Not So Great Superpowers
3
 May 20, 2016
Rules


In this contest we want you to write about a somewhat limited superhero. For instance a superhero that had the power of invisibility - but only when playing bagpipes while simultaneously banging on a drum.

Or one who has super strength - when gargling with castor oil.

Since this is a one-trick pony sort of story, we are going to make it kind of short - between 500 and 1000 words.

Contest Rules
* Entry Fee: Free
* Prize: Intermediate (Simply because we've never given one of those out. Be the first on your block!
* Level: Short Story
* Word Limit: 500 - 1000
* Submit period: 9 days
* Voting period: 2 days
* All regular Writing Deck Rules apply.
* Any entry not meeting Writing Deck standards will be DQed, so compose and proofread carefully.
* Multiple entries are allowed in this contest.


Good luck.
...
1st place
  7.69

Basically, Jack Fromp had been just an ordinary kid. He was actually a little dimmer than a night light, and could barely walk and chew gum at the same time, but he made up for his shortcomings with his caring attitude toward everyone.

He had no idea his powers were unique to himself. His first realization that he even had these was by accident. His mother had offered him a treat because a visit to the dentist had resulted in no cavities. On their way home, she said he could have a piece of penny candy.

This was Jack’s first time in the general store, and though he was overwhelmed by the amount of goodies on show, he spotted something right off that determined what he would get. There in front of him was something with the same initials that he had on all his clothes: J.F. It was a stick of Juicy Fruit gum!

His mother thought it a good choice, because chewing gum was supposed to be good for one’s teeth, so she gladly handed over the penny to the clerk.

Once outside, Jack unwrapped the gum, but because he didn’t know how it would taste, and also because he wanted this treat to last as long as possible, he tore the stick in half, put half in his mouth and the other half back in the wrapper and into his pocket.

“How’s it taste?” asked his mother.

“Wow, this is good,” he exclaimed, and they continued on toward home with smiles on their faces.

Nearing their house, Jack’s mother told him to go ahead and stay outside and play for a while. “I’ll call you when it is time for lunch,” she said.

“Alright,” Jack said, and headed to where he saw a couple other kids hanging out around a tree. “What ya all doing?” he asked when he reached them.

A little girl named Sally said “My cats done gone and got himself stuck up there in the tree. He doesn’t want to move from that branch.”

A boy named Frank stated “I’d go get him, but my Ma says to stay out of trees, as they’re dangerous.”

“Yeah,” said Jack. “My Ma says the same.” Looking around Jack noticed something: “Hey, that branch doesn’t look too far from that garage roof. I bet if I went up there, I could shoo him down. And my Ma didn’t say nothin’ about climbing onto garages.”

So Jack climbed onto the garage roof, but when he started to wave his arms to shoo the cat out of the tree, something happened: he started moving toward the branch right through thin air.

Jack arrived on the branch, not knowing he had floated over there, even though the branch was a good five feet away from the roof (it hadn’t looked that far away from the ground). When he reached for the cat, it hissed and scratched out at him. Jack was startled that the cat took a swipe at him, and gasped, causing the gum he was chewing to be expelled from his mouth.

Down Jack fell, and it was just lucky for him that he struck every branch on the way down, or he might have broken something.

“Hey, you scared my cat,” shouted Sally. “How’d you jump onto the tree like that anyway? And why didn’t you bring him down with ya?”

“Uh, Sally,” remarked Frank, “Jack didn’t exactly climb down the tree ya know? Are you okay Jack?”

Jack looked himself over, and was surprised when he couldn’t find claw marks from the cat. “Yeah, I guess,” he stuttered. “Just a bit bruised from hitting them branches, I bet. I thought sure Sally’s cat scratched me though.”

Not sure of how he had gotten out to the tree from the garage, he climbed back up and looked over at the tree. “How’d I do that?” he wondered. The cat was still over there looking at him, probably thinking the same thing (if cats can think).

Jack remembered he had lost his gum after the cat had struck, so he checked his pocket to make sure he still had the other half. When he felt it, he thought “Well, that other piece was tending to lose it’s flavor anyway.” Jack unwrapped the other half and tossed it into his mouth, but put the wrapper back in his pocket: “It’s got my initials, can’t be throwin’ somethin’ good like that away.”

Chewing the gum and enjoying the flavor, he didn’t realize he had floated over to the tree again. This time he didn’t flinch when the cat swiped at him, picked up the cat and floated down to where Sally and Frank were standing, with their mouths hung open.

