“Ar-cher! Ar-cher!” I heard my name being jokingly chanted from the school band as I walked up to get a perfect attendance award.
The school band (which I happened to be a part of) was performing at an awards assembly. I began to walk back to my seat near my friends when some lady with a camera stopped me.
I gave the camera a smile as I walked back to my seat, tripping over a few music stands as I did so.
I wasn’t a popular kid by any standards. The only kids in the school who knew me were the kids in the school band. Even half of the kids who I was in classes with all through middle school still didn’t know my name.
“Good job, ya nerd,” I heard my band teacher, Mr. Dexter, say as he punched me in the shoulder after making sure no other teachers were watching (“You only make that mistake once,” he always said).
“Thanks,” I replied, looking around. Blonde trumpet player, blue hair clarinet player, brunette trombone player. But my eye caught on the girl sitting in front of me. Light amber hair, glasses, played saxophone, was what I got from her back. She had on a red Spider-Man jacket.
“What’s up, man? Superhero thing?” Mr. Dexter asked, seeing my annoyed glance.
“Yeah, I really hate them,” I replied, shrugging.
I just thought that superheroes existed to protect people, to save them. So why didn’t they?
My city, Pluto City, had superheroes, like a few other cities around the hellish state of Florida, and around the world in general. I never bothered to learn any of their names. Why idolize someone when they didn’t take the time to save the person who meant the world to you?
I looked at Mr. Dexter and saw his half smile as he started whisper-singing the Spider-Man song.
“Spider-Man, Spider-Man. Does whatever a spider can,” he sang.
“Shut up,” I said, shaking my head. I was really close to Mr. Dexter. He had been there for me when no one else had. Of course, now I have friends my age, but Mr. Dexter is sort of like a second father to me.
He’d probably be closer to a first father, honestly. My own dad is never really around. He’s always at work now. He feels too guilty to talk to us. As for a mom, she died.
I felt a sharp pain in my head for what had to be the third time today. I winced for a second, and Mr. Dexter noticed.
“You alright, Rivera?”
“Fine. I just keep getting these sharp pains in my head,” I said, gripping a chunk of my hair.
“Like this?” he asked as he punched me lightly in the head, checking once again to make sure no one was watching.
“No, like a sword, sorta,” I replied, punching him back.
“Do you need to rest, buddy?” he asked, placing his hand on my shoulder.
“Nah, I think I’m--ow!” I yelped, grabbing the back of my head as another sharp pain struck.
“C’mon Archer. We’re gonna get you back to the band room. Let’s take a break.”
I nodded as I got out of my seat. We walked out of the gym and into the band room hallway.
We walked into the band room right as another sharp pain hit me, but this time in the chest. I gasped as I held myself up against the wall, unfortunately knocking over a trashcan. I took a deep breath, gasping.
“Whoa, buddy. You alright there?” Mr. Dexter said, worried. I nodded and murmured a simple “yes.”
“I’m gonna stay here with you, alright?” he affirmed, patting me on the back. I just nodded as I pushed a couple of chairs together and laid down on them, my head shaking as I put it down.
“Want me to call your dad?” he asked from his desk, already picking up the phone. “Here--” he said as he put down the phone and walked over to me, putting a hand on my forehead. “You don’t seem to have a fever. What’s going on?” he wondered out loud.
“If you could call my dad, that’d be great,” I said, all of a sudden feeling very weak.
“You don’t look too good, Archer,” Mr. Dexter said, eyes wide. I was starting to feel really nauseous as a pain struck me in the stomach. With that, I got up and ran to the bathroom. I was fine this morning, and now I’m throwing up?
I walked back to the band room, hardly able to breathe.
“Bud, I called your parents--” Mr. Dexter said as I walked in.
He ran over and pushed his hand against my forehead.
“You’re burning up! What in the world?”
I felt my eyes start to tear up. What was going on?
“Mr. Dexter, what’s wrong with me?” I asked him as pain struck my left wrist. I grabbed my wrist with my other hand, only to wrench it away when I felt a burning sensation in the palm of my right hand.
