Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Reluctant Hermes by Kai Strand

A dose of compassion can ruin your future.


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Creeper hovered outside the classroom, checking to make sure his skirt wasn’t caught in the waistband of his—what were they, anyway? They weren’t underwear.

Clenching his teeth against the surge of self-loathing his current employment incited, he assured both of his buns were covered by his Hermes costume and pulled open the door. Floating into the room, he heard the expected wave of  titters roll through the classroom. Heck, if he were a student in a classroom and some skirt-wearing guy with wings on his feet came floating in, he’d do more than snicker. God he missed his roots.

Though he tried to suppress his super hearing, it picked up, “Shiny gold buns. I like.” In his peripheral vision, he saw the speaker had long pink hair. Yeah, you would like.

“Can I help you?” The teacher’s frown indicated he hadn’t received a herald-gram in his classroom before.

Boy, you’re in for a treat! Creeper kept his expression blank. “I have a delivery for Sandra Tohler.”

The hot chick sitting across the aisle from the girl with pink hair gulped audibly enough for him to know she was his target. The unison turn of all the heads in the classroom in her direction, confirmed it. He floated toward her, wishing instead that he could pour on some super speed and bullet train his way off of this horrible campus. And put on some frickin’ jeans. Hell, get a job as a stocker in a grocery store. Who needed to use superpowers anyway? Since the balancing of the super heroes and super villains, he’d felt not only useless, but also pathetic.

He cleared his throat and started to recite the beyond corny message his boss had assigned him to deliver. When the girl’s head hit her desk he wanted to put her out of her misery and just leave. He overheard a kid somewhere near the front of the room whisper to his friend, “Man I would love to tap that. If this herald-gram works on her, I’ll deliver one of my own.”

Why did they never realize that plant-inspired superpowers came with super hearing?

All of Creeper’s senses automatically tuned into the miles of thick roots extending deep into the ground from the forest of pines surrounding the school. He longed to coax them into action. The memory of a particularly fun time—back before he graduated from Super Villain Academy—almost made his bored composure crack into a grin. He’d found an anonymous envelope on his pillow one morning. Inside were some cash and a note promising a second, equal installment if he used his roots to keep a particular villainess from joining in the fight that was certain to erupt in the gymnasium later that day. Good times.

More whispers from the front of the room. The jerk’s friend responded with a stupid sounding guffaw and then his high-pitched, grating voice squeaked, “You know that girl dates the nerd, right? The one who used to be a villain, but switched to our side before the balancing? She’s probably into some sick stuff.”

Creeper curled his toes inside his completely lame ankle boots. He ached to send roots up through the floor to wrap around the cocky kids at the front of the classroom and squeeze them until they popped. Then guilt oozed into him and he admonished himself for daydreaming. Root-wars were the old Creeper. The pre-balancing Creeper.

He reached the point in his oration when he needed to grow a bouquet. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a fistful of seeds. When he opened his fist he felt the eager life within each and every little capsule. New growth. The innocence of it thrilled him and slayed him, equally. He sent warmth and nourishment across his skin until it pooled in his palm. The little seeds drank greedily. He waved his free hand over the top for affect and, as the seeds began to sprout, he pretended to coax the seedlings upward with dramatic flourish, all while maintaining the flow of sustenance into his palm to encourage growth.

The sweet little lives of each flower filled him with regret. He fought against the urge to grimace as he bundled the wildflowers into a bouquet and offered them to the girl. She just stared at them. At first he wondered if she too felt the accelerated lifeline and was as horrified by it as he was. But then he recognized her far away expression and realized her horror was inspired by something else entirely.

He shoved the flowers at her, anxious to get away from them before they realized that by forcing them to grow, he’d cut their life spans short. Okay, maybe he was the only one who actually comprehended that. Flowers don’t think—they just do. They just are. But they’re filled with hope and brightness and all sorts of positive energy. Until they start to die, which this bunch would start to do any second now.

Though he wanted to throw the flowers across the room like a child throws a broken toy, he set them carefully on the desk in front of the girl. Reaching back into his pocket, he grabbed the card the sender had requested accompany the flowers and shoved it into the bunch. The girl just stared at the flowers. Her distracted state of mind pulled at his newly tender heart, knowing the flowers would die long before she appreciated them. Such a waste of the purity of their bloom time.

He shook his head and pulled himself from his maudlin thoughts. He hated this new way of thinking, but with the influx of those disgusting warm, fuzzy, hero feelings the balancing forced on him, he couldn’t help himself. He broke his stoic expression to scowl at the jerk at the back of the room eyeing his legs. The kid just lifted an eyebrow.

Pre-balancing Creeper would have wrapped a root around the guy’s waist and pounded him against the wall. Post balancing Creeper couldn’t bring himself to coax the roots to do his bidding anymore because of their feelings. No, that wasn’t quite right. He had always known plants had a sense of awareness—almost an independent will that fought against his violent instructions. He had just never cared before.

Breathing through his nose like a bull, Creeper lifted off the ground, zipped over the heads of the students and out the door. At least the assignment was hours away from the flower shop so the long journey back meant he wouldn’t have to be humiliated again for a while. Or coax more seeds into an early death. Rising high into the air, he tried not to think about lost opportunities, or the biting cold on his bare arms and legs as he leisurely made his way back to work. 

Creeper (and his roots) play very minor roles in Kai's books, King of Bad and her upcoming book, Super Bad. This story is the retelling of a scene from Super Bad, from Creeper's point of view. Super Bad is scheduled for release in June. You have just enough time to read books one and two in the series before the concluding book comes out!

About the author: Kai Strand writes fiction for kids and teens. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was an EPIC eBook Awards finalist. King of Bad spent eight months on the publisher's Top 5 best sellers list. As a mother of four young adults her characters are well researched and new stories are inspired daily. Kai is a compulsive walker, addicted to pizza and a Mozart fangirl. Visit her website for more information about her work and to find all her virtual haunts;

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