Day 163 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about an unlikely hero.
Erin: A baby saved my life. When I was running to my job one morning I was stopped dead in my tracks right before I stepped into the road. Her cry locked me to the car before I would have run right in front of the semi that would have plowed me over. I would have been startled had I not been so concerned by the distressed child. Without a second thought I took off my heels and cracked the window open. I had no choice, that sweet overheating face saved me and I needed to save her.
Shannon: “Now that’s a sight you don’t see everyday,” I heard Jake’s voice creeping up behind me. I cursed under my breath. He was the class clown and I was giving him material he could use for a lifetime. I prayed he was alone as I turned around, with a huge hallway poster wrapped around my body like a dress.
I was taking a shower after this morning’s practice and the other girls on the team left me without any clothes. They were always out to get me. I guess they finally won. Luckily he was the only standing there. “Go head, I know you’ve got some clever joke. Get it over with, take a picture, and humiliate me more. I don’t care. They’re not going to make me quit, even if they hate me,” I looked down, trying to believe myself and muster up the courage to head to administrative office.
“Who took your clothes,” he questioned getting a little closer. I backed against the wall afraid he’d take my only shield away. He looked concerned. I’d never seen him wear that emotion.
“As far as I can tell the whole dance team,” I shrugged, gripping the paper tighter against my chest. “What are you going to go find them and praise their work,” I questioned, not knowing why I was so mad at him. He didn’t do anything, not yet.
“No, I know the difference between a joke and harassment. They’re jerks and I tend to focus my humor on those who deserve it. I consider it my own brand of karma,” he smiled. “Go back to the locker room, I’ll get you some clothes.”
I couldn’t understand why he was being nice to me. It seemed out of character. “How do I know it’s not a trick?”
“Here,” he took off his coat and a sweater he was wearing over a t-shirt then handed them to me. “They’re not much but they’re better than a poster, right,” he smirked.
What makes your character a hero?
As one of the esteemed returnees from Winter’s Bend, a group whose number was dwindling dangerously by the year, I was privy to knowledge far beyond the normal student body. While I didn’t care one whit what was going on with the freshmen’s events schedule or whether the coordinator for school events was skimming thousands off the top, I did pride myself on learning every secret I possibly could about the school’s dirty little secrets. By that, I don’t mean who was dating who or what teachers slept in their offices; I mean the kind of secrets people would kill to know or keep hidden. Obviously I also prided myself on keeping these skeletons to myself over the two previous years I’d attended.
I was one of many who had arrived their first day not having a clue what otherworldly force persuaded me to sign up, taking this unorthodox university over travelling or attending a prestigious school I had an in at. That was one mystery I was close to solving, but didn’t care much about anymore; there were far more pressing and interesting things to learn here than the pull of the strange campus. Last year I’d taken up summer residence in an aging and failing home right next to the school and played the campus ghost by walking the half-deserted grounds at all hours, meeting up with teachers and students alike. As I said, I made it my purpose to find and dig up the skeletons to put them on display when the time was right; I was so close.
My research was nearing the end of a long, winding trail I started following last year, but I was learning information that was far from the most prudent. Up until the summer I was grasping at straws, until I received an anonymous letter without a signature requesting a meeting in the library at midnight on the second day of the fall term, which was tonight. For the remainder of the boiling, rainy month I’d been researching all about the strange cobalt seal that was the only clue as to the sender. All I’d managed to scrounge up was a name: Dryad Society. No list of members or mission statement could be found anywhere in the history of the university and I dared not dig around outside the school least someone find out what I was up to.
Excitement coursed through my veins like electricity, but I kept the mask of discontent perfectly in place throughout my morning classes. Programming almost put me to sleep with the review of the basics with no hint of new material, while drama was all about proper light fixture care so I was given lots of menial tasks to let my mind race over important things. Halfway through sorting extra nuts and bolts for some stage structures, I almost zapped one of my classmates when I had a terrifying epiphany and had to make up something about touching a cable with my toe. When I was walking to the back of the theatre with shocks rocketing between my rings, I thought about how this person I was meeting could be exactly the one I’d been so careful to avoid; one of those who would kill to keep the secrets hidden.
Throwing my recycled tire bag into a chair and sinking into the next plush seat, I put my feet up on the back of the next row and leaned my head back to stare into the vaulted ceiling. After a few minutes letting my mind wander where it may, I subtly glanced about the cavernous room to ensure I was completely alone. Still peering around nervously, I smiled and threw up my hands to release the electricity in my tense fingers, setting lights aglow and speakers sparking wildly. It was a moment of pure joy at watching my magick work with technology in ways no one ever expected; changing lights subtly and moving spotlights so they flickered like a dance floor as some wonderful, soulful music flowed through the empty air.
