is broken. Or, not broken. Instead of an arrow that points from North to South, it has an angled arrow that points North and West. He says that the West arrow points to his home, and his sweetheart there has a compass that points East. They both wear them on cords around their necks, he says, and it’s terribly romantic. 

Lacy agrees, it is awfully romantic, and she wishes she was old enough to have someone to wear compasses with.

It’s strange that evil, stupid, rich privateers have the time to be romantic, what with the privateering and driving the ship. Piloting. Conning. Whichever it is. 

Day 17: Collide

Ash has the spatial awareness of a wooden spatula. Which is to say. No.

It’s a little bit of an issue because of her job. Just a restaurant front-of-house worker. Things like taking orders, restocking ice, filling drinks, taking food out to tables.

That’s where the spatial awareness deficiency kinda makes a nuisance of itself.

She hasn’t dropped anything! Yet! But there’s usually at least one other person behind the counter when she’s making drinks or grabbing plates from the window and she is extremely good at bonking right into them more times than should be normal. 

And then actually leaving the counter and going into the dining area?

Ash is about on the shorter side of average for a girl. So the little counterish-things that separate the table sections are at the exact perfect height to smash right into her hips. Which happens, like, every single time she walks past them because apparently her body gravitates towards smackable-into objects and surfaces. 

Rude, honestly.

She’s got bruises!

Sometimes, oho, sometimes she will trip over other people’s feet! While holding food! And oh boy! Is that embarrassing! 

But she hasn’t dropped anything yet.

She’s holding on to that with all she’s got. They all doubted her, they all said ‘Oh, Ash, they will fire you immediately because you will spill macaroni and cheese all over an old lady’. But that has not happened even a little bit! 

She’s a professional, actually. Literally. She gets paid for it. 

And if Kelsey smiles sneakily when Ash bumps into Colton for the fifth time in one day then that is her own business and she should mind it. 

It does start getting ridiculous when Ash just. Slams. Right into the entire counter like a confused roomba. Well, so it goes. She still doesn’t drop the plates.

Day 18: Moon

A farmer is driving home one night. 

It’s a mostly unused gravel road, one of the worst in the county. Officially. It’s rained recently, so dust doesn’t fly up behind him, cloudy and red-tinted by his taillights. It’s clear and silent. 

The moon hangs above the whispering cornfield. Big and orange and bright. 

It’s August, the eleventh, maybe. Hot, air thick with heat, but cooling as the moon climbs.

It’s around eleven pm. Maybe a little later. 

The farmer rounds the top of a hill, eyes fixed on the road but mind occupied with other thoughts. He passes the last house on the road, flexing his fingers as he prepares for the half mile of empty gravel until the last turn for home.

Something reflects his headlights.

There are three girls standing at the side of the road, waving.

It doesn’t register until he has driven past. 

He stops. 

He turns to look out the back windshield.

There are no girls standing on the side of the road. 

He had seen them, he’s sure he had. Three girls. The image is seared into his brain, burning bright white from the headlight glare.

He continues driving, turning and coming back to the spot.

Nothing.

Fear curls in his gut. He drives past again, and again. He parks and gets out to check with a flashlight.

Nothing.

There is no one.

They are gone.

Is he losing his mind? Hallucinating? Is his tired mind creating visions just to mess with him?

Eventually he gives up. His mind whispers of ghosts, spirits, things that haunt the cornfields. 

Meanwhile, behind the barn of the last house on the empty gravel road, four girls sit on the concrete gasping for air. Two of them are crying. One is giggling hysterically.

“Oh my gosh,” the youngest one sobs. “Oh my gosh that was terrifying!”

“What do you MEAN!?” the laughing one wheezes. “That was AWESOME! Look, I’m shaking, this is great, this is awesome I think I’m having an adrenaline rush.”

“Who was that guy?” the oldest hisses. “That was nOT DAD, KAYLA!”

“I know!” the youngest sobs again. 

“I told you guys it wasn’t!” the laughing one points out. “And I hid in the ditch like a sensible person.”

“Shut up,” the fourth growls, folding her arms and wiping tears from her face. 

“That was fun though!”

“NO IT WASN’T!” all three yell. 

There’s a moment of silence as they watch the farmer finally give up and leave the street.

“So . . . so are we done playing now or–”

A hand is clapped over her mouth as she’s dragged back to the safety of the house. 

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Two of these are based on true events. I’ll let you suss out which ones yourselves. See you next week!

~Ace

2 thoughts on “Inktober 2021: Week Three

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