MOONSTONE CLIFFHANGER FICTION
This week we bring you the second half of a SUPER HEROINE story appearing in the recently released Moonstone collection, CHICKS IN CAPES! The staff behind this project, from editors through the writers, artists, and all others involved are women and put together not only super hero fiction from a feminine perspective, but also produce some of the best action, drama, and adventure you’ve read anywhere in a long time! Enjoy Elaine Lee’s tale, MISCHIEF, this week on CLIFFHANGER FICTION!
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Mischief mumbled, thinking mainly, but not entirely, of the vow she’d made to confess all to Theo.
Now the SUV was weaving in and out of the oncoming lane, as though thinking about passing, then thinking better of it. There were too many curves in the road, hills and dense foliage, so the occasional car appeared from the fog, seemingly out of nowhere, making the prospect of passing on a double-yellow line a daunting prospect even for this guy.
But the jerk kept thinking about it.
She fantasized allowing herself to die in a fiery crash. Who would even miss her?
Okay, maybe the tabloids would miss her. The fat photo taken at the Empire State Building that was splashed across the cover of the National Pursuer under the clever headline MUCHO MISCHIEF should have taken the all-time record for embarrassing moments. Should have. But that was not the worst of it. And it did get worse. Lots worse.
“Where am I?” Wendy asked, coming to in her own bed.
“You don’t know?” Theo said, answering a question with a question, though it sounded as though he were being rhetorical, so she didn’t bother to answer.
Instead, she felt gingerly for the source of her monster headache. It was a lump the size of an eggplant just behind her left temple. Closing her eyes and engaging Mischief’s power, Wendy slightly reduced the swelling in the lump, and the throbbing calmed a bit.
“How… how did I get here?”
“Two weird guys brought you here,” Theo said. “One of them was glowing purple all over and the other one needs to call his doctor, because he’s definitely had an erection for more than four hours. And, oh yeah, he said he was your ex-boyfriend and, oh yeah, so did the purple guy. But I don’t think that could possibly be true because you’ve never said a word about the fact you were involved with two different guys who run around in Spandex fighting crime.”
Here Theo stopped and made the same face he made whenever she’d drunk the last beer; eyes very large, lips very thin, disappointment strained through a filter of disapproval.
“Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” he asked, sounding not at all rhetorical.
“I was going to tell you,” Wendy started.
“When?” Theo said. “After I had moved in?”
“I guess so, since you’re, you know…” Wendy fumbled, “… pretty much in already.”
“What does that mean?”
“Awww, come on Theo!”
“No, what is that supposed to mean?”
“Your clothes are here, your bicycle’s here, your toothbrush is here…”
“I have a lot more stuff than that.”
“Are you talking about that box of records at Zach’s place? Because, once that box makes the trip here, that’s pretty much it.”
After a long pause for drama, Theo said quietly, “I’m not the one with a secret identity that I kept secret from you, so how did all of this become about me?”
Wendy took a deep breath and tried not to say what she was thinking, which was “It’s always about you.” Instead, she sat up in bed and realized, for the first time, that she was naked.
“Crap,” Wendy said, beginning to remember.
“Tell me about it,” Theo said.
He stood up and, holding his laptop, walked over to the bed.
“Here. You may want to look at these,” he said, handing her the computer.
“They started appearing online just before your friends showed up.”
The pictures were truly shudder-worthy: Mischief and a visibly excited Amp on the rooftop, Mischief falling through the air in what appeared to be an embrace with Amp, incredibly fat Mischief in a tangle with Amp, Mischief pointing her breasts at The Vibe in a provocative manner, and, finally, a series of at least eighteen photos of Mischief transforming into naked Wendy while seeming to writhe on the ground in some sort of ecstatic state, breasts large, then small, the really large, then tiny. Even more shudder-worthy was the fact that Theo had collected, arranged and rearranged these images into a photo story, then posted it in an album on his Facebook page labeled: “50 Things You’d Never Expect to See Your Girlfriend Do.”
“I guess I should say thanks for covering the, um… naughty bits with little black bars,” Wendy offered.
“I didn’t want to get kicked off Facebook,” Theo replied.
“So, I guess this means we’re breaking up,” Wendy said.
