Short Story: All in the Mind

Takes place after One Sky, Many Faces and Contract Job. Should still make sense as a standalone.

 

~All in the Mind~

The monsters were only illusions in her mind, conjured by the hallucinogenic her captors injected into her to stop her from running away. She knew that intellectually.

But faced with sulphur hot breath steaming out of shadow matte muzzles filled with ivory sharp teeth, facts melted like ice under hot water.

She pulled her knees to her face and curled into the smallest ball she could contort herself into. It was hard to breathe, but at least this way she knew where all her limbs were. And the monsters wouldn’t be around forever. She just needed to wait it out.

“There you are.”

She thought her brother’s familiar voice  was just another illusion, until his shadow wrapped around her like a blanket and pulled her out of the draughty room that had been her prison for the past day. The monsters followed, no less real in the safety of her home.

“I was careful,” she said as she pressed into her brother’s arms. She hadn’t known her latest clients moonlighted as kidnappers until they plunged the needle into her skin.

Her brother ran his fingers through her hair. “This one’s on me. I didn’t catch them when I did the background check.” 

The monsters let loose a howl that raked freezing fire through her ears. She choked back a cry, as if her silence could hide herself from the figments of her imagination. 

“Next time, I’m coming with you,” her brother said.

“What about your job?”

“I’ll figure something out.”

That would be nice. Despite the bad experiences, she still wanted to paint. If anyone could figure out a solution, it was her brother.

The monsters still prowled, but in her brother’s arms, it was easier to remember that they were just hallucinations in her mind. 

~End~

Genre: fantasy, superpower, family

Related stories about the brother: Help from the Shadows | Agent Sunshine | The Sun That Shone Also Burned

Short Story: One Step Away

Once, superpowers only existed in fiction.

Then the day came when imagination became reality. Little by little, people appeared with special abilities.

Some used their newfound powers to bring justice in eye catching suits, others wielded it in secret for their own gain. Between the two, she belonged to the latter.

She used her power to save on travel time.

Her ability was simple. As she opened a closed door, she could change it connect to any other door. With this handy ability, her office was just one step away from her room.

And as long as she arrived earlier than everyone else, no one would ever need to know.

~End~

Genre: fantasy, superpower

Short Story: Haunted House

Every year during student fundraising week, classes bid for the right to run the more popular attractions. Among the top picks was the haunted house.

The lucky class always went all out, and now that there were people with superpowers, the bar just kept rising.

This year, the stage was set on a floating platform above the school hall, accessible only when escorted by a masked super with the ability to fly.

Even though the haunted house was way above them, the eerie fog that shrouded it could be easily seen from the school fate. For those waiting in line on the roof like them, they could even touch the fog if they reached hard enough. And for those who cared to listen, they would be able to hear faint laughter and muffled screams from within.

She couldn’t wait to go in.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: Hold My Hand

“No.”

His daughter pouted. “I just want to hold hands.”

He reached over to press a finger against the old magazine left on the bedside table. Where skin touched paper, the magazine disintegrated.

“Is this what you want your hand to become?” he asked.

“But you can control it, right?” she said.

“Not always. And all it takes is one slip up. So the answer is still the same. No.”

His daughter pulled her blanket up over her nose, leaving only her expressive eyes visible.

“But my friends get to hold their daddy’s hands,” she complained.

“Your friends don’t have daddies with hands that can destroy anything they touch.”

His daughter fell silent, and he thought that was the end of the conversation.

It wasn’t.

“Mummy says when there’s a will there’s a way,” his daughter declared.

“There’s another saying. Prevention is better than cure,” he countered the familiar statement.

His daughter’s eyebrows quivered as she fought back tears, and it made him feel terrible, even though his caution was for her own good.

He relented.

“You can hold my hand,” he said.

His daughter perked up.

“But you can’t touch my palm or my fingers. And if I tell you to let go, you let go immediately. Understand?”

His daughter nodded excitedly, throwing the blanket off her face.

Carefully, he offered one arm to her, resting the back of his hand on the blanket. He pointed out the safe spots on his hand, quizzing his daughter multiple times to make sure she had them memorised before he let her place her small hand anywhere near his own.

Little fingers rested lightly on his skin. It wasn’t quite handholding, but it was enough for his daughter. She beamed at him, and he couldn’t help but smile back.

