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   Chapter 16 Horseman of the Herocalypse

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 10429

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:05

It“s not that I hate sewing. At least, I hate it for different reasons than I hate failing Algebra Two or slamming my crappy poetry. I only hate sewing because I used to be good at it. I used to have an eye for detail and a steady hand, now my hands are always shaking and my love for good craftmanship drowned in apathy.

So I“m cursing as I kick the dusty sewing machine back into use, crushing my foot on the ugly gray pedal, glaring at the neat little stitches in the ragged hood and the black satin curtain I bought from Walmart, the go-to place for superhero equipment. I make a note to pay Ms. Carbonnet back for the cape and mask, something I meant to do but sort of slipped my mind.

But anyway, it“s Septemeber. And that means way early Halloween costumes. So, I bought a Catwoman suit and then had to modify it with stupid stitches from a stupid sewing machine. Because, yes, saucy Halloween costumes more than have their place, but when it comes to crime-fighting, it“s nice to know you can move without the chest of your leather catsuit tearing out.

Dad knocks. I push over the sewing machine, jump onto my mattress, and pull the covers over my head. "Come in!" Pipe-cleaner-long limbs swinging, I kick the half-mended cape under the bed just before the door creaks open.

"How are your ribs?" he asks. I peek up through the rumpled sheets. His tie is half-knotted, his collar is flipped up, and his shirt is slick with sweat. Maybe he just got off weight-training and forgot to change. Or, more likely, he was out all day on the town, chasing leads.

"Better," I say. And that“s sort of true. I took my pills. "I—I got a headache though. Think I“ll just shut off the lights and lock myself in my room for a little bit. You know, take a nap."

"Oh, of course, honey." He smiles, though his brow is wrinkled. Fatherly Concern; when my dad wants to, he oozes it. And it makes my heart hurt, lying to him. But what else am I supposed to do? Tell him a supervillain broke my ribs, knocked my unconsciousness, and almost killed me multiple times. Might as well sign my name on an order for his gravestone. Cause of death: dumb daughter who can“t keep her mouth shut. Also, heart attack. "I“m ordering pizza. Come out whenever you feel okay enough to eat. Or I should I bring you a slice?"

My stomach rumbles. Eating pizza on the library floor sounds like the best idea in the history of ideas right now, but I can only cocoon myself tighter in the thick, lacy sheets and squeak out a "thanks" I have to strain for. "Not hungry, but thanks."

He turns around and shuts the door softly behind him. I wait for his footsteps to fade in the squish of carpet, then I jump up, drag my oak writing desk against the door, and switch into my half-finished costume. Outside, the sky has finally darkened. The moon is high, a sliver of gold that makes a glowing scythe against the cold, black sky. I fling the window up, don my half-face mask, and stuff my phone into my plastic prop compartment belt. The wind is harsher now, the stars a sprinkle of pale, silver freckles shining through the abyss. I shoot up

his saving the heroes isn“t a choice I can shirk out of, it“s a responsibility. All I can do is plan my steps.

"Okay." I need a plan. I need intel. "Alright."

"Okay?" He squeezes his gloved hands together. His shoulder twitches.

"How do you know this, Horseman?"

The base of his neck reddens. "I—my friend-d—" his voice cracks. "I saw his mask—he“ll kill me!"

"It“s okay." I clench his hand in mine. "Thank you for talking to me." I wipe my cheek with the back of my other palm. A long gash is cut into the skin, the new lesion crusty with dried blood. I force a smile in his direction that I hope will give him even pinprick of comfort. This is my best attempt at hero-ness. I don“t think it“s working. "Let me walk you home."

He shakes his head. "That“s it, Onyx. That“s all I know."

The boy in the floppy horse mask is trembling, his fingers cold through the thin fabric of his gloves. And his voice is so familiar in the way that tugs at the edges of my memory, it makes me want to bash my face and consequently-screaming face-hole into a dartboard. It“s so...muffled. I lead him out of the Laundromat, his fingers intertwined with mine. It“s funny, almost. My liquid strength entangled with his, me, guarding this sobbing stranger, protecting him. Isn“t that what heroes are supposed to do?

"Don“t take me home," he says. "Oh, gosh, he“ll kill me, Onyx, if M-Masquerade finds out. He“s going to kill me."

"Let me shadow you then." I whip him around, staring into the stupid flabby horse-eyes on either side of his face. He wrenches out of my grasp. The darkness is opaque. If I squint, I can just make out the boy shivering in the starlight. The sea is restless, a soft swash of gray water, burbling against a sandy shore. My grip tightens.

"No," he says, and his voice is soft. "Don“t you get it?"

"Get what?" My jaw is gritted. "That you“re in danger? That I should make sure you don“t, like, die?"

He shakes his head. "You“re a superhero," he says, and his breath is a wisp of white smoke from the horse“s nostrils. "You“re the next target."

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