Ben Rawluk: Superheart

SUPERHEART
Ben Rawluk

This is about saving the world.  Steel Fury leans forward in the passenger seat of the Foxcar, stainless steel helmet knocking against the windshield, Foxboy grinding his teeth behind the wheel, suspension so terrible you really feel it when the Foxcar hits a crack in the pavement, or a pile of trash, or a dip in the road, one of hundreds left over by the earthquake.  They drive on through the Dead Zone, the ruins of suburbia, houses disappearing into soft earth.  Strip malls with smashed signs venting neon, like crushed caterpillars.  Nobody ever came to fix anything.  Steel Fury crosses her arms under her red cape and shouts at Foxboy to keep going, it’s getting away.  They’re trying to keep pace with their enemy: the Superheart blimp, making its nightly journey across the Zone and into the city, spreading the message of Superheart.

You hear it before it arrives: the tinny beat of the theme song.  The smell of lemon gobstoppers, scientifically proven to be the aroma of love on the go.  A vast pink hot-air balloon, heart-shaped and voluptuous, spewing purple promotional gas as it goes; gas that will linger as a pale haze until this time tomorrow.  Under her helmet, Steel Fury’s nose runs.  Her eyes water.  She can feel Foxboy looking at her.  The curtains of smoke tug, make you crave, stir up urges.  Take a sip, they say.  Feel loved.  Take your beloved by the hand, to the fridge, the vending machine, to the supermarket.  Open cans of Superheart and make a toast.  To love.

 

If that’s not a bid for world domination—

“So I heard about what happened at school.”

“I don’t want to talk about that.”

Today is the day.  She has gone out to the Scar every day, stood on what’s left of the MacDonald Overpass, half-collapsed, he highest point in the Zone.  Still not high enough to touch the blimp, though.  Today, they’re going to destroy it.  Today, the Steel Fury will smash Superheart.  She has no time to gossip, rerun the day’s events, all the petty defeats of high school.  She’s supposed to be at home, thinking about what she’s done..  She climbed out the window, down the drainpipe, ran straight across the Zone at top speed to be here.  She won’t waste the chance.

“You got suspended.”

“Don’t want to talk about it.”

Foxboy shuts up, squelching his ass over leather upholstery.  He’s a skinny gymnast in a fur-lined body stocking.  She can’t be picky—he’s got a car, even if he has to borrow it from his parents, even if it’s just a turquoise station-wagon, as beaten up as anything in the Zone.  Even if he roars under his breath in time with the engine, like he is the car.

You can’t choose your team-ups.

Last year, in grade 10, everyone was a super-hero.  They read the comic books.  They followed the Rules, scribbled in permanent blackberry marker on a bathroom stall.  Scrawny boys lined up outside the chem lab, praying for an accident, something to give them radioactive eyeballs or explosive piss or magic muscles.  The track team wore matching red vinyl, ran around the school in hopes of turning back time to before the earthquake, when there was an actual track.  It didn’t last forever, though; by the time the principal got around to banning costumes, most people had already given it up.  The popular kids were no longer interested.

Numbers dwindled.

The two of them are all that’s left, holding off the Twilight of the Super-Heroes, that horrible moment when they give up, get after-school jobs and all of it—the costume, the strength, the adventure—dissolves, an old injury that aches in the morning or at certain late hours.  Steel Fury can’t let that happen, even if it means suffering his puppy dog looks and pointed comments.

Doesn’t Foxboy understand that love is a weakness?

“Step on it,” she says.

“Okay, but you’re gonna need to chip in for gas.”

She rolls her eyes, pushes up the sleeves of her blue tracksuit.

“Just,” Foxboy says.  “Just tell me: is this about Marco?”

Last year, even Marco was a super-hero.  Everybody knew who Marco was, even from afar—smart and tall and athletic, but not enough to be nerdy or lanky or motivated—he spent his time out behind the school, smoking Lemon-Limes and practising X-Ray Vision with a pack of the Dead Zone’s Neanderthal football players.  Marco was effortless—his costume was little more than a toga and cape made out of pale blue bed sheets, no mask, enough blue to make his brown skin glow.  He went by “Kid Dynamite,” and didn’t bother to answer if asked why.

