From the author: What, exactly, is a were-car? You'll find out in this one....
BAD MOTOR SCOOTERS by David Perlmutter 4, 107 words
The good thing about being a superhero is people have to take you seriously. Have to. Otherwise, they’ll either have to threaten to beat you up or do something else super-powerful to you, or actually do it. Fortunately for me, Candace Van Draanen (aka Candy Girl- but that’s just between you and me, okay?), I mostly only have to do the first part, owing that miscreants without powers of their own know that messing around with yours truly is seriously bad for their health.
The ones with powers, now- that’s a different story.
Take, for example, what happened to me last week:
I was out just being my normal red- haired, black-eyed, red-sweatered, white-skirted teenaged self, hanging out on the downtown strip of my hometown, gabbing a mile a minute on my cell phone (mostly to bat away most of the mental insecurities my Asperger’s Syndrome gives me, or so the school shrink says), when a problem of enormous, super-villain-sized magnitude rode into my life. Literally.
Look, I know that sounds pretty cornball, but it’s an apt metaphor. I’ll explain in a minute.
A giant motorcycle sped down the street- with nobody riding it- and threatened to crash into a girl much younger than me who happened to be standing in its path. Lousy brakes and total neglect on the part of the rider, I thought.
Well, that was my cue. I signed off to whoever I was talking to at the time, ducked behind the nearest car, touched my power ring on my hand, and uttered the secret word to access my abilities. Then, I was transformed into my secret identity, which is how most of the world knows me. Purple sweat shirt and sweat pants, brown work gloves and boots stronger than Kevlar, and a red belt on top of my pants (like I needed it, but it came with the outfit). Also a giant “C” in red on the shirt, in the usual superhero fashion. After I transformed, I was ready, and I leapt out from behind the car, right in the path of the ‘cycle. With a friendly dart of my eyes and a point of my finger, I urged the girl to run, and she took my advice. Meanwhile, the ‘cycle kept going towards me.
“Hold it right there!” I barked, and shot a blast of energy at the machine to halt it in its tracks. Under normal circumstances, I would have destroyed the bike with my shot, maybe have had to pay some recompense to the owner if they were pissed, and that would have been the end of it.
These were not normal circumstances.
The ‘cycle either had a mind of its own- or a really high-tech autopilot, at least- because it dodged my blast. Completely. Not only that, it kept going. Like a wild stallion asserting its dominance over a herd, it reared up on one tire, made the motorcycle equivalent of said stallion’s whinny, and charged directly at me. Clearly, it intended to run me down, possibly to even beat me to death with the front tire.
Trust me, it sounds plenty more stupid than it was.
In any event, I had to show the thing who was boss. When it was in arm’s length, I grabbed the front wheel and squeezed it, to let it know what it was dealing with.
“Easy there…..thingy…..” I said, not sure what to say.
Suddenly, it broke my grip, throwing me to the side. Then it began to charge me again.
“Oh, you wanna FIGHT, huh?” I said, cocking one hand into a fist as I got up. “Well, try some of this, you HOG!”
I belted it and sent it flying halfway down the street. It crashed and burned up. That should have been the end of it….
….except some joker in a leather jacket started threatening me with a switchblade, which he jabbed right at my stomach, as soon as I turned away from the wreck.
I’ll admit that I was tempted, a little bit, when I saw him. He was a handsome, blue-eyed blond, my favourite type of guy. For a minute there, I didn’t know whether to yell at him or ask him out. You girls know what it’s like with those type of guys.
But that feeling passed, fortunately for me. I sized him up. He wasn’t nearly as big as me, plus I had my super speed and strength on my side, so it was no big deal for me to cuff him or knock him out if I had to. Plus, even though he might have thought he was hurting me with that knife of his, he wasn’t. Physical invulnerability, baby. Even in the clothes.
So now I had to show somebody or something who was boss for the second time that day. This I did by whipping the knife out of his hand, breaking it down into separate component parts, and throwing the mess away. If my show of power impressed him at all, he didn’t show it on his face. Or any sort of emotion, for that matter.
“You better get outta here,” I warned him, “and take what’s left of your machine with you- unless you want to end up LIKE it!”
“And what,” he said, with sullen anger, “gives you the right to tell me what to do?”
What gives me the right to save people from runaway machines who threaten their very lives? The NERVE of that chump, I thought.
“What gives me the right,” I told him, shifting to a fighting stance, “is that I’m the most powerful teenager in the universe! Go ahead and try me if you don’t believe me!”
He covered his mouth with a hand and yawned.
“What’s the matter?” I said. “Am I BORING you?”
“Not in the least,” he said. “I am simply preparing to warn you, uh…..”
“Candy Girl!” I prompted him angrily.
“…Candy Girl…”, he continued, ”...that you’ve bitten off more than your most powerful female teenager in the universe hand can chew, is all.”