“I don’t know, bud. You’ll be fine.”
“I want to figure it out. What if it’s some deadly disease?”
" Don’t you trust me? You’ll be fine, Rivera.”
“Rest, Archer. Now. Until your parents get here,” Mr. Dexter ordered.
I went to sit down. “What about Alex?” I wondered aloud.
I do worry about my twin brother a lot. Ever since Mom died, he’s been a mess. I’m always afraid he’s going to do something he’ll regret. He really loved mom, probably more than I did. She was his biggest fan, and he knew it.
“He’ll stay. If what you have is contagious, we don’t want out best percussionist catching it.”
“I’m glad you think I’m important,” I replied with as much sarcasm as I could muster.
Another sharp pain struck me, this time in both of my arms. I grimaced in pain, using all of my willpower not to scream.
“Hey, Rivera. I said rest,” Mr. Dexter repeated himself, more sternly this time.
“Will do,” I joked, managing a weak smile, blinking back tears of pain.
I almost immediately fell asleep as I shakily laid down on the chairs.
I wandered into a dreamless sleep, one of the kinds of sleep when you don’t even think time passed until you wake up.
“Hey, Rivera. Buddy, wake up. You’re going home.”
I opened my eyes just enough to see the face of Mr. Dexter. I yawned as he helped me sit up.
“Archer. Come on,” my dad said, obviously irritated that he had to take off of work.
“Feel better, buddy,” Mr. Dexter said as I wobbled out of the back door.
“Will do, Dexter,” I joked, and I could hear his snicker as I walked to my dad’s car.
I sat in the car, staring at the back of the seat. The school was within walking distance from my house, but Mr. Dexter probably didn’t want me to do too much when I was in this type of condition. I guess my dad agreed, or Mr. Dexter convinced him because he normally doesn’t take off of work for anything.
As soon as the car pulled into the garage, I felt the urge to throw up again. I opened the car door and sprinted inside, making it to the bathroom just in time. I felt tears fall from my eyes as another sharp pain started, this time in my legs. My knees buckled, and I collapsed onto the bathroom floor.
I never really cry. The last time I truly cried was when my dad accidentally hit my mom with his car, putting her in a coma. The last time I cried was when my mom didn’t wake up.
But I cried now. I cried because I was terrified of what was happening to me. I didn’t want to die yet. I wanted a girlfriend. I wanted to start a family. I might not have the chance.
What if I wasn’t just sick? What if I was actually going to die? What would Alex do? Alex would kill me if I died! I shook my head to try to get rid of the thoughts, but all it did was send a sharp pain through my head. I knew my dad had already left to go back to work.
I remembered what Mr. Dexter said.
“Don’t you trust me? You’ll be fine.”
I tried to believe it, but I just couldn’t. I felt completely miserable.
I was all alone and sick with God knows what. I managed my way to my bedroom where I laid down and covered myself up to my chin with my Star Wars covers. I sighed a shaky sigh as I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.
I laid there with my eyes closed for what seemed like forever, worrying about everything that could happen to me. Whenever I’d get a pain in any part of my body, I’d just scream, knowing no one could hear me.
For the first time in eight years, I let myself scream and cry. I had been sick with so many types of the stomach flu and plenty of regular colds, but nothing like this. I hoped everything was going to be fine, but something inside of me told me something was going to go wrong.
I had been through so many strange things, like seeing some of the superheroes in action, stopping bank robbers. I was fascinated when I was younger. Now I hated them. Usually, when I’d see them flying overhead, I’d feel a pang of rage. Now I’d do anything to see them flying across the sky again.
I eventually did fall asleep, and I slept for as long as I could. I didn’t have any dreams, thankfully. Usually, when I have a dream I wake up, and I didn’t want to do that.
I woke up and stretched. I felt so much better! I looked out my window, which seemed farther than usual from my bed. I turned to grab my phone to check the time, but it wasn’t there. I yawned as I stood up and gasped when I realized I wasn’t on my bed. I fell to the floor.
