The following short story was submitted for the Michael J. Doran writing contest for Wootton High School and was selected as the third-place winner. The prompt for the contest was to create a world where everyone has superpowers except the main character.
“Daddy, tell me the story again!”
Meridian Kennedy, a bright and enthusiastic six-year-old girl, jumped up and down on her bed while her father, Mr. Kennedy, wearily rested his head against a pillow.
“Oh, alright,” he said, preparing to tell the story he’d told Meridian hundreds of times before. “Long ago, in the year 2027, there was a vile plague that spread across the world. A plague so deadly, all that contracted it had but a couple days to live. There was no hope, until your great-grandfather, Edison Kennedy, decided to do something about it.”
“Now your great-grandfather was a brilliant scientist, world-renowned. But the plague struck such fear into the people of the world that they believed that it was the end. But your grandfather believed otherwise. He tried and tried until one fateful day, he made it- a cure for the plague. His creation saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.”
“A couple months later, something strange happened. As a side effect of the serum, people noticed that they had their own unique super power. Some people could fly or run real fast or turn invisible. When you wake up on your sixteenth birthday, you’ll have your own superpower, too.”
Meridian gazed at the ceiling as her father tucked her in. “I can’t wait to turn sixteen,” she mused.
At precisely 5:59 A.M., Meridian Kennedy woke up from her dream, shut off her alarm clock, and jumped out of bed. For a Saturday morning, the early wakeup was quite unusual, but for her, May 4th, 2117 was no ordinary day. It was Meridian’s Sweet Sixteen, but more importantly to her, the day she received her own superpower. This was the moment she’d been waiting for all of her life.
Meridian rushed into her bedroom, splashed water in her face and tied her chocolate brown hair back, then ran back into her room to experiment. She pulled out her favorite book, Guide to All Superpowers, which she’d stolen from the library as a ten-year-old.
“Focus your mind and imagine your power,” the book instructed. Meridian turned to the page of powers, where all known powers were inscribed. First, she’d try the common ones.
“I can fly,” she thought, eyelids shut tight. Nothing happened. She tried again unsuccessfully and then looked for the next power- invisibility. Her pale skin looked the same in the mirror, and the next power, shape-shifting, was also a no-go.
“Most people have a different power anyway,” she assured herself. Thirty minutes later, Meridian was halfway through the list and her anxious anticipation had elevated to intense fear and frustration. Was there something she missed? Was she not super?
“Meridian, we’re all waiting on you!” her mother called gleefully from downstairs. “We want to see your power!”
Meridian bolted to the door and locked it. The frustration was mounting and tears were welling in her eyes. This must be a dream, she thought, though she knew full well that it wasn’t. There was one last resort- the blood test.
Swiftly, Meridian pulled our her med kit and lugged it onto her aquarium-bed. She took out the instamedic and plugged it into her desktop computer. Meridian uncapped the instamedic and pricked her arm with the needle. Her eyes fixated on the computer screen, which displayed a loading screen.
“Result negative,” the digital voice said. “No powers detected.”
Meridian was in shock. She was the granddaughter of the great Edison Kennedy and didn’t have any powers. She was an embarrassment to her family and even humankind. Her hopes and dreams were dashed.
Suddenly, Meridian heard three loud knocks and saw the locked door shake. Meridian dashed around the room, throwing all her essential possessions in her backpack. She slipped on sweatpants and a hoodie to hide her identity and running shoes for a quick escape. Hastily, she opened the window, climbed down onto the lawn, and ran across the front yard. Meridian Kennedy wouldn’t come back until she was worthy of the Kennedy name.
A mile later, Meridian reached Prescott City and casually walked past a row of shops. When she was sure that nobody she knew was around, she slipped into her favorite candy shop, Jayden’s. Meridian cautiously pulled off her hood and gazed at the impressive assortment of treats. A delicious bar of chocolate never failed to put her in good spirits.
“Hey buddy!” Meridian heard a plump teenage boy shout at the worker behind the counter. “Just let me have the candy.”
“Dude, you gotta pay up,” the cashier replied as Meridian turned to see the action. In one swift move, the plump boy grabbed a voluminous bag of candy on the counter. When the cashier lurched forward, the boy sucker-punched him in the jaw, sending the cashier tumbling behind the counter. The plump boy broke into a sprint towards the door and Meridian, not wanting to get punched herself, dove out of the way. The thief ran out the door and down the street.
“Why didn’t you stop him?” the cashier asked angrily from the ground. Meridian was shocked. Did this guy forget that the criminal was the same one that punched him in the face and would’ve done the same to her? Discouraged, Meridian promptly burst out of the door and slammed into a little boy holding an ice cream. The cone fell to the ground and the boy burst into tears. The boy’s mother rushed to pick up her son and shot a stare of reproach at Meridian. Nobody came to help Meridian, and she pulled herself up off the ground, ice cream all over. The best day of her life was now her worst.
As the disparaging, hateful thoughts raged through her mind, Meridian pulled on her hood and made her way down the street in the morning drizzle. She kept her glance down to the sidewalk and could feel tears trickling down her cheeks onto her sweatshirt. Meridian walked amid the crowd yet felt isolated from everyone else.
At an intersection, Meridian crossed and entered the city’s lone park. Old people went there to avoid the technological bustle, so it seemed like the best place for Meridian to sit down. She couldn’t do anything wrong by sitting down.
As she walked the paved path around the lake, she heard a loud thump to her right and pulled off her hood. About twenty meters away, an elderly African-American man had collapsed and was lying motionless in the grass.
Meridian turned to walk down the path, then looked back at the man. The man needed help, but she’d messed up so much that day and only made things worse. On the other hand, she had learned how to use the medwatch, the mandatory medical tool worn by every senior citizen, and there was nothing to lose. Finally, she made her decision- she would help.
The old man didn’t seem to be breathing, but Meridian could see the medwatch on his left wrist. She tapped it and the display flashed a menu. Meridian knew the old man would need a jolt, so she needed to find the lightning bolt.
First Meridian pressed the emergencies tab, which prompted a display with five colors. Meridian racked her brain for the right color but nothing came. Yellow must work with the lightning bolt, she guessed, so she cautiously pressed the yellow button. A yellow cloud of chemicals erupted from inside the watch. Wrong, just like every other time that day.
I can still back out, Meridian realized. No, she told herself, she would give it one last try. And then it hit her- hit red for heart. With time running out and the strange gas spreading, Meridian pounded her pointer finger into the red button. A shock pulsated throughout the old man. After a couple seconds, he woke.
“Where am I?” the confused old man asked.
“We’re in Elliott Park,” Meridian informed him, delighted the man was awake. “You collapsed to the ground a couple minutes ago. Without the medwatch’s jolt, you might not have made it.”
The old man reacted to the news with only a slight nod. For a couple silent, awkward minutes, the man just stared up at the sky.
Slowly and with great care, the old man sat up. “Is healing your superpower, young girl?” he asked in a deep baritone.
Ashamed, Meridian looked to the ground. “I don’t have any superpowers,” she answered.
The man placed his hand on Meridian’s shoulder. “Many people in this day and age believe, and falsely so, that superpowers make you a superhero,” the man said softly and confidently. “You may not have powers, but you are a true hero.”
Meridian was honored, but still uncertain. “How can I be a superhero if I don’t have any superpowers?”
The old man chuckled. “Young girl, powers don’t make the hero. The heart makes the hero.”
Meridian stood up, smiling ear to ear. It was time to go home.