- A Serialized Novel -

This isn't a superpower. It's a curse.

Twenty minutes is the magical number. Don’t ask me why. I know it doesn’t really make sense that one minute takes me out for a day, five for half, ten for eight hours, and then at twenty I’m fine, just in pain from switching back. I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense, really, but then I’ve decided that logic has absolutely nothing to do with my ability. In fact, everything about my ability seems to fly in the face of logic.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been logical—wanting to be a superhero and all—but I sometimes had to wonder if maybe I had been more… practical if any of this would ever have happened to me.
Practical people don’t have superpowers, right?

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Twenty minutes—actually, more like three twenty minuteses—later, Clayton was rubbing sore muscles and thinking he might actually have an answer. It looked like the least amount of time he could wait before a shift without passing out if he did shift was probably twenty minutes. He wished it was shorter, but at least it wasn’t an hour or something. That would make his power even more useless than it was shaping up to be. He probably should give it more than twenty minutes whenever he could, but at least he knew that if he had to do it, he could do it without passing out.

He’d even tested it a couple times now. Hence the soreness.

He could make it work. It might actually be possible to be out in public—as long as he knew some place he could go and hide for the twenty minutes it would take if he needed to change back again. People were probably going to think he had a lot of digestive complaints at this rate, but better they think he had some form of irritable bowl syndrome than know the truth.

He sighed. His life was probably going from bad to worse. He could now get mocked for his hours in the bathroom, among other things. He supposed there was some consolation in that he hadn’t developed this ability in high school.

He shuddered at the thought. No. He did not want to think about that. Ever. High school was a part of everyone’s life that was really best forgotten.

He stood, trying to decide what his next step should be. He didn’t have a lot of time left of the weekend, having lost most of it to the day that he’d spent comatose on the bathroom floor—he shuddered again, wiping absently at the side of his face. He had showered since then, but every time he thought about waking up there, he could swear there was still something on his face.

The thought briefly went through his head that if he got some bath toys, he could actually turn himself into a little kid and use them just like the old days, and he shook his head. That was a stupid, frivolous way to use his powers.

Still… It might be interesting to know if he got dirty in one form, switched forms, and then showered if he would be clean in the first form or only in the one he’d washed in. Oh, what the hell. Most of the stuff that had come up with his power had been annoying or embarrassing or painful, so why not enjoy a part of it for a change? That would be nice.

He checked his watch. He’d just switched to a form in his teens, but maybe if he went to the store looking like he was old enough to have a kid, no one would think anything of him getting a bunch of bath toys. And maybe even some bubble bath. When he was a kid, that stuff was fun. Now that he was older, it was girly.
He stopped in the middle of the room. Was he only able to change what age he was? Could he change anything else? Like… his gender?
Oh, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. But… he needed to know. If it was only age, it wasn’t as useful. Being someone completely different could be useful. Shape-shifters were kind of cool. Age-shifters? Not so much.

He went to the mirror and made the attempt.

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Two hours later, Clayton was sulking in his bath. He had bubbles, he had all kinds of toys, but he wasn’t sure he cared. He hadn’t really expected to have the ability to change anything else—that would have been too nice, really, and what he’d figured out so far about his power wasn’t nice. Nice belonged to something else, someone else. He didn’t get to have nice things. He had a crappy apartment, a crappy job—and now, a crappy superpower.

He knew if he was actually able to talk to anyone about it, they’d tell him to suck it up. It could be worse. He could kill everyone he touched or everyone he looked at or something like that. He could have it a lot worse. He knew that.

He was having a hard time being a grown up about it. Maybe that had to do with being about six years old in body, splashing up a storm in a bathtub. He would have to do further tests to see if his current physical age had any real bearing on his mental and emotional state or if he was just being a little kid in the figurative sense because he was disappointed.

Heroes flew. They could fight. They blew stuff up or moved things with their minds or defied gravity. So many things he could do, some many things he could have been instead, but no, he got this one. He knew he’d get over it, eventually. He had to. If he focused on the best parts of it, he would start to enjoy it. He could do something no one else could. He had to remember that.

He sighed. Next thing he needed to do was make a list of those reasons why this was cool. He’d tape it to the mirror and look at it every morning until he stopped whining about this. No one wanted a whiny superhero.

He thought about the fighting thing. He didn’t know any of that kind of thing. He’d wanted to take lessons, but his foster family was against that idea, and so it never happened. He was on his own now, but he didn’t have time to learn—or so he’d always said. He didn’t have a choice, though. He had to find a way to learn.

He looked at his pruny little hand. Perfect. He’d start taking junior lessons first. That way, if he made a fool of himself, he did it as some little kid, and no one would ever know the difference. Then he could move up in the classes when he felt like he was ready, and no one would even know he was cheating. It worked. Well, it would probably work. He didn’t know for sure yet.

What if he was incapable of learning how to fight, even as a little kid? Oh, if he enrolled in more than one beginner class, he’d get twice the practice. He liked that idea.

He could go as more than one form, or the same form to a couple different classes. He had options. He was going to be exhausted most of the time, though, since he didn’t have a lot of free time outside of work. Still, it was a small price to pay to make himself useful. And learning some fighting techniques for little kids would help, too, just in case he got stuck in one of his small forms.

He’d like to do the cool things that he’d seen in the movies—of course they weren’t real, but who didn’t want to try them? Who didn’t want to know what that was like? He could change this lame ability into something useful if he knew how to fight, if he did, that was a start. He’d go looking into prices and times for classes and see if he could some how budget it in.

Right. He didn’t have money.

He was the worst superhero ever. No money, no resources, no friends, and a power that was more like a curse. Yeah, he was awesome.

All of a sudden, he banged his head on the back of the tub. He rubbed the back of his head and sighed. Okay, now he was not a little kid. Was it because he’d been thinking about the stuff he could do? He needed to do something about that, didn’t he?

He picked up the rubber ducky and sighed. He was going to have to figure out how long it took for him to lose a form if he wasn’t thinking about it, too. He needed to know that. He had a lot of questions to answer. Maybe he should call in sick tomorrow. He didn’t want to work, and he should probably try and learn more about his new ability as soon as possible.

The duck seemed to be smiling like it agreed with him.

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