She had math class with him.

They learned out of twenty-year-old textbooks—there were rumours that kids in the city learned whole new kinds of math, whole new kinds of everything, and anyway, you could find more recent information on your phone if you cared, which most of them didn’t, because it was the Dead Zone, what was the point of caring?  Steel Fury sat in the middle of class, with the bright blue tracksuit and red cape, but eventually took off her helmet because Miss Evans said that it was impolite to wear headgear in class.  It was kind of hard to see everything on the board through the eye-holes, anyway.  She tried not to think about how blotchy her skin was, something the helmet hid nicely.  Occasionally her eyes would flick around, or she’d turn her head, out of boredom.  And Marco was at the back, with the Neanderthals, somehow slouching across two desks.

Sometimes he’d be looking back at her.

Marco caught her arm one day, while they were spilling out of class, the halls filling with teenagers in bright clothes, the sounds of warfare cranking up with a choral cascade of BIFF and POW and BAM.  “Hey,” he said, like it was no big deal.

“Hi,” she said, wishing that she’d had time to slip the helmet back on, but Miss Evans was very particular: you had to get out the door of the classroom first.  She froze.  “Hi, Marco.”

“I wondered if you wanted to go bowling this weekend.”

Of course she said yes, like someone else was saying it, speaking through her mouth.  “Sure,” she said, as effortless as Marco, like he brought that out in people.

She buzzed around the house, her mother giving her pleased but nervous looks, smiling too much, saying things like, “Ah, young love.  Young love.”  Her mother got wistful, watching her.  Maybe it had to do with Dad.  An oblique silence fell over the Zone when the quake hit, everyone lost someone, and you didn’t talk about it too much.  At least, not out in public.  But it made people—well, people acted like her mother, strangely wistful.

Friday came around.

Bowling was what people did in the Dead Zone.  That or minigolf, but you had to choose one or the other.  Marco actually worked at the Pineapple Grove Ten-Pin Bowling Alley, after school.  He had connections, got free games and cans of Superheart right out of the machine—there was a special key, and he showed it to her after they met out front, by the flickering neon palm trees.  She wore secret identity clothes, old jeans and T-shirt, brown hair pulled back.  He was eating a peach, juice dribbling down his chin.  He smirked and offered her a bite before chucking the pit in the trash.  She felt awkward about the burst of red along her nose but he didn’t say anything.  Then they went inside, people smiling and waving at him, or looking at her.  They passed people from school—Paul, Elsa Lancaster, Rudy—and she smiled warmly and politely because she was here with Marco, and they weren’t, so how did they like that?

They got one of the better lanes, varnished wood not as uneven and cracked, and he didn’t even complain when she won both games.  Like it was no big deal.  She imagined the team-up: Steel Fury and Kid Dynamite, punching out crime and saving the world hand-in-hand.  There would be comic books about them.  Promotional endorsement deals.  Maybe a TV show, one day.

“Wanna see the roof?”

Marco took her by the hand and led her past the Pinball machines, producing two more cans of Superheart, like he just had to snap his fingers.  He unlocked a thick grey door and led her up narrow stairs with pink stucco walls.  And then the rooftop: it was hard to get up this high, most of the buildings squat to begin with and now half-submerged in earth.  The Dead Zone stretched out, ruptured and sullen like her skin.  All that time in the helmet, her mother nagged.  All the little houses, the supermarkets, the piles of garbage and powdered concrete.  From here you can see the Scar, the deep cut running through the Zone, stretching out past it toward the city.  They say if you go far enough, you can’t even tell the earthquake happened.

