Art by Nathan Susnik.
From the author: A tiny origin story of a different type of superhero, written in Southern Gothic style...
A long time ago, I lived next to a girl who could remember forgotten things. We were the same age, rode the same bus, and went to the same school. Her demeanor, like her name, was somehow too old for her age, scrawny, fading away, all but forgotten. Like a girl in a Victorian photograph, she never smiled.
Because of her name and looks, the kids at school ignored her. Even the teachers occasionally forgot her name. The kids at school ignored me too, so we sat next to each other on the bus — Maud and I — me staring out of the window, she staring at her black, orthopedic shoes.
“Your math worksheet,” she whispered.
“You’ve forgotten it.” I opened my backpack and found the crumpled worksheet underneath my social studies text.
“That one,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said and smiled. She didn’t smile back.
She was nice to me, so I invited her over. Sitting on the swings, rocking back and forth, I learned that Maud could remember where I last put my key, my piano teacher’s phone number, that word on the tip of my tongue.
“A superpower,” I said. Maud looked toward her house with tears in her eyes.
“My father has forgotten that he loves my mother, and my mother has forgotten what it feels to be loved,” she said.
As the voices in Maud’s house grew angrier, Maud grew even quieter. She stopped going to school, stopped going outside.
Our social studies teacher, Miss Fitz, assigned us volunteer work for extra credit. To the groans of the rest of the class, I found the perfect activity and signed both Maud and my names next to it. Because of missed days and missed homework, Maud could use the extra credit.
It lied to get Maud out of the house. I can’t remember what I said, just her slowly riding her bike behind me. When we got to the retirement home, Maud refused to go in.
“It’s too loud,” she whispered.
“Trust me,” I said, gently taking her hand and leading her in.
The home was airy and well-lit, not nearly as gloomy as I had imagined. We went through the halls, Maud whispering all of the forgotten things in my ear. I stopped by a woman staring out of the window. “Wait here,” I told Maud and left. I returned with a bunch of small violet flowers from the garden.
“Go ahead,” I said, pressing the flowers into Maud‘s hand. “Tell her what you heard.”
Maud drifted ghost-like across the floor and presented the flowers to the woman.
“Here,” said Maud. “He smelled like these.” She motioned toward her nose. The woman took the flowers. She hesitated for a second, confused, and then held them under her nose, drawing in a breath. She blinked a couple time and looked in to the distance.
Finally, she took Maud’s hand, smiled and said, “Thank you.”
Maud — the girl who never smiled — smiled back.
This story originally appeared in Cast of Wonders.