Glimmer Girl #3 - “A Deadly Obsession” (Part 2)

The day after the campus attack, and it was all anyone could talk about. Even the Lovin’ Spoonful, Tanya’s refuge from the world of ‘normies’, wasn’t safe.

Trix marched to the corner table with a grimace and a tray, and slammed her partner’s drink down. “Cops have been in here three times already,” she spat. “They know I don’t know anything. For god’s sake, we’re on the other side of the grounds!”

“Any excuse to harass us will do,” Ashley said.

She slumped in Kaira’s usual chair, unconcerned by the other woman’s absence; and why should she be? The two had only met briefly, and spent the rest in pained silence. The only connection they shared was with their mutual friend, staring out the window.

A hand brushing her shoulder yanked Tanya from her daydream. She shook her head, and curled into Trix’s apron, but continued to stare through the rings hanging from her eyes.

Trix brushed the mop of their partner’s hair. “You okay, babe?”

“Yeah,” Tanya lied. “I’m fine.”

Ashley pulled her feet onto the sofa chair, and tucked them beneath her skirt. “Hey, when is your roommate coming back? I want to apologise for, you know, the big freak out.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Tanya said, and forced as genuine a smile as she could manage. “If anyone understands, it’s KC.”

Trix sat on the arm of the furniture and pulled closer to her girlfriend. “Seriously, though; where is Kaira? I haven’t seen her since ‘the incident.’ Should I be worried?”

“She’s just a little freaked out,” Tanya explained; that much was probably true. “She’s gone to her parent’s to chill for a while.” That much wasn’t true. “I don’t know how long for, but I’m sure she’s fine.” That much Tanya hoped would be true.

Ashley sighed. “Monkey men, robots, and flying cheerleaders for the patriarchy. That’d freak out almost anyone. I hope next time they can keep it in the business district, where nobody who matters can get hurt.”

“That’s not funny,” Tanya snapped.

The three women were quiet until Ashley muttered a ‘sorry’ over her drink. Even then a dark cloud loomed. If only they knew the whole story.

* * * *

I didn’t know how long I’d been his prisoner. There were no windows or ambient sounds, and Simon kept odd hours.

When he wasn’t working he was resting by my new cell; a ‘privilege’ he deemed necessary once I needed the bathroom. The electronic brace he clasped around my neck dumbed my powers, and administered shocks whenever I tried to use them.

He plodded between tables and terminals with great patience. The genetic recoding of one species into another was a perilous task, and that he sought out a bride called for extra care. Maybe I should have been glad for the time, but instead I sunk in the corner.

“You cannot imagine it now, but soon you will know true freedom,” he said. “Humanity is a burden. Things will be better without it.”

“Like you know the first thing about humans,” I spat.

He stopped, and smirked. “I have spent my entire life observing humans and their ilk, and have found them wanting. Your kind is vapid, shallow, and inherently dishonest. You even delude yourselves, and sabotage your own happiness.”

I turned away, and lay across the stone floor. “Funny, cooped up in your secret dungeon you don’t look all that happy.”

Simon grunted as he chuckled; a reminder that no matter how intelligent, he was still an animal. “It is… a work in progress; but soon we shall have it, together.”

“Screw you, banana-breath!”

“Actually, I’m more partial to cantaloupe.”

The eight by eight by eight hole was solid rock on all sides but one. There wasn’t even a toilet; just an old, steel bucket he’d thrown inside. I guess plumbing was too strong a connection to the outside world.

Simon skulked between stations, until he stopped. Enraptured by a sequence running endlessly down a console readout he stiffened, and balled his digits into leather fists. The concern on his brow, once comparatively soft, depressed with the boiling behind his eyes. He huffed, again and again, blowing harder as he neared the cell.

Cold snapped between my fingers as he stared me down. “Something the matter, Donkey Kong?”

His arms shook like a continental faultline, and carried the stirring of emotion. Finally he threw them outward, and slammed his paws against the glass, beating down like a rabid animal. With the collar firmly in place, the window was my only protection.

