That’s a great prompt
Kareem’s mind reels in every direction as he sways with the train’s gentle rocking. People are pressed in on every side of him, and Kareem tries his very best not to breathe.
His eyes are pinned to the red dot blipping on his phone screen, the little arrow moving steadily towards its destination. Just two more stops, and he can get out.
Someone bumps into him and then flinches, giving him an odd look. Kareem touches the edges of the mask on his face, making sure for the upteenth time that it’s snug over his mouth and nose. He tries to flash the stranger a smile with his eyes, but they look away.
That makes him feel worse, like he was getting baked in his oversized brown coat, as he flushes an apologetic red.
Nonono. He has to keep it under control— Kareem forces in a deep breath, distracting himself by fiddling with his backpack straps.
Two stops later, he rides the wave of people out the train doors, into the main lobby.
There are people everywhere, tv screens hanging low over a few corners, all covering the same news— the Platypus had taken over the Goodfield mall and was demanding ransom for his hostages.
Watching the footage of the tied up hostages sends a jolt through Kareem, and it isn’t until someone is staring that he pats at his head and figures his head is on fire again.
He’s starting to draw attention, and that makes it even worse as more people point and stare and gesticulate.
“Torchlight?” Someone murmurs, and as Kareem shoves his way in a hurry towards the exit, the murmur spreads.
“Do you live nearby?”
“My daughter’s a fan!”
Kareem’s breathing worsens, but as the city’s cold air greets him outside, it gets a little better. The reds and oranges of the flames lit up on his head glow brightly under the sunset, but not many people have noticed yet. Kareem takes advantage of the moment to plunge down a side street, shoes kicking up sludge from the afternoon rain.
Something zooms by over his head, winds rolling over him in its aftermath, and Kareem glances up to see Hannes disappearing into the distance, his sky blue cape flapping against the pink sky. Other superheroes got flight, or telekinesis, and didn’t have to worry about taking the right train to go save the day. But Kareem? No, Kareem got a power that could literally set everything on fire, which made him a danger to everyone he met.
People look over as he tries to put out the flames on his head, but if he’s trying to not draw attention, it’s in vain. He’s sweltering in the jacket he’s wearing, feeling a lot like a slowly baking turkey, smoke swirling off the surface of his skin.
In the end, he fumbles with the buttons and rips the jacket off of him before he could accidentally set that on fire, too. Underneath, his costume is a midnight black, fireproof material that Yamila had stitched together. The length of his arms are currently on fire as well, lit up by dancing flames.
The mall is still one bus ride away.
How’s he supposed to get there in this state?
Well, time to put some of that grueling training to use and start running, he guesses.
He’s the last to arrive, as far as he can tell, the mall now swarming with both cops and heroes alike.
The cops let him through immediately, and Yamila immediately pounces on him, as if she’d been waiting.
“You’re here!” She grins, teeth flashing white, though her hero mask covers most of her face. “Almost thought we’d miss ya this time. Come on, hurry up.”
She drags him through the police cars crowded around them.
“Any updates?” Kareem asks.
“Oh, just the usual,” Yamila says airily. “Dude wants the minimum wage raised or some shit, and he thinks holding the hostages is gonna help move his case along.”
“Has anyone gone in?”
“Well, that’s what you’re here for, silly!”
Kareem tries to stop, but Yamila drags him to where he recognizes the golds of Sonja’s suit, and the blues of Hannes’.
The other two heroes look over, as Kareem shoots Yamila a panicked look.
“I’m not blowing things up,” Kareem protests.
“Aw, but you’re so good at it,” Yamila whines.
“It does make for quite a beautiful show,” Sonja flashes one of his rare smiles.
“All of you should get your tendencies for arson checked out.” Kareem points out. He looks appealing at Hannes, the unofficial leader of the bunch if only through the public popularity vote, though Hannes is only snickering as he hits Kareem on the shoulder.
“Go get 'em, bud,” Hannes grins.
Kareem stews in his misery. They were all insane. “What do the police think?”
The other three exchange glances.
“Doesn’t matter,” Hannes points out. “We’ll change their minds.”
“They want us to wait, don’t they?” Kareem says.
“They want to see if the man in the platypus suit is serious about killing his hostages by waiting for one of them to die.” Sonja says, voice flat.
