Brick lived on a boat on a lake. It leaked, that boat. Sometimes he stuck his bare toes into the holes and hoped he’d slide through and emerge into another world, one that didn’t leak, but he never did.
He lived with Mom and Dad and Older Sister and Drunk Uncle. Drunk Uncle monopolized the TV during his Saturday morning hangovers. One day he saw Brick and cackled. “Eggbert,” he said. For once Brick wasn’t curious to find out what that meant. It couldn’t be nice if it came from Drunk Uncle.
But being who he was, he did look it up. Foghorn Leghorn’s genius boy-chick nemesis, a smarty-pants kid. Brick decided that was the nicest thing Drunk Uncle ever said to him.
Then again, Mom said, “There’s something missing from you, son.”
Brick pondered that statement. Everyone said it, not just Mom, so it had to be true. He resolved to find his missing piece and become whole.
He found anatomy texts and charts online and at the library. He compared them to pics he’d taken of himself. Nothing was missing, except a foreskin, but that was explained in the footnotes. Ten toes and two ears and everything in between, all accounted for.
Internal examination wasn’t so easy. First he had to design an imaging system. Setting it up without anyone noticing was tough. And explaining the power surge and drain, well, he resolved to design a solar array and battery storage for the houseboat. He understood, intellectually, that it was easy to say no to a kid. So he didn’t ask permission. He just did it.
Everything was there, figs 1-123 and subs a-z. The charts said he was complete.
He thought it would be safe to discuss the results with Older Sister. She scoffed. “It’s not your body, Brick, it’s you. You’re different.”
“Of course I am! How could I be the same?”
And she gave him such a look of red-hot pity that he stopped talking to her. That month, anyway.
He was different, and he knew he was smart, so his path in life, he figured, was as a superhero. But the spider barely survived the radiation exposure and could not muster the energy to bite him. He survived jumping in a swamp of toxic sludge but had to spend two days in the bathroom, which Mom called a ‘head’ sometimes, not sharing despite Older Sister’s demands and pounding. He exhibited no new powers afterwards. He didn’t know any masters of kung-fu or mentors of magic and he was too young for NASA. Though he did ask. They sent a polite ‘No’ response to his email.
The most useful superhero power, or at least the easiest to get, he decided, wasn’t one of those superstrength ones. Nope, it was flying. Almost all the superheroes in the comics could fly one way or another. He laid on deck and stared at the sky and the birds cavorting up above and thought about how to join them.
Though he learned all the ground school information, easily available online with tests and everything, he was too young to get flying lessons at the local airstrip. The flight instructor guy owned two fixed wing prop planes and he shouted whenever Brick came around. If he had a stutter he’d sound just like Foghorn Leghorn, Brick thought, in perhaps the meanest thought of his life.
Of course there was another way. Birds did it, bees did it, even Sikorsky helicopters in the sky did it. Not to mention the space shuttle, a gliding brick by all reports. If they could, he could. Maybe he could find a way around gravity.
He corresponded with the physics departments at several universities and learned that anti-gravity was impossible. But if he could find certain particles and bind them with anti-particles and maybe develop a quantum field to contain them, yes, much like the Hadron collider, then maybe he could earn the Gode award for anti-gravity, make millions of dollars, and fly.
So he did.
It wasn’t easy. But he developed an idea, designed a system, destroyed a whole lot of accelerator tubes. And he accomplished what he had set out to do.
Older Sister, standing with him when he strapped on the innocent-looking discs that were the result of his work, said, “Ya know, you are different. But different’s not bad. It’s just not the same.” And she hugged him.
He had to delay the first flight because tears blurred his eyes. But he couldn’t delay forever.
Brick wasn’t very good at flying, that first time. He got better with practice.
About the author:
Jude-Marie Green writes from Orange County, California, between the berries and the mouse. She has edited for Abyss&Apex, Noctem Aeternus, and 10Flash Quarterly, and has produced 8 annual volumes of the anthology Quantum Visions. Her stories have been in Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra, and The Colored Lens, and podcast in Toasted Cake. She attended Clarion West and won the Speculative Writer Foundation’s Older Writer’s Grant. Her collection of short fiction, Glorious Madness, is available on Amazon.