Magical Boy Daniel
Daniel was scurrying across the roof of an apartment building when he heard voices, rising clear in the dusk. He approached the edge. Even now, a fall from this high would probably kill him, but his body was too alert, too much under his control, for him to distrust it.
Someone arguing. He hated fights; unless you'd watched the start it was impossible to know who was guilty, if anyone. This time, perhaps it wasn't. One was smaller and more slender: a girl, barely in her teens, while the other was a man older than Daniel. She was black, he wasn't, so they weren't related. And she wasn't yelling back, she was turning her head away and replying with the quick glances of a hunted creature.
The man grabbed a big handful of her coat and half-shoved her into an alley, and then there was no doubt. Daniel ran across the roof to where he could get a better vantage-point.
The alley was a tunnel of gloom, but his eyesight had got sharper as well. There was nothing horrible to see, they were still only talking, but the man was blocking her way out and the rest of the alley was cut off by a tall fence. The girl was clutching an object through her coat pocket.
“So your kind can play proper instruments?” the man said. “Give it here.”
When the girl hesitated, he went for her pocket. The girl backed away, and he laughed at her reaction, but now she so close up against the wall, Daniel could barely see her.
Then she straightened up, in some final desperation where she was too tired to feel fear.
“Get it yourself, asshole,” she said and tossed an oblong case over the fence.
When the man turned, she tried to bolt, but he got hold of her coat. The girl just clammed up, pressing her chin to her chest as if to leave as little as possible to hurt.
Daniel'd barely have time to get to them. He exhaled in a long breath. There was a fire-ladder gleaming just below. He jumped off and landed on the top ledge, feeling it judder under him. There wasn't time to climb down. He dropped over the side and clung to the bottom landing for a moment, feeling the impact yanking at his shoulder. He swung, calculated his target and let go.
There was a moment of whirling darkness, then he struck the assailant with both his feet. He felt the air go out of the man's lungs as he crumpled on the asphalt. The girl had got knocked over as well from the force of his impact, but with luck she wasn't harmed. She was already starting to get up off the ground.
Panic. Daniel didn't have much idea of how to check if someone was alive, but he tried touching the assailant's wrists and felt a faint pulse. And if he hadn't?
The girl was back up, but didn't run. She was staring at him – well, in her situation he'd be staring too.
“Did he harm you at all?” he asked and was comforted by how adult his voice sounded.
She checked herself for a moment, then shook her head.
“Good,” he said. “Do you have a home to go to?”
“Of course I do.”
Her voice sounded annoyed. That was good, it meant she was getting over the shock.
“You should probably go home,” Daniel said. “I'll make sure you get home safely. I'm gonna call the cops on that guy, and... if that doesn't work, I doubt he'll dare to try anything again.”
The girl still lingered. Daniel saw the fence in the corner of his eye.
“Please wait a moment,” he said.
He jumped from standing and sailed over the fence, so easily it felt like slow motion. Now he was leaving her with the attacker, but surely you wouldn't wake that quickly from being knocked out? He'd be able to be back the moment he heard anything.
Darkness had fallen completely, without his better eyesight he would have been screwed. She couldn't have tossed the case far from that angle, so he searched near the fence, but it still took long enough before he found it, almost hidden between two garbage bags. It was battered, but whole. When he opened it, the silvery flute looked undamaged.
He zipped back across the fence. The man was still out cold. Daniel reached out the case to the girl.
“Stay safe,” he said.
She took it. He shot into the air and his fingers found the fire-ladder rung.
Fifteen minutes later, Daniel watched the girl vanish into an apartment block.
This was the first actual crime he'd stopped. The adrenaline was still making him unsteady. Previously, he'd stopped some bullying attempts – it felt disproportionate to use his superpowers for that, but he guessed the victims were happy he had. There'd been times when he'd come across things that might have been crimes, but how could he know? The person loading a TV screen into a car might be moving house, or they might be a burglar. How would he know if he was justified in punching someone out over a plasma TV?
He'd taken to looking in the newspaper for crimes, without finding much. He wasn't going to be able to search in other towns, not while he was living at home.
He went another round, but didn't find anything. His body still relished the suit, but the adrenaline had faded.
Written by on 12 April 2019