Did you ever meet a friend on the playground? Most likely, it was in elementary school, right? My experience with this milestone was in high school! The summer between my freshmen and sophomore years, our gym class would walk to a park in town and I just met my now best friend, Evan Mullins. We would play in the playground to get our credit for moving around and there were tunnels at the bottom that we would get squished in and chill. One day, there was this guy I had never been, a smirk on his lips and near cruel glint in his eyes. He said something mean to me when we tried to get in our tunnels. I was too stunned to speak. He did this for a few days and finally, I told him to move because those were our tunnels. I am not normally a person to have anything to do with conflict, but he laughed it off and let us through. Later, when school started, he just sat at our table at lunch one day, to sit by this kawaii girl who was a beast at Yu-gi-oh! and, slowly, very slowly, I saw that past his cursing, womanizing ways, and messed up stories, he had a good aura and was a decent guy. I am not sure when it happened, but over that year, he became my friend and by my senior year, he was one I knew could pick me up if I fell (after he laughed of course), would defend me from anyone who tried to mess with me, my choir bus buddy, cool gamer/nerd pal and to this day, I trust this guy with so much even though deep down, I probably shouldn’t. 😉 I accept all parts of him and just roll with whatever he throws at me, giggling all the way. Rowie, I never would have guessed I would have become good friends with this punky freshman all those years ago, on a park playground, but, I have never looked back and buddy, every moment with you has been as epic as your writing and cooking! 😀
Please enjoy a sneak-peek at this future urban-fantasy writing legend, Mr. Evan “Rowie” Rowe!*
*(Yes, he has the same last name as Maren Rowe from my “Spirit Vision” series; his last name was just that awesome!)
Aspiring Authors Spotlight Questions
- When you wake up in the morning, how do you see life? Generally through the haze of a headache that snuck up on me while I sleep. It takes at least ten minutes to get coffee and start being optimistic again.
- How did writing find its way into your life? I’ve written for as long as I can remember – I’m not sure what started it. I’ve always been a big reader and knowing me it was probably something like OH YEAH WELL I CAN DO IT BETTER.
- What does writing do for you? Writing’s a very cathartic experience for me. It helps me relax and generally de-stress, even if the material that I’m writing is usually fairly dark and very on the bleak side.
- What sort of genre or type of writing do you do? I write urban fantasy. Usually with the protagonist being someone knowledgeable about magic or whatever is strange in that setting, but mostly powerless to do much and completely unable to swing with the heavyweights.
- Do events in your life or people you know affect your writing? Absolutely. There are a couple characters that I have trouble writing if I’m not in a particular mood, and I can’t work on my more optimistic things if I’m down or the like.
- What are you currently work on or what was the last thing you wrote? The current work in progress is what I call ‘superhero noir’. It’s called Underpowered.
- Can you tell us a little about it and its inspiration? It’s a piece about a man who has very, very minor abilities to mind control people, and generally has to try and punch out people with way better powers than he has. I got inspired by reading something about superpowers where people sometimes also didn’t get the other powers that would make them good – super strength without the skeletal structure to not constantly snap bones.
- What are your goals for the future? I mean, obviously I’d like to be a full-time writer, but I’m also doing training to advance in my actual job of IT, so there’s that.
- What are your interests or hobbies? I play video games. A lot of them. I also read quite a bit. Oh, I also run, but I don’t know if that counts as a hobby.
- If you could be a superhero, what are your powers and how would you use them to help the world? Absolutely mind control. I’m not sure how I’d help necessarily, but I could tell people to stop making dumb decisions and it’d work, so there’s that.
- What advice would you give people who want to write? Just write. This is the most important advice I’ve ever been given, that the hardest part is just sitting down and putting words to paper. First drafts will always be terrible, just write, and then you make it good in editing.
- If you could be remembered for one thing or thought, what would it be? “Remember the guy who totally punched out a gorilla and an elephant that one time?”
