Todd had spent his whole life reading superhero comics, watching superhero TV shows and movies. Even when they were low budget and terrible with horrible special effects and dumb acting, he watched them. Every one of them because he’d always known he was destined to be a superhero.
A real one. Not just some guy running around in a funny costume who maybe broke up a fight now and then, but usually just called the police to handle the situation. Not a weirdo who lurked on rooftops, playing like he was there to save the day. But an honest-to-God superhero who fought crime and helped people and had his own evil nemesis. Maybe even two or three.
He wasn’t lazy about it. He worked out religiously. He trained in multiple martial arts. He studied criminology, military tactics. He was a decent escape artist, though he never was much good at science, if he was being honest. And all that training had taken its toll on his social life. He’d never had a girlfriend, didn’t really have many friends at all. He worked. He trained. And he waited for his chance.
And when, one day, a glowing meteor had plummeted out of the sky to land in his backyard, he knew his destiny had finally come. He ran into the backyard and, with the help of oven mitts and a wheelbarrow, carried the object into the house. He sat in its warm, blue glow, knowing it was modifying his DNA, altering him on a cellular level. He wondered if he would be able to fly? Maybe superstrength. Maybe telekinesis. He’d settle for something sort of dumb like jumping or talking to plants. It wasn’t the power. It was having the imagination to use it properly, and Todd had been imagining this day since he was four years old.
Grinning, he fell asleep, basking in the rock’s light, dreaming of all the wrongs he would right and people he would save. An unfamiliar voice woke him in the morning.
“Hey, get up already.”
He opened his eyes and checked himself out. There was always the possibility of hideous disfigurement along with superpowers. He would forever be a misunderstood outcast, even as he fought for a world that hated him. It wasn’t ideal, but he could make it work.
“I don’t think it worked,” said the unfamiliar voice.
Todd glanced around the room. The voice sounded close. Perhaps it was a telepathic mentor from across the cosmos here to give him his first mission.
“Down here, Todd.”
Champion, his black and white cat, sat at his feet. Except Champion was blue and green with sparkling emerald eyes. The cat swished her tail and yawned.
“I’m out of food,” she said. “Well, technically, there’s still food in the bowl, but I can see the bottom. You know I hate that, right? I thought we clearly established that within the first week of me living here.”
“You can talk?”
Champion stretched, started walking toward the kitchen. “We need to address this food issue.”
He followed her to her bowl and poured her a fresh cupful of dry. She sniffed it and crinkled her nose. “Who the hell keeps putting triangles in here? I hate those damn things.”
“You can just eat around them,” said Todd. “You always do.”
“Well, it’s inconvenient. That’s all I’m saying.”
The cat food levitated in the air and sorted itself by shape. The triangles were launched across the tile floor as the rest returned to the bowl. Champion nodded to herself.
“Oh my God, did I do that?” asked Todd.
“Can’t talk now,” replied Champion. “Eating.”
He stared at the bowl and tried to repeat the effect. The food didn’t move. He thought maybe a piece or two vibrated, but that might have been his imagination. He went back to the meteor and touched it. It was cold. Its glow had faded. He knew enough comic book science to understand it was probably useless now.
He didn’t feel different, aside from his newfound ability to talk to cats. Maybe it was other animals as well.
Champion rubbed against Todd’s leg. He scratched her between the ears and got a shock that rendered his fingers numb. He couldn’t figure this out, but he would. He sat on the sofa, and Champion took her position on his lap. They turned on the TV and saw the breaking news.
Weird meteors had fallen across the city last night, and now the world was full of superhumans, none of which appeared to be human. A herd of purple giraffes had teleported out of the zoo to graze in the local arboretum. An invulnerable dog was catching cars on the freeway and burying them in the park. A killer whale had built some kind of forcefield generator out of whatever odds and ends that could be found at a waterpark and was now claiming Ocean Land as its own sovereign nation.
“Well, that’s just great,” said Todd. “Very funny, universe.”
Champion purred as he scratched her chin. He was grateful that she at least seemed uncorrupted by her new powers. She had always been a pretty great cat though.
The TV reported about a forty-foot parrot rampaging through downtown. So far, animal control hadn’t had much luck containing it.
“Somebody should do something,” said Todd.
Champion jumped off his lap and swished her tail. “You’re right. Birds are dumb.”
She sashayed toward the front door, but stopped. “I’ll probably need a ride, Todd. I can’t fly. At least, I don’t think I can.”
Todd grabbed his keys, and they jumped into his car. Champion sat in the passenger seat and settled down for a nap. Car rides always made her sleepy. “Wake me when we get there.”
He started the car and shrugged. If he couldn’t be a superhero, then sidekick wasn’t so bad. He pulled out of the driveway and headed off to save the day.