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An Epiphany

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There’s a cry for help. My head snaps up towards the sound—maybe five blocks away? Six? Shouldn’t be a problem.

I leap off the stone gargoyle, and dive into the night. It’s a beautiful full moon out, and from this high it feels like I can touch the stars themselves. Not many Heroes can fly. In fact, it’s amazing that there are three of them in this city, working together, at all. However, this is my quarter, and all crime here is my responsibility. I tap my throat mic.

“Hey, Cryption. Checking out something in that alley behind North.”

There’s a sound of keyboard clicks before he answers. “All right. You’re cleared, Epiphany. Kick some tail for me.”

Cleared, my *ss. It’s just if something goes wrong—which of course it won’t, but you can’t be too careful—they’ll want a full report.

“By the way, I think Knight’s roaming tonight,” Cryption crackles in my ear. “Keep an eye out for him.”

“Okay,” I say, but seriously, when am I not keeping an eye out for him?

I drop, and land without even a whisper. My red, black, and gold costume will generally stand out against a shadow, but the man’s back is turned towards me. There’s a woman in his grasp, panicked, frightened, and fighting. I snarl, and stalk forward.

The man hears me, and throws the woman to the ground.

“You!” he mutters once he identifies me, managing to slur even the single word. "Epiphany!" I think he follows up with “B*tch,” but it’s hard to tell which one of us he’s talking to.

“You,” I enunciate clearly, “are going to help your friend up, and then you are going to take a little walk with me to the nearest police station.”

The woman pushes herself up, and backs up into the alley wall. I want to slap my forehead. Moron. She’s got nowhere to go. The man smiles sloppily, his eyes bloodshot, and turns his back on me to approach the woman.

“Don’t even think about it,” I threaten fiercely, and lunge for him.

My first strike connects solidly with the back of his head, and he staggers to the left. But I have to check my blow, because too much force could literally crack his skull open. I am, unfortunately for him, that strong.

He whirls around drunkenly, and I hit him again, squatting and delivering a low roundhouse kick that sweeps his legs out from under him. Just as he recovers, I leap up, rebound off the wall on my right, and come down onto his back in a handstand, forcing his face into the asphalt. There shouldn’t be an excess of bleeding. He shoves me off and jumps up. I let him, and skid backwards a few feet, but only because I need to be able to deliver a swift, powerful blow to the forehead that will knock him out immediately.

I unleash a precise spinning kick. He’s unconscious before he’s hit the ground.

I crouch, balancing on the balls of my feet, and lift one of the man’s eyelids. His bloodshot blue eyes are rolled up into the back of his head. Serves him right.

I turn, and hold out a hand to the woman. “Are you all right, ma’am?”

She starts, and stares at me for a moment. “Get away from me, freakshow!” she hisses, and scrambles out of the alley, staying as far from me as possible.

I recoil as though lashed. My face twists angrily. “Glad I could help!” I spit, and in the echoes, softly, I add, “B*tch.” My arm falls back to my side.

There’s a movement behind me, a quiet rustle, and I whip around, lifting up in the air slightly and going into a defensive position. The man is still lying on the ground, but he’s on his stomach now. I squint, and find a figure in the shadows, quietly assembling a pair of collapsible handcuffs.

“Nice to know you had my back,” I hint.

Knight doesn’t even look up, just yanks the man’s hands behind his back. “You looked like you had it covered.”

“No thanks to you.” Jerk.

“Nope.” He clicks the handcuffs shut, and lugs the man into a roughly standing position. He shoves the man at me, and I sidestep, snatching the back of his collar to keep him upright.

“Well, I’ll just drop him off, then,” I say, irritated, and rise up into the air. The man dangles beneath me wildly. I have to remind myself not to drop him…

What that woman said, it really gets to me. I’m not a freak! I’m not! I’m a person, a person who has the ability to help people and who does! Does that make me a freak? Heck no, it doesn’t!

Not many people have super-strength, granted. And not even half of the International League of Heroes can fly. But I’m not a freak. I’m not. Being a Hero does not make me a freak.

I mean, come on! I saved her life—or at least stopped that man from doing something really horrible to her. The least she could have done was show a little gratitude!

I whirl around suddenly in the air. I know I don’t hallucinate the shadow that blends into the air conditioner on a nearby apartment roof. So Knight wants to play a little game, does he? Fine.

I drop the drunk man off at the police station, bringing him in to Chief Carmichael. He nods at me while talking to a receptionist, and I salute back. Technically, he does outrank me, so whatever. After passing the criminal off to a police worker, I stride back out the doors, and glide into the air.

The city is gorgeous at nighttime. All the neon, and the skyscrapers lit up. The park is black, but streetlights glitter off the pond, so that you can’t tell what’s a star in the water and what’s not. I love this place more than life itself.

And he’s still following me. Great. I can hear him running across the rooftops. Enhanced senses are part of my powers, but it’s so screwed. Anybody up for a nice heaping dish of cliché?

