Everyone wants to believe that they are the protagonist of their own story. But the simple fact is that most of us just aren't that interesting. If we're lucky, we could be a Love Interest or a Best Friend, but a Protagonist? That's a one in a million chance, and it's not always a good thing.
I'm certainly no Protagonist: my life is so simple and devoid of any serious problems that I bore myself thinking about it. I have no distinguishing features; you couldn't point me out of a lineup of one. Two loving and living parents send me to this average high school every day. Indeed, I am not someone whose life story would pique interest. Just a normal guy.
Class started a few minutes ago but everyone, teacher included, is waiting. The lights flicker ever so slightly and we know what to expect. Faster than the eye can see, a streak of electricity shoots out from a socket in the wall and lands between the first row of desks and the teacher. And just like that he appears, down on one knee in a very dramatic pose. Even though we've all seen this before, it's hard not to be impressed.
"You're late again, Lamar," our teacher Mr. Piers tries to sound as casual as possible, like that wasn't an amazing thing to see. Lamar stands up to his full height adjusting the straps of his book bag.
"Sorry, Mr. Piers," he offers a genuine apology.
"Hold-up in an alley?" he asks with a quirk of his eyebrow.
"Bank, actually," Lamar points out. Laconic as always. Our teacher mulls it over.
"I expect three pages on it by Friday, understood?"
"Yes, Mr. Piers."
"Good, now go take your seat." With a nod, the Protagonist of our class goes to his chair.
Lamar Brown greets people on his way to sit. His seat is next to mine. From this side, I can see the long scar he got in the accident which put him on the path of being a Protagonist. It's deep, jagged, and didn't heal very well on his otherwise smooth, dark face. An inch or two to the left and he would've seriously damaged his right eye. Maybe even lost it. The scar goes past his strong jawline down to his neck; if it goes any further I can't see it because of his shirt.
"What's up?" As casual a greeting as I can offer. I'm not sure if I can consider us to be friends. We're not openly hostile towards each other, but it's not like we've talked about anything besides school. Lamar turns to me.
"What's good, dude?" Sparks of electricity travel up his scar. Far as I can tell, it's an involuntary action. But I've noticed it happens a lot when I talk to him.
"Same old, same old." It's not really an answer, but then again he didn't really ask me a question. "You?"
"Same," he answers as he takes off his bomber jacket. I wonder if having millions or possibly billions of volts constantly running throughout your body is good for your muscles. Because his long-sleeved shirt is tight on him, he's as muscular as any athlete our school has to offer. His biceps threatens to rip the black fabric as he takes out his things. Though I suppose running around and fighting crime at all hours of the day is all the exercise he needs. What I really want to know is how his clothes aren't vaporized every time he turns into lightning. But I don't think we're close enough for me to ask such a question.
Class and school, in general, go by as usual. Everybody looks at Lamar and talks about his various exploits from either today or this week, real or rumored. But no one actually talks to him. It'd be like talking to...there isn't even a good analogy involving a famous person that I can use because here in Excelsior City, Lamar outranks everybody. Being the most powerful Protagonist in generations tends to put people on a pedestal. I can't say for sure if he has any actual friends. That thought takes up more space in my head than I'd like, and it certainly stays for longer.
With the school day over students pour out of the building, but Lamar stands near the curb. Almost like the parting of the sea, everyone gives him a wide berth. But he doesn't seem to care or notice because of whatever he's looking at on his phone. Curiosity pulls me over.
"What're ya looking at?" There's a map of the city on his phone, he's looking for something but I can't tell what. Electricity arcs up his scar as he notices me.
"It's a crime alert app. Just checking if there's any trouble around before I head home. I didn't bring my battery packs with me, so it could get dicey," he answers.
"Your battery packs?" He furrows his brow, thinking of how best to explain to me.
"I can generate electricity from my body." He holds out his hand and sparks leap from his fingers. They're a sharp blue, unlike the deep purple that traverses his scar. "But it can be exhausting to rely on it. So I usually use the electricity around me. Luckily, we live in one of the liveliest cities in the world." He closes his fist and the sparks die. "Anyway, doesn't seem to be any trouble so I'll head home for now." He checks his phone for a moment more. "Well, see ya." I half expect him to zip away but he starts walking down the street. It's the direction I'm headed in too, that's why I try to catch up with him.
