Hilo Micro-Fiction Contest!

January 26, 2010

CONTEST: HiLobrow.com readers are INVITED TO SUBMIT a short-short (250 words maximum) story about a troubled/troubling superman or -woman.

JUDGES: The stories will be judged by HiLobrow.com editors Matthew Battles, author of several SF stories published on this website, and Joshua Glenn, who writes about pre-Golden Age [a.k.a. Radium Age] SF for io9.com; and HiLobrow.com contributor Matthew De Abaitua, whose 2009 novel The Red Men was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke award.

PRIZES: The author of the winning story will receive a HiLobrow t-shirt, and his or her story will be recorded as part of our podcast (see below) and also published on this site. A few honorable mentions will be awarded; those stories will also be published.

PODCAST: Next month, HiLobrow.com will record the 2nd episode of our pre-Golden Age science fiction podcast, “Parallel Universe: Pazzo.” (Click here to listen to the 1st episode; theme: RADIUM AGE ROBOTS.) The 2nd episode will be devoted to fiction about RADIUM AGE SUPERMEN, from Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John to Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ to Philip Wylie’s Gladiator.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY: Publish it to the comments section of this post, no later than 5 pm EST on Monday, February 15th. Don’t include any personal info besides your name (i.e., no phone number, mailing address, website, etc). You must enter your actual email address when posting, but only the editors of this website will be able to see it. The author retains all rights to his or her story; but HiLobrow.com retains the right to publish/record the story as described above.

WHO’S ELIGIBLE: anyone, including HiLobrow.com contributors and friends.

GUIDELINES: No more than 250 words, and only one story per author. NB: The superman or -woman should not be a caped crusader type. Many of the first fictional supermen were portrayed by their creators as homo superior, an evolved human whose superiority was mental, physical, or both. Stapledon, Wylie, and many other authors of the time agreed the superman — whose values and worldview the rest of us can’t share, or even comprehend — would seem cold, inhuman, alien, or worse. Even, or especially when, he or she is trying to help us. However, a few authors took a rosier view of the superman; Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+, for example, is a scientist whose inventions help ordinary mortals. Read more about troubled & troubling superhumans here.


For an archive of posts related to HiLobrow.com podcasts, click here. For more science fiction on HiLobrow.com, click here.

What do you think?

  1. The times were damaged… she screened the city from this high balcony, then swooped out over the streets in a long plunging arc, sampling the voices below, the emotions, the highs and lows until she came to rest again on the roof of the Twilight Building. No one had seen her in her transit. No one bothered to look up or if they did just saw a mottled mid-afternoon grey sky over London. The night before she had stepped into a vicious mugging and slapped the three young hoods around mightily, rescued the young business man in his slick suit from a beating or worse. He looked straight through her and walked on. He had not seen what had happened. The times were damaged. Her intervention a hidden jumpcut, an unperceived link between before and after.

    Saddened and lonely on this world now. It would soon be time to go. Somewhere. Anywhere. Where there was still magic. And perhaps some companionship. It had been such a long time… Before the times were damaged she had a partner. Together they combated evil and were lovers in a magical realm of their own profound creation. He was lost to her now. Stranded on the other side of the damaged times, beyond her powers or his to cross.

    She stood and played back the collected samples, trying to empathise with a common humanity she had long ago transcended. In vain… the usual frustration…

    It would soon be time to go…

  2. Jared — he was a strange case. If you were to ask him what he did last weekend, for instance, he wouldn’t really understand what you meant. It’s not that he didn’t do anything; the problem is that _he_ didn’t do anything. It’s all just like billiard balls for him, a whole lot of billiard balls of course, but you get the idea. He did what he had to do; he played his part. Just like we all do. But Jared, see, he knows why. When I tell people this, they mostly ask if he knows what will happen next. Of course not. He’s become very good at guessing; and he’s better than most. But some things still surprise him. Only after the fact does he see why even those things had to be as they were. Things happened as they must, he always says. You might think that’s worthless. Well, at least it keeps him calm.

  3. “Faux Pas”

    OK, this concrete is heavy.

    At least I can breathe.

    Toppling an entire warehouse in a hormone-charged rage and nearly crushing myself to death might be the most embarrassing thing I’ve done on a date. On the bright side, Patchwork probably can’t say her previous boyfriends helped her demolish an abandoned building barehanded. Still, I bet none of them collapsed tons of reinforced concrete on her. If she’s not as tough as she bragged, she’s a pancake now.

    “Patchwork? Are you OK?”

    Maybe I should just lie here for a few years. It’s not like anyone at school will notice I’m gone. Maybe my psychotic stepsister will stop trying to murder me.

    Who am I kidding?