“What is THAT supposed to mean?” I retorted angrily, with patience lost.
“I say, simply, that you have committed a murder.”
“You have destroyed my friend.” He gestured to the broken motorcycle, still in the street.
“Ah. I get it,” I said. “Look, it was your fault for not looking after your bike properly, and it was running loose in the street, threatening people, so I had to….”
“You MISUNDERSTAND me!” he growled, with a vicious undercurrent of menace that made me tremble a little bit. But only a little.
“Make me UNDERSTAND, then!” I said in the same tones. “Before I “make” you LEAVE!”
“You have, no doubt, heard of werewolves?” he said. “Well, I and my late associate are members of a similar association, full of people our age who have been afflicted in the same fashion. For, you see, there are many other types of were-beasts in the world, Miss Candy Girl. We are simply of the group which possesses the ability to turn into motorcycles.”
I covered my mouth to stifle a giggle, but failed, and then I was reduced to side-splitting laughter.
“Oh, my God!” I said. “I’ve heard some weird stories in my time, fella, but THIS……”
“THIS IS NOT A JOKE!” he thundered viciously at me, making me sober up almost immediately. “We are a noble and ancient race….”
“Please!” I interrupted him, holding out a hand in a “stop” gesture. “The motorcycle is less than a hundred years old, so there’s no way it can be ancient….”
“AND,” he said, to cut me off, “we demand to be treated with RESPECT by you mortals. OR ELSE!”
I almost said “Or else what?”, but I thought that was a bit too cliché. Instead, I said:
“What are you going to do if we don’t treat you with respect?”
“You are familiar with so-called “motorcycle gangs”, are you not?”
“Well, who do you suppose the MEMBERSHIP of those gangs consists of? It’s not like that old Marlon Brando movie with us, kid. Not at all. It’ll be WORSE.”
“Not if I stop you, it won’t!”
“I doubt that. The boy/machine you destroyed was a mere whelp. Senior machines such as myself are much more sophisticated.”
“If you really are a machine,” I growled, with finality, “and not a stoner on LSD or some other B.S. narcotic, you’ll show me. NOW!”
“Very well,” he said. “But you were warned.”
Suddenly, he shape-shifted into a massive motorcycle more than three times the one I had manhandled earlier. Even a Hell’s Angel would have trouble riding that kind of a hog- but, then again, as I’ve discovered, were-‘cycles don’t exactly like being ridden.
It- or maybe I should say “he” in this case- reared up again in that wild stallion pose and moved towards me. I was ready for it, or at least I thought I was.
Just as before, I grabbed the massive front wheel with my right hand and squeezed, while my left hand tensed into an anxious fist.
“Try THIS on for size, you old rust-bucket!” I taunted him.
Not a good idea to do that, as it turned out.
For, instead of knocking him halfway across the street as I planned, my fist crumpled up, like a normal human being does when they hit a brick wall with their hand, and I lost my grip on the machine.
“Son of a BITCH!” I cursed, in reaction to pain I wasn’t used to feeling for some time.
Freed from my grip, the machine made another lunge towards me. I uttered an oath and my ring shot its special emerald-colour mist at it. Normally, it can paralyse anyone who comes into contact with it, allowing me to snatch ‘em up like a weightlifter, easy.
But it didn’t do a goddamn thing to stop the ‘cycle. What the hell was going on with these were-‘cycles if they could defy my powers?
The ‘cycle moved towards me and reared again. I tried fighting it off with my strength, pushing it upwards, so that I could throw it backwards and upside-down and cover it before it could escape.
No chance of that.
It not only overpowered me with a counter-thrust that brought me down to my knees, it “punched” me soundly in the face with the front wheel with a strength even greater than my own!
Satisfied that he’d taught me what I needed to know about him, the ‘cycle shifted back to its blond-haired kid form, and glared down menacingly as I painfully writhed on the ground.
“Consider this a warning, Candy Girl,” he said. “If you come anywhere near us, we will proceed to break every bone in your body. Including your HYMEN!”
“How do you know that I’m a virgin?”
“Obvious. Girls with your powers and your masculine attitudes are almost always like that. You scare the boys away, you know.”
With that impecunious face-slap of an insult, one which I would have punched him for if I had been able, he left me.
I was suddenly faced with the worst crisis I’ve ever had to face in my brief super-heroic career. Would I face down a vicious gang of super-powered cut-throats who had threatened my honour as a woman- and could beat the crap out of even my super-powered ass? Or just do nothing, and forfeit my honour as a superhero, instead?
I went home, changed back to normal old Candace, tended to my wounds (not very superficial, but still painful as hell), and went into Rodin-thinker mode about what, if anything, I could possibly do.