"I actually go in this direction, too. Can I walk with you?" More electricity goes up his scar.
"It's a free country." With that, we fall into silence while we walk. Or at least what constitutes for silence in the city. It doesn't help that everyone recognizes Lamar, who tries his best to be polite and address the fans or reporters that approach him while still moving. A swarm of them surround Lamar and with what I think is his media face, starts answering their questions.
"How many men were robbing that bank?"
"Were there any casualties?"
"No, not a civilian or criminal died in that bank." He's clearly used to being ambushed like this, answering the questions with a steady voice.
"Do you think this was gang activity?"
"I can't comment on that. Ask the Excelsior City Police."
"Have you heard Crushed Velvet's offer?" A particularly stylish reporter asks.
"No, I haven't. What is it?" He asks back. The reporter takes out a tablet and shows him something. A screenshot from the official Crushed Velvet website announcing something.
"They're offering to make you a signature costume, free of charge if you fly out to their headquarters in Neon City." Crushed Velvet is a fashion group so prestigious they only dress the most influential of people: movie icons, musical legends, and the top-tier Protagonists. If they want to make him an outfit then he really is headed for the big leagues.
"That's nice of them, but I can't just leave my city like that. If they really want to do that for me, they can come here," Lamar answers. The group of reporters explode into dozens more questions. After all, who would turn down an offer from the one and only Crushed Velvet? "Alright I have to get going, so one more question. You in the back," he points to a short redhead. She pushes her way to the front.
"Hello, Lightning Demon," she greets him by his superhero name. It doesn't sound like someone who'd be saving the day, but it's just as scary to the criminals of our city. "What message do you want to say to the kids who look up to you?" The whole world seems to go quiet after she asks. Everyone points their recording devices or their phones at Lamar, waiting with bated breath.
"Well I still think I'm a kid but uhh…" he takes a second to think. "Always wear your seatbelts," he runs his finger over his scar as sparks shoot out from it "trust me." The media tries desperately for more questions as he makes his way out.
We walk in silence for a bit before I have to ask.
"Who turns down an outfit from Crushed Velvet? They ain't just giving those out, y'know. Do you know many people would kill for one?" I lightly slap his arm. "They'd probably give you a dope one too." His scar lights up.
"Yeah, but I can't just leave."
"I heard that answer. It's not like they're asking you to move to Neon City. I mean, I don't know how long it takes to make an outfit but still, man, it's Neon City! Wouldn't that be like, your own personal playground?" I'm not sure why I'm so excited for Lamar when I barely know him. "City of lights, so you can zip around and the City of Sin...I'm sure there are plenty of bad guys for you to stop." A small chuckle comes from Lamar.
"That may be true, but nothing beats Excelsior City," he says while sticking his arms up. He gestures to the various skyscrapers and gigantic TV screens around us. Just here in Sundial Square, he's spoiled for choice. "And besides…" he trails off. There's something he wants to say but thinks better of it. I want to ask what is it, but this is the most we've ever talked or hung out, so I decide not to push the subject.
We get to my train station; I'm about to walk down the stairs when Lamar grabs ahold of my sleeve.
"Uhh," he says with a kind of dumb look on his face. He gulps and more sparks go his scar. "I wanted to say...Tha-" He stops mid-sentence and turns to look at something behind him. I follow his eye line to two helicopters flying high above. It takes me a second to see that one is lower than the other.
"That helicopter is gonna crash. It's losing power fast!" he takes off his book bag and jacket, shoving them in my hands. "Hold this for me!" Before I can protest he takes a running leap, his entire body turns into blinding electricity and he soars through the air. A split second later he's on the side of the failing helicopter, forcing the door open. I didn't know he could turn into electricity like that. I can just barely see him from here but he seems to be talking to the pilot and someone else. He grabs them both before turning into lightning again, the people inside transform too. Lamar crashes into the ground just a few feet away from me, superheating the air around us. The people he took with him look very discombobulated, which is fair because a second ago they were literally electricity. Another thing I didn't know he could do. They get to their feet with some difficulty, but the pilot rushes over to a garbage can to vomit.
