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Authors: Dewayne Haslett

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BOOK: Invincible
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I could tell the situation was making Brad uncomfortable. Just looking at him right now could leave anyone in his presence whimpering on the floor. But he was strong, and tried his best not to have an emotional breakdown in front of company.

 

"So, how's work going?" Brad asks, changing the subject.

 

Ryan shakes his head and sighs. "Not good," he says.

 

"What happened?" I ask curiously.

 

"What hasn't happened?” Ryan laughs. "Crime rates rising, cops either going corrupt or lazy..."

 

As Ryan ranted on, I was thinking over what he was saying. Was this really going on? Right outside the door, basically in front of my own eyes?

 

I couldn't believe that crime rates were rising in the city, or even that there was one to rise at all. Even more surprising was the fact that the police were doing nothing. Being corrupt or lazy, as Ryan said called them. Was it really that bad? That they had to either join criminals or let them slide?

 

"...I'm the only one on the force who actually cares," Ryan continues.

 

"Have you talked to Mayor Wilson about this?" Brad asks.

 

"I have, but it's not like he's listening."

 

"That’s terrible, Ryan. I'm sorry."

 

Ryan shrugs. "Well, what are you gonna do?"

 

The look was not visible on my face, but I was so shocked that it almost made my head spin. I couldn't be surprised or angry at what Ryan was saying. He was just speaking the truth. A truth I was too overwhelmed to hear.

 

"May I be excused?" I ask.

 
 

Brad—whose mind was half-focusing on Ryan, and half thinking about Sara and Zoë—looks at me and nods his head.

 

"Yeah, of course," he says. "You going outside?"

 

I shake my head as I get up from the table. "No. I’m going to bed early," I say. "Gotta be ready for school tomorrow."

 

I look at Brad, noticing that he was trying to pretend to pay attention to me. It was clear as day and everyone could see it. But I didn't understand. Was he doing this for me, Ryan, or himself?

 

"Okay," he says. "Good night."

 

"Good night," I say. "And good night to you, too, Ryan."

 

"Good night, kid," says Ryan. "See you around."

 

From there, I head upstairs and enter my room. I sat on my bed, waiting for Ryan to leave, and for Brad to go to sleep so that I could practice.

 

Time begins to pass, and I couldn't help but think about the conversation with Ryan. Was the city really as bad as he says it is? If so, why isn't anyone helping?

 

I think about what Ryan said about him being the only one caring and tried my best to convince myself otherwise. But could it really be true? Is he really the only one who has hope? In the police force? The city? The world?

 

If that's the case, why? Why would someone subject themselves to such suffering and wrongdoing? That they would just sit back and let their city become an open target for crime and corruption?

 

Maybe the reason Ryan still cares is because he believes things will get better, even though things aren't looking that way. And that's the problem. No one believes things will get better. They've given up.

 
 

But what if things changed? What would happen if someone showed them hope? Someone that could make them realize that their city doesn’t belong to the scum and corrupt? Someone that could be looked upon as an inspiration. A symbol.

 

Who could that be? Certainly not an average man, one that could be broken, destroyed, and ignored. That’s not what the people needed. What they need is someone that could be powerful, someone incorrup
tible, perpetual...a legend.

 

Then the people will take notice. They will awake from their nightmare of crime and fear, and follow this person. They will be encouraged to stand up and turn the city back to the way it was—a safer place.

 

But who could do it? Robin Hood? Santa Claus? A superhero?

 

Neither of those things exists. There is no such thing as Santa or Robin Hood, and not to the sound self-indulgent, but the only thing that sounded even remotely close to a superhero would have to be someone like me.

 

It was only until I laugh at the comment seconds later that the words begin to dwell on me.

 

Me.

 
Chapter Nine

 

 

Ryan was gone, and Brad had gone to bed. I, on the other hand, was still awake, spending the last half hour thinking about what I’d said to myself.

 

Was it really possible for me? To be compared to a superhero? Or worse, to be one?

 

Part of me thought that this was a bad idea, but another part of me got to thinking that this wouldn't be so bad. The police need help, I can help. People want to be safe, I want them to be safe, and because of that, I should help. I could give the people hope and something to believe in.

 

Yes! I could. And I would.

 

I run to the computer and do some research on superheroes. From what I saw, it seems as though these heroes are actually normal people. Nerds, billionaires, lawyers, even scientists and reporters. It was amazing! They lived normal lives until danger suddenly occurred, and were forced to put on their suits and fight crime.

 

I
’ve notice how these people change their appearance by suits and other methods to differ themselves. That way, no one could tell who was who.

 

The nerd look really interested me and I thought—as if I had any choice—that that was a good one to work with. And since I didn't know much about myself, leading on this persona wouldn't be so hard.

 

First, I would have to get glasses—which I didn't think would be so hard. The hardest challenge, though, would be acting the part. I'd have to be clumsy, have a different way of doing things—I’d have to be 'mild-mannered'.

