Over at Ain’t It Cool News, an entertainment site I’ve been reading since it started many, many years ago, they had a contest to win a copy of the excellent movie “Chronicle” on Blu-ray. The rules were:
“What kept CHRONICLE fresh was its ability to use regular people in the roles of heroes and villains. They may have become extraordinary over time, but they were still real people with real problems that we could identify with. Therefore, it’s up to you to come up with a real-life supervillain that we can recognize who’d be one pain in the ass arch-nemesis that we’d strive to stop.
How you submit this entry is up to you. You can write up their villainous name as well as what they look like, what their powers are, etc. You can draw up a sketch of them. You can dress up in costume like them or take a photo of a physical representation of them. There is no right or wrong or preferred way to do this. It’s simply up to you to convey what a real world villain would look like in the world of CHRONICLE.”
I submitted a short story that I wrote, and while I didn’t win (which is fine, it was a subjective contest), I was happy with what I wrote. I thought I’d publish it here for nobody in particular except my own personal archives. So, here goes:
Clive always knew he was special, but it wasn’t until the night the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house burned down that he quite understood to what degree. His entire life up to that point could be summed up in one word: capitulating. Raised to be polite, to ask nicely, and to have respect for everyone, he mumbled and apologized his way through life, always sacrificing the needs of others for his own. And until that night – dirty, exhausted, crawling on the disgusting basement floor along with his fellow pledges – Clive had never needed to think of himself.
It was the wax that did it. The twelve pledges were lined up, naked, shoulders touching, when John (a hulking brute of a senior who took so much pleasure in inflicting torture that Clive felt pity for him, as he must have been excruciatingly tortured himself) brought in the candles. One by one, each pledge had to flawlessly recite the SAE oath as John poured wax down his back, until it was Clive’s turn. He tried to be brave and tried to be strong, but the second that hot wax touched his dirty, naked back, he’d had enough.
“You need to stop,” he stammered, tears filling his eyes.
To his surprise, instead of jeering, John stopped short, an incredulous look on his face that was quickly replaced by panic. “Why can’t I move?” John stood still, the candle slowly burning down in his immobile hand as his eyes flicked side to side frantically.
“Because . . . I told you to? Just like I’m telling you to stand on one foot and hop up and down.” It was a tentative command, testing these uncertain and impossible waters. And when John began to hop up and down, the candlelight flickering as the wax splashed across his hand, Clive became frightened. “Stop hopping. You’re going to catch fire and burn the house down!”
“Mr. Sayer?” Clive opened his eyes to see his assistant Peggy reflected in the mirror, standing behind him in the dressing room. “You’re on in five.”
“Thank you, Peggy. I’ll be right there.” He stared at the face of the person known to millions of Americans as the most respected man in journalism. His reporting had taken down regimes, buried political candidates, freed the wrongly accused, and created a new era of transparency and accountability among corporations and governments. His genteel interview style coupled with an unrelenting pursuit of the truth had earned him the nickname “The Soothsayer”, but it was the fact that each and every guest of the Clive Sayer Hour confessed to misdeeds, omissions of fact, and horrible crimes that made his show one of the most popular in the world.
Clive stood, slender and almost willowy at six feet tall, and smoothed out the wrinkles in his suit. He ran his fingers through his thick, black hair, checked his flawless capped teeth for any remains of the spinach salad he had for lunch, and headed for the studio.
Standing in the doorway, Clive reflected for one last moment, warmly remembering the look on his mother’s face as she involuntarily slid the knife into his father’s chest before slitting her own throat. “Politeness is for the weak,” he told her as her eyes pleaded for mercy, “Respect is for those who earn it. I know who I am now, and I can’t let anyone stop me. The risk that you might have another child with similar abilities or even that you may have latent abilities yourself is too high. I hope you understand.”
As he entered the studio, the audience roared with applause and approval and love and fear. It was that last emotion that he found particularly delicious.