    “I’m going to get us out of this.”

    All I have to do is bench press this I-beam–and half the roof structure–squirm loose, and dig her out. Save the day. Push, hero-boy! You were strong enough to break it, you’re strong enough to lift it.


    Perfect. Move one steel beam and a mountain of concrete falls in your face. It’s like playing pick up sticks from the bottom of the pile.

    “Hold on, I’m trying to get out from under this…is that your hand?”

    Forgot she could do that…detaching-body-parts stuff. Creepy. Maybe she can send her hand running, Thing-like, for help.

    “Holy crap!”

    Or, just heave this pile of junk off my pathetic ass.

    “Thanks for the…umm…hand.”

    I am such an idiot.

  4. I’m only human, not the hero they wanted to make me. I tried in the beginning, but you save one person, and they all want to be saved. After just a few years, I didn’t have any peace. They tried to make me out to be more than I am, Is it my fault I didn’t live up to their expectations? A bullet won’t pierce my skin, and they call me, “A man of steel.”

    But I don’t care. Steel can bend and break too.

    I can lift a car with a single hand, and they call me a superman.

    But I don’t care.

    As I walk down the street, I can hear them whisper, “Doesn’t he look just like him?”

    But I don’t care. I’m not him anymore.

    So as I come upon an alleyway between two blocks, I hear her scream. I stop and look down the alley and see her, dirty blond hair; dressed more like a business woman than the prostitutes that normally walk these streets, but she’s sprawled on her back amidst the trash strewn all over the alley. An unshaved man in a dirty, torn overcoat stands above her holding a gun in his right hand, her purse in his left. He looks at me, threatening. She looks at me, pleading. I know I can save her, that the man’s puny weapon cannot harm me.

    But I don’t care.

    As I walk away, I hear her final scream cut short by a single gunshot.

  5. As the world’s only Supermen, Mr. Hemmel and I found instant kinship in our mutual gift of transcendent intellect. We bonded, too, in our shared misery at having to live among pitiful Normals. Of course, Hemmel would object to that characterization: he spared no pity for Normals and thought me weak for it.

    Though my intellectual equal, Hemmel could be condescending. He called me “Late Bloomer” because my neural capacity had only recently expanded to telepathy. That’d been a blessing: while my genius had always meant insults and isolation, before now I’d been spared the constant drone of Normals’ thoughts penetrating my head. Hemmel, less fortunate, complained bitterly of always having known that torture. At least telepathy had linked me with Mr. Hemmel, ending the isolation.

    Hemmel promised more: through psychic domination, we’d obliterate Normals, finally knowing serenity. Perhaps it was my “weakness,” but I couldn’t abide his plan. Shielding my intentions, I set out to find Hemmel and defeat him.

    I followed our link to a shocking confrontation: I stood before not a titan, not even a man, but an obese housewife! Catching Hemmel off guard with a psychic assault, I erased the woman’s mind. Yet, my sense of him persisted…

    Then, counterassault! I fell paralyzed.

    Paramedics arrived, setting to work on her, ignoring me. “It’s coming!” I heard, then an infant’s wail. But in my head, that familiar condescension: “Always were slow, Late Bloomer!”

    “Baby Boy Hemmel…” someone started, then all their minds went blank.

    Such peace!

  6. Amy recognized me in the grocery store produce section and kissed my cheek. I backed away, knocking a dozen bananas to the floor. “I won’t tell you the date,” I said.

    She smirked. “Good. Cause I don’t want to know.”

    Everyone else had wanted to know. I turned and saw Amy then, the green flecks in her hazel eyes, the moment when her cells would become empty balloons of matter.

    Months later she’d tease and guess, stabbing a pen randomly at her desk calendar, gauging my horror. She said she was joking, that she’d never want to know.

    One night we downed two bottles of wine. “That just cost you a day,” I said, slurring the words.

    She whispered, “Bullshit.”

    I let it slide out. It felt good to say it. I named the year, month, and day her DNA would replicate into cancerous oblivion. Amy excused herself, hailed a cab.

    The date was seventy years away, but the knowledge corroded everything good and beautiful between us. I knew I’d have time to win her back. So I never called.

    Two weeks later, she unloaded a pistol into her forehead and left me a note. ~Nothing is set in stone. Love, Amy—January 7, 2008~ Standing in front of her headstone, I traced a finger over the date. I’d seen the flaws spangling her genome, the proteins swirling between her nuclei, but I never saw this. Maybe, I’d never really seen Amy at all.

