Prologue – Age 3


It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon, one of the very few beach-worthy days Darclan sees during its brief summer. Few tourists know or care about the Darclan beaches, so when Nature is generous with her warm breezes and dazzling sunlight, the city inhabitants take full advantage of a tourist-free getaway. Darclannites, having spent the morning basking in the sun, dashing to and from the freezing waves, and collecting various small bits of memory from the somewhat questionable sand, now crowd the interstates and highways to reach their homes for dinner.
As usual, the largest traffic jam is at the affectionately named Devil’s Overpass. It is a poorly planned intersection of five different major roads, three interstates and two highways, all crisscrossing and connecting in a mess of entry and exit lanes. Its location near the eastern edge of the city, just south of the business center, is unavoidable if one expects to escape the metropolis without traveling the treacherous state and county roads in the mountains to the west. Pinioned as it is between the mountains and the sea, Darclan is ideal as a strategic point of defense, but unbearably frustrating for commuters in Northeastern Territory’s capital. In that city, owning a car is no luxury, but owning a Metropass to the train system is.
Hundreds of cars sit idling on the five overlapping roads filled with hundreds of families, tired and cranky from their day of fun and just wanting to get home to wash the sand out of, well, everywhere. The children are crying or fighting, the drivers honking hopelessly. But those families only matter to their own stories, not to this one. In moments they will become mere numbers in a tragedy. Soon after, they will be names attached to some sort of political agenda to give it strength and sympathy. Then they will be replaced by another tragedy and another list of names, no more significant to the grand scheme of important people than pawns are to kings.
Yet, surely one vehicle matters, one family, one story among the fodder. For why else would their stories exist at all if not to make one of them special by the simple fact that it is not one of the others? This car, a red two-door used number with its “Save the Whales” bumper sticker and cartoon cat suction-cupped to the rear windshield, carries within it the greatest hero the world has ever seen, or will ever see. This is the day that hero learns the most important lesson of her life, one that will follow her through decades of trials and torment.
Currently, though, she is sleeping off a birthday party filled with running and screaming which resulted in several concerned people asking if she was okay and if her mommy and daddy were around. Concerned citizens being rare creatures in the city, this didn’t happen too frequently and no authorities were called. Eventually, her mommy managed to make her understand that shrieking like she is in extreme pain is not funny, no matter how hard daddy was laughing the first dozen times.
The car, named Liz II by the girl’s brown-haired mother, lacks the convenience of air conditioning, so the family is relying on the fickle winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean to cool them off through open windows. Even if the stereo hadn’t been stolen mere weeks after they bought Liz II, it is unlikely that the couple would bother listening to the radio. Radio reception is notoriously poor on the Devil’s Overpass. However, entertainment soon arrives with the sound of a distant explosion to their right.
“Oh, look, Adrian,” says the woman, screening her eyes from the lowering sun with her hand. “If it isn’t the blessed princess her own self?” She points at a park nestled between some industrial buildings to where two figures are having a very intense disagreement. Punches hard enough to scare the pigeons from the rooftops are exchanged, presumably along with the prerequisite witty banter.
Adrian checks that the traffic is still parked before turning his attention to the fight. He squints behind large aviator sunglasses until he picks out the fighters, one clad in a dark body suit and the other clearly swathed all in pink. “Bloody Femme Fabulous,” he mutters contemptuously. “Bet it’s her fault we’re stuck on this bloody bridge. Can’t just drive on, gotta dawdle to watch the plucky pink pillock do her duty.” He goes to spit, sees his wife’s face, and changes his mind. There is a faint roar as the pink-clad Femme Fabulous activates her rocket boots to slam the evil-doer into a concrete wall. A corner of the impacted building breaks off and lands solidly on a brightly painted swing set.
“Language, dear,” she scolds, glancing at the sleeping child.
“Gwennie, she’ll be out for days after the ruckus she caused,” he chuckles, returning his gaze to the road. “You see the look o’ those Yankees, eh? They thought she was dyin’ when they run up around the berm!” Three years in the States and he still talked like he was just visiting.
“Wish you wouldn’t encourage her,” Gwen replied with another dark look, though the corners of her mouth are twitching from a suppressed smile. “She shouldn’t draw attention to herself. If someone had seen how fast she was running…”