In the end, they talk him into it.
So Kareem heaves a deep sigh as he’s wriggling through the third story bathroom window, Hannes holding onto his midsection to help him up.
“This is a bad idea,” Kareem says, once he’s in.
Hannes gives him two thumbs up, and in a flash of his cape, he’s gone.
And then he picks his way through the store to its front window, through which he can make out where the Platypus sits, his hostages sitting in a circle around him. Kareem could think of a dozen other ways this could’ve gone better. If Deepak were here, they could use his shields to get the hostages out safely. If Cynthia were here, it wouldn’t matter who gets shot, she could just bring them back to life.
But their only alternative, it seemed like, was Kareem blowing everything up.
Kareem is aware of the acute heat beating at his face in waves, the sound of static screeching in his eardrums. The flames get too bright, and he closes his eyes, he’s aware of himself screaming.
“Geez, Kay, at this rate I’ll become your knight in shining armor and you’ll become the damsel in constant distress.”
There is nothing but pain in his skull, like something sharp is lodged between his eyes and it wouldn’t get out, something wriggling just under the surface of his skin like a million blisters ready to burst.
But Yamila’s voice?
He hears Yamila’s voice.
The girl stands over him, looking into the burning wreckage. Yamila looks manic, a grin stretching too far wide across her face, the emerald scales of her costume glinting orange in the fires raging around them.
Yamila makes short work of Kareem’s fire, rain sweeping over the city in dark, low, rumbling clouds, pelting out enough water for a flood.
Yamila glances at her friend, rain sizzling as it hits his skin, who looks like a crumpled piece of paper trying to collapse in on itself.
Thankfully, the others are here.
The next to arrive is Sonja, who makes his way through the jutting columns of steel and concrete and smoke to get to the two of them. Sonja assesses the situation quickly, and comes to crouch by Kareem, voice soothing, quiet, his hypnosis powers at work, “Kareem, sweetheart, your skin looks stunning. A new lotion, perhaps?”
And suddenly, the pain eases off Kareem. His skin, which is raw and bleeding from burns, feels like it’s nothing at all. Kareem grips Sonja’s arm like a lifeline, as Sonja whispers sweet lies in his ear, lies that ease off his nerves and carry him to oblivion.
Yamila crouches beside them, and Kareem feels the timber of their voices hum against his consciousness as they discuss something. Yamila gathers him into her arms, and he’s aware of being lifted off the ground.
A sudden crash of thunder sounded over the clattering of heavy rain. Adrian woke up with a jolt.
He breathed out as a deep rumble lingered in its wake. Lightning flashed briefly in the corner of his eye. It was dark outside, and the storm grew vast as a river churned violently beneath the bridge. Adrian slumped in his seat, feeling bored and very, very lethargic. It’s been a long bus ride - hopefully in another couple hours, he’ll be home soon.
Another crash of thunder sounded. This time Adrian did little more than spare a glimpse into the distance. A lightning streak illuminated the clouds above for a split second. They smothered the sky as far as the eye could see with a dull, endless grey.
Another crash of thunder sounded. Adrian wondered when the next lightning would come.
There was a blinding white flash, then everything lurched forward in an instant. Someone screamed. He heard tires screeching, then windows shattering, and before he could grab on to something, anything, he slammed sideways into something hard. Completely winded, he clutched his head, panicking, silently screaming for all of it to end. There was a moment of confusion as the feeling of momentum turned to weightlessness, then everything plunged into freezing darkness.
Adrian always hated water - and, well, water always hated him. There were often accidents, the earliest one involving an exploding pool back when he was a child, and since then, his parents never took him to swimming lessons again.
A few years later, the school’s PE teacher had talked him into standing in waist-high water as an embarrassing amount of people watched him freak out for no reason at all. He was too afraid to even hold his breath underwater, and starting from the very next day, the school’s swimming pool remained mysteriously out of order for the next three years.
In high school, when he finally worked up the courage to attend a pool party, someone thought it was a hilarious prank to push him into the pool when nobody was looking. He swear the water hollowed out and gave way before him as he fell face-first into the tiles below.
The doctor had a hard time convincing him that it was a hallucination from the concussion.
