Big Pulp - the magazine of fantasy | mystery | adventure | horror | science fiction | romance


Fantasy, Myth, Legend

Catherine Cheek is a graduate of 2007 Clarion. She has previously been published in Cat Tales, Susurrus: The Literature of Madness and Coyote Wild, and has contributed to the anthologies Leonardo Variations and Last Drink Bird Head.

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Waiting Room At The Hero League

Brad wore a bright yellow spandex suit with “Clock Stopper” embroidered down the legs and arms. It had cost him a lot of money, money he could sorely use ever since his pay got docked for that unfortunate incident with the case of DVD players, but Brad had heard that little details like a good costume could make or break a superhero sidekick’s chances.

The waiting room at the Hero League held four people. Four. Was that good odds? One out of four? Or maybe they needed more than one sidekick? If they needed two, that would up his odds to fifty-fifty. Brad jiggled his knee and tapped the end of his pencil against his notebook. He really needed this job. True, being the sidekick of a superhero didn’t pay a huge salary, but it was certainly better than being a salesman at the electronics store. He glanced around at his competition, trying to figure out their special powers.

The woman next to him wore a headband with ears on it and a tight fuzzy cat suit. The suit had stripes, and her nails had been chewed down to the quick. She had a pet crate next to her, though whatever lay inside must have been sleeping or drugged, because the animals made no sound.

“So, uh, what’s your power?” asked the woman.

Brad pointed to his sleeve. “I stop clocks.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You’re not that good looking.”

“No, see?” He pointed to his wristwatch, squinted his eyes, and the second hand stopped moving.

She didn’t look very impressed. “Can you stop all electrical things?”

“Yeah, but I’m best at clocks.” Of course, his aim was terrible, but she didn’t need to know that. “And you? Let me guess, Catwoman?”

She made an irritated moue. “Can’t. It’s copyrighted. I had to go with ‘Tabby Girl’.”

Across from her, a man in a pair of denim overalls sat reading a magazine. No costume, no logo, no props, nothing. Mystery guy.

The door opened, and another guy came in. He wore a pointed hat with stars and moons on it, and had an acetate cape that looked as though it had come with a discount Dracula costume. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and sat down on one of the chairs. Great. Now there were five people.

“Who are you?” Brad asked, just to be personable. Maybe superhero sidekicks had to be able to relate to the common people.

“I’m ‘Summoner’,” the guy in the pointy hat said. He still had his hands in his pockets, and he was moving them around. Brad hoped that was a wallet in there.

Brad turned back to Tabby Girl. Even if Tabby Girl was competition, she was at least cute. “Can you turn into a cat?”

“No, I just talk to them.”

“Wow, and they obey you?” An army of cats would be really impressive, Brad reasoned.

“No, of course they don’t obey me. They’re cats.” She gave the pet carrier by her side a little shake. “Wake up, Snuggles.”

“Piss off, human!” came a cat’s whiny voice. “Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep!”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool,” Brad said.

A cat in the other carrier had apparently woken up, because it stuck a white whiskery nose up against the metal grate. “Lemme out. I gotta take a dump.”

“I can’t, Mr. Boots,” Tabby Girl said. “There’s no litter box here.”

“Then I’ll use your shoe,” the cat offered.

“I’ll show you what I can do,” the Summoner said. “Rectus, Spinatus, Peritorum.” He had taken a lump of chalk out of his pocket, and was busily scratching a circle on the carpet. Brad wasn’t impressed. He learned a little Latin in high school, and he was sure he could have come up with something that sounded better than that.

The other hopeful wore a horned helmet and homemade storm trooper armor. He held a bladed flying saucer in his arms. At least, it might have been a flying saucer. It had a ring of tiny lights around the rim, and the blades looked as though they retracted into the body of the disk. Brad craned his head to peek into the cardboard box that Hagar the Frisbee thrower had next to him. Sure enough. Three more saucers. Could those things fly? That wasn’t like a superpower, but they might count it as good enough for a sidekick.

“Is that guy summoning a Demon?” The helmet-headed guy flicked a switch on the Frisbee in his arms. The saucer began to hum, and lights flickered back and forth. “It better not come after me.”

Brad leaned forward, intrigued despite himself, as purple smoke curled around the edges of the Summoner’s circle. The humming increased, and Helmet-head’s arms flexed as though his bladed Frisbee wanted to escape and take out whatever was about to appear in the chalk pentacle on the carpet. Suddenly, the form coalesced, taking on a familiar, recognizable shape.

(continued on page 2)







Waiting Room At The Hero League by Catherine Cheek 1 2
originally published February 9, 2009

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