When the door creaked open, I gasped a breath out and the room fell still and silent, magick returning to my soul and inanimate objects falling dead once again. Taking my seat again, I stared into my bag without seeing anything but the static of potential magickal energy coursing through me again before pulling out a sketchbook and flicking through the half-finished pages absently. A part of me was fascinated by whoever just walked into a room after seeing flickering lights and feeling bass rocking through the floorboard, only to find that room empty other than a goth chick who was pretending to admire her own work. But, the other part of me, the one that encrypted every piece of writing I’d done on secrets, was trying to act natural too much to hazard a single glance.
It was a few minutes of boredom before I realized the intruder was sitting on the stage, staring right at me as though she had no shame. Heat was spreading from my nose across to my ears when our eyes met so I dropped my gaze and began a series of random lines I sorely hoped would come together to form something other than abstract art. With my pencil lead scratching loudly in the echoing room, I stuck my tongue between my teeth and squinted at the lines before realizing they were leading to one symbol I couldn’t get out of my head: the secret Dryad Society’s seal.
As soon as it became apparent to my conscious mind, I quickly tore the sheet from the book, crumpled it crossly and tucked the ruined page into the pocket of my bag, blushing even more furiously than before. I began a new sketch hastily, attempting to appear unfazed by my horrible mistake, yet not looking like I was making up something to do just to avoid the dainty woman on the stage. The drawing started to look like a tree, so I put my feet back up on the chair in front of me and leaned the sketchpad on my legs, peeking over the grey paper to see what the chick was doing. Unfortunately, she was gone, which gave me such a start that little sparks flew from my fidgeting fingers. Losing my cool, I dropped the book on the floor in a flurry of blank pages and off-beat drawings.
I shut my eyes and breathed deeply to stop the fluttering of my heart before I bent to pick up my work. “It’s Grace, right?” asked the dark-haired girl, who’d bent to retrieve my fallen book, flashing a charismatic smile. I almost felt sorry for her in her vain attempt to be charming. Rolling my eyes expertly, I ripped the book from her delicate fingers and set a glare on her so intense I was surprised she didn’t burst into flames. A light sigh fell from her lips and she tried a different approach, “I’m Mira. I’ve been wanting to meet face to face for a year now. You keep evading me somehow.” Taking the seat in front of me and leaning over the back on her elbows, she gazed into the ceiling with stars in her pitch eyes.
“So, why’d you turn off the lights when I walked in? I thought you were queen of covering up your real motivations and actions?” she chided, the sincere smile replaced with one full of malice and poison. Staying completely still and silent, I glared holes through the velvet curtains on stage and considered my options; none were great. “Alright, fine, I can’t crack you,” sighing, she set her jaw insolently and rose to block my view of the stage, setting her hands solidly on her petite hips. Though her dress was pastel pink with a skirt that brushed the floor with sparkles and childish bows in her deep brown hair, she had the appearance of an arch villainess. “You have two choices, hon,” she spat, “either you attend the meeting planned for this evening and learn everything about whatever it is you want to know, or you join us and we’ll let you live to learn those secrets when we deem you ready.” The sickening look of superiority on her smug face made me gag, but I sniggered at her ultimatum.
Chuckling, I gathered up my bag and faced her, a few good inches taller than she was in my heavy boots. “Oh, okay, then I’ll certainly be going to my meeting, dear,” the words hovered in the air between us for a horrible moment before I shoved past her. I was almost at the exit when she began to cackle, laughing so loudly the sound echoed against the walls in a symphony of spiteful mirth.
Breathlessly, she called after me, “Oh Gracie, that wasn’t the right answer. Though, I haven’t told you what the consequences of your attending the meeting will be for your fellow students. You do care about them, don’t you?” Mira’s light dress was beginning to darken as though her irritation was physically altering her appearance, but I was focusing more on her blazing eyes that had me frozen to the spot.
“No, actually, Mira, I could care less about any of these idiots,” I lied perfectly, as I’d been doing for the last year. Part of my charade was to convince everyone, myself included, that I could care less about anything in the world. As long as no one knew anything about me or my interests I wasn’t risking anything but myself; I figured Mira would fold when she realized who she was talking to. “I could tell you all the secrets I dig up when I’m through, if you want,” the words came out without my permission, but I knew she wouldn’t do anything.
Snapping her fingers, the thundering note echoing their way into my head like an earworm, she looked at me triumphantly. There was some movement behind the curtains on stage, air making the heavy fabric flutter and shift as someone moved behind them. When they shifted into the light I took a few involuntary steps toward the stage, letting my bag drop off my shoulder in shock. A skinny student I’d seen careening across the field during the scavenger hunt was held up by two thug-type guys with more muscles than brains; their eyes glowed a horrible shade of yellow that made my eyes hurt to look at. Though the kid was struggling silently against their strong hands, they didn’t notice his kicks or jabs in the slightest as though they were in some kind of trance.
