Chuck’s Challenge this week: Superhero Genre Smash-Up.
Superhero is an idea that’s on a low boil in the back of my mind; I may be using it for a novel one of these days, and if so, I’ll definitely be using some of the characters I’m working with here. My genre of choice to smash up with the Superhero tack: buddy comedy. And maybe a bit of that college frat-party feel. Is there a genre for that? …Whatever.
Came in at 975 words for this one, and, if you can believe it, this one isn’t dark OR depressing.
Doctor Encyclo stepped into his office and stopped cold. The polished hardwood floor gleamed in the sun from the window, bare of his imposing slate desk, his polished red leather chair, his imitation elephant-tusk hatrack. The moose head on the wall seemed to mock him as it stared at him with empty eyes. Upside-down.
Encyclo cast a bespectacled eye toward the ceiling, and there found all his furniture, dangling over his head like rather smartly designed stalactites. With a flick of his mind the objects tore themselves from the ceiling, pulling away flakes of plaster and splinters of wood. They wobbled ponderously in the air for a moment, and drifted back to their rightful places. The desk, more than anything else, was the giveaway. It was too heavy for the average student to lift, let alone fix to the ceiling. Super strength. Glue like cement. He tossed his glasses to the desk and rubbed at his eyes with a weariness that only two students could evoke in him.
Gus twisted the top off a beer with the crook of his elbow and raised it, winking, to toast Elm. “Encyclo’s going to know it was us.”
Elm simply stuck a finger to the top of his bottle and yanked the top off with a sucking pop. “That’s the point. Losing your nerve?”
Gus smirked and swigged. “Are you?”
The fence around back of the athletic quad was ivy-covered and topped with barbed wire, but it had a gap by the third post that you could just squeeze through, if you knew it was there. Terry knew, and used it to sneak out into the woods now and then when she didn’t feel like talking to anybody else, which was most of the time.
Gus the Bus was just hefting something huge and heavy and wrapped clumsily in burlap as if he were going to toss it over the fence — a solid fifteen-foot toss of an object three times his size, and The Bus wasn’t nicknamed for being bright yellow — when Terry turned the corner, headed out to the field. Gus didn’t hear her, so she made sure he did. “Gus!”
He stumbled, and instead of a neat little arc the huge something flipped end over end and took down a section of the barbed wire. He whirled in a panic and dented the fencepost next to him with a flying outflung hand.
From the other side of the fence, Terry heard Elm call out. “What the hell, Gus? What’d you do that for?”
Terry stifled a laugh. “Is that Elmer?”
A rustling of leaves and Elm popped his funny little head out through the ivy. He set his eyes on her and then rolled them. “Great. What do you want, Orphan?” He retreated through the ivy without waiting for a reply. Gus eyed her for a moment, like an antsy guard dog waiting for a command. She gestured with a smirk; he fired his piston legs and shot up from the ground in a superhuman leap, clearing the fence handily. Terry pushed the ivy aside and slipped through.
She’d had an idea what the huge object was before, but now that the camouflage had fallen away… “Did you guys really steal the statue of Captain Calamity?” She nudged the edge of the burlap with her boot and it fell away, revealing Calamity’s cartoonishly big hand grasping the end of a beaten sledgehammer, all detailed in dark gleaming granite.
Elm folded his arms, all confidence and swagger, and stared at her. “You bet we did.”
Terry sucked her teeth appreciatively. The statue was enormous; stealing it and sneaking it all the way out here was no small task. Still… “Gus the Bus and the Human Glue Stick. Encyclo’s going to know it was you.”
Elm shook his head. “Nope. We already pranked him.”
Gus grinned a mouth full of horse teeth. “Stuck all his office furniture to the ceiling.”
Elm and Gus high-fived, a mistake forgotten in pride at their accomplishment. The sticky sheen on Elm’s fingertips stuck their hands together, and it took Brute planting a foot on Elm’s chest to separate them. Elm shook his hand out and turned back to Terry. “Who’d be dumb enough to prank the headmaster twice in a day?”
Terry considered that for a moment. They looked so pleased with themselves. “I could turn you in, you know.”
Elm’s confident smirk collapsed and Brute’s face puckered like an infant about to cry. Gus wailed, “But I could get expelled!”
“Maybe you can do something for me, and I can forget about what I saw.”
Elm scowled. “Like what?”
“Student body elections are coming up.”
Terry smiled. “You’re the popular guys. I need some votes.”
Gus lumbered out of Encyclo’s office, looking sheepish.
Elm was still hanging around waiting for him. “What’d you get?”
Gus rubbed the back of his head. “Two weekends’ grounds work.”
“Lucky. You get to be outside. He’s got me cleaning spiderwebs and graffiti off windows and walls for a week.”
“I heard Red Razor and his guys went down for the statue, though.”
“Yeah, I think Terry had a hand in that. More than a hand, actually, judging by the burns on his arms.”
“She’s no joke.”
“I ain’t crossing her.” Elm checked his watch. The bell for the day’s last class would ring soon and the grounds would flood with students. “It’s time.”
“We’re really doing this?”
“I said I ain’t crossing her.”
They shuffled toward the central quad with tepid steps. The bell rang. They caught one another’s eye for resolve, dropped trou, and ran. As the onlooking student body swept onto the quad, shouting and guffawing, Terry grinned a tiny grin to herself. On Elm’s cheeks, in bright red, were the words “Terry Hemlock”, and on Gus’s, “For President.”