A prelude to all that is to come...
Thunderbolt is a character I invented long ago, and recently I wrote him into a book titled Hero's Stance. In this exclusive short episode, Thunderbolt describes how his story started.
The Birth of a Hero
My name is Aaron, and I have a secret. A lot of people have secrets, why would you assume that I was any different? Of course, my secret is a bit more interesting than most people. Do you want to know my secret? I’m a superhero.
Yeah, I know. Most people would never believe that. A superhero? Yeah right! But it’s true. They call me Thunderbolt, The Hero of Rust City. Now, you might be thinking, “What sort of ‘hero’ are you really?” While the title could be given to anyone who helps people, I assure you, I am a superhero.
I have a whole list of super powers. Unfortunately, the most important isn’t on that list. No, I do not have superhuman strength. See, I get my powers from millions of volts of electricity flowing through my body. While that gives me a few powers that don’t make sense—like the ability to fly—it doesn’t let me lift busses.
So what can I do? I can fly, like I said. I can basically turn any part, or all, of my body in to a bolt of lightning. It lets me go the speed of light, but only in a straight line, like a bolt of lightning. When I’m not flying, I can still move pretty fast, about fifty miles an hour. And of course I can shoot lightning out of my fingertips; that’s a basic way of putting it. I can do all sorts of different things with that last one. Then there’s my most destructive power: thunder. I haven’t found as many uses for thunder as I have lightning, but to be honest, that’s because I'm a little afraid of it.
That pretty much sums of my list of super powers. Everything else I can do comes from things that I knew before I got my powers. You know how Bat Man can beat anyone up as if he had super powers, but really he’s just that good? I’m just that good. I'm not as good as Bat Man, that’s just in the comics; this is real life. But since I’ve been taking martial arts lessons since I was like five, I’ve gotten pretty good at beating people up. I used to spend my days as a kid beating up the bullies that liked to pick on the kids who couldn’t fight back. That got me a lot of experience points! And while my reflexes and skills are amazing without super powers, the whole lightning-themed powers just make me that much faster.
Listen to me bragging! Honest, I don’t usually do that. There’s not really that much to be boastful about when it comes to my superpowers. Thankfully there are only a few people who know this, but my super power weakness is really bad. Superman looses his power when a rock from an alien planet shows up on earth in the comics, and that’s bad. But there’s no need for kryptonite to take down Thunderbolt. Just get a two-dollar squirt gun at the nearest dollar store and squirt me with a little bit of water. That’s all it takes. A bit of water makes my powers go haywire.
So now you know. Thunderbolt might be tough, but he can still be taken down pretty easy. That makes my job—my life—a whole lot harder, and a lot more dangerous. All the more reason why I need to keep a secret identity. Thankfully I actually have it easier than the heroes in the comics when it comes to that.
I’ll never know why, and I don’t really care to, but Thunderbolt and Aaron are basically two different people. Both are me, but it’s like they have two different bodies. I describe it as two forms, and I have to transform between the two. My normal form is just my normal body. People see me, and they recognize me as Aaron and that’s that. If you’re wondering I have shaggy brown hair and blueish-green eyes. Thunderbolt is a bit different. We share a face, good thing no one has ever really noticed that. But when I’m thunderbolt the bangs of my hair stand straight up as if they’re being statically charged. Then the tips of those few hairs will shine with a faint gold color and my eyes will glow purple with sparks of lightning behind them.
So far as I can tell, the only difference between my two forms is the amount of electricity that I let flow through my body. As if it were all stored in a battery somewhere, I can control its output. When I'm in my normal form I can conduct up to a certain amount of that electricity in my body. It’s enough to shock someone if they get close, and enough to keep my unnatural running speed. But once I hit that limit I lose control of the electricity. The only way that I can control those powers is after I transform in to Thunderbolt. For whatever reason that form is able to control the power and my normal one isn’t.
So, whenever I need to go save the day as a superhero, I just need to transform in to Thunderbolt first. All that involves is letting out a sufficient amount of electricity. It’s like I get pushed over the edge and then I transform. The best part is that the two forms have separate wardrobes. I don’t have to hide my spandex under my cloths like Spiderman or anything. I just let a bit of sparks fly and I’ll be standing there in my superhero suit.
I already told you that my hair likes to stand up and shine gold, and that my eyes glow with electricity when I’m Thunderbolt. But there’s a bit more I could describe. Thunderbolt—that’s me—wears a superhero suit of three colors, white, purple and yellow. When we made it we started with just white. Then we added purple gloves and purple boots. On my chest we put a circular badge that’s purple with a yellow thunderbolt in the center. Around my neck and on my shoulders is all purple, too. Later on we added a yellow stripe around the edge of that purple patch, just for some extra kick. We also added a yellow stripe around my waist, like a belt. It makes it look less like I'm wearing a one-piece—which I am.