“Are you ready to sleep now?” he asked.

“Yes, Daddy,” she said and wriggled back into her blanket cocoon.

He kissed her on the forehead, keeping track of where his hands were at all times.

“Goodnight,” he said.

“Goodnight.”

With the back of his hand, he flicked the lights off and nudged the door closed behind him.

~End~

Genre: family, fantasy

Part of Hands of Destruction.

Short Story: Chronic Hostage

No one was an island. Everyone’s lives were intertwined with someone else’s, for better or worse.

For her, her relation to her husband had caused her to become a chronic hostage.

It wasn’t his fault… but it was. Her husband was one of the rare superheroes who didn’t keep their identity secret. Not by choice, but because he couldn’t for the life of him hide his love for his family, even when hiding his face behind a mask. The moment he kissed her, in public, while in costume, on live TV, everyone knew who they were.

So her husband ditched his mask, and she resigned herself to getting her life interrupted by her husband’s enemies and other enterprising criminals.

Fortunately, her husband wasn’t the only person in the family with superpowers. She had her own special ability, and she was much better at hiding it.

While her kidnappers talked among themselves, she reached out telepathically to her husband, as she had done periodically since she was kidnapped.

How far are you now?

Five minutes away.

Be careful with the roof. It conducts sound very well. We could hear rats running on top earlier.

Got it. See you soon, love.

See you soon.

~End~

Genre: fantasy, superpower

Takes place in the Potpourri universe.

Short Story: Mutual Assistance

There were three types of people.

People who received superpowers and used it to help people.

People who received superpowers and used it to earn money.

People who received superpowers and abused it to get what they wanted.

These people were the third type.

For the better part of the past hour, they harassed the lecturer.

“Give me good grades.” “I don’t want to do the assignment.” “This is booooring.”

They complained as they threw furniture around, tore up the floor, covered the lecturer and anyone who got too close in goop, and generally be a huge pain in the butt for everyone.

He had sat back, expecting a superhero to come and kick these people out, but no one came, and no one in his class wanted to step in and become a target. Who would want to if they didn’t have their own superpower to protect themselves?

But this had gone on long enough. If no one would step in, he would.

His fists trembled on the table in sync with his shivering legs.

If no one would step in, he would. He would.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

The sudden whisper behind him made him jolt.

“Don’t move. I’m Kisme, a superhero.”

“If you’re a superhero, why aren’t you down there?” he asked without turning his head.

“I can create illusions, but I’m not a fighter. You can fight, but you’re not doing anything, and I’m guessing it’s because you want to protect your identity. We can help each other.”

Well, he had planned to go out anyway, identity hidden or not.

“How do I know if your illusions work?”

“I’ll create a full body suit for you. On your left arm, I’ll put a timer for you. As long as you can see it, you know your identity’s safe.” She stretched out a hand. “Shall we?”

He shook her hand. “Let’s do it.”

Without letting go, she presented him with the back of her hand.

“My superpower is one kiss for one minute’s illusion.”

“How many times should I kiss you?”

“How long do you need?”

He recalled his observation of the troublemakers.

Five minutes.

He kissed the offered hand ten times.

A dark suit encased his arms and swept over the rest of his body. Ten lines wove themselves on his left arm.

“Ten minutes. Go.”

He launched himself down the lecture theatre, heading straight for the biggest threat to maximise his element of surprise. One solid hit to the jaw, and the telekinetic went down. He followed up with a kick to a gut next, then a chop to the neck, keeping to their blind spots as he struck them down one by one.

With eight lines left on his arm, he had them all out cold on the floor. With three lines left, he borrowed or salvaged enough to tie all the troublemakers up. With two lines left to go, an invisible hand tapped his arm.

“Don’t hit me. I’m going to turn you invisible so you can go back to your desk.”

His arm vanished from sight, along with the rest of him. The light pressure shifted into a firm grip that led him back to his seat.

Then like watercolour on paper, his body faded back into view. Everyone’s attention was on the commotion at the front of the lecture theatre. His secret was safe.

“Good job.”

Invisible lips pressed to his forehead before all pressure vanished.

He looked around him.

But there was no one.

~End~

 

Genre: superpower, fantasy

Related to the Kisses series.

Short Story: Mini Mystery

The end of a rope sticks out from underneath the sofa. She reaches down to grab the rope and pulls.