I fly back to my gargoyle, and crouch daintily on its head. Three minutes later (Knight’s almost to the top of the building, he has to climb), I hear another alarm going off, probably the jeweler’s down on Hewitt Street. Flare, the pyrokine, gives me a buzz on the police channel. “Epiphany, I can take this one if you want, I’m just over a few streets.”

“It’s all yours, buddy,” I assure him, but grimace, because I really don’t want to have the talk I know is coming.

Knight climbs up on the gargoyle next to mine, a few meters away and on my left. I ignore him.

“We need to talk, Caroline.”

I hiss, “Shut up, Mike. We’re in costume.”

“We need to talk.”

“We don’t.”

I don’t see him leap, but he’s right behind me now, on the same gargoyle. I resist the urge to shove him off, because unlike me, he might not survive the sixty-story fall.

Mike sighs slowly.

“I heard what she called you.”

I tense. “She called me a freak. Big deal. Her attacker called me a—”

He wraps his arms around my waist.

“Sorry,” he says. “I don’t want to fall.”

Yeah, because that’s it. I wait for him to speak again, shivering.

“She called you a freakshow. You’re not.” Mike is certain, it resonates through his voice.

I twist around, and stare bitterly at him through my gold-colored mask. “I AM a freak. There’s no one like me, not in a thousand mile radius. I’m DIFFERENT.”

I expect Knight to smirk, give some sarcastic remark, but he doesn’t. “So?” he asks softly.

“So?” I shriek. “Don’t you ever feel alone? Like you can’t tell whether people are praising or ridiculing you?”

He shrugs, and I feel it in my stomach. “Well, for me, most of the time it’s praise.”

I growl, “I’m done here.” I start to rise.

Knight tightens his hold on me. “No, WE'RE not.” I could break through his grip in exactly one sixty-fourth of a second, but for some reason, I decide not to.

“Why do you care so much what someone else thinks?” Mike tries again. “Someone who couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to be in your shoes?”

“I saved her life, Mike! And do I get any thanks for it?”

Mike pauses, and answers quietly. “Caro, If you’re in the job for the glory, then this is the wrong line of work for you.”

I grit my teeth. “You know I’m not.”

“Keep talking,” he prompts. I wonder, should I turn around and kiss him, or keep it simple and punch him in the nose?

I take a deep breath. “I’m not in it for the glory. I can help people in a way not many can, and I do it because it’s my responsibility. But no one cares but us! Sure, the police force gets it—it makes their job a hell of a lot easier. But when will someone see past the stupid mask and realize that there’s a person in there who just did something,” I throw up my hands in exasperation, “good?”

Mike shifts his weight behind me, and I can’t help but lean into him, just a little bit.

“You know,” he says after a while. “Something I figured out a long time ago.”

“Long time ago, my *ss.”

“Something I figured out when I started in the League, then,” he amends seriously. “There are two kinds of ‘freaks’ in the world. You can either look at a person, and feel better about yourself, or you can look at a person, and be afraid to take a long look in the mirror instead.”

I blush, and stare down at the city lights. “You’re telling me I screwed with that lady’s makeup job or something?”

Mike rolls his eyes, and I shake silently, trying not to giggle. “No, little newb superhero—”

“I’m a year younger than you, big deal, Mr. Big-Shot. Look at me, I’m Knight, the ninja—”

Mike gives me some demented version of the Heimlich. I’m sure it hurts him more than it hurts me, but I humor him and shut up.

“You saved that woman from getting raped or killed, or God knows what, and I bet you she saw someone she wanted to be. Someone who put her and her life to shame, and the only way she could pretend to herself that she didn’t feel that way was to—if you’ll excuse my language—act like a little she-harpy.”

I’ve never thought of it this way before. Some people are grateful when Supers help them, but I’ve never considered that the people who were horrible to us… could they actually admire us? It seems unreal. Mike’s just full of Froot Loops, that’s it. Bonkers.

“Do you really think so?” I ask quietly. It’s too stunning to consider. Especially with all the horrible stuff we Heroes have to put up with, on TV, in the newspapers, even in school.

I feel Mike smile, and he rests his chin on my shoulder.

“I know so.”

We sit there for a long moment, looking out over our city. I feel his breath on my cheek, and it makes my heart start beating out a crazy, wild rhythm. Then, all of a sudden, my earpiece buzzes with static.

“Epiphany,” Cryption alerts. “We’ve got some trouble over by the intersection at Waterview and Main. Someone’s pulled a gun. Think you can handle it?”

I say, “Of course I can. I can handle anything. Be there in a second.”

I gently shake free of Knight’s grasp, and he lets me go easily.

“So remind me,” I find myself saying as I rise into the air. “What makes you so smart?”

He laughs, skittering off the gargoyle and back into the shadows. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I was born smart.”

I grin. “I’m sure.”

And with that clever, wordy response, I do a lazy backflip in the air, and then reign in control of myself and fly over towards Waterview. I’m a Hero, after all, and there are people to save.



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andromeda13 said...
Sept. 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm
i loved it :) very creative
 
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