The city.  That’s where super-heroes lived in the comics, right?  The Zone was too low.  You couldn’t be a proper super-hero unless you got up high enough, brooding on mouldering architecture before descending to beat the crap out of bad guys.  “C’mere.” Marco put his arm around her, the pair of them sidling over to the edge to hang their legs off.  “You get a pretty good view,” he said, and she lay her head on his shoulder, aware of how naked she felt without the helmet, but relishing that for the first time in months.  And the theme song, tinkling on the wind.  Superheart, Superheart, a song of love, romance, fingers interlaced with fingers.  And then she saw the blimp.  The smell filled her nose and she sniffed.  No, she thought.  Not a runny nose.  Not now.

They rocked together, shoes slapping against the edge and they kissed, clouds of promotional gas falling all around them, only the faintest recollection of the city in the distance, a hungry kiss followed by a toppling over in slow motion, like snapshots falling onto a pile.

The tunnel collapsed during the earthquake—cars squealed and screamed.  They were pulling bodies out of the rubble for weeks until eventually the rescue operation petered, funds drying up.  They’re dead anyway, people said.  They’re even buried.  Crowds left fruit, candles, old photographs alongside the sheer concrete wall.  The freeway closed down and for a long time, no one was allowed out of the Dead Zone.  People protested, building a tent city outside the tunnel.  Vending machines rolled in and the crowd dispersed.  Steel Fury’s mother had to quit her job in the city.  She sat at the kitchen table some nights, while Steel Fury did the dishes.  Are we being punished for something?  She’d wipe at her eyes with a tea towel.  It’s just the two of us now, we have to stick together.  Eventually, they opened up one of the old highways.

The Foxcar slows as they approach the checkpoint, a cluster of pink cement huts.  Signs direct them: Have documentation ready.  Drive slowly, prepare to stop.  Personnel have full discretion to deny access to the highway.  The city is a privilege, not a right.  A red van is at the front of the line, a big-butted security guard leaning up against the driver’s side.  Clouds of marzipan-yellow exhaust hang.  Steel Fury tries to keep a bead on the blimp, sailing away ahead of them.  “We’re going to lose it,” she spits.  “Foxboy—”

“We’re not going anywhere until the people in front of us move, calm down.”

“But the blimp!”

“Calm down!”  Foxboy sounds like he’s hyperventilating.

There’s a tap on the window.  The security guard has moved onto them.  He’s not that much older than either of them, in his early twenties, with sunken eyes and bad skin.  His pale peach uniform doesn’t quite fit.  Foxboy rolls down the window.  “Wild,” he says, the smell of lingering promotion seeping in with him while he presses his face closer.  “What the hell are you two supposed to be—super-heroes?  I didn’t think kids were dressing up as super-heroes anymore.”

“We’re on an important mission,” says Steel Fury, leaning across Foxboy to look up at the guard.  They’re vigilantes, always at odds with conventional law enforcement, but there’s always the possibility of bonding with a man on the inside, someone willing to bend a few rules in the name of justice, right?  Rooftop meetings under cover of darkness and—

“What, you’re going to a costume party or something?”

“We’re in the middle of a—”

“Can I see your papers?”  He holds out a hand and Steel Fury closes her eyes for a moment, trying to get her bearings.  The anger heats her cheeks and starts to burn in her muscles.  Strength, power.  Hold onto the rage.  Foxboy pushes her out of the way and rifles around in the glove compartment until he pulls out the registration, hands it over with his license.  “Is this your car, son?”

“My parents’.”

“You know, going to a party isn’t what you’d call official business—not just anyone can go through to the city for any reason.  There are rules.”  He sighs.  “Wait here.  I’m going to run your papers.  And I’ll get you a copy of the guidelines so we can see if you’re eligible to drive through.”  The whole thing is delivered as a practised speech.  He must hate being stationed out here.  Foxboy nods but says nothing, even though the guard has already moved away, is heading back to the huts.

“He’s not going to let us through,” says Foxboy.

“We should go now.”

“What?”

“Come on, Foxboy.  The blimp’s getting away.”

“We’ll get into trouble.”

“We don’t have the luxury of playing by the rules.  Super-heroes make tough choices.”  She’s not going to stop.  She’s not going to give up.  She’s not going to let Marco and all the others win, the ones that look at her like she’s nuts.  “Think of the glory.”

