In Shape

You don’t need to be in super shape to be a superhero

Connor paused as he crossed the mirror, half observing and half admiring what he saw. Today’s workout had been nice; he had finally gotten three weeks straight of abs, and his stomach was tight. He wasn’t satisfied, but he was happy with what he saw. He was by no means the biggest, but certainly the most built dude he had known in a while. Working out was like eating for him; he had to do it at least twice a day, or else he would suffer from it. It wasn’t for body image, it wasn’t for competition towards something… it just was. He just worked out.

You’ve got to get home, he reminded himself. Quit looking so good. Get out of here. You’ve been at the gym too long. Shaking his head away from the illusion of his body image, he went towards his locker to dress.

He walked into his apartment to find Tyler on the couch, watching TV and digging into a bag of snacks. They head nodded to each other as Connor walked by, not wanting his friend to spill the food stuffed into his cheeks. Ducking out of the room for a moment, Connor dumped his dirty clothes into the hamper before crashing on the couch.

“Ddd mmm iiccc ooooz?” came from Tyler’s half full mouth as he handed a video game console to Connor. He raised his eyebrows.

“Didn’t quite understand that,” Connor said, jabbing his elbow into his roommate’s chubby       side.

Tyler jabbed his cell phone in response, hitting the on button. “The news, jackass,” he said. “Local. Did you read it at all while you were at the gym?”

“No, I hit all the green lights on my bike. Didn’t stop to look at anything. What happened?”

“Remember that apartment complex building over in East Field Park a few days ago?” Tyler began pulling up the article, using the phone’s connection to the Xbox to pull up the news on the tv.

“What happened with that? Police find something?”

“Security cameras did,” Tyler explained. Clicking on a link on the screen, a video began to play.

Connor watched, bent forward on the couch as security camera footage showed a group of kids playing Frisbee in the field on the side of the building. They seemed to be in the middle of a game, until one player threw in the direction of the apartment the camera was attached to. The disc veered up, out of the angle of the camera, and suddenly the frame rocked. The people playing could be seen standing still, no longer running. Chunks of rocks fell through the frame of the camera. The players could be seen turning on one player, presumably the one who threw the Frisbee.

And then the camera cut to black.

“What the hell?” Connor asked, bewildered at what he just saw.

“Isn’t it awesome dude?” Tyler laughed. “It’s another person with super powers! The dude has super strength!”

“But how?” Connor asked.

“I don’t know, but that was so cool!” Tyler said. “I watched it like four times before you came home.”

“You’re telling me,” Connor said slowly. “That some dude… threw a Frisbee… and nearly demolished a building.” He looked Tyler in the eyes. They both burst out laughing.

“Yes!”

“That’s no way real,” Connor burst. “No way. It’s gotta be fake.”

“Look at where I got it from!” Tyler protested. “That address ain’t the Onion!”

“A Frisbee?” Connor howled with laughter. “A piece of cheap ass plastic Frisbee nearly demolished that building.”

“Dude, so much physics are being defied here,” Tyler laughed with his friend. “Maybe the thing was adamantium.”

“And maybe they played with a discus.” Connor retorted, trying to breathe since he was cramping from laughter. “Play the damn thing again.” Tyler did, and they watched it a few more times, pausing and arguing and breaking it down. Their laughter hung on for a few more replays, but it was slowly replaced by awe.

“There’s no way that isn’t photoshopped or whatever,” Connor said. “It’s way too good.”

“Bro I think that dude has super strength. I think it’s real,” Tyler shook his head. He took to Google and found the same video on more pages. “The same video keeps coming up. And it’s travelling upwards. More official sites. Soon it’ll reach national news.”

“Maybe,” Connor breathed, hardly accepting the video was real. It couldn’t be real…. Could it?

“This dude is famous now,” Tyler said. Their excitement and hilarity of the event seemed to die as the sun was setting outside the window of their apartment building. Their disbelief was disappearing quicker than daylight. “Maybe you could learn a thing or two from him about lifting.”

“Highly doubt that,” Connor scoffed, bragging about his weights and reps. “Perhaps he can tell you something about getting strong, couch potato.”

“Damn dude,” Tyler whistled, impressed. “You’re the most jacked dude I know.” Connor flexed, showing off. “You’re also the smelliest too. Get off the couch and get the hell in the shower.”

***

Later, Connor had his laptop open, pouring over articles related to what his roommate had shown him. A little notepad sat next to the computer, detailing whatever he could about the identity of the possible super strength Frisbee thrower. From what it looked like, his name was Kyle Henty, and he was part of an ultimate Frisbee league in the township, just as Connor and Tyler had theorized. This Kyle had not been in anything in the news except for Frisbee games and this, so it was hard to track if he had other displays of his power before. No incidents with gyms or cars… just this. Creeping on his Facebook, Kyle looked a lean guy in his early 20’s, a kid attending the local community college. Not much younger than himself. He looked pretty in shape, and Connor meticulously took down any information about the build he could glean from the photos. Runner build, short curly hair, tall, everything you would expect from a college kid. Connor spent a long time studying those pictures, before collapsing on his bed.

