“Can you grow everything?”
You have no idea how many times I’ve heard that line. Since puberty, I’ve been able to control the proportions of my body at will, growing and shrinking my limbs and head. It’s the kind of superhuman power that everyone and their brother seems to have developed lately. Ever since I first manifested my powers and started showing it off at parties, as you do, some wiseass implies that I can make my dick double in size just like my arms and legs. Well, I can, but I’d rather that’s not how I was known.
But I’ll tell you what. That question once lead me to the best night of my life.
It started out as a pretty bad night, actually. A few days earlier, my friend Phil and I had been at the bar deep in our cups. I had just been laid off, and was banging an oversized fist on the table. Phil had joked that I could be a superhero, what with my powers and all. These days, costumed heroes were so commonplace that the government gave them grants to focus on crime-stopping. Jokingly, we had started to come up with superhero names.
(“The Fister! No, Fist Man!”
“What about Big Boy?”
“Seth, that sounds like you’re talking about your cock.”
“Still sounds like you’re talking about your cock.”
“You know, for someone who hasn’t been laid in six months, I get a lot of people talking about my dick.”)
That bit of conversation was the last thing I remember about that night. It had just been a joke. But when I woke up the next morning (okay, the next afternoon), I had put in an order for a blue bodysuit and had halfway completed a superhero grant application as “The Smasher”.
And so, I decided to become The Smasher. I had always been interested in superheroes, going through a particular obsession with the Three Furies, our local hero trio, in my teens. To this day I followed fan sites that tracked the activity of costumed heroes across the country, hoping to catch video of their latest battles. And Phil had been right about one thing: I did have the powers to qualify me. Hell, there were heroes that didn’t even have powers these days. How hard could it be? But before I could get my government cheese, I needed to establish myself as a hero and show that I was fighting crime.
The night I want to tell you about was my first night on patrol. I had squeezed into my new costume. It was a little too tight, and looked appropriately generic. There had probably been dozens of idiots, with powers or not, who had ordered a costume like this and gone on a night or two of crime-fighting. I took off the gloves so I could at least grow my fists. If they wouldn’t remember my costume, at least they would remember the beating.
So I did what superheroes do and took to the roofs. This proved to be a much more difficult way to travel than I thought. All of the buildings seemed to have different heights, or slanted roofs, or too large a gap between them for me to possibly make the jump. And forget about crossing the road. If I grew my legs I could make large leaps, but I also ran the risk of snapping my ankles. So there was a lot of climbing up and down ladders in alleyways. It wasn’t like I could exactly walk down the sidewalk.
It didn’t take me too long to find trouble. San Alvaro was a pleasant city during the day, but at night it was a hotbed of crime. I found a heavyset man clad all in black, including a ski mask, holding a knife to a diminutive woman. At last, here was my chance!
Of course, I had to get down from the roof first. As it happens, there were no ladders leading into this particular alleyway. So I had to rush down a rickety fire escape into the adjacent alley and rush around on the street. I hoped that the mugger was still there by the time I arrived. As it happened, he was just turning around to leave, purse in hand.
“Stop!” I said in my best dramatic voice. “Purveyor of crimes, prepare to meet ... The Smasher!”
The mugger blinked. “The Smasher ... that’s you?”
“What? I mean, of course that’s me!”
He brandished his knife. “Well, I don’t care what you call yourself, just get the hell out of my way.”
I grew my hands until my fists were the size of volleyballs. With a heroic cry, I swung at the mugger. The problem was that I hadn’t thrown a punch since playground spats, and had never trained in boxing or martial arts. This absence only occurred to me now. No matter how big my fists were, I had no idea how to use them.
Sure enough, the mugger dodged my clumsily thrown punch. His arm thrust forward in a much more efficient fashion, stabbing me in the gut with his knife. Pain shot through me, and I clutched the wound. The mugger kneed me in the crotch, and I sank to the ground. My eyes began to tear up with the agony.
“Fucking nutcase.” The thug stepped over me and made his getaway. The woman he had robbed was long gone, presumably having fled while I stood there talking.
