This story is by Mara Eason and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
‘How can I call myself a hero when I’ve hurt hundreds of people?’
Erin looked out over the city from the rooftop which she stood, particularly the section of the city she destroyed. She saw people being carried away on stretchers through the screen of smoke coming from the burning buildings. The sight made her sick to her stomach. She turned her head away from the scene, her face stricken with tears; the sight of her own destruction was too much for her to bear. She took one last glance at the destruction behind her and begrudgingly went back inside the building. The thought of seeing him again made her stomach coil but she had no choice since the whole city wanted to arrest her.
Waiting for her on the top floor of the colossal building was her deceitful employer, James Brimstone. He sat on a long, luxurious couch and grinned despicably at the large monitor that displayed the destruction of the day’s earlier events. Erin grimaced, just looking at the man she once thought of as agreeable and respectable now made her bitter. Once he noticed her standing stiffly in the corner of the room he smiled charmingly. “Oh, Miss Gladyston! Please come sit,” he invited warmly. “Let us discuss how we will celebrate our achievement.” Erin was disgusted with the fact that he smiled like they had just won a game and hadn’t killed hundreds of people; as if innocent people’s lives were secondary concerns. “How can you sit there and smile like you did nothing wrong?!” Erin scowled. “You’ve just destroyed a quarter of the city and your smiling proudly like you’ve done something acceptable!”
Mr. Brimstone’s grin fell into a silent deadpan. Erin’s hands clenched into fists and her nose flared in rage. “Why are you doing this?” she demanded. “Why are you hurting innocent people?” Erin furiously wiped at the burning tears threatening to fall out of her eyes. She glared at Brimstone indignantly, demanding an answer. Mr. Brimstone walked over to Erin and caringly wiped her tears. If anybody wouldn’t have known better they would’ve thought he had actually cared. Erin flinched at his touch but remained still and stared into the taller man’s cold, steely eyes. “Miss Gladyston, dear,” he chuckled. “I’ve already explained that everything we are doing is for the greater good. It may seem wrong at first but keep in mind that in some cases we have to hurt people to help people. Once we eradicate the mayor’s oppressiveness this city will be a better place for all its people.”
“You mean the city’s remaining people,” Erin sneered. “The way you’re doing it there’ll be no city left once you’re done! I’ll take no part in it.” Erin crossed her arms defiantly and stepped away from Mr. Brimstone. The business owner merely smiled and said “Your part has already been done.” He gestured to the monitor where it showed footage of Erin striking a building with lightning, causing the building to ignite. Erin gazed with horror at the sight and ran out of the room on impulse. She covered her ears as she ran to block out the calls of Mr. Brimstone. Tears clouded her vision as she ran through the enormous manufacturing company building.
The place was bustling from the laboratories to the testing rooms and assembly lines. Erin tried to look for a quiet place to think amongst the plethora of lively rooms. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a custodian walking out of an empty office; too preoccupied to lock the door behind him. Erin saw her chance and darted into the room as soon as the custodian had gone. She slammed the door shut and broke down into tears. How had she been so gullible? She should’ve seen through his intentions from the start; it was so painfully obvious. The way he never made his “revolution” known to the public, how he never informed anyone what he had employed her for, and how so many of the missions he sent her on including destroying property. She had been so clueless that looking back on these memories was excruciating. Erin sat at the massive desk at the front of the room and put her head in her hands. She had been so eager to use her new powers and to become a “real hero” that she looked past everything else. Erin sobbed as she thought about all the people she had been tricked into hurting. The news had reported 140 people hurt and 117 killed. 117 people died because of her…
Erin sobbed and sniffled into her hands, a mixture of snot and tears ran down her face, electricity crackled at her fingertips. She wailed until her throat ached and wept until she had no tears left to cry. When her vision cleared she looked around the office and saw an obsessive amount of paintings of various women, making it clear to whose office this was. Erin scowled at the thought of him but then looked down at the desk in front of her was a notebook titled: Revolution Plans.
Erin uncertainly opened the notebook and flipped through its pages. She found a series of planned attacks written down in her former employer’s neat hand writing including the one she had committed earlier. Erin scowled as she leafed through the notebook filled to the brim with evil. Her hand trembled as it ran over the plans to destroy a quarter of the city, i.e., what she did earlier. Erin’s lip quivered as tears threatened to fall from her face. She quickly turned the page and continued reading. Her eyes scanned the next page lifelessly until they settled on one certain plan that was scheduled for that night. Erin lit up and read the page over again. She shouldn’t have even thought about the possibility; the idea was too risky. But on the other hand, this could be her chance to save thousands of people. Erin shook her head, ‘it’s too dangerous,’ she thought. ‘I could get arrested for trespassing property, shot, or blown up by the bomb like everybody else.’ Erin then remembered all the times in the past few weeks she said the word ‘I’. Erin wiped her face and smiled to herself briefly before rushing out of the room. She had to be swift if she was going to make it across the city before the attack plan went into action.
‘I have to do it,’ Erin thought. ‘I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t. Even if I fail, I have to try to save all those people, that or live with more guilt.’ Erin sped through the door of the colossal building into the cold city air, the smell of smoke hung in the air. After years of fantasizing, Erin was finally going to be a “hero”, even if it cost her everything. Redemption comes at a cost.
“The day misspent
The love misplaced,
Has inside it
The seed of redemption.
Nothing is exempt
-Kay Ryan, Say Uncle