 
 

I grab my coat and head outside to practice, thinking about the hard work I'll have to do, tonight and in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I wake up, I tell Brad that my eyes were getting heavy and my vision was blurry. He thought it was something that would go away, but I told him that it’s been happening for a while now, and got even worse during our dinner with Ryan. He then did the how-many-fingers-am-I-holding-up? thing with three fingers in front of my face, and I lied and said it was five. He moves his fingers farther away, and that’s when I give him the correct answer.

 

After that, he agrees to take me to visit an optometrist after school. I was surprised at how fast he could make this happen, and that's only because the guy owed Brad a favor, and thought this would be the best time. I thought it would take at least a few days, but hey, the plan was going better than expected, so why should I complain?

 

Before Brad goes off to work, he hands me a note to give to my homeroom teacher about my eyesight. After he leaves
, I walk out of the house and run a few distances before heading into a sprint.

 

During my run, I start to worry about what would happen when I got back to school. I knew it would be different from the last visit because by this time, Rick would have returned.

 

I didn’t know what he would do, what he would say when he saw me, but at the same time, I wasn’t really worried. After all, I
do
have powers.

 

Now that I think about it, this should teach him a lesson. Even though I was going nerdy—which

 
 

would probably give him even more reason to pick on me—I could still take him.

 

I slow
ed down when I got close to the school, and then walked the rest of the way. When I arrive, everyone looks at me. I was really annoyed by this, and began to wonder how long their gazes would last. As I look around, I see the crutch-wielding, anger-filled Rick looking at me alongside his girlfriend and the rest of the Jocks, whispering to each other, their words inaudible.

 

I considered using my super-hearing to hear what they were saying, but at this point, I didn’t really want to know. I had other plans in mind for today, and that plan was to start my new persona.

 

It was then that I realized Jack was nowhere to be found. He’d usually be here to talk to me. Did he catch a cold or something? Maybe he was late. Before I could try to look for him, the bells rings, and I’m forced to enter the school. Panic channels through me, and I hoped Jack would get here soon. Now that Taylor and I are no longer on speaking terms, I was going to need all the company I can get.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the middle of English, Jack finally shows up. I could tell he wasn’t late for school when I noticed the black eye, banana peelings and other garbage attached to his clothes. And Rick and his crew made it even more obvious by laughing at him.

 

He sits next to me, which I am grateful for. Although the terrible smell filling my noise makes me sick to my stomach, and I was almost on the verge of vomiting, he was my friend, and I didn’t want to leave him after the numerous times he’s helped me out.

 
 

"So I take it you’ve been having a rough few days, huh?” I ask.

 

He doesn’t say anything, but I know, deep down, he agrees.

 

“Is it because of me?”

 

He shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter,” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During lunch, Jack and I talk about what had happened during my suspension from school. As it turns out, the football team has been harassing Jack since the moment I left. Tripping him, pushing him around, throwing things at him. Everything they could to make sure I knew they didn’t like what I did to Rick. It was useless, really. I mean, why go for Jack? It was me they wanted. He had nothing to do with what happened. But I realized something. Though I was seemingly vulnerable to Rick and his friends, they knew they couldn’t touch me again—not if they didn’t want to end up in the hospital. I showed them that I was a force to be reckoned with. Therefore, I was untouchable. But Jack wasn’t. Because he was my f
riend and was unable to fend for himself, that made him an easy target.

 

While we talked, I tried working on my new identity by stuttering a little in my sentences. Jack picked up on it fairly quickly, and said that I had never done that before. Acting surprised, I said I didn’t know what he was talking about, and we dropped the conversation.

 

Unable to control myself, I turned and watched Taylor. I really wanted to talk to her. But I couldn’t because it would only lead to more arguing. The last time I talked to her, we were both angry, in fact,

 
 

furious with each other. She obviously knew my secret, and had proof to back it up, but I was still reluctan
t to tell her. Maybe I should.

 

Oh, yeah. Why not tell Jack and Brad while I’m at it.
Why do I even think of these things when I know the thoughts I choose to act on go against everything I know?

 

When lunch was over, I told Jack to go on without me, waiting for everyone at the table to leave so that I could have a moment with Taylor.

 

Oh, what on earth am I doing?
I think.
Just leave her alone. Catch up with Jack while you still can. Just turn around and don’t say…

 

“Taylor,” I say, my body uncontrollably walking over to hers.

 

She stops and looks at me for a moment, her frustrated eyes piercing mine, as if they’ve never left since the argument.

 

“What do you want, Troy?” she says, her voice an irritated tone. “If you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine, but-”

 

I hold up my hands, confused at what she was saying. “Wait,” I say. “I thought you weren’t talking to me?”

 

“I wasn’t,” she says. “But after you were suspended, I got to thinking that…maybe you were right. I shouldn’t have accused you of something as ridiculous as, well, having superpowers.”

 

All of a sudden, my confusion turns into relief. Even though she was right before, she went back to thinking like a human anyway, believing that what I did was impossible.

 

“I’m sorry,” she says, her voice reminiscent to
a child receiving punishment.

 

I nod my head. “I-I-it’s okay. But from now on, if we do something, we should be honest with each

 
BOOK: Invincible
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