It wasn’t until I’d been home for a while that I thought back on what had happened at my locker and how strange that was that no one noticed me. I mean, sure, they’d been talking with each other, but it’s not like that had ever stopped them in the past.
On the other hand, I guess it would be kind of arrogant, in a kind of horrible, twisted way, to assume that I was the center of their worlds and humiliating me had to take precedence over everything, but even so it was kind of really weird. I just couldn’t get past the way I had suddenly felt all different, all calm for no good reason, and I’d known everything would be OK, and then it… just was.
That didn’t make any sense, but I had to either believe that that was exactly what had happened, or that I had experienced something that didn’t happen, and so I was going crazy. And since I’m too young to go crazy… what now? Because the alternative is kind of crazy too!
So I didn’t get much sleep that night. The question burning in my mind kept me up until way too late: do I somehow have superpowers?
* * *
The one good thing about that day was that it was a Friday, which means the next day was Saturday, and I didn’t have work that day, so I went over to Sean’s around noon. I figured if anyone could help out with a question like this, it would be him.
Sean’s been one of my best friends since grade school, and one of the only ones, guy or girl, who didn’t treat me like I was totally different somehow after The Girls moved in without my permission. He’s kinda weird, but fun to hang out with.
“Nyaaaah, what’s up, doc?” he greeted me at the door.
I rolled my eyes at him. “Do I look like a doctor to you?”
I probably shouldn’t have said that. It gave him a perfect setup for his next line. He put on a kinda nasal voice and held up an imaginary cigar a few inches from his lips. “No, you look one uniform short of a hel-loooo nurse!” He wiggled his eyebrows at me.
Argh. He’s the one guy who gets to make jokes like that, because I know he’s just being a goof. When he gets like this, it’s best just to let it run its course. I narrowed my eyes at him. “You realize, don’t you, that this means war?”
He gave me a blank look and slumped a little. “OK, that’s just not fair!”
“I was doing Bugs Bunny, and then Groucho Marx, and you pull out a line that they’re both famous for using?”
“…I did? So that’s cheating or something?”
He shrugged. “Nevermind. Come on in.” He sat down in the recliner. “You look like something’s bugging you.”
I nodded. “…kinda?”
He stroked an imaginary beard with one hand, the other gesturing to the sofa. “Come, sit down on my couch und tell me vaht ees zee problehm.”
“Oh, so now you’re the doc?” I asked as I took a seat.
He nodded seriously. “You may call me herr doktor Sigmund Fraud.”
I couldn’t help it. The way he said that with a perfectly straight face made me snerk, and I had to fight back an attack of the giggles. It wasn’t even that funny. When I composed myself, I asked as casually as I could, “so how do people get superpowers?”
Sean didn’t even miss a beat. He took the question completely seriously, almost as if he thought I was asking about something real. “Well, that’s a very broad subject, really. They come from all sorts of unusual sources. What kind of powers are we talking about? Flight? Super strength? Super senses? Healing? Mental powers? Transformation?”
“Actually, I was thinking more like invisibility,” I said.
“Well, off the top of my head, there are a few known sources of invisibility. Being bombarded by a cosmic ray shower has been known to randomly grant invisibility, and intensive training in Tibet while learning to confront the evil within your own heart has been known to bring out an ability to cloud the minds of others such that they cannot see you, which is about the same thing. More recently, a genetic mutation was discovered that endows its carrier with all manner of stealth-related powers.” He looked over at me. “And of course you could find a magic ring, but that’s not really a power the person has. But why the sudden interest?”
I shrugged. “Overheard someone at school talking about a girl who was able to turn invisible. I don’t think she had done anything special like being an astronaut or anything. I just thought it sounded kinda cool.”
He nodded. “They’re probably talking about Cipher. She’s one of the X-men, got created a few years ago, but she has a bunch of other abilities as well related to stealth. She can become intangible and walk through walls, disguise her voice, shield her mind from telepaths, all sorts of stuff. That would be kind of awesome, really. But just invisibility, by itself? That’s actually a sucky power to have.”
I looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“Well, that was what the Invisible Girl could do. Except she was one of the worst superheroes ever. Like… forgetting when she was invisible and trying to cross the street and almost getting hit by a car. Multiple times. Or going invisible while wearing something other than her special outfit that would turn invisible along with her, so everyone could still tell exactly where she was. Or going invisible while carrying something, so everyone could still see it. Or going invisible after the bad guys had already grabbed her, which did no good whatsoever.
“Eventually they retconned her powers and decided that her invisibility was due to using a force to bend light around her body, and then she was able to project forcefields too and she suddenly became actually useful, but before that she was horrible.”
I bit my lip a little. “Sounds like her problem was more ‘being a total ditz’ than ‘having useless powers,’ though.”
Sean shrugged. “Maybe. But I guess that’s still the first thing I think of.”
“So what’s retconned?”
“Basically, when an author rewrites the past, changing something that’s already established as fact in-universe.”
“So a fancy word for changing something?”
“No, changes happen all the time. Retcon is ‘retroactive continuity,’ it means they’re not changing things now, they’re saying ‘it’s always been different like this, and the readers just didn’t know about it.'”
I made a face. “That sounds like cheating.”
“Yeah, it basically is. But it’s useful, so authors do it a lot in long-running series.”
“So if it’s genetic, then that means some people can be born with it? That sounds kinda disturbing, I mean, how did that one girl ever live to grow up and join the X-men if little baby stealth girl could go straight through the bars of her crib, or toddle through the walls and out of the house and out onto the street? Sounds like a good way to have a tragedy.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, but the authors don’t want people thinking too much about stuff like that, so generally it’s hand-waved away by saying that you start out living a normal life and then powers usually manifest at puberty.”
Well that was no help at all to me. That train had already long since left the station! “Wait, what about Little Naked Baby Superman lifting up that car?”
That one made him laugh. “Good question. I suppose the Kents didn’t have horrendous troubles raising him because they were Just Really Good People. But then there’s Smallville…”
He rolled his eyes. “Nevermind.” Then he gave me a funny look. “Wait, when did you see that? That’s not really your thing…”
“With Mark. He loves old movies.”
“Oh.” For the briefest moment, I thought I saw a hint of… irritation? Of something on Sean’s face. But then it was gone, and he grinned. “So would you really want to have powers anyway? Because then you’d have to go out and fight crime or something.”
I groaned and covered my face. “Would I have to wear one of those ridiculous painted-on superhero costumes?”
He laughed. “Probably. But you know, there’s actually a very legitimate reason for those costumes.”
I looked over at him all incredulous-like. “Now this I gotta hear.”
Sean wiggled his eyebrows at me. “To protect your identity, of course. Have you ever seen those ridiculous masks heroes wear?” He put his hands over his eyes and then parted his fingers a little so his eyes could look out. “Oh, look, I’m covering a very small part of my face. Now nobody who’s ever met me will know who I am! Riiiiiight. So the obvious solution is, wear something that draws attention away from your face, and then nobody realizes it’s you!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “You goof! But why would that even matter when your power is invisibility? No one would see your face anyway.”
He shrugged. “Good point.”
After that, we got to talking about other stuff, school and gossip and whatever, and then I left, having learned a bit about superheroes and absolutely nothing that was useful in my case.
Well, except for one thing: this thing, if it was even real, could be completely useless, so it was up to me to make sure I didn’t do stupid stuff with it. So apparently with mostly useless power comes great responsibility? I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think that’s the way Sean likes to put it.
* * *
Well, if I wanted to not be useless at this, I supposed there was only one thing to do: practice. But how do you practice being invisible? Was it even real at all? Everything I knew said it was impossible, and it’s not like I had any real proof, but I had experienced what I had experienced. That has to mean something, right?
First thing to do, of course, was to make it happen again. Sean’s about four blocks away, so I had some time to think as I walked back home. I thought back to the moment it happened. It all changed when I wished I was invisible. So I tried that. I wish I was invisible, I thought to myself.
But I hadn’t just thought it, had I? I actually said it out loud. Well… I looked around to be sure no one was watching, then tried that. “I wish I was invisible,” I whispered under my breath.
Then I remembered one last detail, and I groaned a little to myself. I had put my hands over my ears when I said it. But that couldn’t possibly be part of it, could it???