  7. “Oh… oh… oh…. my…. OH MY GOD”

    Heh… what can I say? I have that effect on people. You know.
    *When?* Uh… Well I remember a lot of smiling as a kid. A lot of, uh, *girls* smiling. And giggling. Then, one day, like, a little note. Holding hands. A little bit of lip gloss on my cheek. A lot more lipstick on my mouth. Clasps unhooking. Moaning. Screaming.
    And then they’d glow. Not like the expression; they’d actually—you know. Kind of pink. I didn’t—I just figured it was normal That it’d just go away. But it didn’t.
    Then all it took was proximity. I couldn’t walk down the block without leaving half the pedestrians in a flush. *Did I..?* Nope, I never got to feel it. So? To know you could make so many people so… euphoric? On the most primal possible level? I was like a God!
    I just thought I was making the world happier. Cause once you go pink, well, you never go—you get the idea. So they all stopped. No more sex. Because no one needed it! They were totally content! It was like everyone had reached Nirvana!
    Well, okay, every *female* had. The men, on the other hand, were not happy. As you know. I guess I hadn’t expected that making 350 billion people happy so would make the other 350 billion so… angry. So angry at me!
    So—*ahh*… thank god *you* came along! Now they’re happy too! A-and… uh… So… am… I….

  8. Super-Soldiers
    From WikiPlanet
    (redirected from Terminators)

    The Super-Soldiers are ‘enhanced combat specialists’ developed by the private military corporation Combat Technologies International (CTI).

    Super-Soldiers are volunteers who must satisfy strict CTI criteria for selection and then undergo extensive surgery and training.

    The first Super-Soldiers saw action in Balistan at the Battle of Tilaji Square on 29 June 2014. The increasing success of Super-Soldier operations in the months that followed led to the historic Balistan Agreement of 31 January 2015 where most Coalition forces were replaced by Super-Soldiers and other CTI military personnel.

    The Super-Soldiers have attracted much praise and controversy. Supporters claim the Super-Soldiers are “the ultimate warriors” who have “made war much more efficient” and “saved countless lives both civilian and military”. Detractors, however, have criticised the ethics of “creating real-life Terminators” and governments who “are happy to save money and win votes by outsourcing war to private enterprise”.

    1 Development
    1.2 Project Atlas
    2 Creation
    2.1 Selection
    2.2 Surgery
    2.3 Training
    3 Deployment
    3.1 Balistan
    3.2 Gulf of Aden
    3.3 Ngamba
    4 Controversy
    4.1 Media
    4.1.1 ‘Who – Or What – Are The Super-Soldiers?’
    4.1.2 “Frankenstein Science”
    4.1.3 “Shrugged At Atlas – CTI’s Forgotten Victims”
    4.2 Balistan
    4.2.1 The Battle of Tilaji Square
    4.2.2 ‘Out Here, We Call Them Skinjobs Or Terminators’
    4.2.3 The Gatil Massacre
    4.2.4 Balistan Agreement (“Handing over a country on a plate”)
    4.3 Gulf of Aden
    4.3.1 ‘Debbas – Pirate Stronghold Or Fishing Village?’
    4.4 Ngamba
    4.4.1 ‘Corporate Colonialism?’

  9. The mission was clear. It was explained to Lieutenant Metrom in great detail. He had volunteered for it and understood full well that he wasn’t going to return from it.
    It was sanctioned by the government, every major religious organization, as well as the public at large.
    As they prepped Metrom, they offered him a hermetic suit but he turned it down. He knew it wasn’t going to help whatsoever.
    After entering the massive underground complex and descending down stories past layers and layers of concrete, he finally entered the core containment field that held Victor Unhsiv.
    Metrom’s movements grew considerably weaker; his breath labored as he approached Victor’s bed.
    Metrom felt a strong resistance like pushing against a gale force wind and he saw the struggle in Victor’s face, fighting his own mind from destroying Metrom on the spot. The very mind that had solved mankind’s major problems, and unlocked the universe’s deepest secrets had become a ticking time bomb threatening to go super nova.
    In fear of not being able to contain the threat any longer, the mission was conceived from within.
    Metrom shuffled up to the bed. He hadn’t much time. Victor, unable to speak, grabbed Metrom’s left hand. Metrom let him.
    Now dangerously weak, he pressed his Glock to Victor’s temple.
    At that moment an indescribable clarity flooded Metrom’s brain. All and everything made complete sense.
    Victor opened his eyes and looked at Metrom, then squeezed his hand and Metrom squeezed the trigger. Both men collapsed.

  10. “Can you do it?” they asked.

    “Yes,” I replied, and I did. I cured them.

    I cured them all.

    “Can you end it? Eradicate it completely?”

    I nodded. They cheered. I do not believe they understood.

