Part of my grad school training includes writing, so I’ve asked my boyfriend to give me writing exercises to get myself back into the habit. He gives me a prompt and one hour, and I write the first scene I can come up with. These Alex Tests are the unedited result of my little writing sprints.
Create a superhero with a unique set of powers, and showcase them fighting a villain while making some kind of emotional connection to their past.
The seconds ticked by with the pounding rhythm of her heart as it threatened to escape out her throat. Five hundred inches worth of pixels spelled out doom in five minutes. “Well, what’s it gonna be?” said the madman on the screen, holding Stella by the throat.
Astrid’s eyes grew hot as she stared at the cell phone in her hand. “It doesn’t have to be this way, Nefarious.”
“Oh, but it does,” the madman answered on the screen. Passerby began to idle, staring and pointing at the screen. They chattered amongst themselves, tossing about hypotheses about what actor was playing the bad guy. “You know you want to be the hero. That’s how it’s always been, hasn’t it? Always flaunting how much better you are than everyone else, and why not? Why not show everyone how great you are!”
“Don’t do it, they’ll catch you!” Stella choked out, clawing at the man’s throat. She had grown thin in the years she’d been away. Her white hospital gown hung limp around her shoulders, and her once youthful eyes were hollow, barren shells of their former beauty. “Don’t let them take you, too!”
“That’s enough from the peanut gallery,” Nefarious tossed her on the ground. “If the great Clairvoyant can’t find me in the next three and a half minutes, then the girl dies!” The clusters of New Yorkers grew restless as a police officer on a horse shouted into his radio.
A scratchy lump formed in Astrid’s throat. There were too many people. Any of them could’ve been GenCorp agents following her, waiting to take her away so she could be probed and studied and turned into some kind of drug to wage war.
But what choice did she have?
Astrid’s cell phone dropped to the ground as she reached her hand forward. Her eyes closed and a faint glow fell over her that made the crowd stir and gasp. A tiny spark of Astrid launched itself into the antechamber of her mind in a perfect map of the city. She saw everything, both seen and unseen, in an instant that could last as long as she wanted it to. The spark soared over all of the buildings, sifting through the thoughts and whims of the people below. In that instantaneous moment she watched as someone was mugged in an alley, a woman gave birth to her first child, and a young boy bought a pretzel in Central Park. Astrid was one with the city and everyone in it. But there was only one she needed to find.
The spark grew and surged forward, to an abandoned construction lot near the seaport. The soft, glowing essence of Stella shuddered in the corner. Don’t leave me, Astrid. Don’t let them take you. Don’t let them do this to you. The spark touched her, convulsing with energy. Astrid’s body tingled as she gave herself over to the sensation. Her mind left her body, which had always felt so strange. She watched for a moment as the crowd scattered in a panic around her body, suspended in midair, glowing and dissolving into the stiff air. In millions of swirling particles, she flew through the space between mind and matter. Stella’s screams consumed her as her entire self poured out through the poor girl’s mind. Astrid materialized in a heap on the floor next to Stella. She avoided traveling this way, but desperate times called for the most desperate of acts.
“How good of you to join us,” said Nefarious, his back to them as he stared out onto the water. “The great Clairvoyant makes an appearance at last.”
“You can drop the act, Nefarious,” said Astrid. “We both know your purpose here.” After making sure Stella was okay, Astrid closed her eyes and entered her trance again. Everything around her shook and flickered like a television with a bad signal. She had used too much energy getting here. The spark was faint, but it could still move. It swooped around and turned off the camera, not that it mattered much. Everyone had already seen her, so it wouldn’t be long now. “You can have me locked up, but I won’t let them take Stella again.”
Nefarious laughed, “You think I care about a silly little bird that can’t even fly? No, GenCorp has much more use for someone like you. A real clairvoyant… just think of what that could mean for this country.”
“This power is barely mine to control, it certainly isn’t mine to give away.” Her body swayed and her head ached. The faint aura of Nefarious turned toward her. Somehow the walls were getting closer and the floor was moving. Was it? Something burned in the center like a thousand white-hot needles. The spark shrieked and pushed the agony toward Nefarious. He screamed and flew backwards, landing on the edge of the unfinished floor.
Astrid felt a soft, shaking hand on her shoulder. “Stella?”
“Are they coming?”
Voices of stern men she didn’t recognize buzzed around her head as more auras closed in. “Yeah, they’re coming. You have to get out of here.”
“I can’t,” said Stella. A red light blinked in the middle of her aura. “They’re tracking me. When I hit the air, they shock me and take me back.” A sob clung to the back of her throat.
The spark circled the red light, observing and learning. It circled faster, spinning around the device until the light went out. “You’re fine now. You can fly.”
“Then come with me! You can travel through my mind like you did before!”
The room swayed. “No, I can’t do that to you again. But I can hide you.” Astrid sunk to the ground. Stella struggled to pull her up, begging her not to go. Astrid pushed the last of her energy into the spark and touched it to Stella’s aura. The soft, golden glow grew until it blared like winter sunlight. Astrid opened her eyes, and her sister was gone, though she could still feel her there. “Fly, Stella,” she said. The wind brushed against her cheek and disappeared as the men showed up to take her away.