Shimmer #27 – The Curious Case of Glimmer Gorilla (Part 2)
A lot of things had changed since my coming out, especially at school. Walking down the hall between classes wasn’t the nightmare it used to be – instead it was now just a fever dream where the beatings and threats had been traded for stares and whispers. That was a step up, right? Sometimes I wasn’t so sure.
Everyone had taken an interest. It didn’t matter if you were supportive or not so supportive, it was still the hot button topic. “Hey, Justin Cade’s supposed to be a girl now.” Was it really so scandalous? Okay, so transgender peeps hadn’t been an everyday thing for a lot of people, but that was in the past, and it wasn’t that big a deal, surely. Hopefully they’d get used to the idea, and fast.
At least Tanya was there to act like everything was normal, at least for the most part. Even if Jason’s arrival had put a dent into our dynamic I could still count on her to have my back in the confines of high school, especially when that jerk-off bully Adrian Dempsey came lumbering by.
“Hate rays at nine o’clock,” she mumbled before calling across the crowd. “Haven’t you got somewhere to be, Frankenstein – like maybe going to get your bolts tightened!?”
Adrian huffed through a jaw wired shut and turned away. Maybe that was why everyone was leaving me alone – if I could put the human wall that was their star quarterback in a neck brace imagine what I could do to most anyone else. Months ago, when faced with expulsion, I thought lashing out was a mistake, but now that everyone was leaving me alone? Maybe I should have flattened him back in junior high.
“Let him stare if he wants to,” I told Tanya. “There are plenty other bones to break if he tries anything.”
She gave me a look, and one which I wasn’t sure I liked. “Wow. That was… aggressive.”
“I’m not going to let people push me around anymore, Tanya. I’m a whole new person – literally. Justin may have been happy to roll over, but I’m not.”
“You’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore?”
“Something like that.”
Tanya leaned against the lockers and grinned. “I gotta say, KC, scary as you’ve been lately I think I’m liking the new you. Keep this up and you won’t need a bodyguard anymore.”
“Yeah, right. You know I’m always going to need you,” I laughed. However the moment was ended the second my locker door came open and I discovered the notes waiting for me. The awkward stack inside fell to the floor. When I picked them up and read the first I was hungry for blood.
“KC, ignore them,” she urged. Weird that she was the calm one this time around.
“Dear Justin,” I read aloud. “Queers burn in hell. Just saying.” That, of course, was the most coherent of the bunch. The acid on my tongue dripped thicker the more of it I absorbed. What the hell was wrong with people?
At first I didn’t know how to react. Yeah, I’d copped a lot of flak for a lot of years, but it had never been so direct. Being out in the open changed everything – people could actually hate me for who I was and not just the mask I wore. It was a whole new kind of hurt.
Tanya tried to say something, I didn’t know what. My mind was elsewhere, washed up in a sea of words. The only thing that reached me was Adrian’s scowl as I stumbled on a sideways glance. My rage flew toward him and dragged me with it, pushing me into a confrontation.
“You,” I seethed with letters crunched in my grip. “Did you know about this?”
With his neck fixed in its brace Adrian had to turn his entire body to face me. He muttered through his teeth, “know about what?” Taking note of the death glare I was wearing and the bundle I was holding he finally realized, “you got hate mail.” The satisfaction he took from that fact made me want to knock him flat again.
“Did. You. Know. About this.”
He smiled a sickening smile, and chuckled as much as he was able. “I don’t do letters,” he said. “Not when I can call you a filthy @#$%ing faggot to your face.” Funny, but even with a broken jaw he still had a big mouth.
Adrian started to shuffle away. “Face it, Cade. Nobody thinks you’re a princess. Everyone thinks you’re a nutbar except for your dyke friend over there. Good luck surviving until senior year. I hope you kill yourself.”
Second bell rang, meaning we were late for class. I should have been running, but all I could do was stand in shock. What would make these sorts of ideas fester in a person? Or maybe I was giving Adrian too much credit by calling him a ‘person’. Then there were the letters…
“KC, come on. We’re late.”
“If it’s all the same to you I’m going to bounce,” I said. “Need some air. Clear my head.”
Tanya gritted her teeth. It was the same old story. “Sure. I’ll make up some excuse. There’s crime out there that needs fighting, right?”
“Something like that.”