My mind got derailed from that soon, ‘cause I soon started thinking about what Cantus would have done if he was in that situation. He might have shown that thing what for easy. Guys have it easy fighting themselves. We girls- even super-powered ones like me- have to be careful when we fight guys, ‘cause there are ways they can hurt us that don’t have nothing to do with the Marquis of Queensberry rules. If you know what I mean.
Oh, I never mentioned him to you before? Let me explain. Won’t take long, I promise.
Cantus was kind of like my mentor. No, scratch that- he was my mentor. All I’m doing as Candy Girl is taking over for our solar system what he used to do for his own galaxy.
I met him under rather strange circumstances- or, in my case, normal ones. I was working as a lifeguard the summer before the motorcycle stuff happened. He just appeared in the water one moment, floundering like a fish with a lure in its mouth, out of nowhere. He was too far out to have jumped into the lake from the pier or anywhere like that, but he was gonna drown if he kept floundering around like that. I sprang into action immediately, throwing my jacket off but keeping my visor and red swimsuit on, like you’re supposed to on that job.
In a minute or so, I had pulled him out of the lake and lain him down on the shoreline. There was a jagged piece of glass or something in his foot, so I carefully removed it. He didn’t flinch or move a muscle at all. Then I looked at him more closely.
He was-you guessed it- blue eyed and blond. And the hair was curly, even.
Still, I had to show him who was boss, like you have to when you’re a lifeguard, so that was what I did.
“What is WRONG with you?” I barked. “You’re not supposed to swim out that far beyond the rope!”
“I…was not aware of this,” he said, sitting up and patting his shirt for something. (He was fully dressed.)
“I see,” I said, more understanding. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No,” he responded.
“You…from the other side of the lake?”
I pressed him- softly- and he finally caved. The son of a bitch was an ALIEN! Somehow, he had fallen through a rip in the space-time continuum while running after or fleeing from somebody or other, and he ended up here.
He swore me to secrecy about his origins, and I swore never to reveal his real nature to anybody. At least, not until now. But since he’s dead, now, that doesn’t matter as much, does it?
I just told folks who asked about him that I met him out in the city, and that he was my boyfriend. Boy, was that easy to say! Rrrrrowwwwrrrrrr!
It was a fib only in the sense that we never made love, which we couldn’t really do ‘cause he didn’t have human genitals. But it was true in the sense that we hung out a lot that summer. In a short period of time, I had gained his complete trust, something he’d never really given to anyone on his home planet.
The last time I saw him, Cantus told me he had a terminal disease common to his planet, something like cancer among us humans, and he’d be dead in a couple of weeks. Naturally, I was disturbed by this. He was the first boy I’d ever felt truly attracted to beyond hormonal urges or puppy love, and I told him that.
“Isn’t there anything I can do to keep you with me?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said, cryptically.
That’s how I got the ring and the duds and the powers and all. Cantus had used them to be a hero on his planet, until an enemy used his influence to get him discredited. That was why he was running away when he ended up on Earth. He wanted me to take over that aspect of his life.
“Why me?” I asked him.
“Well, who else can I trust?” he said, rhetorically. Nothing else needed to be said at my end.
So he gave me a brief tutorial on how to use the ring, since that was all that was really needed. I was already strong and fast- the ring simply amped up those abilities to superhuman status. He just needed to show me how to use the supernatural stuff in the ring, like the mist, to my advantage, and that was it. Then he ambled away, and I never saw him again.
And now, we return to your regularly scheduled story…..
Cantus gave me the impression that I could conquer the world with the powers the ring gave me- if I were a sick, villainous bitch, that is. Which I’m not, by any means. If you were me, then, you could do a lot of good. Or so I thought until the were-‘cycle kicked my ass.
Eventually, thought and memories collided with ferocity, and I let out an impassioned scream. Fortunately, it brought my one shard of hope towards me, quickly.
Finn, my younger brother, is about the only person on Earth I can trust with my secret identity, the same way Cantus trusted me with his. He can do that because, unlike most kids his age, he’s quite intelligent. If they still made print encyclopedias, he would be one of the type who read the whole thing, cover to cover, just for the fun of it. You pick up a lot of things that way, and most of them are helpful. Anyway, since my mental intelligence isn’t super-sized when I change up to Candy Girl, and it’s not anything to write home about as Candace, I have no other choice but to trust him. Thankfully, his instincts about these things are usually right on the button.
“You called, madame?” he said, cheekily, in the tones of a refined English butler, as he came into the room.
“Never mind the jokes,” I said. “I need HELP here!”
So I told him everything that happened earlier that day, and he listened intently, like he usually does. I expected him to laugh out loud when I talked about the were-‘cycle, just the way I had when I encountered them first. But he didn’t.
At least somebody in the world takes me seriously when I talk, and it’s him. Thank God for that.
When I finished by telling him that my powers didn’t work as well as they usually did, he looked as if he were prepared to tell me what to do. He did, but not immediately.