He closes his eyes, puts his hands on the wheel, and looks down.  Outside, the guard’s swaggering back toward them.  Then Foxboy opens his eyes, grits teeth, and vrooms along with the car’s engine as they jet forward, breaking right through the yellow barrier stretching across the lane.  Painted wood splinters and flies, cracking the windshield as they burst on, wheels spinning.  Out behind them, the security guard is giving chase, pulling out a peach gun and firing off a few rounds, bleakly.  They won’t be hit.  They’re super-heroes.  This is their job.

And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Super-heroes always win.

 

Foxboy’s knuckles tighten on the wheel and he keeps looking at the rear view, more than was necessary.  Super-heroes should have nerve.  On the road, they are surrounded by ghosts: the radio fills the car with static and distorted voices, never more than half a phrase, before Steel Fury gives up and switches it off.  The only other cars are in the distance, submerged in the thick purple fog.  Along the road, in the ditch, old vehicles lie wheezing, dilapidated, hollowed out like shells.  The fog seems to swallow headlights.  It clings to the car, swirls of pink dust crusting across the tightly shut windows. There is no way of seeing the blimp now, no way of knowing how far ahead it is. Steel Fury tenses, willing the Foxcar to go faster, fingers on the dashboard.

“We can’t lose it,” she says.

“I know.  I know.  You keep saying that.”

“I was just—”

I’m the one with the license, not you.  Except I don’t even have my license, that guy back there has my license, you don’t know how to drive, so could you let me drive?”  Foxboy hunches his shoulders, squinting through the mask.  The city is in silhouette, huge shapes rising up out of the fog.  “Fuck,” Foxboy says.  “He has all my papers.  The car registration.  If we’d just waited—”

“He wasn’t going to let us through.”

“Then we should have just turned around!  My dad is going to kill me.”

She flashes back to her mother, sitting in the principal’s office this afternoon, making that face.  Thousands of dollars of property damage, the principal was saying, bald head lit up by fluorescents, a nervous twitch every time they flickered—his one eye would wink briefly shut and then open again, half his mouth opening into a grimace.  The Superheart corporation can only be so understanding of damage to one of their vending machines.  Neither of them understood.  The machine vented promotion gas into the hallway, too many parts per million, it wasn’t safe.  There are health regulations to consider.  She’d stood in the hallway for a full minute over the smoking, metal carcass, glass everywhere and the crackling, the crackling, while the bell rang and Marco took off after—after they ran into each other.  Nobody’s supposed to go out to the shop wing since the earthquake, it’s not structurally sound, but there’s a vending machine and a handicapped washroom.

This isn’t about Marco.  This is about public safety.

The car hits a sizable dip and she blinks, helmet briefly connecting with the ceiling of the car.  Foxboy wasn’t making engine noises, at least, but he was still locked up an in under-the-breath panic attack, grinding his teeth alternately when not releasing a steady stream of profanity.

“Look,” she says.  “Super-heroes are sometimes—at odds with law enforcement.  We have to be to do our jobs.  We’re in the middle of a major case—”

“It was supposed to be fun.”

“What?”

He doesn’t take his eyes off the road.  “Being a super-hero was supposed to be fun.  It—used to be fun.  Back when everyone—now it’s just you and me and it’s awful.  I just broke the law and I keep breaking the law because that cop back there has my driver’s license and you’ve been suspended from school and I’m not even supposed to act like I know who you are because of secret identities.  I’ve known you since Grade 5 and I can’t even use your real name!  And I know you got suspended because you can’t let go of your dick-bag ex—”

“Super-heroes aren’t fun.”  Her muscles throb.  She could be bending iron bars right now.  “It’s a sacred calling, a duty.  We’re here to save the world.”  And she was suspended because of Marco!  He just happened to be there!  In the hallway, getting a can of Superheart out of the machine, calling her a crazy bitch, like usual.  Flirting with the Superheart Electric Dream Girl dancing on the machine’s LED display.  “This isn’t about Marco,” she says.  “Don’t be gross.”