“Oh, no!” Theo said. “You don’t get to break up with me!”
Mischief had slowed way down and was hugging the right edge of the road, hoping beyond hope that the SUV would pass. He pulled into the oncoming lane, sped up, beeped his horn and…
Headlights appeared out of nowhere, as a Ford pickup topped a hill on a curve and broke through the curtain of fog. Horns blared and rubber burned. The Civic’s right-hand tires were halfway in a ditch, making the car impossible to steer. Mischief focused her power on the left side of the car, greatly increasing it’s weight. The right wheels lifted and she jerked back into the road. The SUV was still behind her.
She was starting to hate this guy as much as she hated camera phones.
Theo had taken the whole lies-and-secrets thing really badly. She’d been unable to convince him that she’d planned all along to tell him the truth. It was like some bad soap opera in which the errant wife cheated on the faithful husband. But she hadn’t cheated. Had she? It hadn’t felt like cheating at the time.
Of course, she had found the perfect way to make things even worse.
It had, after all, been her idea to go into couples counseling.
The therapist removed her trendy glasses, leaned across the polished mahogany desk, rested her chin on her perfectly manicured fingertips, and addressed Theo.
“How does that make you feel?”
She looked like she could eat him with a spoon.
Mischief glanced down at her own half-gnawed nails then slid her hands into her sleeves, surreptitiously repairing them with her matter-altering ability.
“I guess I feel betrayed,” Theo said, doing his best impression of Tobey Maguire in anything starring Tobey Maguire. “I guess I feel…you know, betrayed.”
He looked self-consciously downward now, his thick lashes casting a shadow over the tops of his cheekbones. Did he practice that in a mirror?
“Is that sigh a way of showing your contempt for Theo?” the therapist asked.
“It felt like contempt,” Theo said.
“Perhaps the contempt is for me then, or for therapy in general.”
“No! It was my idea!”
Theo shrugged and rolled his eyes toward the therapist, as if to say, See? What did I tell you?
“I’m just frustrated!” Mischief said, trying very hard not to scream.
“I can’t just run around telling everybody about my secret identity. I…
“I had to be sure we were going somewhere before I took thechance.”
“You had me opening cans, for Chrissakes! I was opening cans for you!”
“What does that mean to you, opening cans?” the therapist asked.
Before he could answer, Mischief interrupted, saying, “Actually, it was jars, I was going to open a jar, and he took the jar and opened it for me. I didn’t know what to do. Of course I could open the jar. I could melt the jar. But maybe that’s something boyfriends are supposed to do for you, and, if I didn’t let him, that would open up a whole can of worms.”
“Jar of worms…” Theo muttered under his breath, which certainly sounded contemptuous to Mischief, but the therapist remained silent.
Mischief took a deep breath, swallowed her witty retort, and continued, “It’s not like I have any experience with this keeping a secret identity…um… secret. Before Theo, I only dated superheroes, so it nevercame up.”
“Oh, okay! Here it comes!”
“Here’s where I get compared to guys who can leap over buildings and blow up planets with their heat vision. How do I compete with that?”
The therapist looked at Mischief, as though waiting for an answer, but Theo continued…
“It makes me feel…” and here Theo stopped for a moment, as though searching for the right word. “It makes me feel impotent.”
Mischief tried hard not to sigh again. “I didn’t notice you having that problem with Natalie Portman.”
The twin suns went nova, collapsed into themselves, went nova, and collapsed again.
The SUV was blinking its lights now, turning her mirrors into strobes. Pain shot through Mischief’s head. Was this a seizure coming on? She vaguely remembered something about seizures and blinking
lights. Theo had told her something about that.
Why was she obsessing about Theo? Had he ever given a damn about her? They had seen that damned therapist for seventeen weeks and sixteen of those weeks had been spent talking about Natalie Portman.
“It wasn’t always Natalie Portman. At first, he just wanted me to change into Mischief.”
“But aren’t you Mischief?” the therapist asked, tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her shell-like ear.
Mischief, or Wendy, or whomever she was supposed to be at the moment, suppressed yet another sigh. How many weeks had they been in therapy? Seventeen? It felt like eons.
“Well, yes and no. I guess it would be more correct to say that I create Mischief out of Wendy-stuff. So maybe Mischief is Wendy, but Wendy isn’t Mischief.”