“You lied to me!” he bellowed. “You humiliated me!” His voice rattled in my bones.

I pressed to the wall, not once breaking the bridge between our gaze. “You kidnapped me!” I squealed more than I snapped.

“Where is your pride, boy? Why present yourself as something you’re not?” Simon paced between the cell and the centre of the room, doing all he could to keep from falling to pieces. “I’m… I’m going… to kill you… for what you did to me…”

“I didn’t do anything, Simon,” I growled. “I never asked to be your wife!”

Every nightmare was manifest in that moment; not just bad dates, but walking down the street, every worst case scenario burst to life as an insatiable beast, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. It’s what trans women everywhere fear the most, even the ones with superpowers.

Cracks in the glass stretched under his blows, until Simon’s fists were raw with blood. He was beyond reason; whatever ‘good nature’ he had was snuffed by inferno in his beady black eyes.

I pushed and the collar resisted. Electric shocks seared my flesh, driving agony down my spine. My limbs contorted, and the air in my lungs burned, but it was all I could do in the face of those eyes bearing down. Pressed between fates I clenched my teeth and held together with strength rarely known until one of us snapped; the collar shorted out, and fell to the floor.

His fists were like war drums over my writhing body; he was too far gone to even think of unlocking the door. Sweat mingled with tears, and marinated my pores with fear. I was a bleary husk, too shaken to find my feet.

The glass collapsed into a rain of shards, just in time for the photon eruption beneath my feet. Pushing through Simon was like slapping a ton of bricks, but in seconds I was through and shooting down some foreign tunnel. Whatever strength I had was like a candle dancing in a hurricane, but it was just enough.

I didn’t look back; not while his cries for blood were nipping at my heels.

* * * *

When I saw the sky again it was night. Compared to the stale and mold of the underground the city air tasted like nirvana. On a grass covered hill running beneath an underpass I curled into a ball, and wept, though was careful not to make much sound.

What had I been reduced to? Once a hero, suddenly a girl in shock. I told myself that I’d survived worse, but Simon’s words cut deeper than the typical banter. As if for the first time the mask had been stripped of safety.

I found a payphone and called Tanya, reverse charge. She was beside herself, and drove to the outskirts of what we determined was Blackburn Hills, on the west side of the city. More than the pain was knowing how she waited; that was worse, somehow.

A dark green beetle pulled by the alley where I hid, and the passenger door opened. Inside was a blanket, water, and a face contorted in horror. I climbed inside, and once we were moving peeled off the mask, as though I could just put Glimmer Girl behind us.

Tanya’s mouth hung open for all of the silence. I guess I looked that bad. “Jeez, KC. What the hell happened to you?”

I tried to speak, but cried instead. Some things went beyond words.

It was a long drive back to campus, and though I pulled the blanket tight it was never warm.

* * * *

The dreams of the father rarely align with those of the son. For Simon it was the mold of conqueror into which he’d been born, and what pieces didn’t fit were pruned with absolute prejudice. He was, by design, a Guerilla Gorilla, despite the ill-feeling it carried.

At night, when his father and brothers slept, Simon would sneak away to a forbidden corner. There he would watch a small monitor, where in black and white their human enemies would play out their lives. They were not, he discovered, not entirely the unfeeling creatures his father had told him of; they even expressed affection for their mates.

It was at that moment that Simon knew his desires, and himself; and though it would take him years, set him on a path toward a destiny of his own. Perhaps it was best Congo Khan had not seen it.

Simon nursed the wound that stretched around his torso, though it did not burn as hot as the humiliation. Of all the ludicrous things to discover in the human world; a boy dressed as a girl, for years masquerading as a paragon of virtue! What a cruel and deliberate trick it was to such a noble beast.

Once the bleeding stopped and the bandages were set, the ape hobbled toward the shrine and ripped the Glimmer ‘Girl’ down. Tearing paper did not hold the same satisfaction as rending limbs, but rage would be kept waiting.

“I would have loved you,” he choked. “I would have given you everything!”

