Daily Writing Exercise: Superhero/Urban Fantasy. Crime has always been about paying your debts, one way or another. Yet another r/WritingPrompts reply. 867 words.
They’d been trying to kill Shadow for far longer than I’d been alive. Guns, knives, poisons, radiation, drowning, lava, vacuums– there’s little that villains, super and otherwise, hadn’t tried.
He’s taken down corrupt governments, decimated alien invasions, and if you believe enough of the stories, defeated gods. He was the sort of superhero that was so good, so powerful, that even everyday people, normal good people, were just a little bit afraid.
Because there’s darkness in all of us, if you look hard enough and no one was sure just how much the Shadow could see.
Not that I had ever been a good person.
I ruled over North Ombin’s criminals with a bloody iron fist, neatly tucked away beneath designer gloves. There was crime if and when I allowed it, carefully controlled so bad things happened now and then, but horrible things never did.
South Ombin was a different story. They were a bustling city that drew our best and brightest away– at least for a while. We had statistically similar petty crimes, misdemeanors, grand larcenies, but when our area made the news it was never our side of the river. And after a while, our kids came home again.
They had all the wealth, the power, the fame– and all the horrors that humans inflict on one another when there isn’t someone to stop them.
North Ombin was poor, worthless, and mine.
But no one cared.
There was nothing to steal, no power to corrupt, no easy drug market to tap into. So no one tested my dominion, save for a few random thugs that quickly learned that the local myths had a bit more bite than they expected. North Ombin was worthless to the world and I had sacrificed everything to keep it that way.
Then Shadow walked into my coffee shop, ordered a latte, and waited for me to get off shift.
“It’s not a curse.”
“Your gift then.” Shadow had the nerve to smile as he sat down at my kitchen table, nursing his third refill of coffee. “You know why I’m here.”
“No, I don’t.” I poured myself a stiff drink, not caring that I’d turned my back. It was hard to care about anything once the reality had settled in that he was here. For me.
“Do you think I enjoy this?” He waited until I’d turned back around to gesture to the inky darkness he wore like misty clothing. “Do you think I wanted to spend twenty years out there, fighting the good fight?”
“Yes.” Because the offering Shadow had made as a kid was the sort of bargain that didn’t work if you didn’t mean it. It took me a few tries myself to get that part right.
“I had a life before this.”
“That’s not my fault.”
“I want it back.” The room was darkening with his mood. “I’ve done so much good for this world, these people and it’s never enough. They cower when they see me, everyone cowers. Maybe not on the outside, but on the inside all I can see is the fear and the darkness rotting at their souls. You can make it stop.”
There was no light left in the kitchen.
I thought I’d made peace with the fact I was going to die a long time ago, but it was only an odd sort of half-measure. It wasn’t until now, standing in my kitchen facing the void that everything clicked into place.
“There are only two people who know the truth about my ‘gift’ and only one of them’s alive,” I said. “So tell me what you think you know.”
The darkness laughed, thick and bitter. “Silk was a real medium, did you know that? I always thought it was an act, but she did me a favor before she died. Turns out even the dead have their price.”
I finished the drink. “I suppose we do.”
We were twelve when the circle in the woods lit up with colors we never saw again. Four years of trial and error boiled down to those few heartbeats. To our bargain.
My twin walked out of those flames. I didn’t.
And for the next hundred years North Ombin was mine.
“It’s an easy mistake to make,” I peeled away the darkness until I could see his face, see the bright jewel of his terrified realization that melted like sugar on my tongue. “People make it all the time.”
“Please–” He didn’t know what he was begging for, I could taste it, but he’d already made his bargain with me.
“If you kill him, there’s no going back,” pointed out David as my twin came in through the front door, takeout bag in hand. “They’re going to notice and they’re going to come hunting. I got Pad Thai, that okay?” The darkness paled to a translucent fog in his wake.
“Yes,” I said and David smiled.
Ombin is a sprawling metropolis, an oasis in an otherwise chaotic world. There’s crime here– accidents, bad luck, and all the other minorly inconvenient statistically certainties of life, but there are never ever outliers.
No matter how hard everyone tries.
Because Ombin is rich, and powerful, and mine.