“How is using your power to enhance your appearance any different from putting on make-up or dying your hair?”
“Hmm… yeah. Well, it’s…Ookay. I’m going to give you Mischief, even though it was pretty disheartening to realize that I hadn’t…Wendy hadn’t…been getting Theo’s…” She stopped here, trying to think how to phrase this.
“Had not been getting Theo’s full attention.”
“That’s not true!” Theo said.
“C’mon!” Mischief said, “Are you really trying to tell me that your response to Wendy was as ‘energetic’ as your response to…”
Suddenly realizing she was talking about both of her identities in third person, Mischief, or maybe it was Wendy, buried her face in her hands.
“I think I’m going crazy,” she murmured.
“How do you think I felt?” Theo asked.
It now dawned on Wendy/Mischief/Wendy that Theo didn’t give a rat’s ass what she thought about his feelings, or felt about his thoughts, or felt and/or thought about anything, for that matter. She cleared her throat.
“I think you felt like screwing Mischief, then felt like screwing Scarlet Johanssen, then felt like screwing Kate Beckinsale, then felt like
“…the ever-popular Natalie Portman, over and over and over again!”
“You lied to me. You let me make a fool of myself by opening cans,” Theo said, sounding like one of his skipping vinyl records. “I thought what we had was real.”
“So, opening jars unnecessarily is betrayal. Me as Natalie Portman, tied up and helpless, pretending you can ravish me against my will is real?”
“…I really like Natalie Portman.”
Here the therapist interrupted. “I think what Theo is trying to say is that his ego had been bruised and Natalie Portman was his way of putting the relationship back on what felt like equal footing.”
“Wow! Is that what Theo said?”
“Yes,” Theo said.
Wendy/Mischief took a deep breath to calm herself and decided to change tacks.
“You know what?” she began. “We’ve spent so much time on my failings, why don’t we talk about something else? Let’s see. We could talk about the fact that Theo has never made a living, that he pretends not to live with me while living with me in order to not pay rent, that he thinks he’s a musician, when he really answers phones at a music studio, part-time. We could talk about the fact that his name is really Tommy, or that I’ve paid for every date we’ve ever had and half of his crappy vinyl records.”
“Maybe we should talk about your anger,” the therapist said.
“I’m not angry!” Mischief screamed.
Mischief (for Wendy was gone now) only realized what had happened when her head cracked the ceiling.
“Oww!” she said, as a new lump began to rise. “Sorry…I, umm… seem to have lost control of my…umm…size?”
She looked down past her own giant knees, to see their two small, white faces staring up at her in horror.
Mischief giggled oddly, “Guess this was my way of putting the relationship back on equal footing.”
It was true. She had been angry. And things had only gotten worse.
Theo had left her, was living with the therapist, and had written a best selling tell-all book about his painful relationship with a female superhero. Currently making the rounds of all the talk shows, he had finally found a way to make a living—at Mischief’s expense.
Her life, in the meantime, had become a living hell. Between Theo’s book and the embarrassing photos on the Internet, neither Mischief nor Wendy could walk down the street without being noticed. Men stared,women whispered, and little kids moved closer to their moms. Everywhere she went, cells phones clicked and the pictures—never flattering—shot around the globe.
Like the gunslinger in an old western, she began to be challenged by upstart superpunks, out to make reps for themselves. Fending them off without doing them permanent damage had become an exhausting enterprise.
What if she got careless and killed one of these kids? She’d be dodging a murder rap, instead of cell phone paparazzi. At this point, the thought of a public trial was almost worse than the thought of twenty-five to life.
The civil suits were bad enough. She’d been slapped with three separate lawsuits by the City of New York for damage to the Brooklyn Bridge, damage to the Empire State Building, and there was that big battle during the World Series that demolished the new Yankee Stadium. Taxpayers were up in arms. Sports fans were homicidal.
And all this had happened because she’d wanted something normal.
God, how she now hated normal! All the super villains she’d defeated, all the superheroes she’d dated, and the one who’d finally done her in was a normal, human guy. She cursed herself for a chump.
What was it that man-filching therapist had said?
“You don’t really like people, do you?”