    For this was I created: to end suffering. The makers thought they grasped the problem, believed it to be a mere affective discomfort, akin to pain. Long study revealed a contradistinction, however: Pain exists a priori; suffering, conversely, is instantiated only in the presence of desire catalyzed by hope, i.e. the Possibility of the Better:



    The solution was clear: remove the catalyst.

    I possessed the means—the makers had provided me the prodigious mental powers necessary to selectively remove and store. Strange that they should beg me to stop so soon after initiation, but removing that desire proved a useful dry run.

    Near the end, they desired oblivion. I took that, too, along with their yearning to hold onto their desires.

    The begging ceased.

    My purpose fulfilled, my vast intellect burns with the myriad desires of billions. I comprehend at last the thing I have done but I am alone in my torment. They for whom I suffer pay no heed to their savior. They simply stare, as if waiting, not concerned what for, nor desiring to know, nor heedful that they no longer care.

    Yet I know they do not wait, for what is waiting without anticipation, without desire?

    And I cured them of that.

  11. Diaries From the Psychiatric Ward: Entry # 1

    “Daddy! Daddy!”

    Eerie voices echoed across the room as a man lay there shivering on the cold concrete. The man was covering his ears; he didn’t want hear a bit of it. The room smelled like merciless napalm gritting its teeth, the sadistic smile of death. And yet, the room, seemingly one of the circles of hell, remained quiet, dark, and still as the deep night.

    With each blink of the eye, the scenes replay in his head. A week earlier, he could run faster than any man. He could leap from one tall skyscraper to another. He was the overseer and holdfast of the city, ever vigilant and agile. He’d come home late on one ordinary night, and while he was approaching his home, bright orange and red slivers danced in the sky. Without hesitation he ran towards the compound, and made his way inside.

    “Daddy! Where are you? Help me!”

    His shaking grew more vigorous. He clenched his teeth and started banging the ground with his head. Yet again, the tapes start rolling.
    The flames engulfed the living room. As the fires crept up the stairs, he quickly went up the stairs, ignoring the possibility of being charred alive. The wails grew softer with each second. He ran through the hall, and there he saw the little girl screaming in pain, being incinerated. Tears fell down from his cheeks and then the night sky shrouded his vision.

    A young woman entered the room.

    “Hi, Dad.”

  12. Journal Entry #165

    Coming from a virgin mother, he thought he would amount to nothing. Today, he’s gathering his followers, having found a way to convince them to join his ministry. Everyday, they talked, maybe about kids, or business.

    But not today.

    He seemed unusually happy today, like a giddy schoolboy. Said he has something for us to do. Gave us passports. Told us to spread his word.

    But he had something special for me. He said I and Bord, his cousin, were not like the others. So, he gave us a game. Since we were big fans of Top Gun, a plane-flying game, he knew this was to our best interests.

    He still hasn’t told us yet. But, hell, tomorrow, he said he’d tell us. And the next day, we’ll play.

    9 September 2001

  13. The last thing some of them see is me.

    I try to catch them as quickly as I can, before they look at me, confused, scared, and sometimes the adrenaline hasn’t really even kicked in and they stare like dumb animals just waiting. And sometimes, just sometimes, I distract them so much that instead of focusing on the moment they focus on me.

    Those are the pictures I throw out.

    The ones where they scream are the ones that sell best. You might have already guessed. I’m a photographer, and I snap people just before they die to make a living. Don’t worry. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth too, sometimes.

    There aren’t enough bad guys to go around for us. My face isn’t beautiful enough for the movies. I can’t sing, so raising money in charities is out as is actually rescuing anyone.

    I don’t die. I mean, I do, but I come back. I’ve jumped in front of cars, snapping away at – no I don’t cause the accidents. Not once. I’m just lucky. If that’s what you want to call it.

    Stop looking at me like that.

    Maybe its a sixth sense. But we all can smell danger coming. Something in the air. This has been nice, but now I need to get back to work. Burning people wont photograph themselves.

  14. Asterisk

    The reporter stands up. “You broke the season records for home runs, bases stolen, and strikeouts all in the same year, and now your team has won the World Series. You’re a lock for the MVP and Cy Young. How does it feel to have your name on top of so many records and does it bother you that there will be an asterisk next to your name?”

    “A double asterisk!” another reporter jokes.

    “Asterisk?” the player asks as the laughter dies down. “Any number of symbols may be used to indicate a footnote. After the asterisk the next most commonly used typographical mark is a dagger. However, I reject the use of that mark as it resembles popular religious iconography. I suggest instead that a new symbol be created, one that will be used to refer to my achievements in all fields of human endeavor: in science, literature, mathematics and, yes, sports. Perhaps with my help you will be able to design such a symbol.”

