The Short Story Project ~ A Story

First published: Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
1,870 words ~ spooky scale: ••••• 12+


It hurt.

They never mention that in the comic books.

It hurt like hell!

It must have hurt for them all. At first.

Except for Superman, or Kal-El, or Clark Kent, or whatever… He was born like that. But take Peter Parker. It must have hurt him… Just imagine, you’re bitten by some radio-active spider, and then you start getting urges to climb the walls. Obviously you’re using muscles and tendons and things you’ve never used before. Don’t tell me that didn’t hurt. Don’t tell me that didn’t ache and burn and smart like hell.

It does hurt. Believe me.

Glass is like razorblades, or a really sharp knife. And it feels like it burns, too.

I look down at my arm and I expect to see red, seared flesh. I expect to see weals and swelling, cuts even…

There’s nothing, just ordinary, unmarked skin.

I get black dots floating in front of my eyes from the pain. And my eyes are watering. And I think I’ve bust a tooth from where I clenched them against the sudden white-hot burst of pain.

That’s a lot of hurt.

And that’s not all, there’s another thing they got wrong too.

On the telly, or in films, you see a guy just walk through a wall, or a door. Just like that. No sweat.

But it’s what you don’t see that’s the killer.

For a start, did I mention the pain. OK, for a brick wall it’s less than glass, more like being pummelled all over with a steel bar than walking through flames, but it’s still there.

No, the real problem is your clothes.

No way can you take your clothes with you.

You feel yourself losing it, dissolving and disappearing. You get the distinct feeling that if you don’t watch out, remind yourself of who you are, of the idea of your body shape and size and colour… that you can dissolve and disappear completely. That you’ll flow through the wall, but not reappear on the other side. Lost, melted into the ether.

And, of course, you can see nothing. I mean, how can you see anything when your eyes are melting along with all the rest?

And so your clothes stay behind. Which is logical when you think about it. They’re not part of you, are they?

The first time I walked through a wall though, I lost a filling.

The Dentist had done a good job. Devitalising the tooth, cleaning out the cavity and everything, so I don’t feel anything. But now I’ve got the hole. And how can I explain that? I mean, the tooth’s perfect, not broken or anything. Just no more filling. I could say it fell out. Play dumb. But what’s the point? If I get it replaced, it’ll just fall out again the next time I try it. Good job I don’t have a pacemaker or anything like that. That would really have taken a lot of awkward explaining.

And don’t even think about trying anything after you’ve just eaten. That’s real gross, smearing stuff all across the wall and all dripping down. When I cleaned it up, I really wanted to vomit. But I couldn’t. There was nothing left to puke up.

So you can walk through walls and such, but you come out the other side as naked as the day you were born, with shoes and clothes and keys and your watch and mobile all stuck on the other side.

What sort of Superpower can you call that?

And then there’s beds. You can fall through a bed and wake up on the floor, your nose in dust bunnies and lost socks. How do you think I found this sort of thing out, anyway? You think I walked up to a wall someday and said to myself, ‘Hey, I wonder if I can walk straight through this wall?’ No way. After weeks of weird dreams and falling through my bed, and finally realising that, No, someone wasn’t pulling a fast one on me. The way I see it, I’m lucky I didn’t keep on falling and end up in the basement or worse. Which I don’t think is likely, for two reasons: for a first, there seems to be some sort of reflex, an atavistic pull back to solidity once you get through something. And then there’s the question of, let’s call it, organic matter (and yes, I did use the dictionary for that last sentence). Like I said, glass, metal, stone, brick… all those I can pass through with no problem. Apart from it burning like hell. But I can get stuck with a simple leather belt, or the wrong pair of shoes. Even things like cotton and wool can slow you down, tugging at you, pulling you back. And I don’t even want to think about trying to walk through someone else.

So that’s it then. That’s my superpower, and what I’ve been able to find out about it. Pretty useless, isn’t it? Not really going to save the world with that, am I?

~ ~ ~

The guy was waiting for me on the pavement outside. I brought the moped to a stop, padlocked it to a ‘No Waiting’ sign, and pulled my helmet off.

I’d thought of getting a cape, and a tunic. Or at least a T-shirt, but it was too cold on the bike. And there was always the risk of the cloak getting caught up in the wheels.

And besides, no-one would get the joke.

“Hi,” I said.

“Took your time, didn’t you?” said the other. He was wearing a thick quilted silvery ski jacket, and waving a mobile as he spoke.

“I was over the other side of town, wasn’t I? I told you fifteen minutes, and it can’t be more than twelve so keep your hair on…”

“All right, all right, just saying, that’s all…”

He held the door open, then led the way upstairs.

“You check everything?” I asked.

“It’s all above board, yeah. What’d’you take me for?”

“A professional. I ask everyone the same question, so no need to take it personally,” I replied calmly. “What’ve we got?”