“I know that, I know!” Adrian cuts in, clearly exacerbated. “She’ll have plenty o’ time to be secretive later, love. She can learn that when she goes for training. Till then, I’ll not have her hiding just because she’s a little special.”
“But they said…”
“Bugger them and bugger what they say! They’ll not tell me how to raise me own child.”
Silence falls in Liz II, who has nothing to add to the argument except a couple of grumbles from her overheating engine. The white-haired child sprawled on the back seat continues to doze, dreaming perhaps of the fat seagulls she saw or the bright party hats of the other birthday party children. No one thought the beach party was a good idea until the weather cleared. Mrs. Livingston would lord it over the book club for months. Clutched in one small fist is a broken noisemaker and in the other, a tiny purple sea shell her daddy had used to bribe her away from the birthday cake that wasn’t quite ready for the children to dig into yet. The only thing keeping the three-year-old on the seat is the middle lap belt tethering her loosely to the cheap upholstery.
Gwen turns from her husband to watch the distant fight, swearing to herself that the argument isn’t over and knowing that she won’t be able to change his mind. More than once, he had implied that whatever contracts they had signed would be void if they went home. They could stay with his mother in Cardiff for a while, he’d said after the last meeting with the Council. If they had to, it would be easy to disappear on the Continent. The closer she got to starting training, the more he seemed determined to wiggle out of their obligation. The program had been his idea, after years of fertility drugs and callous doctors telling them to adopt. They’d have to relocate, sure, but it would only be for a little while, wouldn’t it? It wasn’t until after the successful implant that he’d told her he didn’t mean to be dictated to by a bunch of jumped-up colonists. She’d known deep down that he was being too compliant to their invasive demands, but the thought of getting the procedure done for free, medical bills paid, and a healthy stipend on top of finally starting a family, well, perhaps she ignored more than she should have.
Ruminating on these thoughts, Gwen almost didn’t see the large corner of industrial building soaring toward the overpass. She only had time to gasp before it slammed into the bridge directly over their heads. A second that lasts an eternity between the impact and the shuddering realization that the road above them is breaking apart. Screams break the silence of hundreds holding their breath. The building segment clips the guard rail less than a foot from Gwen’s elbow on the way down to land squarely on the bridge just beneath them. There is a sickening crunch of metal and more screams. She is about to let out a sigh of relief when a chunk of cement lands on the hood.
Large blocks of pavement are dropping, the entire bridge shuddering, horns honking, but there’s no place to drive. Gwen sees the tire of a car drop into one of the opening gaps and sees in her head what is about to happen. She and Adrian unbuckle their seat belts just as a fifty foot section of bridge separates from the far end of the supports and falls drunkenly onto the road before them. Then the entire structure shudders and finally buckles, turning from a bridge to a slide in a matter of seconds. Liz II slams into the car in front of her and is slammed into from behind by a pick-up truck. The airbags explode into the faces of the couple. Adrian is knocked out cold and the little girl wakes up crying as a giant piece of pavement crushes the roof just enough to jam the doors. Gwen, stunned by the airbags, focuses on the sound of her daughter crying and does the only thing she can.
Turning around as much as she is able, ignoring the searing pain from her bruised shoulder and swiftly swelling knee, she reaches out for her daughter’s hand. “Susie-bear! What are you crying about? Everything is okay! Mummy is here! See?”
Susan pauses in mid-howl. The car looks different and she can hear so many things that her ears hurt. But Mommy is smiling and reaching out her hand. Gwen continues to coo at little Susan, getting her to smile and laugh at how silly Daddy is, sleeping at the wheel like that. Susan is having such a great time with Mommy that she doesn’t notice the increasing incline of the car as it teeters on the edge of broken pavement. She even giggles at the queer sensation in her stomach when Liz II finally takes the plunge off the bridge, barely missing the road twenty feet below and landing nose first on the unforgiving pile of dozens of other cars.  The last thing she sees before the impact is her mother’s smiling face.  More vehicles slide off the overpass to crush those beneath them. Far away, Femme Fabulous watches in horror as the entire interchange collapses in on itself like a fallen soufflé. The villain lies unconscious at her booted feet. Without looking away from the carnage, she absently reaches down and breaks his neck.

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2 Comments

Filed under Misc Short Stories, Super Heroes

2 responses to “Prologue – Age 3

  1. chrissy

    I want more! I’m hooked.

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