That was the start of Jack’s super hero “Juicy Fruit Kid” series of good deeds. He saved a lot of cats, and even a few kids, from trees. As long as he was chewing Juicy Fruit gum, he was invulnerable.

The problem was, that Jack didn’t like chewing the gum after the flavor had gone, and had a tendency to spit it out, thus causing his powers to leave him as well.

On one rescue attempt, the kid at the top of the tree asked him a question as he was lifting them off: “what’s with the note pinned to your shirt?”

“Oh, that’s a reminder for me to pick up some more gum.” Jack said, accidently spitting out the piece he had in his mouth at the time.

Down they fell, and Jack was credited with saving the kid’s life, because the kid did land on top of him, breaking the fall a little. The kid weighed too much and Jack, sandwiched between the kid and the ground, did not survive. Thus ending the short career of the Juicy Fruit Kid.

Dave had a job as a traveling salesman. The pay was OK, he liked the travel, but he felt he should be accomplishing more with his life.

He woke up one morning with the number ‘8734’ stuck in his head. On a whim he wrote it down, and checked the State ‘Pick 4’ number the next day. It was ’8734’.

“Hmmm…,” he thought, “that would have been an easy $5,000 if I had bet on it.”

He didn’t think much more about it, until two days later with the number ‘5321’ on his mind. Sure enough, that one came up to when he checked, and he was ready for the next time it happened.

Three days later it was ‘9658’. He marched down to a local convenience store, put $10 on the number, and sure enough the next day ‘1001’ was picked. Dave muttered a few choice words and got on with life.

The problem was, it never stopped happening. He kept waking up with winning numbers – unless he bought a ticket. Naturally this got annoying.

Then one day, on a whim, he bought a $1 ticket on the number that appeared to him that day ‘6294’, then turned around and gave it to the next person waiting in line.

“Here you go good luck!” he told the man, then walked off.

The next day the number was… ‘6294’, the ticket had won.

“And so…” Dave muttered.

Through trial and error, Dave determined that the numbers were always correct… if there was no way he could benefit from it. If he tried giving the ticket to somebody with the understanding that they would pay him something back, it lost. As long as there was no conceivable gain he could get from it – either monetary or for returned favors, it won. Or as Dave figured it, random people would win the lottery normally, if he bought the ticket, random people still won, it’s just that he was the person to decide which random person it was. Dave decided there just had to be more than that to it.

One day he was reading a local paper, and noticed an article about a family whose home was destroyed by fire. A local charity was asking for donations, they were trying to raise $10,000. That morning, a number had appeared to Dave, he went down, bought a $2 ticket, put it in a letter, and mailed it to the charity. Of course the ticket won, and Philanthropy Man was born.

Every morning Dave scoured the papers of whatever town he was in for people who had hardships, and when he determined what the amount needed was, would go out and buy a ticket to cover it as soon as a number came to him, and mail that ticket anonymously. Dave figured that since his job constantly kept him moving, where wouldn’t be a problem with the tickets always being bought in the same locality, while he would likely be on camera buying tickets, the amounts wouldn’t be enough to generate publicity or question. This went on for a while; Dave found he could do a lot of good when he could leverage his donations 5000:1.

Through it all, Dave managed to stay anonymous, which suited him just fine. He didn’t have a special costume, didn’t fight crime, and didn’t make headlines, except for the many “anonymous benefactor donates lottery tickets” write ups, which he saved in a scrapbook. The world was better for “Philanthropy Man”, but nobody ever knew who was behind it.

“Ben!” Jim cried as his colleague walked into the lab. “You gotta see this. Remember that superpower game we used to play?”

“Click to get a random page from the wiki of powers and pretend all day you had it? This is why you called me here?”

“Ya!” Jim grabbed Ben by his wrist and pulled him into another room where a huge machine stood. “I’ve been working for years and it’s finally done. This makes the game real.” Ben had just started to laugh when Jim turned invisible and the snort cut off into a strangled gasp.
“You can only do it once, but it’s real,” Jim’s voice said before he reappeared. Ben’s eyes bulged and he staggered backwards. “Sorry for the shock. I figured it was the fastest way to convince you.” Jim shoved Ben in the direction of the machine. “Do it! Don’t think, just do it!”