The shred of her smile looked up to him, next to a what remained of her printed face. Behind those eyes were sparkling green lies; a trap to devour his manhood. Nobody else, primate or human, would be tormented by such a guise again.

Sifting through the dark corners of his workshop, Simon gathered the makings of revenge. It would be swift, and terrible, but most importantly, soon.

* * * *

I opened my eyes and jumped. Instead of a concrete floor there was a mattress, and morning light flooding in from the corner window. I was still in costume, minus boots and gloves, with my best friend curled up beside me.

Tanya stirred, and pulled herself upright. “Are you alright, KC?”

It took a moment before I recognized the room; stereo, computer, and band posters ranging from classic punk to modern emo. The only thing different was the floor, and the absence of t-shirts strewn across it.

“This is your Mom’s house.”

“You were in shock,” Tanya said, “and you didn’t want to go back to the dorm, so…”

Of course. Simon had tracked Glimmer Girl to the college. Gods, just thinking about it made my skin crawl. I pulled the blanket to my chest and drew a sharp breath; Tanya threw another over my back, and fluffed an extra pillow.

“I’m fine,” I told her.

“Believe me, you’re not. I was with you all last night, and I swear you didn’t know where you were.” She cast her gaze down. “I’ve never seen you so scared; not even when-”

“Don’t,” I said, “say his name. Please?” Some things were better left forgotten.

Tanya nodded, and rolled out of bed. It was embarrassing how much she cared, and how often I put her in situations like this. Still, where would I have been without her?

“How’s Ashley?” I asked.

“She’s fine. She says thanks for being cool about everything.”

“It’s no problem,” I said.

Tanya smirked. “I told her that, too.”

At least someone was okay, I supposed. The world seemed lighter knowing there was less doom in it than the day before.

“I’m going to let you rest a bit, and I’ll make some breakfast,” Tanya said. “Then, if you’re up to it, you can tell me what happened. Okay?”

When I blinked he was there; wherever I went the cold sat in my chest, and Simon would follow. His tight gaze bore down like an avalanche, while metal clasped my limbs and my neck, offering me to his mercy.

Tears rolled down my cheeks, and it wasn’t until they hit the covers that I noticed. Tanya was right; I was a mess.

“Can you just… stay for a while?”

She returned to the bed and ran a hand down my back. It warmed the hollow that Simon left, but only for as long as she was there. Soon I’d have to go again, alone.

* * * *

Of all the battles fought none stoked such fire in Simon’s heart. The words of his father in which he’d marinated for a lifetime echoed in his thoughts; that the human world may well have champions, but they too were mere meat, and blood, and bone. Having seen the glimmering one tremble, he had no doubt of the coming victory.

He strapped metal plates to his body. They featured bracers with pinpoint lasers and retractable blades fine enough to slice atoms, a chestplate fitted with a kinetic redistributor capable of deflecting direct damage, rocket mounted boots with stability enhancers, and more. They were marvels of engineering developed by Congo Khan, and improved upon by his progeny; the perfect platform for Simon to make his mark.

The rear doors of the reptile enclosure burst open, leaving passersby in awe. Perhaps the humans, some of whom had children, thought Simon a costume of some fashion. Such ambiguity fled as he beat his chest and bellowed like a jungle king. Even the alligators started from their beds, and retreated to the water.

“Pathetic,” the primate growled.

From his arsenal he removed a long, silver rod, and embedded it into the pathway. With a touch of its tip a high whine filled the air, sending every creature within hearing distance into a frenzy. Birds, snakes, and even the other mammals could be heard from the other side of the zoo, plunged into fight or flight.

It was such glorious chaos, spawned from a world humans thought themselves above; the arrogance of them! Simon curled at the thought that these were his genetic relatives, though who was ‘evolved’ was open to debate.

He snatched a young male in a khaki uniform, no doubt one of the staff, and carried him by the collar. No amount of flailing would lead to his release.

“You,” Simon said. “Do you have a telephone?”

The keeper’s words failed him, but he nodded in the affirmative.