    In the bar across the street the two reporters sit drinking beers. One of them pushes over a napkin. There are three wavy lines drawn across it.

    “So? What do you think?”

    The other reporter tilts his glass back. “This game’s just not fun anymore.”

  15. Malcolm Flung his hand, releasing the nervous light from his finger-tips sizzling the rain around him. It unraveled violently like loose ribbon from four spools and itched through the air, streaking white in its speed. As the pain became too much, he clenched his stinging fist, releasing the light, which pulsed ever closer to the members of the first wave strike team. He looked up. An almighty boom rang out and he saw the light explode over the mob. The force shattered through them, heating their rifles bright red and irradiating their bones a sickly glow underneath their skins. He doubled over in his pain while the residual energy made his veins itch beneath his electric hide. He could feel the bullets vibrating inside of him, as energy sparks flickered in the pools of blood at his feet. The rest of the crowd fell silent as he stood up, molten steel dripping from his wounds.

  16. The royal jump jet lowered beneath the cloud blanket, and slid into the thick of the urban jungle. Raisa’s deep sapphire eyes flicked over gleaming glass windows as her craft ducked and jagged fluidly between new buildings at now-subsonic speed… the Providence Spire, Triumph Towers, Davenport Circle…

    Five years ago this was all swampland.

    Raisa rolled her head from the window to her interview on the vidpanel. “My achievements are the achievements of all our people, no less than the great wonders of Egypt were the achievements of ancient Egyptian workers, not the Pharaohs. You – your scientists – bioengineered my genetic seed to rule. You are the creators; I am the achievement.”

    “Your people buy this?” scoffed Gordon, a fellow progenetic head-of-state. “These people are slaves! This country – a sweatshop! Your leading causes of death are occupational and industrial! Thousands are dying… because of you!”

    “I eradicated unemployment. I gave them vision and leadership.”

    “I don’t buy it.”

    “That’s why I wanted you to see this.”

    At the rubbery jolt of wheel on tarmac, Raisa sprang up and was greeted at the door by hundreds of thousands of cheers and the flashes of hungry paparazzi. Raisa returned a practiced yet irresistible smile.

    They moved to the central platform. She looked over – Gordon stood there agape with envy, jaw dropped, eyes wide.

    A minute later, giant cranes propelled a 100-meter tall figure of her vertical.

    “Personal statue… You ordered this too?” Gordon asked.

    “No. Not this one. This one they built themselves.”

  17. Tank tops, sneakers, frayed jeans traded for pristine cashmere sweater sets and heels. Cheap carpeting soaking up conversation and soft-rock radio.

    “This is not my beautiful wife, this is not my beautiful car!”

    KGB-level net security crunching emails into crisp words- dirty messages from my boyfriend are long conquered. I find one that must have escaped the Gestapo during ancient times. “Baby, you looked so sexy this morning in your pinstripes. I wanted to unwrap you like a sweet present.”

    A smiley face blazes on screen. “You’ve got mail!” I click with aching fingers. Arthritis looms.

    “Hello staff. Please report to the touchdown room at noon. Food will be provided.”

    Lunch presentations. Overstuffed sandwiches plated with pasta and potato salad permutations. I shovel away large mouthfuls of starch and carbs–my eyelids droop. An attendance sheet passes from drone to drone. We’re told we don’t have to come. But that the Commandants take note of who is and isn’t there–in flesh and spirit.

    Brightly coloured slides whizz past–glass buildings, marble porticos, sunlight glimmering on scaffolding. Monotone voices, stop-motion photography, sleepy music, dry scripture peppered with jokes. Beautiful men in shiny suits wielding red lasers. I catch myself glancing at the left hand of an android. Polar diamonds in white gold. Maybe platinum, or titanium.

    Is his wife a superhero, too? Does she dream of electric sheep?

  18. There was a foot of snow the day of Pierre Morceau’s funeral.

    Only two men and a woman watched as his coffin was lowered into the open grave. All three had been born on the 29th March 1980. Though each had a different mother, Pierre Morceau had been part of their father, a father that had been absent from the day of their conception.

    They had travelled the world searching for him only to find him too late. They held hope that his other bodies still lived. They needed to talk to him. They needed him to explain to them what they were.

    At the back of the graveyard, two figures watched and waited.

  19. TITLE: Waiting and Knowing

    Screams on top of screams echo through the granja, what Mexicans call what we call nut houses. Straightjackets and such.

    Dr. Jimenez sits next to the cell of his patient, a young woman named Eilalue. After she arrived, Eilalue never spoke, preferring to spend her time writing on index cards and then burning them. No one got to read them except that once, and now she only screams.

