- Kanya Navanathan
The Hiro's Journey
This was written for a short story contest, with no general prompt. The idea itself was based on what the concept of being ‘too nice’ would make a person become. It’s a story about someone with limited social awareness doing his best to imitate the kindness he thinks will make him extraordinary. I wrote this after being inspired by the ideology of Nice Guys, and I hope it’s a fun read.
I love being the best. It wasn’t easy of course, but it felt right. I was born to be a hero, coming out of the womb in 45 minutes, saving my mother from the excruciating pain of labour. I detached my own umbilical cord while my mother cradled me in her precious arms, much to the pleasure of the medical staff around us. According to my mom, I was described as the ‘sweetest baby in the world’ by the doctor, a detail I have the utmost faith in being 100% factual. I only cried once during my infancy, after my circumcision, but that was understandable. Ever since that moment of weakness, I have dedicated my body, mind and soul to helping others whenever I could. By the time I learned how to take my first wobbly steps, I was guiding old ladies across the street. My first words were ‘Halt, thief!’ at a supermarket. By six years old, I was on track to becoming a Superhero. So yes I, Hiro, have pretty much been perfect all of my life. Yet today, of all days, my desire for utter perfection was questioned.
I sat in my room quietly, on the side of my bed, lost in thought. My room was sky blue, painted by my parents to denote my sex at birth after my gender reveal party. The paint, in the present day, was cracked and faded, but didn’t care to re-paint it. Thankfully, most of the things that comprised this humble room were not nearly as old as the paint job. My bed was made out of a beautiful oak, a piece of skillful craftsmanship put together by my neighbour after I saved his wife from a gopher avalanche. The rest of my furniture was limited; I only had a small work desk, a large vanity with long drawers for my clothes, and a woven hamper. I kept things minimal; Too many things led to too many variables, and that led to too much trouble.
My lifestyle choices have given me a successful high school career. I’m only a tenth grader, but I’ve already been elected and chosen as the Prom King, Student Council President, MVP of the football team, and Valedictorian. I hate to brag but if high school was a competition, I would win. The reason I’m able to be so successful in school is because I maintain a tight schedule. Nothing out of place and everything is planned down to the last minute, no, the last detail. But yesterday was weird. It made me feel, for the first time in my life, completely lost.
That day started out the same as any. My morning started at 5:30, I rose alongside the sun. I started off by making my bed and heading to the washroom. I always managed to get myself dressed and cleaned before 6:00. I worked out for two hours, my exercise that day focused on my six pack abs. I made myself a bowl of chocolate chip oatmeal with banana bits as a reward. My parents and I ate breakfast in tranquil silence, only exchanging the usual ‘good mornings’. We chose to leave our more engaging conversations for dinnertime, when my parents gained enough energy to do more talking. It was 8:30 by the time I finished my meal, and I was ready to head to school. I always have my backpack ready before I sleep, homework completed and school supplies tucked in. I grabbed the lunch bag my mother left on the kitchen counter for me, kissed my parents goodbye, and headed out the door.
My trek to school took about 10 minutes. Yes it was 8 miles away but I had done enough marathon training for that to be a breeze. Despite my love for school, most of my classes passed by in a blur. It was just a routine of active listening and studious note taking, and on occasion, cracking a joke to lighten the mood. I was loved by teachers and students alike, despite having no real friends. My favourite class was Gym. It was the one period that made my eight hour stay at school magical. The gym was renovated last year, the once decrepit flooring now shining, the nets pristine, and the paint job exquisite. Coach Radison, possibly the coolest teacher at school, made that class fun. We worked hard because he worked hard, often doing our exercises alongside us. When we all got into the gym, something was off.
This guy waiting for us looked sketchy. Yes, he had on Coach’s uniform, a maroon collared shirt with matching shorts. Yes he has his clipboard, silver whistle, and even his signature Gatorz sunnies. Yet his face was wrong, somehow more pallid and flat than usual. If his slack jawed appearance wasn’t off putting, his cold attitude was scaring me.
I asked the coach what our plan was for today. All he said was ‘Do whatever man, it’s not my business.’ I questioned further, reminding him we needed to do our beep test, to the chagrin of my fellow classmates.
He turned to me, eyes dark, and said “Are you always this much of a narc? Just run laps on your own, damn…”
All of my classmates howled with laughter while my face reddened. Radison LOVED when I reminded him to test us, and he would NEVER swear. When I brought this up with my buddy in class, Evan, he told me I was overreacting. Class continued on, the coach having given us a free period to fool around in the gym.
Coach Radison was acting completely unlike himself. That thought looped through my mind. This coach was an imposter, I realized. I had to catch “Coach Radison” out in a lie, something an imposter wouldn’t know the true gym class would, I racked my brain for ideas while I ran laps, desperate for some intimate knowledge about Coach I could use. Then it hit me.