Simon grinned with canines bared. “Call your police,” he ordered.

Fear, Simon reasoned, was not always the best motivator; there was a reason ‘petrified’ was such a common synonym in the English language. Regardless, the man did as he was asked, and whimpered to the authorities for help. Sensing it was all he was good for Simon cast him to one side, and strolled to the heart of the grounds.

* * * *

It’s amazing the things a shower can do. Hot water ran down my body and soaked my pores, cleansing more than just my skin. I was a person again, and shame could circle the drain with memories of the night before.

Tanya had stolen her Mom’s bathrobe for me to use, which was as close to a hug as anything could be. It was just as homey as everything else under the roof, and wouldn’t have been that way if anyone else lived there. It was exactly what I needed.

The sweet smell of batter wafted from the kitchen. Who cares that it was nearly three in the afternoon? There was always room for waffles.

I perched on the stool and watched Tanya run around in her step-dad’s apron. She opened the iron and expertly flipped the contents out onto a plate, before scooping luxurious amounts of butter, and drizzling them with maple syrup. Gods, I was in Heaven.

“You’re going to make a great wife someday,” I beamed.

Tanya rolled her eyes. “Please, I’ve been your wife since grade school.”

She had a point. There wasn’t a time I could remember when Tanya wasn’t by my side. If only there was some way I could pay her back, at the very least for the glorious afternoon breakfast. Each bite warmed my soul, until finally things seemed like they could be good again.

A sudden thought turned the food cold mid-bite. I set the fork down and swallowed, then turned toward the living room.

“You know he’s still out there,” I said.

Tanya leaned on the counter. “He doesn’t have to be your responsibility. Let the cops do their job for once.”

The more I fought to ignore it, the brighter those eyes burned. There was no forgetting that kind of hatred, whether from a beast or a human. Chances were it would follow me for the rest of my life.

I stepped into the next room and picked up the remote control. Tanya moved to stop me, but the big screen was already flipped to the news networks. There, confirming the stewing terror in my stomach, was a CCTV still of Simon, armed to the teeth, marching along a wall of hostages. Gods, he even had kids with him.

“KC…”

“You know I have to,” I said. “And not just because…”

Tanya didn’t plead, at least not out loud. I guess it’s natural for a wife to worry.

* * * *

According to their website, The Centenary Park Zoo was a rehabilitation centre for exotic animals, mainly from defunct circuses or private owners who couldn’t provide adequate care; when it wasn’t a tourist attraction, that is. To a guy like Simon, however, it was a farce ripe for exploitation.

I flew over the barricade and landed by the aviary, where countless birds screeched with the melody of chalk board. Something sent them tearing into each other with beaks and claws under the great mesh dome. Thank the gods there were no people inside.

In fact there were no people anywhere. Scattered prints covered the sandy path between the enclosures, mostly human. It’s not hard to imagine what might have driven them out.

Peering into the tiger habitat there were trees, rocks, grass, and no star attraction, same as the zebra pit several yards away. There were no giraffes, bears, wolves, or bison, like Mother Nature had raptured them to a greener pasture.

As I rounded the gates toward the main pavilion I found Simon, sitting on a bench, tapping the end of a tall rod against the dirt. He wasn’t alone, and kept company with all the greater mammals, along with the thirty or so hostages they loomed over. Adults and children sat huddled in a corner, clinging to each other under the watch of enthralled predators.

Any opportunity for stealth vanished when Simon planted his staff and glared. “I knew you would come. You hero types simply can’t help yourselves.”

I raised my hands and looked to the gravel. “Just let them go, Simon. They’re innocent in all of this.”

“Yes, humans glaring at captive creatures, innocent,” he grunted. “You’re as deluded as the rest of them.”

His voice was like a vice around my chest. Maybe I should have stayed at home, and let Captain Ortega do the heavy lifting. This battle was too personal, and Simon was holding all the cards.

“Let them go, and you can have me,” I said. I didn’t want to think about what that meant.