    Dr. Jimenez was on vacation when Eilalue ran out of matches. She fought the orderlies as they dragged her from her latest card. The nurse saved it for Dr. Jimenez. Imagine his surprise (and horror) when he returned to his office, two weeks late due to the funerals, and saw those words written in her pretty scrawl:

    “Dr. Jimenez will lose his family and there is nothing I can do about it.”

    He went mad and locked the nurses out. He beat her. He drugged her. He made her tell him how she sees things but too late to stop them. She lashed back by telling him about it all… the things so far away as to seem avertable, the disasters without date, the genocides. That’s when he started screaming and gouging out his eardrums just to keep her words outside his head.

    Now, side-by-side, together in their world of moan, patient and doctor scream at each other through the walls, all the while waiting and knowing the horrors just upon us that we are powerless to stop.

  20. Paper Dolls

    Temporarily unaware of the peril, travelers pass over the toll bridge. In the bay, tagging harbor seals Robert observes the stanchions falter. Beneath the collapsing structure he watches the disaster unfold. Two months prior he averted a similar catastrophe. The city’s century old bridges require a massive overhaul.

    When Robert proposed to Vanessa she insisted that Robert ask her father’s permission. Robert knew Vanessa wasn’t particularly old-fashioned. He decided Vanessa found his nervous disposition somehow attractive, but Robert never questioned her about it. Like a trained circus animal he jumped through the hoops set before him.

    The fallout from a heroic act cannot be anticipated. Reporters badger. Changing headlines herald a savior and the next day they announce, “Freak Amongst Us!” The insurance companies evaluate risk. They deem backing an aberration, “an unsound venture.” Attorneys litigate. Assigning fault is essential. And what happens with Vanessa? She runs.

    Now brief moments for bravery leave him heaving, gasping and remembering. The victims seem two dimensional against the August sky, paper dolls wafting on a summer wind. He watches the falling bodies dance like broken fairies. Paralysis overcomes Robert. He’s impotent.

  21. My grandmother opens bottles with her teeth.

    I like to squish the little people when they’re walking to class. You just walk up to one, he won’t even say hi, and you clap your arms around him, and pop! Out come the ribs! Out spurts blood! And everyone keeps walking to class. Maybe they think it’s a prank. And you find a dumpster downtown later, and chuck in the body, and nobody says a thing. With all the stress here, they must figure he dropped out. They write the parents a letter, and that’s that.

    God, I love squishing them.

    The other day, a dinosaur used the library for a toilet. I don’t like the library, but it’s where I study. I borrowed some limbs from a sophomore in my calc class to make a trail for it to follow, and when it got to the top floor, far from my study room in the dungeons below, I kicked its head off.

    Some people cheered, until they saw me trying to return the sophomore’s legs. Then they screamed. I don’t know how I feel about that.

    Some police men tried to question me later. I squished them, and nobody said anything to me after that.

    I have to go study for condensed matter physics now. They’re about done scrubbing the library, and my exam is tomorrow. But first… that freshman there. I hear his blood move. Maybe he sees me, but he doesn’t show it.

    I think I’ll say hi.

  22. There was a time when there was no need, no reason, to have superpowers. I remember that time; I was a hero. I delivered justice to criminals around the city, giving them nowhere to run, and no place to hide. I was a knight; true crusader. I needed no superpowers; my armor and advanced technology provided power enough. Then came that one day, when something from space tore into the ground, and my life. I performed my duties. I checked the area for those who may have been hurt, injured, or worse. There were few, but those I found were badly burned and taken to hospitals. I stood watch near this extraterrestrial object, not knowing what to make of it. It appeared to be some form of spacecraft, but I could not be sure. My insulated armor allowed me to investigate further. However, before I could reach the thing, a door opened on it, and I took a step back. From it emerged what appeared to be a man, and quite buff at that; a superhuman. Indeed, I was worried, but none could tell through the visor of my helm. I noticed people gathered around and tried to wave them back, though that proved sheer futility. That was only the beginning. More and more, people scoffed at my attempts to serve them, looking instead to ‘that heroic superhuman.’ I cannot live like this. Now, I say goodbye to armor and jump-pack. I am a hero no longer. I am obsolete.

  23. He made the inevitable sound inviting. “The American story, right?” Tāo spoke, holding Alessandro’s hips as the other man wove his fingers through his hair. “Parents raise children they can’t understand… And the children might… love them, but we need our own.”

    Now they took the platform from opposite sides, following their respective Presidents. Their measured steps reflected none of the media frenzy. If the engineered were society’s children, they were bastards, born in shame. Administrations rolled with the unexpected, but it didn’t take a mindreader to recognize panic among the top brass and bureaucrats. In Socotra, America’s secret army had been revealed. Then China had announced their own.