“Hey coach, quick question..”
He gave me a dirty look before sighing. “What?”
“What do you do if your uniform is too small?” I said, trying to hide my smug grin.
“Uhhh…get a new one.?”
He WAS a fake! I felt a fire bloom in my chest as I knew I had to take action, I had to protect my classmates from this evil impersonator.
“That’s not true…” I started, winding my arm back. “You always said the uniform isn’t too small, you’re just tOOOO BIGGGGGGG!”
My punch landed, hitting the impostor square in the chest. He staggered back before falling to the ground. His face contorted wildly, glitching and phasing until it finally settled. All the boys had formed a crowd around us, all shocked to a standstill. That was until Reagan, a kid with more pimples than skin, shrieked, his screams endlessly reverberating through the gymnasium. He then promptly ran out the room, dozens of teens following suit. After thirty seconds, only myself and this stranger remained within the walls of the large gym.
The man’s face was rather attractive. Strong jaw, rounded almond eyes, and a gaunt face. He looked around my age and his more mature facial features were balanced out by his round cheeks and dimples. I shook my head, clearing myself of these distracting thoughts. This guy was a threat, and I had to know his motives.
“Who are you, strange man?”
‘What’ I mouthed before realizing the young boy’s name was actually ‘Strange Man’.
“Well, uh, Strange Man-”
“Please, My father was Strange Man,” He said with a warm laugh. “Call me Angie.”
Uh, wow. He was choosing to let people call him such an emasculating nickname? That was besides the point, I wanted to know WHY he was pretending to be my coach?!
“That’s besides the point! I want to know WHY you are pretending to be my coach?!”
“Easy,” he chuckled. The casual amiability he once had was now gone. “Because I’m a villain.”
“Clearly not a popular villain, I’ve never even heard of you, Stranger.”
“I’m trying to put my name out there yanno? I went to a Villain workshop last month and they said the best way to market yourself was by doing villain work for free. That way you can start networking and gaining exposure. I figure something like a school would have everyone trembling in fear and screaming my name in horror…But everyone just left! There’s really no point in attacking if no one sees me do it. Rrr…Back to the drawing board…”
The villain started dusting himself before trying to exit out the back doors. Wait, he was trying to get away?! Oh not on my watch!
“Stop right there!” I hollered, the reverberation of my voice echoed through the gym, stopping Angie in his tracks.
“Uhh.. Did you, like, need something?”
“Yeah! I need to kick your ass, you -uh, “ I started to lose confidence; This guy was 5’6’’, was this even worth it? “Villain..?”
He looked dumbfounded by my response, like a normal person would have just let him go.
“What is wrong with you? I literally just said I won’t be doing any villainous deeds, and you still want to get in my way? Why? No seriously, why? It’s not like you’re a he-”
Angie’s eyes started glowing. The once brown eyes brightened to a vibrant crimson. Or something, I don’t like, really know the difference between all the reds. It was insane. The once dejected looking young boy had transformed yet again into something else entirely. A supervillain with the most evil scheme brewing in his head.
“Tell me,” He started, his voice dropping an octave, sending chills down my spine. “Would you say you’d want to…become a hero when you grow up? A Superhero even?”
My heart soared at the idea of becoming a Superhero, it was an honour reserved only for the best of the already pretty exclusive best. Unlike villains, who could gain Supervillain status from like, internet virality or the James Corden show. Superheroes had to earn the title from the government. It was a status given to those who had done what’s called an “Excellent Deed”, which meant you had to save 50 or more people’s lives in one go to get it. It was a true honour, and the amount of respect, fame, and money it generated was worth the strain it would take to save 50 people at once.
“Y-yea. What does that matter?”
He began rubbing his hands together while cackling ruefully, a devious grin spread across his face.
“Well you see, it sounds we BOTH have a common goal-”
“No we don’t, Thin Mint! I want to be a hero, you want to be a villain! We are on two different sides...”
Angie’s cheeks turned the same colour as his eyes, before taking a few deep breaths and calming down. This act was further comicalized by the sound echoing in the large space. He cleared his throat before continuing.
“...Of the same coin. Villains can’t exist without heroes, and Superhero-to-be can’t save like a hundred-”
He rolled his eyes. “Okay fifty. You can’t do that without a villain creating that scenario. I AM a villain and you’re a hero, albeit a really boring one. If I made a plan so evil I endangered 50 people…”
“..Or more..” we both said at the same time.
He continued on, “...And if you saved them, you could easily get superhero status! And my attempt would make it on National news. I’d be like the best supervillain in Canada. That’s like 10th best in the U.S…which is dope.”
“Isn't 'Best in Canada' a good enough title?”, I questioned.
“Yeah the same way UofT being the best university in Canada makes it the best worldwide right?”