Simon rose to his haunches, and dragged them to where I stood. He was like an avalanche in a tin suit, poised on the edge of falling, with breath like steaming compost blasting my senses. His fur stood on end, outraged as the rest of him; the hairs on my arms from something else.

“I could have had you any time I wanted, and I did,” Simon bellowed for all to hear; “but instead of a bride I find a boy in a dress! What manner of sick game do you play?”

He paused for effect, and beamed as the crowd whispered. Was that what he wanted, to humiliate me? Simon bore his fangs and threw his head back.

“You also deceive your own kind! They did not know their protector was a man with no pride in his sex!”

Every word dragged like knees on the dirt, winding my shoulders until they could snap. The light of day burned behind my mask, but like hell would I run.

“I’ve never hidden what I am,” I said, “and I’m not ashamed! I’m not the one who’s hiding, Simon!”

It was such a minor rebuke, but it was enough to push the villain beyond reason. He lashed out, and practically vaulting the end of his staff in my direction. The animals followed, with smoke colored wolves charging, along with a pair of bengal tigers, and an assortment of bears; a tidal wave of fur and claws frothing at the mouth.

I burst into the air, aimed a blast over their heads, and tore a hole in the brick by the entrance. Dust filled the air, and people screamed, but it was an escape.

“Go!”

They didn’t need to be told twice. Parents and zoo staff swooped up the smallest, and one by one stumbled through the portal to freedom. Even if they knew my secret they were safe, and that was what counted.

Simon flew from behind and knocked me to the ground and into a pit churning of teeth and claws. It was like a rabies outbreak on Noah’s ark, shredding my costume through a fur tornado; and through it all their master beat down with the end of his staff, obstructing the open sky.

“Where! Are! Your! Mocking! Words! Now!” he bellowed between strikes.

I latched to his weapon and exploded into flight with force enough to throw a bear from my path. Though I fought for the air Simon clung to the rod with both paws, limiting my arc to his reach. He jerked with the weight of a crashing truck, and threw me back to the menagerie, though did not expect the slice of photons as I passed.

FZZZZACK!

After landing upside down there was silence; the predators were sated, idle, and Simon was left with one half of a control device in each hand. I crawled to my knees and scoffed. It had all happened so fast, even I could barely keep track.

In spite of the pain I held my focus. So long as there was an enemy I wouldn’t be thrown. I stumbled upright and clenched my fists.

“Ready to… finish this… monkey-man?” Every word was like choking on swamp gas.

Simon roared, and sent the beasts scattering. He threw his arms high and swung down from his full height into a wide-reaching and sustained concussive blast. Energy bounced from his gauntlets as he pressed forward, as though fighting a rip in the ocean tide. Step by step he neared, until the condensation of his breath dripped down my cheeks.

Revenge burned in his marble-like eyes, too bright for a creature of intellect to carry. There was only the need for blood; enough that he could bathe in it.

He pushed, and I pushed back, hotter than any shame he could dole out, until finally his bracers shattered. Simon flew like a cannonball, leaving a crater in the brick where he landed; but though he was winded, he continued to find his feet.

The clicking of rifles signaled the end, as figured in body armor positioned along the wall in every direction, their laser sights crawling over the beast like ticks. A megaphone blared; “Stand down or we will respond with deadly force!” It was enough to make even Simon think twice.

I fought the urge to collapse on my knees, and barely contained the tears. Thank the gods it was over.

Simon raised his paws and relented to the MCD’s advance. “This isn’t over, boy,” he grunted.

“You’ll get over it,” I snapped. “Maybe next time you’ll get to know someone before snooping in their genes!”

Officers by the handful roped Simon’s hands and pulled then into hydraulic shackles behind his back; they were designed for this kind of situation, where a superhuman behemoth would take out their rage on the populace. Some might have called it extreme, but it was just where Simon belonged. With any luck it would be the last I saw of him.

I shuffled through the debris and toward the barricade. Families were giving statements, and onlookers pressed against the line hoping for a piece of the action. Meanwhile, the paramedics stood to one side, eyes wide with shock as I walked past. Everything hurt, inside and out, and parts of my costume were stuck with congealed blood.