As of 2010, there’ve been at least fifteen separate attempts to take a catalog of the world’s superpowered individuals. The majority of them didn’t have abilities great enough to make the official lists. They turned up about three thousand people. Most of them are now in containment facilities, due to being unwilling to cooperate with the rather stringent conditions that the various world governments imposed in one form or another.
What they didn’t find were the thousands, the hundreds of thousands in a world of billions whose powers were – quite frankly – terrible. These people, “blessed” with the ability to run at super speeds but without the enhanced perceptions to dodge objects, super strength without a boost to their skeletal systems, or – my personal favorite, since I knew one of these folks – intangibility, without the bonus of being tied to the Earth.
He’d been a decent enough guy, for a thief. “Safecracker”, they’d called him, since most people will resolutely deny anything supernatural they see. This guy would reach into a safe, grab whatever was inside and pull it out. No problem, right?
Well, one day he decided to try to go through a wall. You know, like the one mutant chick. Unfortunately, he forgot to take into account that the Earth is moving really, really fast. After a couple seconds of stunned inability to move, he vanished. No one’s seen or heard from him since, but we can all guess.
For those people like us, superpowers tend to really, really suck.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m one of those thousands that missed the mark. My name is Jack Vega, and I’m a superhero by the loosest stretch of the term. What’s my power, you might ask? I’m a Controller, to use the government sponsored term for it. That means I can control other people’s emotions. However, because the universe has a great sense of humor, the majority of people who fall into that category have very little control over their own abilities – and even less raw power to back it up.
Rather than say, coercing someone into turning on their friends, my power lies more in ‘causing everyone around me to be repulsed’ and ‘turning a spark of anger into a mildly stronger form of it’. People don’t like having their heads messed with. On a subconscious level, they shy away from it. If I work in a service job, people complain to the managers about me. They can’t always put words to it, but eventually they add up, and it comes down to me being unable to hold a job for longer than about a month.
I do what work I can. Odd jobs, temporary positions, places where I can get in and get out before the side effect of my ability causes them to hate me. Which brings me to where we were seated, in a small, hole-in-the-wall diner, and Core was buying. He could afford more, but it was a bit of an unspoken thing. He didn’t want us to feel like we were mooching – personally, I was all for it. Felix, however, was less eager – and we couldn’t actually afford to pay for more expensive cuisine.
To describe Core in a word would be ‘lucky’. We’d grown up together, him and Felix and I, and when our powers manifested he came out the most endowed. Think all the things Superman can do regularly, cut it in half, and you have him. He’s what they call a ‘State-level’ hero. Can handle most problems within one state, maybe two, but not quite fast or strong enough to watch out for a whole country.
“Look, you two should really consider it,” Core was saying, “The Agency hires on minor supers all the time, you know? For the day-to-day things. It wouldn’t be much, but it’d at least be a steady paycheck and the chance to do real good.”
I rolled my eyes and bit into my burger to avoid having to respond. Felix, however, had no such tact – it was a trait of speedsters. He let out a snort and took a drink of his Coke.
“Yeah, being a janitor or a receptionist for the League of Superfriends is Real Good,” he scoffed. I washed the burger down with a drink of my own, and nodded towards Felix.
“He has a point, Archie. We wouldn’t exactly be doing anything a straight can’t do. Not my idea of fulfilling. Thanks for the offer, but I’m gonna have to pass for now. Let me know if you need an Aquaman for one of the big teams at some point in the future, though,” I teased. Core – Archie Howard, by birth – let out a laugh.
“I’m going to keep offering, you know. I hate seeing you two like this,” he said, sincerely. It was strange, with anyone else I might be averse to being pitied, or think that they were mocking me. But Core…
He was what you’d get if you took all the good points of humanity and threw them in a blender. With all the hell he sees, somehow he managed to be far nicer, more philanothropic, and generally a better person than I could ever be. Friend or not, I looked up to him. We ate in silence for a while, no one having anything to say to top him.