“I should pull over.”

“Don’t pull over.  We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

He smacks his lips, licking them, gnawing at the insides of his mouth.  “We’ll take care of the blimp, okay, but you’re going to prom with me.”

“Love is a weakness, Foxboy,” she says.  “Also, fuck you.”

 

A month later, Marco broke up with her.  He stopped coming to class in his costume, seemed distracted and bored with her, no longer pressed against her in the hallway when it filled between classes.  Most people were already bored with super-heroes by then.  Even she didn’t always wear her costume, though she kept it with her.  He didn’t even say anything—she heard about it third-hand, from Nora Forconi in second period geography class.  They were studying Karst topography, limestone, its impact on the Dead Zone during the earthquake.  Sink-holes.  So rare, really, to be learning anything relevant, when the Dead Zone’s textbooks were years out of date.  She learned a lot of relevant information that day.  Marco was making out with Elsa Lancaster at Eddie Pomeroy’s party this weekend.  There was a lot of giggling.  She felt—betrayed?

One of these super-heroes is a traitor!

Sick to her stomach, strength sapped.  That is when she learned her weakness: loveShe asked to be excused fto washroom, stared at herself in the mirror, the sprawl of red along the bridge of her nose and across her cheeks, before slumping into a stall.  The lunch bell rang.  Marco would be in the cafeteria.  Elsa Lancaster.  They found them going at it in a cupboard.

She had her father’s old bowling bag with her, had been carrying her things around in it, including her costume, the helmet.  She began to move, hollow, in the washroom stall.  She stood up, bones creaking.  Her face.  She hated her face.  It was—easier, wearing the helmet.  The Steel Fury wasn’t weak.  Wasn’t sad.  She could turn herself to steel if she wanted, impervious to love.  She zipped up the tracksuit, fastened the cape, pulled on the boots.  It felt different.  She stepped out of the stall and posed for a moment.  It was always easier in costume.  She would never take it off if she didn’t have to.  With the helmet on, she didn’t feel so blank anymore.  She was angry.

“Asshole,” she said and punched the wall, leaving a long crack in the white brick.  “Asshole,” she repeated, ignoring the burn in her fingers, and turned to punch the squat pink tampon dispenser hung by the sink.  The metal crumpled under her fist and the machine throbbed, producing a shower of strawberry-scented tampons.

After that, she went hunting.  Marco had been replaced, right?  An imposter, evil twin brother a surgical double.  A robot, meant to destroy her resolve.  Fine.  Whatever.  The cafeteria was down a long hall and it was always loud, deafening, and she pushed her way inside, people pointing and smirking because of course everybody already knew about Marco and Elsa Lancaster, already knew that she was yesterday’s trash, and, anyway, why was she still in costume?

They lounged at a table near the back, past the vending machines and screens running PastryTime, the sponsor logos splashed everywhere in radiant green paint, Marco and Elsa and a bunch of the Neanderthal football players.  Marco wore a broken TV-top, flickering between static and the Strawberry Mascot Girl, hair badly in need of a haircut.  Elsa smiled, pleased with herself, her hand in his, face sharp and desperate to look like she didn’t belong in the Dead Zone.  “Oh,” said Marco when she stepped up to them, hands on her hips, cape caught by what pathetic air flow the school’s air conditioner could still manage.  Elsa started to laugh and the minions snorted.  “Hi,” said Marco.  “I meant to—”

She held up a hand.  Fuck talking.

Elsa waved her off.  “Don’t you know you were just a rebound, you crazy bitch?”

She rolled her eyes.  “You’ll pay for your crimes,” she said, and reached out, gripping the table firmly, Elsa leaning forward to spit something else, Marco opening his mouth.  And then she lifted.  One smooth action, the table capsizing underneath them, the football players scrambling with their legs caught by the bench, Elsa and Marco falling backward.  There was a long moment of silence and then the cafeteria burst into an opera of wild laughter and shouting and surprise.  Someone did that to Marco and Elsa Lancaster.  They looked upon her in horror, unable to free themselves.  The principal banned costumes the next day and gave her detention for a week, but it didn’t matter.  She was a super-hero, irrevocably, heart flash-frozen to perfect, cold-formed steel.