I had no retort to that, or to anything he had to say.
“I like the idea of being a Superhero, but risking the lives of 50 (or more) people in the process? I don’t think it’s worth it honestly.” I said, despite thinking it was worth it honestly.
“They won’t be in danger if you save them..”
He walked up to me, left hand outstretched. His body language was open, like he knew I would say yes. He looked so smug too, his eyes still gleaming.
I buried my face in my hands, thinking the stance of shame might mask my glee.
“Okay..fine. Yeah, I’ll help you.”
Angie beamed, clearly overjoyed by this arrangement. He waved goodbye before running out the exit, leaving me alone in the gymnasium, struggling to process what just happened.
And now here I was, two hours away from executing the plan to become a Superhero. Sitting in my bed, tail between my legs doing nothing. I should be preparing; drills, exercise, mental strategy, ANYTHING! I was just stuck…How did I get myself into this mess?
The plan wasn’t bad. All things considered, it was actually pretty good for a day’s worth of planning. Angie was now in my contacts, a shock considering I didn’t give him my number. When I asked how he got it, he just sent a foreign ‘shrug emoji’; Confirming his villain status with the fact he owned an android. He also had pretty detailed plans for this attack, showing he had put some thought into a Supervillain attack well before he had even begun his freelance villain work. It was definitely a ‘cart before your horse’ type deal.
Tonight, at six o clock, a huge party would break out. Big Little Boys, one the biggest bands in our town, would be hosting a surprise party at Greenlake Park. The surprise? They weren’t going to show up. This event was entirely manufactured by Angie, using their M.O as a cool, underground group to justify the short notice and lack of mention on social media. At school today I heard almost all the senior students mention the party, and most agreed to go. This meant at least a 100 drunk kids would all be huddled together in a park at night, the perfect place for disaster to strike.
My involvement in this plan was completely unknown to me. I texted Angie, pressing him for more details. Anything to understand what I needed to do to save those people from his false harm. His response?
“Wait. *okay emoji* ”
With this message it became clear that this project was also a test. He wanted to see how strong I was under pressure. He wanted to size me up, see if I would be a Superhero worth fighting against. I would give him a fight alright, I found myself grinning despite the tense coil of tension deep in my stomach. “Tonight would be one for the history books,” I thought to myself. I hopped out of my bed, and headed towards Greenville Park.
The park was beautiful, maybe not to most, but it had a distinct charm. The edges of the area had two booths, one to pay the entrance fee and one to redeem a free drink voucher. I found it diabolical he was scamming people while endangering them, an act I found myself deeply respecting despite my moral obligations. The heart of the clearing was the exciting section. A huge pit had been cleared so the band could play. There were even mosh pits starting to form, and there were only 50 people so far, and no DJ.
I spotted Angie in the clearing and jogged over. He, unfortunately, looked incredible. His long black hair was done up in a bun. He still wore Coach’s outfit, but it somehow looked made for his tight figure.
“You stink, idiot.” Angie said, scrunching his nose.” Could you not have showered before showing up?”
I sniffed my armpit to assess, coming up with nothing.
“Sorry man, I was just too excited! Anyways..what do you need me to do?” I said while looking around.
Angie started moving forward, clearly wanting to take center stage. He grabbed my arm, pulling me through. I found my heart beat picking up, the loud noise and sudden touch sending shivers through me. I got bumped and shoved all the way though, to the point of considering maybe just…letting Angie win.
“Hold this,” he said, handing me a bottle of vodka.
I stared curiously at the bottle.
“I can’t-” I said, hesitation dying on my lips. He gave me a meaningful look.
I stared at the bottle once more before taking a long chug at the disgusting drink. I willed myself not to vomit.
“Pour,” he asked while grabbing a cloth from the back of his pocket.
I soaked the cloth with vodka until he told me to stop. Despite the slow pace, I was filled with curiosity.
He stuffed the cloth in the bottle and pulled out a lighter. He then lit the cloth on fire. The heat was intense, my mind filled with buzzing and confusion.
Years later, I would brag about the clean arc my bottle swung in, how it directly landed upon a cloth table filled with young people seated, ablaze.
At this moment, I was furious.
“Angie! How could you?! The danger wasn’t meant to be real!”
“Isn’t it better this way? Look at them..”
I looked. The flames consumed everything it’s path, growing exponentially by the second. People running and screaming. My nose filled with the scent of charred flesh and teenage fear.
It was wonderful.
All these years I had wasted caring for people, and I had no fame or glory to show for it..
“I wanted to be a hero,” I started.
“No you didn’t.”
“I guess I can’t anymore..”
“Join me,” he said, hand outstretched once again.” Let’s be Super together.”
“Okay,” I said, taking his hand into mine.
We smiled at each other before running off into the distance, starting our journeys as the world’s great Supervillains.