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   Chapter 13 What Comes Around...

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 11329

Updated: 2017-12-04 19:05

First things I do when I wake up: roll over and vomit. With my splintered ribs, I“m lucky I don“t spit up a heart-valve. Masquerade squats over me. His mask is dented where I clocked it, that upturned, slender grin sneering down at me. He clenches his rope. It“s still glowing this bright red that hums like an electric sign.

Half of it is wrapped around my wrists, which are crossed in a neat pile on my knees and secured with a few hasty knots. I sigh at him. "I can break chain, you know."

"I know," he says, stretching one arm out far behind his head. He sounds like a grumpy kitten. "You okay?"

My mouth is filled with the taste of bile and blood. The warehouse around me is warped, the edges of my vision edged with white. The chains sparkling, the reek of acid fumes burning. I wink one eye shut, my skull pounding, pounding, pounding like there“s a spike driven through my brains. "Hmm," I say with a shuddery laugh that shakes every fiber of my tentative being. "Death Warehouse, tied hands, uh, no. Stand back, please?"

"Hmm," he copies, free hand stroking his chin. The dread is palpable in me, this thick sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I shudder with each breath. It hurts. Like my own ribs are tightning inside me, crushing me under the seams. It occurs to me I might be in serious trouble. Like, hospital trouble, internal bleeding trouble. To this, I can only shrug. "Onyx, I“ll tell you right now, I don“t want this to happen to you. The others had it coming, but you..."

"Hmm?" I arch an eyebrow under my sweaty mask. “Hmm,“ has become the one word I can rely on in this travesty. It hurts less than a sentence, and it sounds vaguely defiant if I make it. I stare over his head, working out the mental math as the fog settles.

I couldn“t have been out for more than a few minutes, not enough time for him to move me out of the warehouse, just enough for him to do a crappy job of tying my hands together. I wriggle my fingers and roll my wrists. Pshaw. This should be a pinch. Or at least, it would be if I could move.

"It“s like torturing Robin. And not even Tim Drake, more like the Burt Ward Dick Grayson one from sixty-six, you know?" He flourishes with the one hand, nearly knocking his hood back with a wave of his pinkie finger. "You“re just too cheesy."

I used to have a cat I would talk to. A lot. I didn“t have any friends, okay? And this, this is how you talk to a cat. Disjointed rambling. Awkward monologues. Expecting silence, but pretending you“re having a conversation.

I get fancy with a "Mmm-hmm." His voice is familiar in that way I can“t place, but deeper now. I cock my head to the side, listening for the awkward pauses, the skips in his speech like scratches on a record. He must be talking into something, a voice muffler, perhaps, because his breathy "purring" is gone. Now his voice is remarkably even, the phrases clipped, mechanical. It“s less awkward, at least.

The hooks wobble and clink, rubbing against each other with the low squeal of tarnished metal. They“d be pretty if you ignored the brown splatters on the hooks. Which I can“t. Red was here. Red was hurt here.

"I tell you what," Masquerade says with a flick on the side of my mask. "You just leave, okay? You don“t tell a soul what you saw."

"And what“s in it for you?" I ask with a sidelong glance at the ropes. Tears burn on my lower eyelid.

ld me what I“m supposed to do, or at least, offer me fortune cookie slips of advice. I have nothing, am nothing. Trying something real heroes haven“t even attempted, too stupid, too weak, too inadequate to snap the realizations in place.

But what other choice do I have? It“s not like any other kids have superpowers, not like anyone else can solve the mystery without having their head splintered into a trillion little pieces by one mighty super-powered fist.

There“s only one person in this whole little city who can ever take on Masquerade: me. Stupid, weak, inadequate me.


I lift my interlaced hands back by my ear, picturing the move perfectly from Space Seed, the Star Trek episode where Kirk first meets (and beats) Khan. Knuckles come arching down, smashing into the base of his neck. A half-growl, half-shriek cuts the cold air and the boy hits the ground on his side. I can hear the bones rattling from here, like his body is a box of playing dice, like his insides are loose.

I drop down. He swipes for my eye with a trembling fist, blocked by an easy dodge from me. One more hit and he“s sent sprawling across the floor, crusty papers swirling up around him like dead, autumn leaves. I know he“ll pop back up in a sec or two like a murderous whack-a-mole, so I jump and slam my foot into his chest. He jolts.

"D“ya think I can take you in?"

He wheezes. Blood drips down his throat. "You“re crushing my heart."

"Hmm." I tap my forefinger to my upper-lip. "I should totally take you in."

"Have mercy."

"What happened to Red?"

"Have mercy." He breaks into a wet cough. It“s cognitive dissonance, connecting the raspy voice to the broken mask. The upturned smile. The curved slits. The streaks of dirt and blood over the dents in the crumbly, painted wood. I pluck the ropes out of his loose grip with my pinkie finger.

"Okay." I“m thinking of dangling over Sure Death. I“m thinking of the terror and the pain, thinking of that snide grin inked on his mask. "Sure. Sure, I“ll show you mercy."

He lifts his head, his breath labored and shallow. "You will?" The blood runs faster down the front of his neck.

I grind my heel into his stern, the way you put out a cigarette stump. "So long as you beg for it."

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