“We’re doing fine, man. You have too much to worry about without taking our problems onto yourself too, Arch,” Felix said after he finished his meal. Core shrugged and placed a few crisp bills onto the table before standing.
“Yeah. I guess we’re all surviving. Can’t really ask for much more, these days. You know how to reach me if you change your mind,” Core said.
“Oh, absolutely,” I replied, taking a last drink of my soda, “We just have to ask the Commissioner to flip on the Core-signal.”
Core laughed as he left. Felix and I hung around for a while, picking at our food. After an indeterminately small length of time – the sort that felt far longer than it had any right to be – Felix sighed.
“You ever think about actually taking him up on those offers, Jack?” Felix asked, quietly. I shook my head.
“Not really. I’m not much of one for charity. That’s what that’d be, after all – a way to help the impoverished supers to let them sleep better at night. Plus, I’m a godawful janitor,” I grinned at him and stood. He stood too, fishing out a couple of greasy ones to cover the tip.
“Man, it’s been harder than normal recently. Times are tough, I’m about ready to say to hell with what little pride I have and take him up on it. It’d be a little degrading, maybe depressing even, to be around all those people who didn’t get shafted but at least I’d know I’ll make the rent payment. Speaking of, let’s hit the bank. The check from that casino job came in, should cash it before I forget,” Felix said as we headed for the door. I noticed his hands were shaking a little more than normal, and he looked pale. I fell into step behind him and asked, as gently as I could.
“You sure you’re up for the walk today, Felix? You aren’t looking so hot.”
He turned and scowled at me.
“I’m fine. It’s nothing to worry about, just a little complication from zipping around more than normal,” he lied. When you’ve known someone as long as I’d known Felix, they have about as much chance of pulling the wool over your eyes as they do eating the sun. I wasn’t in the mood for an argument, though, and let it pass.
About halfway there, Felix stopped and took a breath.
“If I keep speeding around like I have been, it’s going to…well, they’re not really sure what’ll happen, but it won’t be pleasant. They’re pretty sure that it’ll be fatal,” he said. I stopped hard enough to nearly stumble, and turned to face him.
“Core introduced me to a doctor. I’ve been having some tests run, to see if they could figure out why I get the shakes and blurred vision and stuff. Moving as fast as I do is…what’d he say again? Oh, right. A cumulative condition. Every time I move just that slight bit more than straights can, I have trouble slowing down. My body wants to stay fast. I already think faster. Imagine you’re in a particularly slow DMV line. That’s what it’s like practically all the time for me, Jack. Watching everyone around me move through life so damn slow that it’s painful,” Felix said in one long, barely faltering breath.
“That’s…well… the hell are you gonna do, man?” I asked, looking him in the eyes. He looked away.
“I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t think I can live without it, it’s like a drug sometimes. The little things I can do…” he trailed off, and shrugged. “I’ve gone this far without really thinking ahead, if I start considering going without my speed, I won’t even get out of bed in the morning.”
I started to say something and stopped, turning away. He strolled past me, his hands shaking visibly at his sides.
We walked the rest of the to the bank in mostly silence, enjoying the cooling air and pointedly ignoring the awkward tension. Saint Louis was nice this time of year, not too hot during the days and cool at night. It took about ten minutes for us to get to Felix’s bank, with about thirty minutes before it closed the doors for the night. As I stepped through the doorway, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
“You feel that?” I asked, glancing at Felix. He raised a hand to the side of his head, rubbing at a temple. After a moment, he nodded.
“Almost like static in the air. Must be a storm coming,” he said halfheartedly. I glanced up. The sky was clear and darkening to the color of a bruise.
“Yeah. A storm.” I mumbled.
From Evan Rowe, “I’m just kind of a jerk who plays games and writes a lot. There’s not a lot more to it. I guess I’m technically a medical professional since I also do IT and write software for emergency rooms.”