Prompt: titaness; legacy character
The petite woman who answered the door was not exactly what Jenny had expected. “Er, hi. I’m looking for Marsha Evans?”
“In regards to what?” The woman was tiny, but she had the air of someone who could barricade the doorway by sheer force of will. She did not look impressed by Jenny’s suit, which had made Jenny feel like a lawyer or president or god when she got dressed that morning.
“I’m from the Superhero Oversight Bureau?” Jenny coughed to get the lingering note of question out of her voice. “I need to ask her some questions for a study on inactive heroes.” She waved her clipboard hopefully.
“I’ll see if she’s up to seeing anyone.” The door slammed shut. Jenny let out a breath. Almost there. She tugged at her blouse, rearranging it across her chest and belly and trying to get the material to stop gapping between the buttons like that. She closed the jacket a bit more to cover it. She had never worn a suit before and it felt as special and exotic and uncomfortable as a costume.
When the door reopened, the woman looked surly, like she just lost an argument. “Follow me.” She deposited Jenny outside a closed door in the back of the house. “Please don’t tire her out.”
Jenny nodded and opened the door. It led to an airy sunroom looking out on a modest garden. Plants spilled over into the room in pots. In a birdbath in the center of the garden, a blue jay ruffled its feathers and splashed water. An armchair large enough for a giant dominated the room. In it sat Marsha Evans, the former Lady Titan, and Jenny’s hero.
“Are you here to kill me?” Marsha’s voice was rich and slow.
“No, ma’am.” Jenny clutched her clipboard to her chest.
“Pity. I thought you might be. You’re no SOB lackey. Nice try, by the way. I like the suit.” She watched Jenny in the reflective glass of the windows.
Jenny squeaked, “Thank you.”
Marsha craned her head around to see Jenny better. Her hair snaked across her shoulders like vines or roots, thick and alive. “So what do you want? I don’t give interviews.”
Jenny edged around the chair. There were no other seats available, so she plunked herself down on the floor, like a child at Marsha’s huge feet. “I’m sorry for lying, but I had to see you.” Jenny felt even more determined, in fact, now that she could see Marsha. She looked so much like Jenny–big arms, big stomach, big thighs, big everything. Only, she kept the proportions and sized everything up. Lady Titan, of course, could get much larger than that, but Marsha’s resting size still dwarfed most humans.
Marsha studied Jenny just as intently. “I could never fold my legs like that.” She pointed to Jenny’s crossed legs, her pants hiked up and her ankles showing. “You’re quite flexible. So. Who are you and why did you need to see an old super so badly?”
“I’m Jenny Walsh and I want to be the next Lady Titan.”
Hysterical laughter was not the reaction she hoped for.
“No, you don’t, kid. Go home and become a doctor or a baker or a sewer worker. Anything but that.”
“But you were my hero growing up. You were the only person who looked like me on the television. And you could do anything.”
Marsha scrubbed her face with a hand. Jenny noticed the bandage on her forearm. She could see the edge of another below Marsha’s pant leg. “Jenny. You don’t know what you’re asking me for.”
“I made my own Lady Titan doll when I was nine,” she blurted out. “They made toys for all the other big heroes, but not you. So I learned to sew and made one myself. Other little girls deserve to see Lady Titan like I did.”
Marsha sighed and leaned forward. She loomed over Jenny and made her feel like a child all over again. “Look at you. Your arms are wrapped around yourself. You’re embarrassed and vulnerable and you’re protecting yourself. You’re hunched over. You’re not ready for the kind of scrutiny you’ll get.”
Jenny straightened up and unfolded her arms. “You’re wrong. I can do this. There’s nothing anyone can say that I haven’t heard before. What are they going to do? Call me fat? Stupid? Ugly? Tell me I’m lazy and sick and weak? Threaten me? Been there, done that, got the 4X T-shirt. My whole life has led me to this.”
“They can always hurt you more,” Marsha said softly.
Jenny knew she was right. It just made her angry. “So, what, you just give up and retire? There’s still work to do.”
“All right, kid.” Marsha sounded angry to. “You came here to see me–so take a look.” She popped the tape holding the white gauze around her forearm. She wound it around her other hand, slowly revealing her arm. Something started sifting from the bandaging before she finished removing it. Then the tail end fell away and a cascade of dirt, pebbles, and sprouted seeds tumbled out.
Jenny rose up on her knees and leaned closer. The bandage revealed an ulcer-like wound in the skin, a great shallow hole. But instead of raw flesh, it was filled with loose soil, like the contents of a recently tilled garden. It spilled out slowly, pushed from the inside. After a moment, Marsha replaced the bandage over it, hiding away the bizarre affliction.
“This is my retirement. I sat down one day and waited for the earth to swallow me up. One day, it will. For years, I wielded the earth as a weapon, took it into my body, let it change me. And yes, I did good work because I wanted it to be done and I had only myself to do it. But there is a price to be paid for all good things.”
Jenny stood up and dusted herself off. “Thank you for speaking to me.”
“You’re leaving then?”
“I wanted to become Lady Titan because you made me feel like I didn’t have to look different to do what mattered to me. But if I can’t be Lady Titan, I’ll be somebody else. I still want the work to be done.” She picked up her clipboard and turned to go.
“Wait.” Marsha sighed. Then she rose from the chair to her full, ceiling-brushing height. “We’ll go into the study. You need to understand where my power comes from before we go any farther.” Following Marsha out of the room, Jenny felt ten feet tall as well, big enough to fill up the whole world.