A small takeaway paper bag slides into sight.

She gags. How long has it been there? She can’t bring herself to check, but she needs to be sure. She reaches for the knot tying the bag close.

“Mum!” Her youngest dashes to her side. “Gimme.”

“What is this?” she asks instead.

Her youngest shifts from foot to foot, then dashes off once more to return with her eldest.

“Oh. You found it,” her eldest says, “Thanks, mum.”

He reaches for the bundle and she hands it over without a thought. By the time her mind catches up, the bag is already in her eldest son’s hands.

“What’s in it?” she asks.

“A surprise. You’ll see.”

And she does. Two weeks later, when her two boys present her with a set of handmade earrings and necklace strung together with the materials they had hidden in the bag.

“Happy birthday, mum!”

~End~

Genre: slice of life

Parenting PainsDangerous Disagreement | Sorry State | After the Accident | Mini Mystery

Short Story: Studying Supervillains

Once, when he was a student, he studied supervillains for a school project. Specifically, how some supervillains, despite doing horrible, atrocious things, still managed to have a large fan base rooting for them to survive (or even win) in the movies.

How did they do it?

Why did people like them?

He observed and studied, half to get good grades, the other half to see if there was any magic secret he could apply to his own life.

His conclusion, in the end, was that a supervillain’s popularity boiled down to three ‘good’s: good writing, good acting, and good looks. That, and they lived in a fictional world that didn’t affect the readers/viewers, and there were plenty of things that they could get away with that would never fly in the real world.

So he didn’t learn any magic secret to popularity, but he got a good grade for that project. That was nice.

Then supers started to appear, and with them came superheroes and supervillains.

The school project, which he had thrown away but never quite forgotten, sprang back to the forefront of his mind.

This time, he would find what he was looking for.

~End~

Short Story: Searching in the Fog

When she stretched out her hand, her fingers looked translucent. That was how thick the fog was.

And the kids were playing hide and seek in this.

She hoped they had enough sense to stop hiding in the thick fog, but even if they did, it wouldn’t be easy. This area was chosen because there were plenty of hidden spaces. Great for hide and seek. Not so great for search and rescue.

They called for the children, but the fog swallowed their voices, and they still had to check every space they passed, just in case. Despite the challenges, they found the children, one by one, and brought them back into the building.

But two remained lost.

She continued the search, tucking her cold fingers into her sides for warmth. Her throat hurt from all the yelling but she couldn’t stop. Wouldn’t stop until both were found.

“You were right. You’ve been watching out for us since we were kids.”

A man stepped out of the fog, familiar yet foreign. Something nagged at the back of her mind but the thought slipped away like the fog around them.

“This is a memory. You found us hiding in the shed and no one was hurt. That was fifteen years ago. We’re all grown ups now. Follow me and you’ll see.” The man held out his hand.

It was strangely difficult to think. She stared blankly at the hand as her thoughts scattered like spilt marbles.

The man made the decision for her instead by gently wrapping his fingers around her wrist. Step by step, he led her.

Reality slammed into her with too-loud sounds and too-much action. Brown eyes watched her, familiar even behind a superhero’s mask.

“Ar-”

“Shh,” he cut her off before she could finish his name. “Save your breath and rest here for a bit. You were just attacked by a supervillain but you’re safe now.”

She nodded numbly as memories trickled back into her mind. Her little cousin gave her a one-handed salute before throwing himself back into the fight.

… …

Her little cousin was a superhero!!??

~End~

Genre: fantasy, superhero

Short Story: Why Work for a Supervillain?

What would make a man turn his back on the law to work for a supervillain?

Well, he couldn’t say for everyone else, but for him, it was all about the money. Righteousness wouldn’t put food on the table. Ideals didn’t pay the bills. Only a paycheck could do that. No matter where it came from.

Also, working for a supervillain wasn’t as unlawful as people might think. The controversial Alignment Register of ‘superhero’, ‘neutral’, ‘supervillain’ basically acknowledged supervillains as part of their society. And if supervillains were legal enough to be given rules and budgets for their plans, then it was legal enough for him to work for one.

No. That wasn’t it.

Why did he choose to work for a supervillain?

Because he loved the thrill of doing the impossible, which was his supervillain boss’ goal in everything she did.

And it paid the bills. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

~End~

Genre: fantasy, superhero