Well built. In shape. Connor glanced over this notepad of details, flipping over the paper to where other similar bios were detailed. Connor studied them, long and hard from one to another. He was looking for something in the details, remembering each case he’d detailed, but he could not think of what he wanted. Closing the notebook, he laid it on his nightstand, letting his arm hang out as he laid down.

There had been a string of super powers emerging in the past few months, this past few weeks particularly in this part of the country. The common thread Connor had noticed–everyone was in great shape. This Frisbee thrower with super strength, a baseball player who could fly, a mail carrier who found he could breathe underwater… all of them were in some way in good shape. That couldn’t be all it was, but it was something this mid 20’s sales worker had noticed. Everyone who had been seen with powers was also seen as physically fine-tuned.

Connor wanted to push the thought to the back of his mind, but he was wondering when he would have superpowers manifest. It had to happen. There was no other connection that he could see. Causation and correlation were not always the same, but this time they were. He was in shape, in better shape than anyone he knew, probably including this list of people with powers. It was wrong for Connor to think it, he knew… but since he was in such good shape, shouldn’t he get powers?

“Something else has to be it,” he muttered to himself, a thought blooming in his mind. “But in case there isn’t, there’s only one way to find out.”

***

Connor looked up as the doors to the building opened, watching students pour out into the sunlit afternoon. The local community college was done for the week. Most kids had Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, Connor figured that much; he wasn’t that far out of college that he forgot how most scheduling worked. He also figured if this was the right person, he’d be heading over to the fields to play Frisbee again. So he drove around the campus, looking for the familiar face in pursuit of a game of toss. There were hundreds of kids on campus, and Connor was afraid he may not find them. He drove slowly, making sure to pay attention to each face that walked through the view of his windows.

Tyler knew nothing of this. To his roommate, Connor was still at work, or at the gym. He would hit there later, just tell Ty he did an extra-long session, or whatever. But if he found out what Connor was really doing, it would not be a laughing discussion. Maybe there was some other trait all those recent cases had that escaped his attention. And so what, if Connor didn’t get superpowers—was it the end of the world? Connor frowned. It was just that, but it was more, he knew as he drove along a road next to the quad of the college. There was something deeper, something darker about the matter. All these cases were happening, all of these things were lining up for him and it to just not happen? Why did he deserve to get shaf—

Bam! Connor lurched forward in his seat as the car recoiled from hitting something. Looking at his surroundings, he could see the white lines of the crosswalk beneath his vehicle, and whirled his head in panic. Had he hit someone?

“What the hell is your problem?” came the yell in his window, some female student scowling at him. A few more kids jeered at him, yelling that he was a shit driver. Connor said nothing back, frozen in the car as his eyes were fixated on the student he’d hit.

As if right out of his Facebook picture, Kyle Manty was slumped on the hood of Connor’s car.

“Aren’t you going to ask if I’m ok?” Kyle asked Connor as he got out into the crosswalk.

“I have a few other questions to ask you,” Connor said, helping Kyle to his feet. For some reason, no one yelling at Connor seemed to pay attention to the sizable dent in the hood, the shape of a human hip detailed into it. He looked at it, and then back at Kyle. “Let me drive you to the emergency room. Or do you have a health services on campus?”

“It’s the other way, and I can get to it—“ Before his sentence was over, Connor had thrown him in the passenger side, quickly climbing into his seat and driving off.

“What the hell are you doing? Are you freaking kidnapping me?”

“You’re the Frisbee kid,” Connor said. His arms held the top of the steering wheel as they veered through the small road. “The one from the news.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kyle said, his tone low and unusually calm.

“Dude, I’m not stupid. You had that whole Frisbee fiasco on the news earlier this week. You destroyed a building.”

“No I didn’t,” Kyle protested.

“You had write-ups in at least ten news articles online,” Connor told him. “I know it was you.”

“Why do you care?” Kyle asked. “Listen, whatever happened was an accident. If I destroyed your apartment or something, I am sor-ry. It’s not like I was going to bomb the place!”

“I live far from there,” Connor chuckled. “No, you didn’t destroy anything. You didn’t take anything from me. You gave me something.”

“What’d I give you?” Kyle asked, worried about the answer.

Connor pulled to the side of the road, whipping his notebook from the side door pocket. He kept his hand on the door lock, so Kyle couldn’t open the door and split. “People in this country have been developing powers. Have you been following the stories, since you got yours?”

“No, I had no interest,” Kyle said. “I just wanted to play frisbee. I don’t care about what I can do. Are you from the government or something?”

“Strike two,” Connor said. “I’m just a rando. But I’ve been watching the news. Every person developing powers… I’ve been recording the incidents. Trying to track why. What happened that day, when your powers emerged?”

