Like many pieces written for a university degree, SUPERHERO was written in the style of a studied author – Raymond Carver. I have since edited the story to better reflect my own narrative voice but have kept the ideas that inspired me. The setting is distinctly Australian because it was written during a semester exchange in England and I wanted my classmates to experience that, and I’ve explored what it might be like to be the only one without a superpower in a town filled with them.
As soon as the drops hit his windscreen, Corey groaned. It wasn’t supposed to rain until tomorrow but nature remained unpredictable and mysterious, and the rain fell hard and insistent. Two years ago it was a soothing sound, but now the pattering filled him with annoyance. He flicked the wipers on, then muttered under his breath, ‘Three…two…one.’
His phone lit up on the passenger seat, vibrating as the messages flooded in like clockwork. Corey tightened his grip on the steering wheel, the leather creaking under his fingers, and resolutely ignored his phone. He pressed his thumb to the radio control on the wheel and turned the volume up.
‘…and that was Northern Love from the debut album of—oh, I’ve just had word that the rain has started early. If you’re outside, seek shelter immediately—’
Corey switched to the next station.
‘…I’m joined by Sarah Roberts from Albany who has the ability to predict the end of any film. Sarah, tell me, how long after the storm did you discover your power?’
‘…only here on Mix 94.5, the home of the south-west’s music variety. We’re on the hunt for Western Australia’s most annoying superpower. It could be annoying to you, it could be annoying to your family. Maybe you hate swimming but can breathe underwater, or maybe you can talk backwards at will. Whatever it is, I want to know! Call or text on—’
Corey sighed and turned the radio off. Bloody hopeless. Usually, the half hour drive home from work at night was tedious, but tonight he wished it were longer. The high beam of his headlights illuminated the stretch of unmarked road ahead of him, a line of gumtrees on either side like towering sentinels.
His phone was still alight. Unable to ignore it any longer, he pulled over to the side of the road, wipers beating rhythmically. The waiting messages were just as he had expected. With the early downpour, no one could leave the safety of their houses or the water would burn like acid. No one but Corey, that is; the only one untouched by the super storm two years ago. There were texts from his mum about picking up dog food, Vegemite, and a roast chook from the shops; one from his brother, Philip, asking to be picked up from his mate’s house since he couldn’t walk home now like he’d planned; and one from his dad, asking him to check in on Nan. But his last bar of phone reception flickered and disappeared, leaving him unable to respond.
He watched the raindrops gather on the windscreen before being cleared by the wipers, only to build up again right away, determined. Rain had become powerful like that. Used to be that the farmers begged for rain. Now, it made them nervous. It made everyone nervous.
When Corey was alone like this, he’d close his eyes and try and feel for a power. Because what if the storm hadn’t been the cause? What if it was just a coincidence and everyone was going to get powers eventually? Maybe he was a late bloomer, or maybe he just hadn’t discovered his power yet. He could be immune to snake or spider venom, or able to breathe underwater.
He was reluctant to test both.
An explosion made his heart leap into his throat. Over the tops of the gumtrees, a fiery ball flared orange then disappeared. Was someone up to no good? Should he do something? But what could he do? He had nothing to use against whoever it was unless they stood still long enough for Corey to hit them with his car. But his mind was already made up, and he started the car again. Bushfires were still a real threat in summer, even if it was raining. And while most abilities were mundane, the evening news told him that some were dangerous, especially in the wrong hands. He pulled out onto the quiet road and immediately turned right. As his car jolted down the bumpy dirt road, the headlights reflected spiders’ eyes and frightened kangaroos that disappeared into the bush.
An old brick house came into the gaze of the headlights, and Corey knew exactly where he was: Sunnyside. Empty and crumbling, the teens of Bridgetown had claimed it as their own. Several cars were parked around the outside, nearly all of them with red or green P-plates. Light spilled from the several gaps in the brick, occasionally darkening as people inside moved around. Doof doof doof went the music. One of Sam’s parties, no doubt. Corey had heard of them but had never been to one because he’d never been invited.