I'm sorry. I’ve said ‘we’ the whole time I described my suit, but I never told you who the ‘we’ was. Amy. She’s my best friend, girlfriend, and costume designer. I met her when I first got my powers as a kid and flew out to the only fabric store I could find. She was my age and offered to help me make the costume. Good thing, too. I have no idea how to sew.
I was ten years old when I got my super powers. It happened on a Thursday. Can you believe I remember that? I was sick that day. Mom made me stay home from school; she heard no complaint from me. I hated school just as much as any other normal ten-year-old. I would have loved to be able to spend that day playing outside with my toys, but of course, mom was home to watch me.
When I finally got some privacy from mom I thought I could finally go outside and play in the beautiful sunshine. It was probably the last warm day of the year. But no. When mom left with the rest of my family it started raining. It was more than just raining, though. This was a freaking typhoon mixed with a hurricane mixed with a tornado. More or less. Either way, I wasn’t getting to play in the sunshine.
But that didn’t keep me down. I was sick and probably had a fever, but I still wanted to play out in the rain. How much fun is it to just stand in a storm and feel the water hit your skin. It’s like an endless shower with puddles to stomp around in. I went out in the rain, pretending to be a hero from a TV show or movie. The pool toys and towels were all getting drenched and blown away. I had to save them.
So there I was, saving the pool noodles from the big, bad storm. I got the towels and noodles inside, but then there was my beach ball. It was a souvenir from vacation that summer. The wind made it bounce off of a table. I watched it roll in to the pool. The storm had the water sloshing around in waves. It looked like a miniature ocean. I had to save it.
In my mind it was like watching a movie. In this scene the music was swelling. It was the dramatic climax. I—the hero of the movie—had to save the helpless victim—the beach ball—before she was swallowed by the waves. I knelt down on the edge of the pool and reached out my hand. It couldn’t have been as simple as just reaching out and grabbing the ball, that wouldn’t have been worthy of a climax. I could barely reach.
“Help me, hero!” the beach ball cried—in my imagination at least.
“Just a little further! I won’t leave you!”
Pretending to be the hero of this movie was the most fun I had had all day, but its all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Then everything stops suddenly and the dramatic music goes quiet.
I don’t think it was a gust of wind that did it, but it sure felt like something pushed me. I fell in while I was reaching for the beach ball. The wind stopped once my body was submerged in the water. The blasting rain that had been pelting my back was suddenly gone. And as suddenly as the world changed from air to water I was shocked with the force of a billion volts of electricity.
Really, I was caught by surprise when I fell in the water. I don’t know exactly what happened, how I fell in or when I was struck by lightning. From what I remember I was shocked after I fell in. I don’t think it really matters, though. I know that I was hit by lightning while I was saving a beach ball, and I remember falling in. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t breath. I thought I would drown. My entire body clenched as the lightning surged through my limbs. I couldn’t scream; my body was paralyzed. The shock lasted for the smallest bit of a nanosecond, but after I sank to the bottom of the pool.
I looked up from the bottom and saw rain hitting the surface. My mind was numb and my body was paralyzed. All I could think about was how quiet it was. The music had stopped; the movie in my head was over. There were no more sounds from the storm or the rain. The world was silent. And then I though, “I’m going to die.”
Obviously, I didn’t die. I closed my eyes, and my world went dark. And suddenly I opened my eyes again. I could move my eyelids; I could move my body. I jumped to the surface, gasping for air. My lungs had nearly filled with water. I pulled myself out of the pool, dripping wet in the pouring rain. Every inch of my body was in pain, rightfully so. The world was spinning and my ears were ringing.
I didn’t realize it when I pulled myself out of the pool, but the strike of lightning had transformed me in to Thunderbolt for the first time. I didn’t feel any different, just in pain. There was no instant when I realized, “holy crap, I changed!” Probably because I was so wet that my powers were just not working yet. I would usually just say that that lightning strike gave me my powers and ignore the fact that it transformed me, but I know that’s how it happened. I don’t know exactly what happened, I'm no scientist or lightning expert. I don’t know how it happened. I just know that I left that day with lightning flowing through my body. And I know that when I got out of the pool my cloths were torn to shreds and soaking wet. When I woke up in the morning my cloths were dry and didn’t have a scratch. The first time I transformed in to Thunderbolt on my own I was once again wearing my shredded PJs. That was the first instance of Thunderbolt’s alternate wardrobe that I noticed, but it’s the only reason I know that I had transformed by the time I got out of the pool.
