Origin Story: Part 1
“I wonder if you’re bulletproof.”
Here’s a new story I’m going to tell in parts. It’s an adaptation of a script I wrote, and I’m not sure how long it will be when it’s finished (it might end up more a novella than a short story). The first three parts will be available to everyone, and after that it will be for paid subscribers.
This was the most important video of Madeline’s life. Her eighteen years on this earth had led up to this. And that’s why Madeline was letting Stacy use her phone.
Stacy did not have a phone of her own. Part of that was that Stacy was eleven, and their parents wanted to protect Stacy from the dangers of social media and whatnot. The other reason was that Stacy was impulsive and not very responsible, which was why it was worrisome to have her in control of an expensive, breakable electronic device.
Still, someone had to film this. And while Madeline and Stacy — because of the age difference — didn’t tend to do very much together as sisters, this was something Stacy very much wanted to be a part of. She almost seemed as excited as Madeline.
“You have a good hold of that?” Madeline asked.
“I got it.”
They were in their backyard. Madeline took a glance to their sides to make sure the neighbors weren’t out in their yards. This was secret stuff. Madeline wondered if they should have gone someplace remote to film this, but she didn’t know a good remote place where she was sure no one else would come by. And at least here, she had a picket fence blocking the view.
“Make sure the shot is framed well,” Madeline said, playing with her hair. “Remember the rule of thirds.”
“It’ll be good,” Stacy said, her face hidden behind the phone. “Is that what you’re wearing for this?”
Madeline looked down at the jeans and plain lime-green shirt she was wearing. “Well, I don’t have a costume yet. I thought I’d just wear some clothes that don’t draw attention to themselves.”
“Okay, I’m ready when you are.” Stacy held the phone pointed at Madeline.
Madeline smiled at the camera and got ready. She then noticed her auburn hair down at her shoulders. “Do you think I’d look more serious with a ponytail?”
Stacy shrugged. “You might.”
Madeline pulled a pink scrunchie out of her pocket and quickly fixed her hair into a ponytail. She faced and smiled at the camera again. “Okay, I’m ready.”
Madeline took a deep breath and one more moment to compose her thoughts before she started talking. “This is my audition video. My name is Madeline Larson, and...”
They were interrupted by barking. Their Jack Russell Terrier, Sparky, had run out to join them. Madeline had told her mom to keep him inside, but she apparently forgot, and now Sparky wanted to join in on whatever they were doing. He started jumping up against Madeline’s side.
“Sparky, no!” Madeline chided him, but he kept jumping. “We’re filming a video; you have to sit and be still.” But Sparky was not going to be still. He started jumping at Madeline harder, thinking that was the game. “Sparky!”
Madeline stuck her palm out at Sparky, and a glowing pink entity formed between her and the dog, like a forcefield. Sparky was confused when he struck the solid object between him and Madeline, tucked his tail between his legs as he backed away, and then ran off. Madeline felt a little bad scaring Sparky like that, but she remembered why she was out here and faced the camera and said, “As you can see, I have superpowers. And I am ready to join the Protectors. I am ready to be a superhero.”
Madeline stuck her fists to her hips, elbows out, doing her best superhero pose while smiling.
“Okay, I think that’s good,” Stacy said, lowering the phone.
“You don’t think we should do another take?” Madeline dropped from the superhero pose to a more relaxed one.
“No, that was neat with Sparky. If a dog is scared of you, maybe villains will be, too.”
“Okay, let’s set up for the next shot, then.” Madeline walked over to where in the yard they had a CPR dummy propped up against a tree. Madeline stood near it and got back in her superhero pose.
“Action!” Stacy called out.
“I am able to make force fields,” Madeline explained to the camera. “And I can turn those forcefields into objects I can manipulate.”
Madeline held out her right palm, and a pink forcefield formed in front of it. The forcefield then formed into a long cylinder resembling a bat. With a wave of her hand, the bat swung and hit the CPR dummy. It wobbled a bit and then fell over forward.
Madeline faced the camera again. “So, watch out, villains! I can also hit things at a pretty decent distance.”
Madeline walked a few feet away, and Stacy got her in frame along with a TV tray that had an empty Coke can on it that was about ten feet away from Madeline. Madeline began to concentrate, and the glowing pink bat began to whip around her.
Stacy shrieked as the bat collided with her, and she fell to the ground. The bat instantly disappeared, and Madeline ran over to her sister. “Are you okay?!”
Stacy began to pick herself off the ground. “I’m fine. I think it just startled me.”
Madeline waited a polite moment before asking the next question. “Is my phone okay?”
“It’s fine, and I got it all on video.”
“We should probably redo that.”
“No, I think this is better than hitting the can,” Stacy said. “Much scarier, and you need to convince them you can be intimidating.”