Adrian snapped out of a stupor. The rushing waters roared deafeningly, tossing him under and washing him away. How he got out of the bus, he didn’t know. He flailed his arms helplessly, screaming himself hoarse until another stream pulled him under.
He kicked his legs frantically and resurfaced, gasping for breath between violent fits of coughing. He could feel his jacket and pants dragging him down with every struggle. A sliver of rational thought told him he should take them off, but he didn’t dare do anything other than try desperately to stay afloat. His movements grew sluggish and powerless. He couldn’t breathe. Another wave of mud and water washed over him.
It’s so cold. Everything hurts.
And then suddenly, a memory came to him. It was like a piece that linked the puzzle altogether.
Every time, before an accident happened, he heard voices.
Voices in his head that nobody knew.
Can you hear us?
Voices. There were voices.
Adrian struggled to get a hold of reality, slowly slipping away from him. He drifted in and out of consciousness under the rushing water.
Maybe if he let go, it won’t be so cold anymore.
It sounded like a thousand voices crying out at once. Adrian pulled himself back, little by little. He heard the voices - he was sure of it this time. Still, despite everything he had done, he had no strength left to battle the currents overpowering him.
He mouthed his final words to plead for help.
"Save… me… "
The voices, whatever you are.
Then a rogue current pushed against the flow and propelled him up towards the surface.
A fountain formed in the middle of the raging river and hoisted Adrian upwards, coughing and spluttering and gasping for breath again. Each breath felt like a tear in his chest, as if he was getting stabbed by fiery knives. It took a moment for him to recover, during which the fountain fought against the currents and slowly carried him back to riverside in a steady drift.
Then he saw another face bobbing up and down the river. He made to reach forwards, but the water pulled him back.
What are you doing?!
“Save them!” Adrian yelled, then dived under the river.
The rogue current followed, wrapping around him. An air pocket covered his nose and mouth to breathe as they both streaked towards the drowning person like a torpedo. Adrian grabbed onto her arm, then wrenched her out of the currents. Another stray current caught up alongside him. He pushed her away and trusted it to take her to shore.
After that, both of them came across someone stuck under a boulder. It stayed unmoving in the storm and parted even the most powerful of currents, and for some reason, Adrian could sense the person still pounding at the underside of the boulder in vain.
He immediately rushed forward and kicked with both legs, using all the momentum he could gather. Once. Twice. The boulder didn’t budge. Adrian shoved his shoulder against it and pushed with all his might. He felt the pressure mounting up as the river began to gather its power to push with him. Miraculously the boulder began to tilt, and then it rolled over. Adrian shot downwards, grabbed hold of the person below, and kicked off towards the surface again. Another rogue current came and took him to safety.
They went on to rescue another passenger, then another, then another. Each time Adrian controlled the waters more and more effortlessly, and sometimes it was as if he could do anything just by willpower alone. Finally, as he brought the last person out of the river, the current washed him up along with the rest. Too tired to walk, he crawled away, little by little, until he couldn’t anymore.
The last thing he saw was the rescue team and paramedics wearing bright colors running over before he closed his eyes and collapsed from exhaustion.
What use is a power that will never get used? That can only hurt and not heal? That pushes back deep inside of her, begging to be let out, but she will never let that happen.
Not when her power means controlling someone else.
She’s been on the receiving end far too often.
She stiffens at the call. Erases emotion from her face. Erases thought from her mind, knowing her sister will try to peek inside. And she’s right, for not even a minute later, she senses her sister’s fingers barrelling and sifting through her brain.
Alena has had enough of this.
Without warning, frustration surges through her brain like lava from an erupting volcano, pushing her sisters’ mental claws out, but doesn’t stop there.
Before she can do anything, her power is spilling outside of her, into her sister, and warning her sister never to probe Alena’s mind again.
The older girl simply stares at Alena, mouth wide open.
“That was good. Finally putting up a challenge!”
Alena hates the way her sister patronizes her because of her age. But at least she’s out of Alena’s mind.
Maybe her power could be used for good after all.
Control people - by telling them not to control others.
Since we have a 3-way tie, the mods will review the entries and collectively decide which one is best. We’ll hopefully have a winner declared by end of day.
After consulting the mods, the winner of this week’s prompt is @m.mausambi! Congrats! We hope to see more entries from all of you in the weeks to come!