 

The city rears up at them as they hit the border, the Foxcar’s muffler violently ill.  Neon burns across the sky and Steel Fury feels prickly and electric.  Super-heroes were built for the city.  They can see the Superheart blimp, up there, sliding along past pink brickwork and shivering glass.  “We have to get in front of it,” she says, not bothering to look at Foxboy.  Streets filled with arthropod cars, every throbbing colour, rearing up at each other.  People are everywhere, pointing up at the blimp—this is what it asks of its subjects.  It’s sickening, the things Superheart will do to people, how low they bend.  The sky runs deep indigo, night, the buildings lit up with flashing strawberries, oranges.  PastryTime plays out over billboard screens.  It has never, ever been so alive in the Zone, so loud.  Foxboy sounds like he’s having a panic attack.  Steel Fury feels feverish.

They veer down a back alleyway to skip the manic traffic of the main thoroughfare, overturning garbage cans filled with radiant, screeching garbage that spreads out in their wake, caught by the lemon-scented wind.  If they go fast enough, they can beat the blimp to the middle of the city, off-kilter pink buildings hanging overhead, almost bent, and then—”The rooftop!  We were born to be on rooftops, Foxboy!”  The blimp looms closer as they loop around, then waste precious minutes looking for parking.  Super-heroes should be allowed to double-park!

“Are you all right?”

“I’m in the moment!”

They zoom past Caffeine Marts and supermarkets and gaggles of people in suits, yelling at each other over phones.  The Strawberry Mascot Girl blows them kisses from half a dozen screens.  “What—what do we do now?  I didn’t think we’d get this far.”

“We have to get up there.”

They park, finally, easing into a spot before she bounds off, leaving him to lock up.  There’s the theme music, love-love-love, like an ice cream truck from the sky.  People are gathering in the street while she runs, and Foxboy gives chase, freaking out about getting a parking ticket until eventually she turns on him as if to say, You haven’t even got a driver’s license.

That shuts him up.

“Hurry up,” she calls to him, leaping for the ladder of a fire escape and scaling upwards, the wrought iron soft and pliant.  She tries not to think about Foxboy staring at her ass while she climbs above him, or the scratching at the back of her throat, the way her skin itches, aches, begs to be submerged in cool, refreshing Superheart.  She tries to ignore the people on the street, hundreds now, coming together to sing the theme song for Superheart en masse, off-tune and cutting directly into her brain.  Her head swims in the flood of promotion gas but she keeps climbing.  Steel Fury has never wanted anything more in her life before.  To be a hero is to save the world.

Beneath her, Foxboy’s coughing.  “Can we—can we slow down?”

“I’m not dignifying that with a response.”

She pulls herself up onto the rooftop while Foxboy catches up, collapsing onto hands and knees.  She supposes she can’t blame him.  The Superheart Blimp so close now, clouds swooping down between buildings lost to the pastels and love, love that Steel Fury can feel settling into her throat.  Her knee aches.  She wasn’t prepared for that.  She won’t let herself give in to it.

The little hearts dancing inside Steel Fury’s head reverberate and she has to take a moment, steady herself, massage her bruised knee, anything.  Even with the helmet, Superheart can seep inside and it’s so much stronger so close to the blimp.  She’s supposed to have a higher tolerance!  But she wants to crack one open and take a long sip.  She wants to get hopped up on Superheart and go dancing.  With Marco.  They used to dance in his living room to music videos when his parents were out, his body goofy and floppy.  She misses—ugh.  Superheart is taking her super-strength away.  It saps her rage.  She wants to go dancing with Foxboy.

Everything is product placement.

Superheart wants her to remove her helmet, take a deep breath, climb down to the nearest convenience store.  Find a vending machine.