Lamar doesn't notice though, his full attention on the out-of-control helicopter. People around us have finally noticed what's going on and are starting to panic. But even that doesn't rattle him, he looks around, trying to figure out something I can't fathom. When he makes his decision he bolts through the air again, flying towards one of the buildings. Just as quickly as he returns to his human form, he lights his left hand with electricity, melting the concrete so he can get a handhold in the building. As he hangs off the side of this building I realize that's where the helicopter is going to crash. Everybody around me is still in a frenzy, but I'm frozen to my spot. I can only hold his stuff while I pray he knows what he's doing.
Lamar scowls and his body comes abuzz with sparks, the lights turn off in the building he's on. Then the building next to it darkens, and so does the next; in seconds all the buildings have their lights off. Lamar has drained the entire block, maybe more, of its electricity. I can see from my place on the ground that his eyes are glowing with energy. The helicopter spins in the air, plummeting; threatening to crash into Lamar, killing him and potentially dozens of people.
Not a moment too soon Lamar sticks out his free hand and what is easily the brightest thing I've ever seen shoots out in the form of a huge bolt of lightning. It strikes the helicopter, pushing it back a bit, slowing its descent a minuscule amount. He starts to scream as he brings his other hand around making the lightning bigger, stronger and somehow even brighter. It's an assault on the ears as well, a constant thunderous buzz shakes me to my bones. The sheer force of his power keeps Lamar pressed against the wall. The amount of electricity pouring out of him sears the air, making what was a mild afternoon suddenly swelteringly hot.
Though I don't want to, I have to shut my eyes before I blind myself. But it barely makes a difference as the light tries to burn through my eyelids. But just as quickly as it came, the light fades. I open my eyes expecting to see the charred remains of the helicopter. But there's nothing, no signs of damage to any of the buildings and I realize that Lamar disintegrated the entire thing. I look to him and see my classmate falling with his eyes closed. The once horrified crowd, now relieved; is once again terrified as we all watch the hero who just saved us fall to his death.
People scream and shout because that's all they can do. And it's all I can do too.
"LAMAR! WAKE UP!" I yell as loud as I can. And I know it's impossible for him to hear me, whether over all the other shouts or the distance between us. But Lamar has shown that the impossible doesn't matter to him; his eyes snap open and just before he turns into modern art on the sidewalk, he transforms into lightning once more and zips to safety. He reforms next to me and the people he rescued from the no longer existing helicopter. He's breathing heavily with his hands on his knees, drenched in sweat and the sleeves of his shirt have been pretty much obliterated. He stands up as straight as he can manage, his chest still heaving.
"You guys okay?" he asks them. The pilot gives a weak thumbs up, using the garbage can to hold himself up. "Drinks lots of fluid, you'll be fine. And you, ma'am?" he addresses a girl next to me. In the chaos of everything that just happened, I didn't take full notice of her. She's pretty, like a celebrity. She takes her dark brown dreadlocks and works them into a bun.
"I've been better admittedly," she says with an accent that I can't place. "But then, I could've been much worse. So it evens out. Thank you…?" The fact that she doesn't know him just by his abilities or face shows she's not from around here.
"Lamar. But some people call me Lightning Demon," he answers having caught his breath. If just a bit.
"Oh, so you're the Lightning Demon I've heard so much about. How fortuitous that you were here to save us. And everyone else too." She gestures to the oncoming mass of people no doubt on their way to badger Lamar with praise. He shakes his head, offering a world-class smile.
"Just doing my job. That other helicopter with you guys?"
"Yes, part of my escort," she says casually as if that's a completely normal thing.
"There's a helipad on a building two blocks over," Lamar points to his right, demonstrating his knowledge of the city. "You can meet up with them there. Have a safe flight this time." He nods to her and the pilot before he wobbly walks off, hoping to avoid the crowd. I watch him leave for a moment before I remember I have his stuff.
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