I looked around again to make absolutely sure no one was watching, then put my hands over my ears and whispered the magic words. “I wish I was invisible.”
And suddenly the feeling was back. Peace, confidence, reassurance. I was all calm and it was like being in a trance.
Ugh, what a silly cliche. How am I supposed to know what being in a trance feels like? It’s not like I’ve ever been into hypnosis or anything.
But… on the other hand, I don’t care. It’s my feeling, and if I want to call it that, I will. It was like being in a trance. So there. But… blech. To make it happen I had to put my hands over my ears and whisper “I wish I was invisible”???
Sean’s right. Lamest superpower ever!
I was almost home by this point. I walked in, and Dad was right there, on the sofa, watching some football game. He didn’t so much as glance over when I came in, which was weird. He always greets me if he’s there when I get home.
This was kind of awesome, actually. I walked over and sat down on the other side of the couch from him, moving directly between him and the TV along the way, and he didn’t even blink. I just sat back, fighting back the urge to giggle with pure glee. I’d done it! I really was invisible!
Then my phone sang out its text tone, and Dad looked over at me, and bam, the trance was gone. “Oh, hey honey, when did you get home?” he asked, looking a bit puzzled.
“Just now,” I said.
“Sorry I didn’t see you come in,” he said. “I must be more into this game than I thought! Just look! The Snargs are totally killing the Bloogles! 16-1!” Or something like that. He reached over and pulled me in for a one-armed side-hug.
I hugged him back, then pulled away and got my phone out. It was Mark.
Hey u wanna come over 2nite?
Sure what's on the menu? Another movie?
I was thinking Casablanca.
Didn't know u were into foreign films?
*headdesk* It's not. Ull see.
CU then. *smooch*
So I had a date. To see some thing that sounded Spanish but apparently wasn’t. Oh well, it’s not like we’d end up actually watching more than half of it anyway. We’d be all snuggled up and after a while he’d nibble on my ear or my neck… yum. He was way too good at that, and soon we’d be making out and not even noticing the movie.
Mark was an excellent kisser, and respectful about it too! He always kept his hands on my arms or my back, or my head, never anywhere perverted, and… ohhhh. Even now, knowing the truth about him, it’s kinda hard to say, if I had it to do all over, if I wouldn’t have gone out with him just the same.
Wow, how is it I managed to be so completely wrong about both of the two most important guys in my life? (Aside from Dad and Brad of course!)
Anyway, I wasn’t actually into the game–a bit nauseated really, since every last one of them seemed to be all “Look at me, I am Steve all grown up, and everyone loves me!”–so I excused myself and headed off to the mall for a bit more practice.
It was kind of fun, walking around and having nobody see me. There was a bit of a thrill to it, like I had a secret and nobody around me got to be in on it. I looked around at various stores, just exploring around, and I could look at whatever I wanted and not have to deal with obnoxious, pushy salespeople! I even bumped into people a couple times, and they didn’t seem to really notice. One guy mumbled “sorry,” but that was about it.
And then I walked past a jewelry store. There was this beautiful gold bracelet just sparkling in a display case, and it didn’t look like it was locked. All I had to do was move in behind the case and open it…
I stepped back, shaking my head. Had I really just considered using my superpowers to steal something?!? No way I could do that. It would be wrong, it would be illegal, I’d probably be caught anyway since being invisible didn’t mean I wouldn’t leave fingerprints… and I’d never be able to face Sean again if I did something like that. I just knew it.
It’s just jewelry. It’s not worth losing a friend over.
Then I noticed that I wasn’t the only one with my eye on that bracelet. A little ways off, there was this Asian-looking guy in a black suit. He had shades on, and his hair fell down almost to his shoulders. He looked very serious, and if his hair had been shorter and he’d had one of those coily-wire-earpiece thingies, he would have been the very picture of a Secret Service agent from a movie!
And then he reached a hand up to his ear and his lips moved a little and I realized he didn’t need a coily wire; he had a Bluetooth headset. Not sure what he was saying, but after a second he nodded a little, then turned his head and looked right at me, and started walking directly towards me!