Writing exercise: Use these three things in a short story/scene: a superhero, a church, a spoon
The spoon was a bit tricky, but I worked it in there. This was a hero mentioned a couple times in Shades of Red, but I hadn’t really fleshed him out any. I’m thinking he’s a government-employed hero who works with the Chicago PD. His on and off relationship with the Scarlet Ranger (not mentioned in this piece) is no doubt great fodder for the tabloids.
I’m really digging the villain in this. He’s kind of reminding me of the Joker, but with less style and actual powers. Maybe an archenemy for the Defender? As a telekinetic, he can find ways around the Defender’s powers that a lot of other enemys can’t, and his personality is a complete 180. He’s all emotions–rage and hate. I’ll have to come up with a name for him (especially since I had trouble coming up with enough different things to call him in this, heh).
Holy cats, it’s 1300 words. And I just realized this is the second Sam I’ve used in a row. Hmm.
To Serve and Protect
Sam Kern had never been afraid in church before. Inspired or excited, or bored, sure, but never had terror so gripped his heart and chilled his bones as it did now.
The evening service had finished over an hour ago. Sam, as the only alter boy not to call in sick today, had stayed behind to help Father Holtz clean up. On his way back from dropping off a load of communion plates, he heard a scream.
He pushed aside the heavy doors to the assembly hall, then froze. The long, carpeted aisle stretched up to the pulpit was dark. The pews were empty and dark. Candles still burned at the altar, casting the only light in the room. Sam could have sworn the lights were still on when he’d left, just a moment ago. He saw Father Holtz’s outstretched hand on the floor by the podium; the priest’s arm and body were hidden by the front row of seats.
“Father Holtz?” Sam asked, sounding small in the vastness of the church. His voice cracked, and he flushed in embarrassment. He cleared his throat and walked down the aisle.
“Father Holtz?” Sam said again, trying to sound confident. “Are you okay?”
There was no answer. Sam quickened his pace and found Father Holtz slumped over the stairs leading to the dais. A small puddle of blood crept over the steps.
Sam choked and covered his mouth. Frozen in terror, he didn’t notice the soft footfalls behind him. A gloved hand firmly gripped the young man’s shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” the man said, calm and reassuring.
Sam had never seen the Chicago Defender in person, but he could say from now on that the photos didn’t do him justice. The hero was tall and thin, in his trademark blue and gold costume. The distinctive gold silhouette of the Chicago Police shield hung over his heart. A strong, clean-shaven jaw jutted from beneath his visored helmet.
Sam spend only a moment taking in the local superhero, then dropped to Father Holtz’s side. A wooden spoon, slick and dark with blood, protruded from the man’s chest.
“The-the spoon of St. Brent!” Sam sobbed. “The church’s holy item! Who—”
Sam stopped as high-pitched laughter pealed through the air, echoing off the stained-glass windows and high rafters.
“We’re about to find out,” the Chicago Defender said. “I’ve secured the building, so it’s him or us now. You ready, kid?”
The doors to the chapel burst open, and a madman sprinted toward them. He reminded Sam of the indigents who came on Wednesdays for the free suppers. Long tangled hair whipped about his head, and his tattered clothes were streaked with dirt. Heavy boots pounded the floor. The man cackled as he ran, arms outstretched. As he passed each row, bibles and hymnals rose into the air. He stopped half-way up the aisle, hundreds of books hovering behind him. He watched the Chicago Defender intently, an expression of manic glee creasing a filthy face.
“Get behind me,” the Defender ordered quietly. Sam, though, remained crouched, unable to fight his fear.
“I think,” said the madman said, “the expression is something like, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ Maybe you should come here more often. Or maybe read one of these books.”
He flicked his wrists, sending the floating mass of hymnals and bibles swooping through the air at the Defender and young altar boy. A virtual wave of fluttering paper surged over their head. Sam ducked, one hand involuntarily clutching his head and the other grasping at the small cross around Father Holtz’s neck. He squeezed his eyes shut as he heard books crashing against the Defender, and knew he’d be next. The sharp edges of the cross bit painfully into his palm.
But the expected leather-bound crush never came. Everything went quiet. Sam lifted his head, slowly, and peered up. The Defender stood in a wide stance, arms outstretched. A shimmering blue and gold field arced over them both. A wall of books lay piled against the force field.
“Saw the movie,” the Defender grunted. He thrust an arm forward, and the field pushed out, tumbling the books onto the floor. “Wasn’t impressed.”
The madman snarled and rushed forward, one hand darting into his jacket and emerging with viciously curved knife. The pews cracked and splintered, and jagged chunks of the wooden seats began to dart at the Defender. Small flashes of blue and gold flattened the space just a few feet from the hero, shattering the deadly missiles. After a few moments of this, the Defender clenched one hand, and a force field suddenly popped into existence around the charging villain.
The crazed killer crashed face-first into the shimmering blue and gold, his nose bursting with blood. The field lifted into the air, and the man slipped to his knees inside the bubble of energy. The remaining splinters fell to the floor.
Sam watched the exchange in awe, feeling his fear ebb away. He looked down at Father Holtz and gingerly removed the cross from his own clenched fist. “Forgive us, Father,” he whispered, “for not…”
Sam frowned. The carpet beneath Holtz’s body was shifting slightly, pulling up as though someone were tugging on it. Sam gasped with realization. “Defender!” he shouted.
But he was too late. The flap of the rug beneath the hero tore free and sent the Defender sprawling to the floor. Concentration broken, the force field encasing the murderer vanished. The madman scrambled across the floor and lunged with the knife. The Defender barely got an arm up in time, and the two men locked together in a contest of sheer strength. The killer had an easy thirty pounds on the hero though, and slowly the knife began to drop toward the Defender’s chest. The Defender growled, and the madman laughed, spittle spraying across the hero’s face.
Sam looked about desperately for a weapon. There wasn’t much. With sweaty hands he grasped one of the candle snuffers on the altar. It was pitifully thin and fragile, but the candelabra was too heavy and unwieldy. Besides, he was really just hoping to be a distraction.
He took a step toward the struggling men, raising the candle snuffer high, but the madman suddenly looked up and growled at the boy. Sam whimpered and felt his courage fail. The candle snuffer suddenly wrenched about in his own hand and stabbed down. Sam cried out and tried to throw the snuffer away and twist out of its path. The snuffer found its mark, stabbing into the boy’s shoulder. Sam yelled out in pain and crumpled across the book pile.
However, he’d given the Defender the moment he needed. His gloved hand darted up past the knife and grasped the villain’s face. The madman jerked, laughter gurgling to a halt in his throat. Then he collapsed atop the hero and lay still.
Sam felt the Defender gently lift him and place him on the front pew. The hero gingerly probed the wound. Sam winced and blinked through tears to see Father Holtz’s killer slumped on the floor.
“Is, is he dead?” Sam asked.
The Defender sighed. “No. Just unconscious.” He stood. “You should be okay. Ambulance is on the way. Do you have someone you want me to call?”
“What happened to him?”
The hero was quiet a moment. “It’s hard to explain. Basically I create a small force field in his brain, just for an instant. It’s risky, but puts ‘em right out.”
Sam nodded, then couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. Father Holtz’s sudden death, the adrenaline, the terror, the fight, the injury, just all came pouring out. He covered his face with his good arm, blocking out the serene, peaceful expression on the comatose madman’s face.