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   Chapter 2 The Downside of Super-Strength

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 9076

Updated: 2017-11-28 19:05

Now, this would be a crappy origin story if died. You“d probably ask for your money back, which is what I would do, but you“re not paying for this. Which is good economic sense on your part.

But I digress.

The universe doesn“t care what makes a good origin story. People die. Sometimes by perfectly normal means, sometimes by drowning in illegal rivers of chemical pollution.

Would this be a bad time to say I don“t know how to swim?

Goop oozes through my blazer and shirt. It fills my head with twittering birdies and fills my lungs with acid sludge. It burns. And It“s heavy. It pulls my ankles and tugs me deeper into the bubbling pit. I splash and scream, but the brew is so thick my desperate splashing only yanks me deeper into the bog. The milky swirl drips down my forehead, hissing against my skin. Masquerade looks down at me and waves. I flip him off with the last of my strength. The darkness creeps up my face and drips into my eyes. I hold my breath. You“re tough, Monet. You can get yourself out of this one. Sure, you live by the beach and can“t swim because water is scary, but you“ve got this. You can deal.

This is before I“m pulled under.

If a galaxy had a texture, this is how it would feel. The swirl of colors around my head. The darkness. The sting of broken rocks against my body like burning, poky, stars. My nostrils are sealed shut, my cheeks pufferfished with acrid air.

Could this honestly be the end?

I hope not. Drowning is already a bad way to go, and it only makes it worse I“m being passively murdered by a supervillain to cover up what I“ve seen. And I“m a freaking reporter.

No, an ironic twist isn“t a great way to go, either. Leave that for the authors.

I don“t get to see my life flash before my eyes. I just see darkness. My arms sink below me in the bubbling goo, my fingers twitching with the last of my nervous energy.

I find the crowbar, smooth and slimy, at the bottom of the lagoon.

My brains are about to explode in my head from the pressure, but I think of Kai. I think of Finn. I think of Dad.

I think of dangling helplessly in Masquerade“s grasp. That grin on his mask, eternal in its cruelty.

I hack at the choppy, slimy waters. The soup clings to my skin and sizzles under my clothes. But I can“t let go.

That mask.

All I see is that mask.

And all I can think about is what it stands for. That boy. Someone has to fight back, someone has to...

I burst through the blackness. Goop clings to my face like a mask and hangs off my arms in slimy strings. I rub my eyes, filling them with the chemical brine. I suck in a gasp. The air, though acrid, is delicious to my burning lungs. Then I upchuck my stomach. I wade through the sludge and stumble up into the grass.

"Monet!" I jump. I can“t tell if it“s Kai or Finn or even Masquerade. Everything sounds like it“s underwater. A hand pats my arm. I gasp, and sputter, and wheeze. The squeeze of who I hope is a friend has all the crushing-force of a steel claw on my now brittle body. I heave up a little more of my stomach, my skin still burning, my brains melting in its skull cavity.

"We need to get her checked out."

"No." I wheeze, spitting out strings of vomit and sludge. "I just need coffee. And a hot shower."

"We should probably call 911."

I shake my head. My hair is slicked to my forehead and neck with chemical grease. "I need to get these pictures to Mayweather—"

"Your camera is ruined, Monet." Rough fabric scrubs my face and eyelids. Steadying arms wrap around my waist. I wobble, squirming my toes in my heavy socks. When I cough, blood and sludge comes up. "We need to get out of here," the voice so helpfully adds. I glare, though all I can see are little black dots.

I do some more spitting. "Where“s Masquerade?" I ask, lifting my sleeve to wipe the corner of my mouth before thinking the better of it.

"He left. We hid in the bushes for a little while, you know, like you told us to." The words blur together into mush, incomprehensive to the untrained ear. "I practically had to drag Kai. Masquerade shot off and the mayor sort of disappeared. I think he had a car idling somewhere. But are you okay?"

"My camera can“t be ruined." My heart flutters in my chest though my eyelids have begun to droop. "I got pictures. People—"

"Are you kidding me!" Kai shouts in my ear. Not in the headset, this time. I flinch. "You just took a dive in... in whatever that is. Who cares about the pictures? You“re going to the doctor. The que

stion is, do you want to go to Patience First or should we call up an ambulance?."

