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   Chapter 24 Reveal

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 15123

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:05

Darkness weasels under my eyelid. My limbs are weightless in sleep, this warmth creeping into my skin like I“m floating under the closed black lid of a coffin. I twitch and mutter and claw and scream. Spasming in a puddle of cold sweat, I spend hours trapped in that gentle lull of night. And then, a voice:

"Monet, I know you“re awake. How do you feel?"

It“s a voice full of calm authority. My chest stirs with a soft thrum of recognition. My wrists itch, my fingers half curled, a douse of scratchy heat bringing sweat to my skin. I don“t want to open my eyes, because the voice is caring and gentle, and I want to pretend I passed out at the carnival. I“m at home, I decide, swaddled in blankets, my dad standing over me, interrogating my two best friends. Or maybe I“m at the Patience First, collapsed on crinkled parchment paper, and that nice over-caffeinated nurse lady is looking over me.

It“s only the thought of Percy with a dart in her throat that makes me open my eyes.

"Masquerade, I swear, if I“m duct-taped to an ironing board and an ax is slowly lowering from the ceiling..." I rasp, trying to keep my quips about me. The room is all dark, wires tangled in my fingers and stuck to my wrists, a single dim light flashing above my head. It sears my eyes in their sockets. A clear IV bag drips fluid into my bulging veins. The walls are lashed together from metal rods and rusty bolts, and my legs are dangling over the edge of a stained butterfly sheet. I blink hard. There“s a curious lack of a headache, the pressure relieved from my temples.

It clicks, all at once, my heartbeat ratcheting against my chest. "My mask! Where—"

"It“s pretty obvious, you know." He dangles the sweaty piece of plastic over my face. I twist my wrists, but they won“t budge. I glance down. Duct tape.

My superstrength has been one-uped by duct tape.

My heart stops. I“m screwed.

Masquerade settles beside me, hands folded neatly in his lap. He sits criss-cross applesauce, his knee just poking my side. With a whistle of a sigh, he leans back. Relaxed.

"Where“s Percy?"

"With Red."

"Where“s that?" Don“t say dead. Don“t say six feet under, or in heaven, or put to rest. Don“t say I can“t save them. Masquerade yawns, stretching over me while I writhe against the tape. Every muscle is clenched, warm sweat inching down my sticky hands. Amber and black fluids are pumping in chipped plastic cords jutting from the left side of my body. They tangle and knot on the butterfly wings like the gnarled black and yellow bodies of snakes.

Superpower juice.

"Nearby. How do you feel?"

"Like I“ve been chewed up and spit out of the gears of pick-up." I shake my head to clear the tangles of hair from my eyes. Unlike when I woke up in the warehouse, I don“t feel afraid. I feel ashamed. Ashamed I couldn“t protect Percy. Ashamed I couldn“t solve the mystery. Ashamed my dad will lose his only daughter because she couldn“t save her own stupid self. My throat is dry. My heart hurts. "Are they alive, then?"

Masquerade paces the table, his cape brushing the floor. His mask is cracked and blood-smeared, the grin peeling and broken. "Your heart stopped twice, you know."

"You overdosed me, you moron." I test the tape. The glugging of my superpowers down the tubes makes flecks of starlight whirl before my eyes. Masquerade leans over me, slim hands pressed into the rust-colored fabric on either side of my face. He smells uncomfortably of cologne, thin against the thicker scents of blood and human misery that cling to the stuffy air. His cape falls over his shoulder and puddles on my chest.

"This didn“t have to happen."

I open my eyes just to roll them. "No shit, Sherlock. Got any other shocking discoveries for me?"

His hands ball up the fabric. It“s an uncomfortable feeling, the white plastic bobbing above my face in the dark. I can feel the heat off his body, can watch the muscles under his black bodysuit quiver and fall. His gray eyes flutter shut with several agitated blinks. "No! I told Chip that, and Percy that, and you." He yanks his hands back. Pokes me on the chest. I don“t think he means to, but that“ll leave a bruise. "I let you go! I warned you! And what did you do?"

"You tried to drown me!" Spit hits his mask. I“m trembling with weakness, trembling with rage.

"You snooped!"

"That doesn“t warrant drowning!"

"I literally gave you a choice. You chose to drown!"

"Yeah, yeah, beg or die. That really isn“t much of a choice, is it?"

His jaw qu

ody, the burst of energy to my wilting, inadequate body. Max is leaning away from me, and in the cold light, he looks genuinely wounded, his face blotchy, chest falling hard and slow. A pillar of pure speed and strength, arms crossed over his skin tight suit, watery shadows shading the lines and edges to his streamlined form.

I launch at him, the bedsheet fluttering and dragging on the floor, taut as it pulls over the edge of the gurney. The box bangs against the steel rails, jerked up with a gasping heave. He snatches me out of the air with a grab of the front of my shirt, fistfuls of black fabric scrunched in his fingers. He“s floating. I arch both fists and rain them down over his head, kicking, screaming. Max pulls me closer to him, taking the hits without so much as a blink. My knuckles brush his eye. The lid tentatively closes to a purple blush, the only mar I make.

"Calm down." He drops me hard at his feet. Another shock of pain, but I“m getting used to that.I pick up the black box, seething. His good eye flickers with recognition. A blur of black bursts toward me, but I make my mark. I raise the box, swing it down. The metal and plastic smashes into the upside of his skull a second before he slams me to the floor, his hands pressed into my collarbone.

The boy blinks, dazed. The strain on the coils wrenches them out of my side, leaving upturned, uncapped circles in the skin layer where my costume is cut away. I“m coughing up blood, but I ignore it, can“t give Max time to get up. I hit him a second time, a third, a fourth. We“re both bleeding out. I“m seeping. His sleepy eyes are rolled up behind bruised skin, a warm trickle dripping from his mouth.

"Where“s Red?" I ask him, picking him up by his throat. He“s heavier without my superstrength, but my dad isn“t the only Jackson who pumps iron from time to time. "Where“s Percy?"

His chin falls to his chest, the musky sweet of his aged perfume persisting through it all as I near him, the blood and the decay, the stains of questionable origin and the stench of superpower bile leaking across the floor. The super-villain blinks at me, and his handsome, healing face fills me with disgust.

"Where are the heroes, Max? You“ve been a shit-human being and it“s time you make up for it."

A second passes betwen us in silence. I shake him again. He points to the door with the smallest of shrugs. I drop him. The villain smiles. "Monet?" he asks.

I“ve already fished my crumpled mask from under the gurney and limped toward the door. "What."

"Good luck." Max“s smirk seeps blood. I wrench the door off its hinges. Blood and black bile ooze from the holes punched over my ribcage. Darkness presses in, heavy with silence and a stench of decay. I have to be a hero now, powers or no.

"I“m waiting," Max adds. Hands half-balled into fists, I shut my arch nemesis and near boyfriend out of my life with one, hard slam.

This isn“t the last I“ll see of him, but this isn“t my first concern.

I have heroes to save.

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