She’d denied it at the time, but was it true? In the seven years she’d been Mischief, had she stopped caring about her fellow human beings?
The fog kept getting thicker and the SUV was still behind her, blinking its dreadful lights. One hand on the steering wheel, the other distractedly twisting her hair, Mischief briefly considered stomping on the brakes and letting the SOB plow into her, then decided that was crazy. Could she have seen her reflection in the Civic’s blazing mirrors, she would’ve seen a multicolored tangle sprouting from her head. Yes, crazy.
Then the guy in the SUV honked his 200-decibel horn, laid on it really, and Mischief lost her mind.
Yanking the wheel sharply with her left hand, she swerved across the narrow road, pushing the fingers of her right through the glass of the windshield, so that the cool night air ran over them. Changing its nature at her command, the air became a field of force that surrounded the Civic, just as the SUV hit her left rear end.
The Civic spun forward, bounced off a roadside tree, hit the guardrail on the opposite side, and ended sitting sideways across the double yellow line. Hand glued to horn, the SOB in the SUV had swerved in the opposite direction, smashing both the guardrail and his monster car.
Mischief rolled down the window, touched her fingers to the outside of her door and smiled, as the color of the Civic changed from violet-gray to red and the exterior of the car crumpled, giving it that “totaled” look.
The SUV’s driver was outside the car now, waving his hands and yelling obscenities. Focused on the damage to his own vehicle, he had not even glanced at Mischief.
“There was a deer,” said Mischief said, stepping out of the car. “Didn’t you see the deer?”
As she slammed the door and turned to face the behemoth embedded in the guardrail, she allowed her left hand to slide along the dented surface of the Civic’s body and felt the black numbers on the white license plates rearrange themselves into another configuration.
The driver didn’t see the numbers change. He was too busy staring at Natalie Portman, mouth hanging open.
“Aren’t you…? No! Why would…? What would…?”
“To answer your questions,” said Mischief, as she walked toward the stunned driver’s ruined SUV, “Yes. Oh, yes! Visiting a friend upstate. And, as to what I would be doing here, I would be crushing your car.”
“I don’t suppose you would consider going out with me?” asked the driver asked.
She placed her hands on the SUV and, though keeping its shape and color, it instantly organized its structure into something resembling tinfoil. Closing her fingers, Mischief began to scrunch and rumple and crease, while the shocked driver stared in amazement, as his car was crushed and rolled into a wrinkled ball by none other than Natalie Portman.
“No, I wouldn’t,” said Mischief, returning the car’s fabric to its former weight so that it hit the road with a resounding thwunk.
She turned to face the driver only to see him lifting his cell phone into camera position.
“Give me that!” she demanded, grabbing the phone from his hand. The phone melted, oozing between her fingers to drip onto the asphalt. Mischief looked at the silvery goop covering her hand, glanced around for something to clean it, and quickly settled on the driver’s white shirt. She took three steps toward him, wiped her hand down the front of his shirt, and then grabbed his tie to clean between her fingers.
The driver just stood there.
“Look what you did,” said Mischief said, “You made me crush your car and now you’ve got phone all over your tie.”
As she sped away in her dented red Civic, leaving the driver staring dumbly at a ball of car, Mischief felt almost happy. This had been much better therapy than couples counseling. Shedding Natalie Portman like an outgrown skin, she checked her reflection in the rearview mirror and spied, for the first time, her crazy multi-colored hair. Deciding she liked it, she morphed her car into a green VW and sped toward the turnoff to the thruway north.
Montreal was a straight five-hour shot up I-87. She’d always wanted to live in a city where people spoke French, and Canada had national healthcare. Getting a Canadian ID would be no problem for someone who could alter matter with the power of her mind.
As she entered the traffic circle and picked up her ticket at the tollbooth, she made a silent decision that things were going to change. No more dysfunctional relationships, no giving her power away for free, in fact, no more Ms. Nice Gal.
“I wonder what death rays are going for on eBay?”
She laughed at her own joke. Perhaps “Mischief” would prove to be the right name after all!
Elaine Lee is an EMMY nominated actress turned comic book, animation
and game writer. As a comics writer, she is best known for her
sexy vampire series, Vamps, and her science fiction series, Starstruck,
which is being reprinted in 2009-2010 by IDW.