by Lon Prater
They set up spotlights all around the lake next door where Tommy Taylor's house used to be. The media camped out there day and night, straining against the police tape, hoping to be the first to catch an image of something stirring, some sign of life.
But the still, black waters stayed still and black while the reporters smoked, laughed, ruined Dad's lawn. He didn't care, he was too busy auctioning off camera angles to get upset about the lawn.
I stood at my bedroom window with an unshaven cameraman. The logo on his jacket said Outsider Internet News. My room had the best possible view of the lake.
Our houses used to be close enough that Tommy and I set up a tin can telephone in the summertime. We'd stay up all night, talk about the latest Captain U comic, who the worst villains were. Now there wasn't even a house there, just a deep, wide puddle surrounded by news people.
"Hey kid, what's your name--Randy?"
"Reggie," I said, trying not to glare at him.
"Tell me Reggie, you think the ol' Captain is still alive?" he asked.
But I didn't want to talk about it, not with him, not with anyone. My bedtime was coming; his filming time almost over. Peeved, he put in a stick of gum, smacked his lips together.
I leaned past his camera, stared down at the newly formed lake. Aquifier had been holding the Taylors hostage when Captain U arrived on the scene. Now they were probably drowned, or worse--liquified. I felt water running down my face before I could stop the tears.
Captain Ubiquitous too. Likewise drowned or turned to water while trying to save the Taylor family. The police would dive the lake tomorrow, see how deep the new waterhole went, gauge how strong Aquifier's powers had been.
Earlier, my father made a bet with the reporters on whether Aquifier would end up alive or not. He can turn things to water, so it makes sense he could breathe it, right?
Not one person had been willing to bet on the Captain surfacing. Yeah, he's strong and he can fly and all, but who ever heard of him holding his breath for hours on end? He's dead, the poor slob.
I wiped my face when I heard Dad coming up. He told the cameraman it was time to go. I kept my eyes on the Taylors' lot, didn't turn around. The floor shifted as the cameraman stepped into the hall. My father whispered that there was still a decent view from the window at the end of the hallway. He angled for another fifty bucks, settled for thirty.
Business concluded, he strode in behind me. "Bedtime, son."
I nodded. "Is he going to come back?"
My dad was startled by the question, trying to figure out if I meant the cameraman, Captain Ubiquitous, or Tommy. "Maybe," he said, giving a safe answer to every option. Then: "Do you think I should charge whoever's filming extra when he does?"
I shrugged, pulled the blinds. Crept into bed. I could feel him standing there in the doorway, staring at me like I was some kind of confusing foreign movie; torn between wanting to discuss the day's events with me and his desire to count the day's take.
He switched off the light. "You're only eight, Reggie. Heroes die all the time," he said. "Life isn't a comic book."
I lay there in the dark, not answering until he pulled my door closed.
"I have some allowance saved. Can I make a bet for Captain Ubiquitous?"
He coughed. "I can't take your money, son." The door scraped shut.
I rolled over, opened the blinds again and gazed past all the lights and vans and news people. Stared a long time at what the newsmen were already calling Lake Taylor.
It hit me then, right as the bedside clock flipped over to 10:02 PM. My world had lost more than one hero today. If I worked hard enough at it, and for long enough, maybe I could find a way to replace them both. Become what I and the whole world had lost.
Outside, the black waters rippled beneath the floodlights. I opened my window, sat up in bed until the first faint rays of dawn. Captain Ubiquitous was gone forever. I had to accept it.
But that didn't mean the world would lack for heroes.
Lon Prater is the lucky father of two great girls, a stunt kite flyer and a writer of odd little tales. His work can be found in Writers of the Future XXI, the Stoker Award-winning anthology Borderlands 5, and other venues. Lon's first story for Raven Electrick was Secret Agent Magda Witty.
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"New Lake Formed, Film at 11" © 2007 Lon Prater.
Used by permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2007 Karen A. Romanko.