Foxboy is saying something:  “It’s up to you, I don’t know, how exactly do you expect to defeat a blimp?  You know what you’re doing, right?”  Yeah, he’s irritating enough to break the spell.  Steel Fury straightens up, grabs him by the front of his costume and drags him close.

He squirms and she lets go.

She can’t help but look away from him, though: the Superheart Blimp, so big and full and close, dropping between the buildings of Albatross Street to scrape the edges.  Electric Dream Girls shiver across flexible screens, guzzling virtual can after virtual can.  Her fists burn with vengeance.  She could reach out and touch the blimp this close, take a running start and leap, grab hold of it.  “You’d fall and splat on the ground,”  Foxboy says, standing close behind her.  He’s figured out her plan, like he can read her mind.  “Which would totally suck.”  He’s susceptible to the gas.  Don’t trust him.  “I’m just saying.”  He makes like he’s going to touch her arm, try to take her hand.  She bats him away.  “Do you even have a knife?  How exactly do you expect to stop the blimp?”

“I’m going to wrestle it to the ground.”

“See, this why I’m the tactical thinker—”

“I’m beginning to doubt your commitment to our lonely crusade.”

“Does it really have to be that lonely?”

Oh god.  Enough of his shit.  “What is it with you stupid boys?”  She’s been down that road.  It does nothing but sap her strength.  She turns her attention back to the blimp.  She will catch and kill that monster.  “Don’t you see this is a job for Steel Fury?”

“I meant what I said before.  It’s not fun anymore.  Nothing I said has changed.  I came out to support you.  I mean, we have to stand together.  We’re super-heroes, this what we do, I know all the inspirational speeches off by heart, but dude, you’re talking about popping a giant blimp and I don’t even know why you hate Superheart.  It’s just love, you know?  Just because Marco hurt you—”   Foxboy puts a hand on her arm and she brushes him off.  Running start.  “Let it go.  I mean.  I just.  Don’t you ever get thirsty?”

Steel Fury glares at him. “I don’t have time for your eleventh-hour betrayal.”

She runs.

 

Imagine a hand slapping against a helium-filled birthday balloon, the THUD and SQUEAL of a human body, a sixteen-year-old girl, against the blimp, rippling outward and kicking up interference patterns in the frosty cloud cover seeping merrily from its vents.  She hopes to hear a tearing sound as bright pink fabric rips, a bubble-gum pop, but all that she can make out is people shouting from below at the sight of something small darting from atop one of the apartment buildings between the Arlington Trust Foundation and the deco glory of the Opal Building, only to fire itself across at the blimp.  There is pink smoke everywhere.  Her eyes water.  The love swells.  Maybe she should give Foxboy a chance.

She slides down the rubbery expanse.

She was supposed to burst the thing.

Freefall.

Steel Fury would quip but it seems pointless—Foxboy’s out of earshot anyway.  She takes too long deciding about how to tuck her arms and legs so she falls gracelessly, limbs flailing, hitting the pavement too hard, too fast, with what amounts to an indignant sigh, head bouncing.  People begin to push toward her, pedestrians, cars squealing, pink everywhere, billowing in powdery lumps, and Steel Fury is irritatingly awake, yes, gravel underneath her, scraping against her ass as she twists and turns.  Someone’s asking what she’s wearing and they’re too close, touching her, calling for 911, the cops!  Paramedics!  How is she still breathing?  Don’t move her!   Might break her neck!  Why isn’t her neck already broken? She grunts.

She refuses to die like this, in the middle of the street, but she’s tired.  She’ll probably pass out soon.  Fuck.  The Superheart blimp, gleaming neon paisley against shining purple, begins to drift upward again, propelled by the impact.  Not even the smallest tear from her attack, as durable as she is.  The blimp rises, exposing its undercarriage of pink plastic, and heads back into the sky.

 

rawlukBen Rawluk is a poet and fiction writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is currently the managing editor for Poetry is Dead and his first chapbook of poetry, I Have Never Been To Manila, was published in 2012 by Horse of Operation Press. “Superheart” is the opening story of his short fiction manuscript, which is currently seeking a home.

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