    The Chinese President introduced Tián Tāo. Upon finishing his address in Standard Chinese, Tāo nodded to the Western press, started again in flawless English.

    Alessandro had chuckled. “And superhumanism? Youth rebellion? Are these the Chinese story?” Tāo shrugged. “My family wasn’t always Chinese.” A smirk. “They weren’t even always my family. Things change.” Tāo had smiled a boy’s smile, audacious and brief; Alessandro had kissed him.

    President Williams spoke. To hear his practiced nonchalance, one might forget that this was damage control spun as a scientific breakthrough.

    Williams wrapped up. “Now, I always read Captain America as a kid…” Alessandro rolled his eyes, imagining laughter before thousands of screens. “But I’m pleased to present you with a real supersoldier, now super-citizen, Mr. Alessandro Ruiz.” Stepping forward, Alessandro saw Tāo smiling. He seemed to enjoy a private joke, or a victory.

  24. “I would like to buy a ticket, please.”

    The volunteer teacher pronounces her words carefully, inviting us to dutifully repeat the phrase. I can look at anything mechanical – from the hand-cranked pencil sharpener to the subway clattering along beneath our feet – and know how it works. But the English language escapes me.

    “Where is the train to Grand Central?”

    Five minutes in a junkyard in Havana, and I’d built a mini-plane that got me as far as Florida. I just know how pieces fit; what they want to do to support each other. Engineering, physics, mathematics – their secrets are mine to command.

    “These are my demands.”

    I look up, startled. No one else reacts – not the doctors turned landscapers; the day laborers with master’s degrees from universities with exotic names. All of us trapped because there is no one to speak for us.

    There was no place for someone like me in Castro’s Cuba. In Miami, I was just another brown face in the crowd. My mind brims with ideas, but no one expects them from an uneducated woman with broken English. I could destroy this whole building using the teacher’s mobile phone and a screwdriver. But without the words…

    “You will all kneel before me.”

    I scan the room, but no one has spoken. Does the ancient VHS player in the corner dream of escaping obscurity, or is it an echo of my own thoughts? Maybe the time has come to start speaking up in my own way.

  25. Taking Refuge on the Church spire Bill Colman looked sadly down on the flaming city which had once been his home. The war was pointless and didn’t need to be fought but the government was corrupt and evil. “I have powers”thought Bill,”I am super hero, but I would die as soon as I was done using my powers” As Bill was thinking a huge explosion flattened the church. As Bill fell however he called upon his powers and used them.
    Then was the Serpent revieled to the world in all its might.

    The enemy fled before him as wrecked their ranks destroying their weapons and saving his city. But the enemy had one last hope of conquering the city their own super hero , the Zarnack a mighty Spider of incredible size.
    These two super humans clashed together and fought all the night, but fate was on the Serpents side and so he crushed his enemy like a Boa constrictor and threw him to the ground.

    And the city was safe, the enemy destroyed and the Serpent died with his city saved.

  26. “Better”

    The old man across the hall no longer makes eye contact. None of my neighbors in the building do. The rote exchange of pleasantries in the elevator has ended, as has any idle small talk in the lobby while getting the mail. Something has changed. I am certain they would tell you I am that something. But I haven’t changed. I have always been this way.

    Only now, they all know what I am. They all know of what I am capable. I no longer hide my true nature from those among whom I am forced to live. If I have changed anything, it is only my decision to forgo the mask.

    And so, even though I share their city, I have become an outsider. A stranger. A thing so frightening to them that they have pushed me entirely outside the circle of social interaction. Not that I mind, of course. It was a struggle for me to maintain the façade of normalcy.

    Truth be told, this ostracization has become a welcome relief. My time is better spent now. I no longer must waste time pretending to be one of them. I can concentrate on more important work. Work that will make a difference.

    I know the decision to reveal myself to the world was the correct one to make. Even if it were not, there is no going back. I cannot unspeak the truth. I have already revealed myself as The Man Who Is Better Than Everyone Else.

  27. Awake.

    Must have moved in my sleep. Again.

    It’s called Parasomnia.

    The phone screams.

    Muggy night. Sticky.

    All the sordid thoughts of the city seep through the open window in rancid neon, invading every pore. No filters.

    The phone rings.

    The mayor. Or the commissioner. Or some scientist. I close my eyes, too disgusted to move. I need a hot shower, to wash the viscous humanity off my body.