“Steel plate, quarter of an inch thick, and a Pemberton deadlock.”

I sucked in the air sharply.

“Let me guess… he stepped outside and the door slammed shut behind him?”

“Went out for a bottle of vino, and didn’t think to check his pocket until after he’d pulled the door shut. But same difference.”

We climbed the stairs soundlessly. There was a bordeaux stair carpet over polished floorboards and cream walls. In alcoves along the walls, there were what looked like engravings, or perhaps reproductions, with small lights in shiny brass fittings playing down on them. The place smelt like money, so the pictures might be the real thing after all.

We reached the third floor where a red-faced man in a classy long brown overcoat had been sitting on the stairs. He stood up as we rounded the bannisters.

“This your secret weapon then?” he asked, a hint of condescension in his voice. There was also anger and a bit of sarcasm in there.

Mr Brown Coat had a high opinion of himself, seemed used to getting things his way.

“If you don’t want to try, I can go get me toolkit and drill through your door. It’ll be messy and you’ll have to replace the steel plate. Cost you an arm and a leg, ask anyone,” said the locksmith to his customer.

Mr Brown Coat lifted his hands.

“OK, my stupid.” He looked at me.

“Gents,” I said. “Is this the door?”

It looked solid. The matching cream paintwork was impeccable, except for a few scratch marks where metal bars blocked access for the old credit card trick.

“You’ve already tried X-Rays,” I said.

The locksmith in the ski jacket shrugged.

“Nine times out of ten it works,” he said.

This was just a variation on the credit card trick except that the old X-Ray prints were flexible enough to slip under the metal protectors and round the door, yet solid enough to push to tongue back out of the way.

“And are we agreed on a price?” I asked Brown Coat. “I take sixty and he gets his call-out fee.” Brown Coat pulled some bank notes from his wallet.

“I had everything else on me, just not my key—” He slid his hand back into his pocket. “But that sixty is dependent on you getting the job done right…”

“Should be no problem with that,” I said, looking at the closed door. I turned back to the others. “Gentlemen, if you don’t mind waiting for me on the floor below… Tricks of the trade and all…”

“Look, I just want my door opened,” started Brown Coat indignantly.”

“You didn’t tell him?” I said to the other.

“Slipped my mind,” he shrugged. “What’s it to you anyway? Just open the bloody door!”

“You respect my conditions, or I leave now.”

“Oh Lord! Just what I needed, a Diva! Do the job, and shut yourself up, or you’ll never work for me again kiddo.”

“Get this straight, I’m helping you out. I don’t need you. You need me to get that door open. And if you don’t respect my conditions not only will I never work for you again, but I will walk down those stairs, and drive off. And the only thing you can do about that is to do what you agreed, and get your arses downstairs.”

“A prima-donna, God help me,” started the locksmith. He shrugged off the hand when Brown Coat grabbed his arm.

“Stop the pissing contest, right. Let’s go down. I just want to get back in. And tonight if possible. If that’s all he wants…”. He started to walk along the landing to the stairs down.

“If you think I’m…” said the other.

“Put a sock in it, mate,” said Brown Coat. “Let’s go.”

The locksmith glared at me, mouthing something that I didn’t particularly feel like trying to understand, then turned away.

“And make it snappy,” he called out. “Some of us ‘ave got jobs to do!”

“If you think I’m ever coming out for you again,” I murmured as I set my crash helmet down on the stair where brown Coat had been sitting.

I waited until I was sure they were downstairs, and out of sight. I could hear them muttering together.

I slipped off my anorak and rolled up my shirt sleeve. I looked at the door, imagining the configuration of the lock on the other side. Was it a handle or a knob? Was it stiff, or smooth and well-oiled? How far did it poke out of the door?

I braced myself for the sting and the burn, then plunged my hand through, turned the handle and opened the door from the inside.

I blocked the door open with the locksmith’s toolbox and pulled my anorak back on. Then, with a small grin, I felt in my pocket for a small plastic bag, opened it, and sprinkled sawdust on the doormat. Just to keep them guessing.

“It’s open,” I called over the bannister. “You can come back up now.”


The last story. I had a bit of fun writing this one. Hope you enjoyed reading it.

Stay tuned for the next developments.

Last edited: Monday, May 17th, 2010

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a full-length novel

black as snow Juliet has just moved to the country. She doesn’t like her new school, she doesn’t like living on a stinking farm where it always rains. Then she starts seeing a pony, waiting outside at night in the rain. And she’s sure it’s waiting for her...

Before she knows it, she is called on for help by a trio of strange creatures who live in the woods nearby. And then the rabbits... Oh yes, the rabbits.

Fantasy, comedy, and more than a touch of spookiness in this strange tale where things quickly get Black as Snow.

Download Black as Snow
as a PDF file. 12+


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