“Okay, Grace, this is exactly what will happen to every person with an extraordinary ability-” she cut herself off to comment on my unspoken contradiction, “Yeah, we know all about your power over electricity, hon,” before getting back to the boy, who was now mouthing something in my direction, “-and it won’t be pretty. Ken!” she shouted at one of the men, who reached his free hand into his pocket and took out a smooth, golden apple. Releasing the boy’s arm, he offered the fruit to the skinny guy and turned to stone as the apple was rejected. After a long minute of watching the kid attempting to free himself, Mira shouted at him in a piercing voice, “If you take a bite of the apple I’ll let you go. It’s not gonna kill you!” The edge to her voice was clear and biting, even as I was just a spectator.
With a fleeting glance at me, the boy grabbed the apple and looked at it from every angle as Mira tapped her foot impatiently. When he finally took a tentative nip of the hard fruit, his eyes grew wide before he collapsed to the stage in a limp heap. I dropped my bag and took a couple running paces when he rose like a spectre, yellow-eyed just like the others.
“So, in case it isn’t clear, those apples will be passed out to everyone in the school, but only people with powers will be affected. And, those that are altered, will have to do whatever I tell them; it’s a pretty powerful spell, if I do say so myself. So, either I’ll have them kill you, or you can join us.” Triumph was clear in Mira’s face as she asked softly, “Well, what’ll it be, Grace? Hmm?”
Glancing at my sparking fingers, I took a minute to think of whether I could take her on now, if the possible number of students with abilities was large enough to outweigh my own powers and if my need for knowledge was stronger than my survival instincts. “Fine, yes, I’ll join you,” I sighed, sacrificing everything I’d worked for, ultimately, for the sentient minds of my peers.
Starry Knight arrives at the scene and doesn’t find anyone right away. But then he hears whimpering from the closet. He opens it slowly, revealing a little girl. She scoots away from him, so quick that Starry almost didn’t see it. ‘Here’s the gifted person,’ he notes. “I’m not going to hurt you, look.”
He takes out a marker. He draws big and loopy, creating a butterfly. He animates it, and it sits on his finger. He looks back at her and smiles.
“I’m like you. You can trust me.”
She slowly inches closer to him, then her weight hits his chest quickly. She starts talking fast, in a language other than English. But she does catch something, something about stars and the night sky.
“Yep, Starry Knight. I’m Starry Knight.” He picks her up, “Let’s get you somewhere safe, okay, little one?” They exit the room and Starry checks for more people. But it’s just the girl. He hears a ‘shhing’ of a blade and ducks into a room. ‘Where’s Josh?’ He wonders as he starts to draw something to help him.
The door is busted open. Starry puts the girl behind him and poises to animate his rough drawing. Bronze Scimitar is standing there, glaring at him. “Starry,” she says, “I promised Jade I wouldn’t kill you, but I have a target. If you won’t move, I’ll have to hurt you.”
“Still taking jobs from people?” Starry states, “Disappointing.”
Bronze reaches toward him. Starry animates the drawing of the net. It lands over Bronze. Starry rushes passed her, carrying the girl. But a sword catches his leg. Starry stumbles to the ground, landing on his back so the girl is okay. He clutches his leg, feeling blood. The girl is gone and he looks at Bronze. Her sword is pointed at his throat.
“Where is she?”
“Jade’ll be here any second. And as much as I’d love to see you two flirt again,” Starry quips, “I know he’ll stop you. And you don’t want that.”
“He’ll have to take care of you. He’s the hero type, remem-” Bronze falls over, dropping her sword. The girl stands there, between her and Starry.
Bronze looks up, seeing the girl. The girl yells something. Bronze looks at Starry, then back at the girl.
“I… I was told…” she stands up. The girl vibrates in place, ready to hit Bronze again. “…I’m sorry,” Bronze backs out of the room.
Starry stares after Bronze as Jade comes through the broken window. “Starry! What happened?” He starts to staunch the bleeding.
“Bronze, she was here,” Starry states.
“I figured she would show up. Someone must have told her about the gifted.” Jade looks at the girl, who is still standing there. She’s watching Jade. “Is this her?”
“Yes, but she doesn’t speak English. …I don’t think,” Starry states.
“What language does she speak?” Jade asks. Starry shrugs, groaning. “We gotta get you to a hospital.”
“What about her?”
“I don’t know. She’ll have to come with.”
“She knows about us,” Starry informs, “She’ll trust us.”
“Okay, let’s get you up.” Jade helps Starry stand on one leg after securing his injury with a blanket nearby. The girl takes Jade’s extra hand and goes with. “What I wonder, is if Bronze was here… why…?” Jade looks at the girl briefly.
“…It seems like the Scimitar doesn’t kill kids,” Starry states, “she realized who her target was, and left.”
Jade thinks about this, but mostly focuses on getting his friend and new charge out of the building without people seeing their costumes.
Not sure if it fits the prompt, but I tried.