Captain Ortega stormed through the scene, practically tore off his glasses, and fumed to the idle ambulance driver. “Why are you standing around? She needs medical attention!”

He averted his eyes and shifted his stance, just like everyone else who didn’t want to make sense of Kaira Cade’s paperwork. Was Glimmer Girl going to have to deal with this too? “I’m not sure I can-”

“This young woman just saved dozens of lives,” the Captain growled. “You will treat her like the damn hero she is, or so help me god you will be unemployed tomorrow.”

The paramedic did his job, barely, but ran over the cuts like they were lava. He was one step from running away, but then again so was I.

Captain Ortega placed a heavy hand on my shoulder. Even when worried he wore a frown. “Are you okay, kid?”

I looked to the pulsing audience. They were laughing, slack jawed with surprise, and peered in our direction as they hung over the barricade. If there was one thing faster than light, it was rumor.

“Fine,” I lied.

Simon didn’t have his revenge, but what he did get would be felt for a long time.

* * * *

Though it only took weeks for my body to recover, Glimmer Girl’s reputation was floundering. Never did I imagine seeing my face on the cover of news and gossip blogs next to headlines reading ‘Is America ready for a Transgender Hero?’ Two years of work went up in smoke, all thanks to a self-entitled, loud-mouth gorilla.

I tried to ignore it, but the world kept shoving it in my face; from blog posts to my classmates. Then there were the guys who “knew the whole time” and dissected my look, not knowing I was sitting three rows in front of them, or the others who “used to think she was hot.” You know, as if they ever stood a chance to begin with.

“Can you believe she’d lie about something like that?” I’d heard in the hall. “Like, sure, she’s got a secret identity and all; but when you’re that big, people have a right to know who they’re dealing with.”

As much as it shouldn’t have mattered, it did, and there was always someone there to remind me. This was my life, both behind the mask and out of it.

One night as a bleak mood was drowning our dorm room Tanya nudged me out of bed with the offer of pizza. “How about Ernie’s?” she pressed; the place that fed us for a week. “We can dine in, stuff ourselves with pepperoni and mushroom, and steal all the bread sticks. What do you say?”

Anything was better than wallowing. Besides, it was an excuse to shower, brush my hair, and maybe, with a modicum of effort, look pretty. It was the kind of self-care I’d been ignoring.

The pizza was going to be worth the hour long drive, with the added search for a parking space in Midtown. We walked for two blocks, and past the intersection along Seventh where reconstruction had only just begun. The road had been fenced off with concrete and steel, leaving room for pedestrians and not much else.

Things were quiet at the restaurant, where only a half dozen patrons sat spread between the tables and booths. Ernie himself, a broad baby-faced fellow with curling salt and pepper hair, met us the moment we walked in the door. His grin stretched from ear to ear.

“Table for two, ladies?”

I had to admit, it was nice just being a person for a while. Delicious food would also help, until I noticed the blank spot on the ‘Wall of Fame’.

We were halfway to our booth when I chirped. “So, I heard you met Glimmer Girl.”

Ernie’s smile froze, and he cleared his throat. “Er, yeah,” he said, and ushered us to our seats. His jaw clenched, biting his tongue, but still I pressed him.

“Didn’t you get a photo with her, or…?”

“I, uh… did,” Ernie muttered, “but I took it down, you know? I mean, no offense to anyone or anything, but ever since that whole business got out, about her, uh… you know, being a…” Both Tanya and I were looking down, and he was sweating. “This is a family business, you know what I’m saying?”

My smile tightened steel bolts. “Sure. I understand.”

As soon as he left to fetch menus Tanya and I were out the door. The meal was a wash, but at least we had breadsticks. Too bad there was no escaping the real world.

* * * *

NEXT ISSUE: The world knows her secret, and Glimmer Girl faces backlash from unexpected places. This, and a villain called ‘Punching Judy’? Stay tuned...



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