Powers only, Sam had told him with a sneer.
Sam’s car was there, a new Holden Cruze, orange dirt splattering the otherwise white exterior, darkened by the rain Why bother spending so much money on a nice car—especially a white one—when most roads in the town were dirt and had a speed limit of sixty kilometres per hour?
That didn’t stop Sam though. He could often be heard revving past Bridgetown’s one supermarket where elderly ladies were doing their morning shop, their hearing aides turned down. The younger girls seemed to like it, though, and the Cruze was often filled with passengers. Corey suspected this had more to do with Sam’s superpower than his car. Sam’s power, apart from being a massive idiot, was the ability to create mobile phone coverage just by touching the device. In the middle of woop woop, where reception was scarce, even Corey had to admit that was pretty handy.
He pulled up beside the other cars, headlights blaring onto the house like a spotlight, causing the people inside to squint. Another fireball shot into the air, flaring for an instant before it dissolved into the rain. Thomas was here, then, not some supervillain like Corey first thought. The dickhead probably thought he could stop the rain. But until the downpour ceased on its own, the party was confined to Sunnyside’s insides.
‘Oi, Corey!’ Sam boomed. ‘Grab our booze for us, would ya?’
Corey stared at Sam’s face, at his stupid thick eyebrows and braces-filled mouth, to where cartons of Victoria Bitter and Vodka Cruisers were sitting on the grass, dampening in the rain. Corey scoffed. But then his eye caught one of the faces peering through the gaps in the brick.
His heart skipped a beat. He got out of the car. Warm rain quickly soaked through the thin material of his work shirt. As he hauled the first carton inside, cheers and whistles erupted from the house. Heat crept up the back of his neck. They were drunk, that’s all.
Once all the grog was inside, and everyone had swooped on the cartons, Corey wiped his wet fringe from his forehead and looked around. A few faces and shoulders were dotted with angry red marks, like chickenpox; those who hadn’t been fast enough to escape the rain. Nearly everyone in Year 11 and 12 from his school was there, but that didn’t say much, since there were only twenty-five of them all together.
Where was she, where was she, but don’t make it obvious…
Then, a familiar floral perfume and a soft hand on his shoulder.
‘Hey, you should stay for a drink,’ Georgia said.
Corey glanced at Sam, who was nearby enough to hear. Although he didn’t object to Georgia’s invitation, his jaw tightened. ‘Thanks, but I’ve just finished work. And I’ve got some things to pick up for mum, what with the’—he gestured vaguely to the sky—‘early rain and all.’ Reminded, he pulled out his phone. Still no reception.
Georgia noticed, and poked Sam in the shoulder. ‘It’s the least you could do, Sam.’
Sam released a colossal sigh and begrudgingly touched the very tip of his finger to the corner of Corey’s phone. The bars instantly increased. Corey replied to the messages from his parents and brother, pocketed his phone, and smiled apologetically at Georgia.
Her pretty face looked as disappointed as he felt, and it made him feel better, somehow. ‘Well, thanks,’ she said. ‘You saved the party! Alcohol is restored, woo!’ She awkwardly waved her arms. ‘See you on Monday?’
Corey nodded, returning Sam’s reluctant nod, and stepped back out into the rain. He hopped back into his car. His phone vibrated, receiving messages with the last of the reception Sam had given him.
Mum: Thanks honey, your a lifesaver!
Philip: Cheers, bro. Thanks for not being a sook. I appreciate it, u know that right?
Dad: Thank you, mate. You’re a hero.
Corey stared at the messages for a long time. Then he chucked the phone back onto the passenger seat and turned the car back onto the road.
My name Bianca Breen and I am in my final semester of a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Writing. I write fantasy novels for children and young adults, as well as short stories. The pandemic forced me back to Western Australia, where my storytelling focus has shifted to fill the gap of WA-based YA stories. I recently created YA for WA as a way to build a community of writers and readers of Young Adult literature in Western Australia. Once graduated, I hope to seek publication and inspire a younger generation of readers and writers.
Follow her on Twitter: @bianca_breen