“You don’t think I’m starting to wimp out, do you?” I asked. “You know, losing my powers?”
“Hardly,” he responded. “Cantus obviously came from a planet where a were-society was not in place, otherwise his technology would still have aided you, as always. Interplanetary technology can’t always confront the magical and supernatural elements of Earth because those are foreign to other planets and they have no way of factoring their powers and abilities when they’re used on Earth.”
“So my powers are useless against them, then?” I said.
“I never said that,” he said.
“What do you mean by a were-society, anyway? You mean like werewolves?”
“They prefer to be called ‘lycanthropes’, but it’s the same idea. ‘Were’ is an old English word for ‘man’, so if you put that prefix in front of anything it means a man or woman able to transform into whatever the suffix of the word is, either through coercion or otherwise.”
“That’s what I mean. They were men able to transform into motorcycles.”
“Yes,” he said, checking Google. “The earliest known cases occurred as a result of people being injured to the point of spilling their blood on the machines. The blood and the motor oil in the engine combined, creating….”
“Look,” I said, impatiently. “I’m not trying to create one of the things. I need to get RID of them!”
“There’s only one way,” he said, scanning down the article.
Just my luck! I let out a rueful sigh, and then said:
“Lay it on me.”
And so it was, after a bit of research in the phone book on the Internet, Finn and I located the only possible location where a gang of vicious were-‘cycles could have a hideout in our extremely small town, and I went to speak to them. As Candy Girl. No way was I going in that den of iniquity as my (supposedly) weak secret identity. My powers might not be totally effective against those motorised clowns, but they were the only ace in the hole I really had. Other than Finn, but he wasn’t there with me. Can’t deal with the sight of blood, or so he says.
I approached the establishment, a shack with a profane warning spray painted on it that I ignored, and knocked on the door. His Satanic Majesty, the one I’d dealt with earlier, answered.
“What do you want?” he said. “Didn’t you get spanked well enough to learn your lesson yet?”
“I heal fast,” I said, in the same tones.
“You didn’t hear me,” he retorted. “What do you want?”
“I want you out of my town!” I said, jabbing at his chest with a finger.
“And I want you dead!” he growled, pulling my finger away. “Possibly flayed alive, if I can manage it.”
“Oh, please! You think I’m gonna be scared of your cold-blooded murderer routine a second time? It wasn’t even FUNNY the first time!”
“You have no right to question my integrity, you badly-dressed WHORE!”
“Badly dressed? HOW DARE YOU! My fashion sense is IMPECCABLE! You, sir, are nothing but a piece of….”
But, by this time, he had shifted into his ‘cycle form, and I trailed off. He was joined by several other machines, also likewise were-‘cycles, who had been alerted to the noise and shifted to back up their leader. They were supplemented by what looked like a couple of were-Vespas, and even a were-Radio Flyer souped up with an outboard motor from a boat. That last bunch must have been the were-‘cycles’ molls or something. I never saw them in human form, so search me if I know the truth.
Then I shifted into panic mode, as per the plan Finn and I had devised earlier.
“HELP!” I called out in the dumbest “scared” voice I could manage. “Runaway vehicles! They’re gonna crush me! HELP! HELP!”
Then I started running with all the super-speed I could manage, hoping I might be able to lose them that way. But no dice. They were as speedy as I was, and, being vehicles, they could endure more road time than even I could, if it came to that. If they had enough gas, which I’m sure they did.
Anyway, it was neck and neck for quite a while. And nobody answered my call. Granted, it was late at night, and if anyone was out and saw it, they would have dismissed it as a consequence of their being drunk. That, or they’d wandered into a rerun of “Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch”.
It wasn’t until I got to the old abandoned foot bridge that I had to stop. If I went too fast, I’d burn the damn thing up and fall in the river below, and wouldn’t that be fun? I gingerly walked across a couple of boards before they caught up with me, since I’d managed to lose them briefly before then. I turned around and saw them with their headlights gleaming in the night, looking every inch like the damsel in distress.
But only looking like it, mind you.
“STOP!” I cried out. “Please! I’m serious! If you go any further, the bridge will fall, and we’ll all drown!”
They ignored me, and leapt at me……
It was just like Finn and I planned. The bridge couldn’t support their combined weight, and so the old bridge gave way and dropped them all down into the river miles below. I, meanwhile, somersaulted the other direction just as they leapt, and landed on my feet, safely, on the riverbank I came from.
“Not so tough NOW, are ya?” I called down to what was left of them. “Well, you forgot one thing. I’m a HUMAN BEING, and human beings will always be smarter than any dumb old MACHINES!”
And then I went home. Because I owed my only sibling ten dollars as a consequence of him being right about our plan working.
This story originally appeared in Killer Tracks (2015).