Once upon a time, an author sat down and dashed off a quick little flash fic about some gender-indeterminate teenager and superpowers and shocking family secrets.
It took practically no time to write, and the author didn’t have any plans for the story beyond ‘The End’. She certainly couldn’t have predicted that the story would one day, and for some while, have a place in an online literary magazine (before said magazine vanished from the ‘net, as these things sometimes do). Or that the short story’s protagonist would make a reappearance as the narrator/one main character of three in a NaNoWriMo novel. Or that, having basically bid farewell to the idea of pursuing traditional publishing, the author would go on to someday produce a gorgeous paperback (and e-book, currently available for preorder via Amazon and Barnes & Noble) all by her independent lonesome.
And that author – *solemn nods* – was me.
And that novel is “So Super Dead”, to release on September 25th.
And that short story where it all began is, as of now, no longer missing from the internet, because never mind that defunct magazine – you can read the story right here, right now, in this blog post! Even though (full disclaimer) I would have you remember that this story and its world don’t entirely line up with the upgraded version you’ll get in the novel, because the flash fic was just typed up out of the blue with no rhyme or reason apart from from ‘start talking and see what happens.’
…Which, upon reflection, is truly the Nicky-est of story-making methods.
That having been said: Guys, gals, and assorted superheroes, I present to you…
(Also, since we’re throwing it back this far, here’s the cover idea I put together to go with “So Super Dead” back when it was just a NaNo project waiting to happen.)
“Nicky, there’s something we have to tell you.”
I flicked my eyes from parent to parent. I’d known something was afoot for a couple of hours, now. They’d been jumpy from the moment I came home from practice, and all though dinner. They kept looking at each other and at me, whenever they thought I wasn’t paying attention. Like I’m not gonna pay attention when they act so fully suspicious, right? It was just as well they decided to sit me down on the couch and say whatever they planned to now, before my head exploded from the suspense.
“Okay…” I said. “So tell me.”
“Nicky, honey,” Mom began. “You know all those superpowers you’ve been noticing lately? The speed and the strength and invisibility and flight and teleportation and telekinesis and communing with dead plant matter, and all that?”
“Ye-eah…” I nodded, like “go on”.
“I suppose you’ve been wondering why you don’t have any powers like that.”
I had wondered.
“Well, Nicky, the fact is…” Dad hesitated a second before blurting, “You’re not like the rest of us.”
Well, no kidding. I mean, the whole personal power outage thing had made that glaringly obvious. All the other kids had at least one. “And if all the other kids jumped off a bridge,” I can just hear some parental voice saying, “would you want to jump, too?” Actually, yeah. Just last week, practically every friend I had had gone bridge-jumping, to see how close to a fatal ker-splat they could come before flying or teleporting or asking the ghost of a grapevine to whisk them out of harm’s way, and I totally hadn’t been allowed to go along. It stank to high heaven.
“So what’s the difference that’s screwing me over?” I asked.
Mom and Dad shared yet another look before Dad cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and laid down the big shocker: “You’re human.”
“I KNEW it! I— Wait, what?”
“You’re a human, sweetie,” said a teary-eyed Mom. “I’m so sorry, we should have told you years ago…”
“What the heck is a human??” I shouted.
“It’s basically like us,” said Dad, “except that you don’t get to do anything cool.”
“Oh, Dear, really,” Mom reproved. “Humans can do cool things, too. Sort of.”
“Like what?” I asked, totally shaken. I mean, what up?! Drop this kind of bomb on me while I’m in the midst of my volatile teenage years, why don’t you! There had better have been some good news on the way.
“Well, humans can, um… they can… create stuff.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Y’know. Art. Paintings and books and music; lovely stuff, all.”
“We – well, you – can make that stuff, too,” I pointed out. “Grandpa made that 4D rock opera experience for your anniversary last year, remember? With his mind.”
“Ah, but you wouldn’t simply be creating with your mind, Nicky.” Mom’s eyes were shining with optimism, now, in addition to tears of sympathy for bursting her freak child’s bubble. “You would actually have to go through a lengthy, frustrating, soul-wrenching creative process! You would have to physically paint the paintings, and write the books, and—”
“Alright, and that’s supposed to be better how?”
“I hear it’s more satisfying,” Mom said brightly.
“I hear it’s more work,” Dad muttered. “I hear it’s a lot of time and effort for a usually disappointing end product.”
“Dear, you’re not helping.”
“No, you know what?” I snapped. “It’s fine. I’m glad Dad’s telling it to me straight. It’s about dang time. How long have you guys known about this, anyway?”
Mom went back to sniffling, so Dad answered, “Ever since we found you abandoned in the mall parking lot as an infant. Whoever dumped you there left you this.”
He reached into his pocket and extracted what looked very much like a cell phone.
My voice trembled. “What is it?”
“What does it look like? It’s a cell phone.”
“There’s a number programmed into the phone’s speed-dial,” Dad told me, placing the phone in my hand.
“Did you call it?”
“Um, why not?”
“We thought we should leave the decision of whether or not to call that number up to you,” Mom wept. “After all, it’s your tale of mysterious origin, not ours.”
Fair enough, I supposed. I eyed the cell phone in my hand, my emotions a-swirl with doubts and desire. You see, I’d always wanted a cell phone, but I’d been hoping for something a little more trendy; this old thing from like a decade-and-a-half ago wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind.
Obsolete tech of lameness aside, though, the moment of truth had come. Time to figure out where I came from, and who my family was, and how in the world this thing called a human had ended up amongst real people, as I apparently had.
I pressed the speed dial button, and brought the phone up to my ear…
“Hey,” I said. “Who’s this?”
“Why don’t you know? You dialed.”
“Well, look, no need to get touchy. I just got handed this phone a minute ago, alright? I don’t know who this number belongs to.”
“May I ask who’s calling?”
“Nicky Elbochen-Jones,” I answered. “…Your child?” I guessed.
“Not muddy likely,” said whoever I was talking to. “I died a virgin.”
“Yeah, why? Who’d you say you are, again?”
I threw my hands up in the air in glee, accidentally throwing the dinosaur of a phone across the room and not giving a rat’s tail about it. “I CAN TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE!” I crowed. “I’m not a human freak after all!”
“Oh, yay!” said Mom, giving me a huge hug. “Your father and I must have simply jumped to the wrong conclusion, before. You’re simply a late bloomer.”
“We should have had more faith in you, Nicky,” said Dad, clapping a hand to my shoulder.
I just grinned. Dead people whispering trumps dead plant whispering nine times out of ten. Wait ‘til the kids in my neighborhood got a load of this!
The End! …Or rather, The Unforeseen Beginning.
The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.
The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…
The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.
“So Super Dead” – coming so super soon!