Sorry for the delay with this post, everyone! Work’s been nuts, but thankfully I think things will finally stabilize and finish this story in a timely manner. Carl’s slowly fixing his life and getting his house in order, and in this next post, he has a revelation that will drastically change the course not only of this story but of his life as well.
Sound interesting? Then keep reading. Time for Act 3, Part 3 of Empowered!
“Good to see you two talking again,” Octane said to Carl and El after class the following Monday.
“Yeah, Carl finally took out his tampon and we made up,” El replied, shooting Carl a devious grin.
“Well, it was lodged up there pretty high,” Carl said in mock defense.
“Fu-fu-fucking gross,” Octane replied in disgust. “Now I have a mental image of you fishing out…fuck, you know what? Cha-cha-cha-changing the subject. I told Mrs. Prince what you said about filming prom and making that the end of the senior video. She thought it was a great idea. Nice job.”
“I have my moments,” Carl said modestly.
“Few and far between, but I guess you were due for one,” El added.
“You two definitely not going?” Octane asked, pushing the school doors open and exiting the building.
“Probably just gonna chill,” Carl replied.
“Too bad,” Octane remarked. “Gonna be pretty sweet.” Looking over at El, who pulled out the remote to unlock his car, Octane then asked, “You-you-you drove today?”
“It’s too goddamn hot to jump to school. I don’t know how you don’t pass out from running in this heat.”
“Short bursts, lots of water, and not being a pussy all help.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“Easier said than done. He is a pretty huge pussy,” Carl added.
“You are what you eat lots and lots of,” El said with a grin. “Anyway, speaking of prom, Blitz isn’t gonna mind you basically doing schoolwork the entire night?”
“Wo-wo-won’t be the whole night. Plus, I’d be able to manage both her and the project.”
“Hope so for your sake,” Carl replied.
“El, you tell him about Wing?” Octane asked as he cocked his head towards Carl.
“He did,” Carl said, answering for his friend, “and that’s another reason I don’t wanna go. If the dude’s lookin’ to start shit, then why bother?”
“True, but that shouldn’t stop you from going to what’s basically a big end-of-high school party.”
“Eh, I’m sure we’ll get over it. Let’s be honest; high school ending is its own damn celebration.” Turning to face the school’s exterior, Carl then added, “Can’t wait to get the hell out of this place.”
“Oh, it hasn’t been that bad,” El rejoined, rolling his eyes. “We had some good times.”
“Yeah, like that time Spore surgically attached testicles to my heart and kicked them there repeatedly.”
Musing about what that’d entail, Octane nodded and remarked, “That’d be funnier if it didn’t sound so damn pathetic.”
“Yeah, you just gotta get over that, man,” El replied. “The ‘woe-is-me grace period’ is over. You’re now entering the ‘if you don’t stop crying over it, I’m going to punch you in the balls period.’ ”
“Just sayin’, guys. You know I’m a lot better now, but she’s still on my mind.”
“Yeah, well, that’s another reason we’re not going, isn’t it? Ain’t got no biddies to bring,” El added.
“Yeah, alright, true. Alright, bros, I’m-I’m-I’m out.”
“Later, man,” Carl responded.
“Later, boss,” El added.
Shortly after Octane left, Carl and El similarly parted ways. On his drive home, Carl reflected upon their conversation: The three of them hanging out, making stupid jokes at each other’s expense…things were starting to feel like old times again.
But at the same time, it felt different; it felt better. He and El were able to connect on a new level, and he saw a side of Octane he never realized was there. His friends had this depth that he never knew existed, and he had no idea how it took him so long to see that. They were well-rounded people with their own struggles and feelings and lives that extended beyond what Carl saw.
Carl also realized this didn’t extend to only his friends.
Coming straight home, Carl walked up the stairs in his room, thinking how nice it was that, for a change, he had no real homework to do and no tests to study for. The year – and his entire high school career – was winding down fast.
Before turning in to his room, he noticed Mesmer’s door was slightly ajar. Peering in, he saw his little brother sitting Indian style on the floor, his back pressed up against his bed. In his hands was a single issue of a comic. Carl was unable to make out the title.