Well. That had sucked. I felt blood trickling through my still-enlarged fingers, and knew I had to go to the hospital. Even if I didn’t have any insurance. Did the superhero grant program cover that? Or did Samson and all those other famous heroes wrack up medical debts like the rest of us? Most likely, they were just strong enough not to get beat up like a chump.
In my woozy brain, I thought that I had to get home and take off my suit before heading to the hospital. Couldn’t let the secret identity slip, after all. So I climbed up onto the roof. It was only until a little later that I realized how I had done it, stretching out my arms to grab onto the edge of the roof and then shrinking them to pull myself up. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? It did tear the sleeves of my costume off, but I wasn’t worried about that right now.
And of course, standing on that roof was my worst nightmare.
He stood eight or nine feet tall, and was covered in jet-black hair. I wouldn’t have even seen him if it wasn’t for his glowing red eyes, whose glint revealed his canine features. Even injured, I remembered the stories in the papers about the new villain in the city, one who tore his victims limbs from limb. They called him the Black Wolf.
“Well well,” he said in a baritone growl. “What do we have now.”
I felt weak as blood continued to trickle down my leg. “Please ... don’t come any closer.”
“An ittle wittle hero, out here to stop us mean old villains?”
“No! I’m not a hero, I’m ... I’m nobody.”
The Black Wolf laughed. “It doesn’t matter who you are. You smell delicious. And you know, I love it when my food wears a mask. Makes the fear all the sweeter.”
So this was it. This is how I would end my short, largely pointless life. No best-selling novel, no reputation as a superhero. Just a mangled body in a cheap mail-order suit. The Black Wolf prepared to pounce, and I shut my eyes.
But the impact never came. After a moment, I dared to open one eye. A glowing gold arrow stuck out of the ground between me and the Black Wolf. The beast fell back on his haunches, growling at the projectile. Incredibly, I looked up to my saviors.
I saw three beautiful women, each in instantly-recognizable costumes. Any resident of San Alvaro, not just the superhero junkies like me, knew who these women were. There was Artemis, a perfectly-proportioned woman in a silver bodysuit and domino mask. She held a golden bow, which had fired the arrow. On her left was a busty woman whose hair and skin-tight leotard were the same shade of emerald green, the favourite form of the shape-shifter Changeling. And on Artemis’s right was a spooky looking woman with pale skin, an ornate black costume, and six arms: the mysterious Arachne. Together, they were San Alvaro’s top superhero team, the Three Furies. And they had just saved my ass.
Artemis’s regal voice cut through the smoggy night. “Playing with your food again, Black Wolf?”
The monstrous wolf-man snarled. “My hunt concerns you not, woman.”
“I am the protector of this city, and all who live within it,” said Artemis. “Leave this man alone, or my next arrow will fly true.”
The Black Wolf seemed to consider this for a while. I was still terrified. A big beast like that could rush forward and take me in my jaws before anyone could react. He might get shot full of arrows in the process, but that wouldn’t do me much good. So, with a snarl, he turned tail and ran.
I looked up to the Furies. They still seemed unreal to me. There was a kind of haze around them, like an aura. Or maybe that was because I was losing blood. I tried to think of something to say, some witty quip that would cause them to accept me as one of their own.
But instead, I passed out.
“Shhh, I think he’s coming around now.”
I forced my eyes open, faintly surprised to be alive. The last I remembered, I had been stabbed in the gut, encountered a monster, and passed out in a pool of my own blood on an obscure rooftop. I thought I had seen the Three Furies, but that might have just been a hallucination. They didn’t seem like people you would ever really meet.
But here they were, squatting over me.
I was in a penthouse apartment. I could see the night sky through the large skylight, so at least I hadn’t been out that long. I lay on a sofa in the centre of a large living room whose walls were lined with costumes and weapons. Above me were the faces of Artemis, Arachne and Changeling. They seemed even more beautiful up close. And not only was I looking at them, I must be in their base of operations.
.... There is more of this story ...