The day after I was struck by lightning I was positive that I had dreamt the entire thing. How could I have survived that? I was convinced that I dreamt being struck by lightning, and my mom was convinced that I dreamt not feeling sick. I was sick the day before, and she refused to believe me that I felt better the next day. I did, I felt great! But when she took my temperature the thermometer read 120°! I would be dead if that were correct.
Needless to say, mom rushed me to the doctor and kept me home from school. I was confined to my room that day and had to pretend to be in bed sleeping. Really, I was figuring out what to do about the whole lightning flowing through my veins problem I was having.
See, while sitting on my bed, pouting, I noticed that I could make a little spark jump between my fingers. It tickled when it touched me and I could keep it dancing as long as I could keep catching it. It was like trying to keep hold of a frog, though. That day of solitude was all I needed to figure out what had happened. Simply put, I had super powers.
I remember when I first transformed that day. I tried to play with too much lightning at once and it got away from me. When I transformed, not knowing what happened, I stared at myself in the mirror for a good half an hour. When I figured out how to return to normal I stared at myself for another half an hour. Then I transformed again to see if I could still do it. I could.
I got out of the torn up cloths that my Thunderbolt form was wearing and stood in my room practicing with my powers. I scorched my pillow, destroyed a Lego castle, nearly caught my trashcan on fire, and left a few black marks on the ceiling. That’s what happens when electricity shoots everywhere, though.
I had figured out that I had lightning powers, and I already had it in my mind that I was a superhero. Of course my next step was to jump off of my bed and try to fly! Who wouldn’t try that? The disappointing thing is that it didn’t work the first time. That was embarrassing. I guess I just didn’t believe hard enough. The second time worked though. I jumped off my bed and never hit the ground!
You know, I have no clue how I do half of the things I do. Flying is my case and point. If you were to ask me to describe the process I go through when I lift off the ground I wouldn’t be able to. I could tell you what I was like to actually fly, but I simply don’t know how I do it. The same thing goes for the rest of my powers. I can guess at how they work to try and explain them, but I don’t know for sure.
What I do know is how I went from trying to fly in my bedroom to being a superhero. It was already in my head, but I didn’t believe I could do it until later that day. I begged mom to let me go outside because it was semi-nice day. She agreed to let me take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. It wasn’t my idea of fun, but it got me fresh air. While I was walking I saw a man break in to Mrs. McGuffey’s house. She was an elderly woman that lived down the street. She was always sitting on her porch. She talked to me anytime I went past her house in the summer.
I saw a man wearing a black hoodie swing open the door to Mrs. McGuffey’s house and rush in. I thought it was weird so I kept an eye on the house while I walked closer to it. Then I heard a gun shot. I never actually heard a gun before that, but I was pretty sure that’s what it was. I was right, incase you’re wondering.
There was a man in Mrs. McGuffey’s house with a handgun. Mrs. McGuffey was lying on the floor with a puddle of blood spilling out of her side. And standing in between them was a boy with purple eyes and spiky hair.
“You should just leave kid. I don’t want to shoot you like your grandma.” The man in the hoodie said as he lifted his gun at me. Mrs. McGuffey was crying behind me, soft painful grunts.
I was afraid; I’ll admit it. It was the first time I ever had a gun in my face. I just figured out earlier that day that I had super powers. Excuse me for doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I could move faster than a bullet, let alone dodge one. And did I dare test whether or not I was impervious to them? No, I was too afraid.
I prefer not to remember my premiere. It was awkward and clunky. I pulled a few cliché lines from TV. “Leave now or I’ll have to hurt you.” and “Stop evildoer!” What was his response? Well, he laughed at me. Mrs. McGuffey cried and tried to convince me to leave and call the cops. In my mind it was all, “Can I do this? Can I do this?”
I shocked him with as much electricity as I knew how to unleash at once. He fell to the ground, gurgling. I know now that I used way too much. I hope that hasn’t caused any sort of long-term problems for him. That could come back to bite me.
The old lady was more shocked than the intruder, I dare say. Who wouldn’t, though if they saw a kid shoot a man with electricity, call 911 and then fly away? That’s what I did. I didn’t stick around to see if Mrs. M was ok. She might have recognized me. I made sure that the police came and took care of everything, though. She’s still alive today, lives in a nursing home out in Pennsylvania.
That was the first time I used my powers to save someone. After that I went home and stared at the electricity zapping out of my fingers. I said the cheesiest line anyone in my position could have said, “I must use these powers for good and not for evil.” My gosh! I can’t believe I admitted that. But I said it. That was the moment that I decided, once and for all, that I would be a superhero. I just needed a costume and a secret identity. Thunderbolt!