In a daze, Ben clicked the “Random Power” button. A screen refreshed: Science-magic ascendancy.

“No way!” Jim’s voice sounded far away to Ben’s ears as the machine began to grumble and shake. “That’s the best one ever!” Ben blacked out before he could respond.

***


Ben blinked as he came back to consciousness on a couch, rubbing his eyes as he sat up.

“That was…intense,” Jim said. “How do you feel?”

Ben blinked a few more times, trying to clear his thoughts. “I don’t feel any different. Did it work?”

Jim looked around the room, rubbing his chin. “Let’s test it.” His eyes landed on a box of tissues. “Here. Try levitating the tissues over there. That’s definitely ascending science.”
Ben stared at the box of tissues, concentrating. With a jerk, the box shot into the air and slammed into the ceiling. Both men jumped and let out whoops of excitement.

“Try something else!” Jim exclaimed, wracking his brain for another idea. “Try…a force field!”
Ben closed his eyes and held up his hands, trying to focus. Slowly, a flickering, misty wall formed between them. Jim placed his hand against it and pushed against the now-solid air. Ben, shaking and sweating, let out an explosive exhale and the force field collapsed. “Why is this all so hard?”

“It’s hour one! Do you know how long it took me to get the hang of the invisibility? I used the machine months ago. Oh, man, you can do anything!”

Ben collapsed back down on the couch, overwhelmed.

“Anything…” he murmured. “What did the wiki say again?” Jim ran over to the machine.

“Science-magic ascendancy,” he read. “The power to have capabilities beyond science and magic. So…everything.”

Ben raised his hand to his forehead. His watch started beeping and he glanced at it, then jumped to his feet.

“How long was I out? I’m going to be late getting Mandy from school!”

Jim grinned. “You could fly. Or teleport. Or turn back time.”

Ben hesitated. “Maybe not yet. If levitating a tissue box was that hard…”

“Good point. Alright, go home. We’ll work on this tomorrow,” Jim grinned sardonically. “And maybe don’t tell your family anything. You might need a secret identity.”

Rolling his eyes, Ben ran to his car.

***


Ben drove through the busy city streets, still shakily struggling to wrap his head around what had happened. When he arrived, he tried four times to park at the curb. He was still moving the car back and forth when Mandy arrived at his window.

“What are you doing, Daddy?” she asked as she scrambled into the back seat. Ben smiled at the six-year-old in the rearview.

“Daddy’s a little distracted today, honey, and is having trouble focusing. How about you help me get my head down from the clouds? Tell me all about your day.” The soothing babble of the little girl’s voice continued the entire ride home.

***


The next day, Ben and Jim were back in the lab with several stuffed animals that Ben strained to move around telekinetically.

“Couldn’t you have found something a little less childish?” he asked as he accidentally sent a stuffed gorilla flying across the room. Jim shrugged, watching it slam into the wall with a soft whump and fall to the ground.

“I just found things that wouldn’t destroy the room. How did it go last night, having a secret this big?”

Ben shook his head. “Mandy didn’t notice a thing, but Elizabeth kept saying I was fidgety. She made me take a walk while she put the kid to bed. How am I supposed to keep this from her? We’ve been married eight years – we tell each other everything. I was so distracted yesterday I couldn’t even parallel park to get Mandy.”

Jim snorted.

“I just have my car do that for me,” he laughed. “Don’t worry, though. It gets easier.”
The two men heard a ruckus in the hall. Abandoning the toys, they ran to see what had happened. A group of engineers were parading around, cheering.

“We just completed the world’s first successful test of a self-driving car!” one yelled as the group passed. “We’re going out to celebrate.” Jim checked his watch.

“Maybe it is a good time to take a break,” he said. “Lunch?”

Ben nodded.

“I’ll drive.” The pair meandered to the parking lot and piled into Ben’s car. Ben turned the key and put his hand on the gear shift. He looked around, frowning.

“Everything ok?” Jim asked. Ben shook his head.

“I feel like…like I don’t know what to do. Like I don’t know how to drive.”

“That’s stupid. You have the power of science ascendancy of all things. You can do anything.”

Ben felt his stomach sink and his heart begin to pound.

“Ya…anything…beyond the limit of science. Nothing that science can do.”

“What? That’s ridiculous. I mean, calculators can add for crying out loud. What’s two plus two?”

Ben remained silent for a long time.

“I think,” he finally said slowly, “that we should work on a reversal machine next.”