"I really like that camera." I yawn. All the feeling has gone to my wrists and shoulders. That feeling, specifically, is pain. And though the thought of the evidence“s destruction makes my insides hot and jelly, I can“t fight the sleepiness that“s come over me. "Isn“t tomorrow, like, the first day of school or something?"

Kai pulls me back. My heels drag in the grass, my head leaned against his shoulder. I blink my eyes open, wiping my dripping face with my sludgy sleeve. The night is still pitch and the stars are blurry and white. Finn frowns down at me, his round glasses flashing in the moonlight.

Picture a coat rack in glasses and a hoodie. That“s Finn. His golden-blonde hair sticks out of his gray beanie in unruly feathers. He hasn“t taken off that beanie in weeks. I think he just took up my offer to go on this adventure to postpone the inevitable back-to-school shampooing.

He pats me on the shoulder, his green eyes dancing. "What is this stuff?"

"Deadly, probably." Kai cuddles me against his chest. I roll my burning eyes. He“s the strong one of the group, and also, the short one. Finn is over six feet tall and I“m at least 5“8 or “9. But Kai? He“s been shut up in more lockers than I can count. The thought of it makes me snicker even now.

I snort out a bubble of red and white. "I feel fine," I say, "really. It“s the drowning stuff that gets you, not what you“re drowning in." I pick up the camera and knock his squeezing arms away. He grunts.

"You“re still going to the doctor."

"I“m going to run down to the 24 hour CVS and have these prints developed. Or I“ll do it myself in my basement." I stumble back around the house with the guys trailing behind. I touch my toe to my footprints, wobble onto the path I kicked up, and brush sludge off my camera. It won“t boot. I“m fiddling with dials even though I“m not supposed to, my heart pounding desperately in my chest.

"It“s ruined," Kai says again. Finn throws me his hoodie. I throw my blazer to the ground then take off my shirt. Kai chokes. But I don“t have time for sensibility. The hoodie goes on, the socks come off. I briefly contemplate taking off my jeans, too, but there“s a breeze and even Mindy, the chillest cashier I know, will ask questions if I race into a CVS in the middle of the night in nothing but boy shorts and Finn“s hoodie. And then she“ll kick me out of her store until I put some pants on.

Every sharp stone and stick cuts my feet. Every owl hoot and wolf whine sets me on edge, ready to fight, the crowbar now shaking in my grasp.

Finn grasps my wrist. I yelp and pull away. "Are you okay?" he asks again.

I nod. My fingertips tingle, thrumming with new energy. The night air is crisp. The stars are bright and glistening against the tar-black of the night sky. Tree branches and roots intertwine above and beneath me. Moss and lichen hang from branches, filling the air with a sweet honeysuckle smell. Glo flies flicker and buzz.

The world is alive, pulsing with vibrancy and heart. And Masquerade tried to pry it all away from me. My clenched hands shake.

The sound of twisting metal and crunching plastic pulls me out of my thoughts. When I look down, my camera is a balled up hunk of broken plastic. My heart stops. The lens is bashed in, the dials I was fiddling with crushed flat looking a little like smashed soda caps.

A wail catches deep in my throat.

My baby, I killed my baby. And the negatives.

"Super-strength!" Kai shouts. "Hey, cool!"

It“s too much, all at once. And it hits like a punch in the gut. A supervillain tried to murder me, the mayor is up to no good, my evidence is crushed, and my camera is destroyed.

I sway.

The chemicals must“ve done it. They must“ve. And they must“ve had something to do with the missing superheroes. The mayor, too.

My stomach churns. The forest spins. I stumble back.

"Monet?" Kai shakes my shoulders. "Monet!"

Someone has to fight back. Someone has to save this city.

Masquerade, I vow, the boys“ voices murky and far away, as I fall, fall, fall into the blackness, I“m going to make sure you never hurt anyone ever again.

But it“s so much, and the world is spinning too fast. I hit the ground, my head a swirl of blackness. And the last thing I see before I fade away is that white, smiling mask.


I“ll be updating this book on Mondays and Fridays. Thanks for reading and I hope you“re having a great summer!

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