“I don’t know!” Kyle exclaimed. “I was just in the middle of the game. I didn’t do anything, didn’t take anything, nothing was unusual about the day until that happened. I was just living my normal life until I had some kind of Hercules arm or something.”

“Nothing,” Connor breathed in disbelief. “Not a single clue as to what might have done it?”

“No!”

Connor breathed out his nostrils, frustrated. So the kid knew nothing. What was he supposed to do now? That was no clue to go off of. “I just want to know, for my own knowledge,” he lied to the kid.

“You sure have an asinine way of doing it,” Kyle snorted. “Kidnapping a kid for information.”

“You’re an adult, quit convincing yourself otherwise,” Connor shot. “You’re in college– an adult among your peers, and a kid among adults? Doesn’t sound very grown up to me. Start convincing yourself otherwise.”

“What else do you want to know?” Kyle pleaded. “I don’t know how it happened, and I don’t plan on using it to hurt anyone. What else do you want from me?”

“Nothing, for now.” Connor exhaled, unlocking the car doors for Kyle to get out. They were at the fields where Ultimate Frisbee games took place on campus. People were walking from the paths on the far side of the woods. “But if you do it again, if you figure out how to do it and more about it… I’ll be watching.” He watched Kyle tear away from the car, visibly freaked about what had just happened. Connor massaged his temples. Doing that was a stupid idea, he found out nothing from the whole ordeal. Plus cameras probably saw him, aside from the swarm of students that watched him take their classmate. He had to control himself. If there were any more emergences of powers, Connor would just watch, and study.

He started the car and drove off. Time to hit the gym.

***

“Do you want to go out to eat tonight?”

Connor was getting dressed from his post gym shower a few days later when Tyler asked from the living room. Nothing had been said of the incident or the dent in Connor’s car, if Tyler had even noticed it in the seldom few times he had gone by it. No talk had happened of super powers or anything on the news, just normal roommate conversations. Connor’s insanity had given way, falling into his normal day routine easily without his night obsessions creeping into the daytime.

“Sure, where you feel like going?” Connor asked.

“Chinese,” Tyler insisted. Connor’s face lit up with a grin in agreement. “Lets get Chinese.”

They cruised down the boulevard, headed in the fading afternoon sunlight toward the strip of restaurants in town. Traffic was starting to die off for the night, the roads clearing from rush hour. Connor was able to accelerate a little faster, to his thrill.

“Man, I can’t wait to get some dumplings,” Tyler raved, his hands grabbing his stomach. Connor laughed as he pushed forward, his stomach agreeing on their hunger.

“If I didn’t work out so much… I don’t know how I could eat as much as we do,” the driver commented.

“You gotta let yourself relax, Conman,” Tyler said. “You can’t get to the next level if you don’t fuel for it.” Connor nodded, supposing his roommate was right.

“Parking shouldn’t be too bad tonight, I thought,” Connor said as they rounded the corner towards the Chinese restaurant, his heart dismayed when he saw the lot of the roadside eatery filled.

“Let’s check across the street,” Tyler insisted, pointing towards the other restaurant.

“We can prob sneak around getting a ticket tonight.” Connor agreed.  “If we have park by the dumpster, so be it. I just want my dumplings.”

Your dumplings?” Tyler asked in surprise. “If we order any they’re going straight in my stomach. Dude, light’s turning red. Go!”

Connor revved the engine, passing through the red light. They narrowly missed traffic from the oncoming light just turning green—Connor wasn’t the only asshole driver in town. Tearing through the back parking lot of another restaurant, they found a parking spot—as true to their jokes, as if the joke was on them, right next to the dumpster. Climbing out and walking down the alley, they made their way toward the Chinese food calling their name.

They weren’t the only asshole drivers headed toward the back alley. A dump truck, before they knew it, came hurtling around the corner. The lights flew around at them, nearly blinding the two friends. Connor closed his eyes, and then felt a shove as he landed on his back.

“Dude!” Connor yelled as he rolled on the ground.

Eyes still closed, he heard a resounding bam! Crunching his eyes even harder.

Tyler. Connor couldn’t open his eyes. The truck had hit Connor. Or the car. He didn’t want to open them. Connor couldn’t think of anything worse than what he expected to see. His friend was dead. There was no sound of the trash truck moving. They’d hit him, and were in shock, just as much as Connor. No, he didn’t want to open his eyes, he didn’t want to see—

Connor opened his eyes. It had been getting dark, so all he saw was darkness. Pushing himself to his feet, he looked toward the trash truck, wondering when they were going to climb out too.

But when Connor saw the trash truck, the worst thing he thought he could see was nothing compared to what he actually saw.

The scene was practically frozen. Tyler was up, standing. The trash truck was still, the drivers silent in shock. Their faces had to reflect the ridiculousness that Connor felt was on his face too.

Some red, tingly force field was surrounding the truck. It was coming from Tyler’s hands. ns-monogram1

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