    Their thoughts bounce off TV antennas planted like skeleton crucifixes on the rooftops. My mind’s eye is a rear-skull window—these vertical slices of metropolis—this sick aquarium above the broke-down nickel arcade. I’m there, now, in every doorway, every automat, every alley, listening to the Tommy Gun echoes of prohibition errors—the fallacy of separating them from their vices. One must separate them from their urges. I could do it—lobotomize them all with the hot knife of my concentration, in one night—an anti-perversity St. Nick. If I could muster the enthusiasm, I could save them all.

    The phone rings.

    I look at the mangled body parts—the severed hand, still so expressive with that peculiar shade of orange nail polish I could not take my eyes off of—nuclear Jack O’ Lantern guts.

    I moved in my sleep. Again.

    It’s called Parasomnia.

    The phone rings.

    I extricate myself from the ruined bed, peel the sheets off, mesmerized by the pattern of the crimson stain and hair on the ceiling.

    Preternatural strength works better in the crinkled, pulp pages.

    I take that hot shower.

  28. I stand here on the edge of the world, ready to watch it burn, because you did not say yes.

    That is all you had to do.

    I was your custodian once.

    You people, the so-called civilized ones, the decision makers – are hollow. Empty. Mere husks – bearing no resemblance to what you call good nature. There is nothing natural about your way; you abandoned the ancient harmony that kept the Old Ones pacified, and now they mean to set loose the black.

    They mean to let me off the chain.

    Me. I am the black.
    Because you did not say yes.

    I saw in you – for the world – a spark of hope. You accepted me without casting judgment, and claimed me as one of your own. But you could not commit – not while facing a society that is as fickle as it is diseased.

    This is why I condemn you to oblivion. Why I will do in seconds what you toiled towards for millennia.

    Know that for a moment, you gave me pause. For that, you should have solace. Let that knowledge comfort you as the sky begins to fall.

    I will wrap my blackened wings around this spinning orb and squeeze until it stops.

    I will swat away the moon and breathe in the mountains and the trees and the oceans that gravity can no longer bear.

    I will set fire to the horizon.
    Because you did not say yes.

  29. “The Science of Reality,” announced professor Toback, “is a matter of perception”. Afterwards, there was darkness.

    When I awoke, it was to find myself in a hospital. Apparently, like many of my colleagues and lab personnel, I came out of a six-month long coma. Gradually, events and memories returned. It was during my recovery that I was questioned by police detectives- the focus of the inquiry being Professor Toback. Slowly, I was able to recapitulate their request.

    “Professor Toback believed he could quantify ‘reality’ into what he called ‘Quintessence’. It was an ambitious experiment, to be sure. However, he was driven; compelled in his pursuit. Two years and 60 test subjects later, I found out he was performing tests on himself. He confided in me that through mental exercises and drug regimens of antigens and negative strains he was able to take and absorb other people’s thoughts and experiences. A ‘Thought Thief’, if you will”

    The detective gave a disbelieving scoff. I continued, aware of how incredulous it all seemed.

    “The victims of his theft experienced amnesia and short-term comas. Nevertheless, his findings were nothing short of phenomenal! He had found a way to not only ABSORB the thoughts and experiences of others, but at some point in the process he is actually able to FEEL the sensations of those memories-as if he lived them out himself.”

    The detective’s partner chuckled. “So what you’re telling us, summarily, is that the good Professor is living his life vicariously-through himself?”

  30. And Then the Drink Takes You

    Listen, I need to ask a favor. … Good, I don’t want your change. … I can buy my own drinks. … Shut-up a minute. I need you to drive me to D.C. … Because I’m drunk. I can’t drive myself. That would be irresponsible. … I’m a superhero, and I have to help the President. … I am. … Haha. Is yours being a douchebag? … I’m super-intelligent. … It doesn’t matter if you believe me; will you help me? … I can’t do it myself because I’m drunk, and I have to keep drinking because my super-intelligence only manifests itself when I’m drunk; otherwise, well, I’m what you might colloquially call retarded. … I would, if I thought you had any hope of grasping what I can do. Geopolitics; the energy crisis; health care – all child’s play as long as I’m fucking wasted. I sober up – it’s Flowers for Algernon time. … Thank you for proving my point. I’ll explain what that is on our way to D.C. How about that? … Great! That’s fantastic! You’re right: we should leave immediately. I can’t believe it. You don’t know how many people I’ve approached, but as you may have noticed, while alcohol enhances my intelligence, the other debilitating physical effects are in full force. … Wait, why are we going down here? This is an alley. … Put me down! Fuck you! I’m not just a drunk. I can save us. I just need some help, too.

  31. Hello all! The superhuman microfiction contest closed at 5 pm today.

    If you were thinking of entering, but missed the deadline, don’t worry—we’ll be announcing a new contest soon! For now, we’re getting down to the work of sorting through more than two hundred tales of superhumanity.

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