Madeline thought about that. “Maybe. I’ll think about it. Why don’t we just go ahead and film my special trick now.”
Stacy nodded, and Madeline stood out in the yard by herself while Stacy framed the shot. “And you’re sure you’re okay?” Madeline asked.
“Sure. It didn’t hit with very much force.”
Madeline grimaced a bit at that, but she got back in her superhero pose and smiled when Stacy called, “Action!”
“Now watch this,” Madeline stated.
Madeline held out her hands and made a spherical, pink forcefield that completely surrounded her. Then she put all her effort into moving it. It took all her will and strength and was almost painful, but she could feel the forcefield begin to lift her. She strained and strained, and soon she was hovering in her forcefield six inches off the ground. Finally, the effort was too much for her, and the forcefield disappeared. She fell to the ground, collapsing in a heap. She took a few seconds to catch her breath. And then a few more. Still panting, she got to her feet and got back in her superhero pose and smiled, though her face was now red and sweat was dripping down her forehead. “I can fly!” she triumphantly announced.
“Do you want another take on that one?” Stacy asked.
“No. That’s the best I’ve ever done it,” Madeline said. “Let’s get to showing my defense capabilities.”
Stacy set up the phone on a stand and picked up a tire iron. Madeline had wanted a crowbar, but their dad didn’t have one. He offered the tire iron from his car — and it did look fearsome — but he said he wanted it right back and not to bend it. Madeline didn’t think Stacy could swing it hard enough to bend it, which is why she wondered if she should have had someone more fearsome wield it, but again, Stacy really wanted to participate in this.
Stacy was ready with the tire iron and actually did look a bit scary if you looked right in her eyes. “The camera is recording?”
“It’s on. Let’s do this!”
Madeline put up a forcefield between her and Stacy, and Stacy immediately started whaling away at it with the tire iron. It was actually taking more will than Madeline thought to keep the shield going and deflect the blows. Eventually, Stacy seemed to tire herself out, and Madeline dissipated the forcefield and faced the camera.
“As you can see,” she said, “my forcefields protect me from attack. Thus I can—”
“I wonder if you’re bulletproof.”
Madeline’s parents were already a bit apprehensive about the whole superhero thing, so she simply told them they were heading out to get a few more things for the video when in fact, Madeline had looked up the nearest gun range. It was an indoor range simply called “Shooting World.” There was a middle-aged man behind a glass counter filled with pistols, and more guns were hanging on the wall behind him. He eyed the two girls who entered a bit suspiciously — especially the phone Stacy was holding up to film everything.
“Hello, citizen,” Madeline said to the man as Stacy recorded the exchange.
The man took a few confused looks at both Madeline and Stacy and finally settled on replying, “Hey.”
“I have a request,” Madeline continued. “You see, I have superpowers.”
Madeline waved her hand, making one of her pink forcefields appear between her and the man. The man looked at it with interest — but not a particularly large amount of interest. “Okay.”
“I would like help in determining whether my forcefields can deflect bullets.”
The man furrowed his brow. “You want us to put you at the back at the range and have people shoot at you?”
Madeline shuddered. “No, no... I was hoping for a safer way to do this.”
The gun store owner thought about it. “What if your forcefields cause the bullets to ricochet? I don’t think my insurance would want anything to do with this.”
Madeline frowned. “How do you think superheroes normally find out if they’re bulletproof?”
The gun store owner shrugged. “I’m guessing they get shot at, and then they either is or ain’t... if you know what I mean. So, do you want to buy a gun?”
Madeline was surprised by the question. “Huh?”
“A gun,” he repeated. “Let’s say you can block bullets with your forcefields. What then? You need to shoot back. You need a gun.”
Madeline glanced at the camera and then faced the gun store owner again, placing her hands on her hips for her superhero pose. “Superheroes don’t use guns.”
The man scoffed. “That’s dumb.”
“You’re dumb!” Stacy shouted at him, causing the man to scowl at her.
Madeline carefully approached Stacy and whispered to her, “Don’t make him mad; he has lots of guns.”
“So, the full extent of my powers aren’t quite known. But I know I was given them for a reason, and that is why I want to join the Protectors and learn to use them to help others. And I’ll be attending college near your headquarters, so it will work out really well. You see, my long-term plan is to be a dentist as an alter-ego.” Madeline got in her superhero pose again. “So I hope you will consider me as an asset in helping you fight villainy.” A thought seemed to strike her. “Oh yeah: I forgot to tell you how I got these powers. It’s a pretty interesting story. Well, kinda. Anyway, one day I—”
Drayton paused the video and looked at the others in the conference. “Let’s bring her in.”
Frank Talk is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.