I sat up, hoping I didn’t wake anyone up. I guess your imagination does crazy things when you’re sick. I didn’t think it could be this crazy. I looked around, seeing my bed about six feet away.
That’s a bit strange.
I mean, I’ve had weird stuff happen to me, but I’ve never woken up away from my bed unless I had fallen off in the middle of the night. Now I woke up floating in mid-air six feet from my bed. I guess there really is a first time for everything. I yawned again as I brought my hand up to my head to fix up my hair. I hated how my hair looked in the morning.
I turned around and walked a few feet to my bed and sat down, cringing as it squeaked loudly. I grabbed my phone off of my nightstand. My eyes widened at the time. It was almost four in the morning. Maybe the time wasn’t what worried me, but the date. The awards assembly was on January 24th. My phone said it was the 30th.
I squinted and rubbed my eyes, making sure I saw it right. I turned the brightness down. I saw I had notifications on January 25th, 26th, 27th. I didn’t want to read on. It was January 30th.
Did I sleep for almost a week? Something wasn’t adding up here.
And if it’s four in the morning, how could I see? I looked around, and everything seemed to be glowing a faint green, but I could, in fact, see everything as if it was sunny out. I rubbed my eyes again.
Maybe I was dehydrated?
I opened my door gently and tried not to make any noise as I crept out to the kitchen to get some water. I grabbed a glass from the cabinet. It immediately filled itself with water.
I dumped it into the sink, confused, but more water came in to replace it.
“What the hell?” I murmured after trying it a few more times.
I decided to give up and just drink it.
My breath caught in my throat. Something wasn’t right.
My eyes started burning.
It didn’t hurt, though, not exactly. They just felt like they were burning.
“What’s going on, what’s going on?” I repeated quietly to myself as my vision turned red.
I shook my head around, trying to make the burning go away. I felt my vision turn back to normal.
“Jesus Christ,” I muttered as I stared unblinkingly at the kitchen, which had burn markings everywhere. It looked like someone decided to unleash a violent lightsaber attack on my family’s kitchen.
I knew I needed to get back to my room as fast as I could before my dad or Alex saw the kitchen. I was too panicked to know what to do. I blinked, and I was in my room.
“How the h--” I cut myself off as I realized I was hovering about four inches from the ground.
A crazy thought crossed my mind.
No one knows where the superheroes in my city get their powers from. According to some news interviews, neither do they. I never really cared before now, but at this point, I just wanted some answers.
No. This is a dream. This has to be a dream. You have no reason for superpowers. Even if you did, you wouldn’t get them. You can’t. I thought frantically.
“No, Archer, we know exactly what we’re doing,” a voice said. I couldn’t exactly hear it’s voice. It was a bizarre feeling.
“I think you have the wrong Archer,” I said in a normal voice, hiding my fear.
“Are you awake, Archer?” I heard my dad’s voice call from the kitchen, in a panicking voice. “Alex, are you alright?”
“I’m good, dad,” I called to him, my voice cracking with fear.
“What the hell happened in the kitchen?”
“What?” Alex tiredly yelled.
“No, we have the right Archer,” the voice replied.
“W-well, what do you want?” I asked, terrified.
“Alex and Archer Rivera you better get your asses down here this instant!” dad called again.
“Just a second, dad!” I yelled back frantically.
“It’s too early for this,” Alex croaked, and I saw his messed up hair from the crack of the door.
“Maybe we should be asking you what you want,” the voice continued.
“Archer! Now!” my dad yelled.
“I want you to leave me alone,” I replied, ignoring my dad.
“I’m afraid we can’t do that.”
“You’re gonna be a superhero, Archer. Whether you like it or not.”
“We’ll explain later. Listen to your dad.”
“Wait, what do I--how do I explain?”
There was silence.
“I need to know how to explain this! Come back!”
“Archer! I said now!” my dad was practically screaming.
“Coming, dad!” I yelled, trying to sound tired and groggy.
This wasn’t shaping up to be a good day.