“Hey, little man,” Carl said as he knocked on his brother’s door and slowly pushed it open.
“Hey, Carl,” Mesmer responded without looking up, clearly enthralled by the comic.
Instead of responding, Mesmer tilted the comic so it was perpendicular with the floor, giving Carl full view of its title and cover.
“What’s Marvel Boy?” he asked.
“He’s an alien. His spaceship was shot down over Earth, and everyone on board but him was killed. Like his friends and family and stuff. He ends up going nuts and declares war on Earth.”
“Sounds kinda sweet.”
“He’s real cool. I actually read this issue about a hundred times.”
“What’s so good about it?”
“Well, this monster thing that was a prisoner on his ship escaped when it crashed, and it’s now wrecking New York City. But he knows that he needs to do the right thing and stop it before anyone got hurt.”
“Why not just let it wreak havoc, though? I thought he declared war.”
“Because he’s not really a bad guy or anything, and he doesn’t actually wanna see anyone hurt. He’s just all angry and alone. But I think most of all is he knows that whether or not it was his fault, this monster thing was loose and no one else was gonna stop it. He’s reluctant, but he knows that he’s gotta, like, face it and do what’s right.”
“Damn, sound pretty sick.”
“Wanna read it when I’m done?”
“Actually, I was gonna go to the comic shop today anyway,” Carl lied. “Maybe I’ll pick up my own copy. You wanna come? All your shit’ll be on me.”
“Really?” Mesmer asked with his left eyebrow cocked with incredulity.
“Yeah, little man. Come on, before I change my mind.” Then turning his head away from his brother and out the doorway, Carl yelled to his mom, “Ma! Gonna take Mesmer to the comic shop! We’ll be back before dinner!”
“Don’t stay out too late!” she yelled back.
“You ready? Get your shoes on and let’s go,” Carl said.
“You really don’t gotta take me if you don’t want to,” Mesmer said as they drove to the shop.
“Nah, man. I want to. When was the last time we just chilled, you and me?”
“Years,” Mesmer said as he looked out the window.
“Yeah, well, that’s my point. Time me and you do some broin’ out. And…” Carl began, not sure how to finish his statement. Finally, he continued, “and I haven’t been the best brother ever. It’d be kinda nice to change that.”
“Yeah, you haven’t,” Mesmer agreed.
“ ‘Yeah’?” Carl repeated, slightly amused. “You ain’t gonne be all like ‘No, Carl! You’re great! Don’t be so hard on yourself!’ and all that?”
“No, you kinda sucked a lot of the times,” Mesmer said, also amused. “But you’re buying me comics, so I think we’re good.”
“It’s a brand new day, little man,” Carl remarked as he made a right in to the store’s parking lot.
Keeping to his word, Carl let Mesmer pick up a whole stack of comics, thankfully most from the quarter bin. The happiness on Mesmer’s face as he lugged the hoard to the cashier would be worth any cash Carl would have to spend that day.
When they got home, Mesmer eagerly bolted up the stairs and in to his bedroom, yelling “Thanks, Carl!” in his wake. Likewise, Carl went in to his own room and cracked open the hardcover collected edition of the Marvel Boy series that he had just purchased. As he rifled through the pages, he thought about what his brother had told him:
A monster let loose. No one else able to stop it. Reluctant hero’s responsibility.
Carl closed the book and looked down. A grin danced cross his face. It started small, but as he mused more and more upon the idea that just popped in his head, his grin grew wider and wider. Before he knew it, he was laughing heartily to himself.
After a few seconds, he regained composure. Almost immediately, he took out his phone and called El.
He’ll love this.
“Yo, Carl, what’s up?”
“Would you be my date to prom?”
TO BE CONTINUED
With Carl asking El to the dance, things have come full circle. And with El as his prom date (spoiler alert: he agrees to go), they’re guaranteed to have, at the very least, a memorable night.
There’s only two more posts left before the story finishes! When all’s said and done, the entire tale will be about 120-plus pages…enough to get it published, perhaps? Think it can be done? Any feedback you’d like to give before I pursue that? Then, as always, let me know on Facebook or Twitter! We’re almost finished, and I thank all of you who’ve stuck along with me so far!