The horror that was Andrew Jackson High – it was never going to change, was it?
* * * *
Next thing I knew I was in the air. Slipping out of school was a breeze and sliding into Glimmer Girl was easier still. To think, it was only a few short weeks ago that I’d wondered if I needed to be a superhero anymore, for my own sake at least. I’d come out of the closet and was living as Kaira pretty much 24/7 – did I need to escape my life the way Justin did? It turned out the answer was yes. Life still sucked, or at least parts of it did, and the mask/tights combo was still the best solution to getting away from it.
Sitting atop the InfiniTech building I prayed for something to happen below – nothing major, like maybe a mugging or something. At least that would justify ditching school, something I felt guilty about as it was. But alas the day was peaceful. I tried to remind myself that quiet was a good thing. Drama was bad – drama usually preceded my getting shot at or punched in the face or worse, being grounded for playing hooky.
Maybe, I thought, the view was reason enough. Milestone really was a beautiful city, with clear skies and a sparkling river running down the heart of it. Classic and contemporary lived side by side with red brick structures lining the inner suburbs and leading to the glass skyscrapers that were my usual perch. Birch trees lined wide stretches of pavement, and people one the whole seemed to like each other – not like some other places. Yeah, this city had its demons just like everywhere else, but it was good place to be, especially for part-time heroes.
What little peace I could gather from the moment was shattered by the phone – there was no ignoring the Glimmer Girl Hotline. I flicked it open and there was the message:
‘SIMON SIMIAN GONE AWOL. VIOLATED PAROLE. POLICE ARE LOOKING FOR YOUR INPUT.’
“Gods damn it.”
I comforted myself with the idea it wasn’t too urgent – I mean, it couldn’t have been if my contact bothered to use proper spelling. Chances were that Simon was having an off day, and I could totally relate. He was a good guy, and I really did believe that he was trying to do the right thing, even if he did just make a wrong choice. I wasn’t going to let that be his undoing.
Standing on the edge I switched off the phone and prepared to fly. It looked like I got my wish after all.
* * * *
It was a solitary existence, and though it was one which Simon Simian was familiar it was never one to which he could become accustomed. He was the only of his kind, even among those ‘like’ him. The thought evoked a huff – his father, brothers and sisters may have shared the same blood, been neither fully man nor beast, but among them he was still unique.
In his admiration for humanity and his ability to observe kindness equal to their cruelty he was alone. No other ape of their intellect had the capacity to forgive the homo-sapiens, and for them Simon wept. Yet there he was, lingering in a secret bunker, plotting to act against the humans he proclaimed to be at peace with. The irony was not lost on him.
Searching for calm in forbidden technology Simon could not help but relive his humiliation again and again. The people stared and laughed and mocked – they robbed him of the dignity of honest work! His employers had given him fair opportunity and they would be spared of his wrath, but they could not give him what he most desired. No, such things had to be taken. The voice of his father was right about that, and only that.
Simon slipped free of his overalls, replacing them with the purple nanoweave suit that would protect him in the upcoming conflict. A varied arsenal was strapped to his form, some of which had only been conceptual until that day. Finally he put aside his glasses and in their place donned a more fitting set of flight goggles. He looked every part a super-villain, vulgar as he found that term to be.
His goal was simple – seek out Glimmer Girl. In his current attire he knew she would not be hard to intercept. “I’m so very sorry,” he whispered. “You would never understand otherwise.”
The platform beneath his feet roared to life and started to hover. Clamps hissed and fell to the ground, releasing their anchor on the tiny vessel. Guiding it with his thoughts Simon Simian rose from the depths and began to ascend through Milestone’s skyscrapers.
Now was the time to garner attention.
* * * *
Tanya Truman was searching for a cookie, and not just any cookie – she needed the kind of cookie that hadn’t been cooked all the way through that you could only get from a particular stand at the mall and had caramel mixed throughout. It was her cheer-up food of choice, and a day like this in which she felt frustrated and powerless she really, really needed one.
The mall was teeming with the after school crowd, most of whom were either loitering around the fountain or the food court. She avoided eye contact with the other girls marching into the department stores and turned her attention to the ants three levels below the railing she’d decided to perch on. So devoted to her idling was Tanya that she didn’t notice the boy behind her.
She turned and scoffed, and wondered why he wouldn’t have just walked by considering how she felt about him. “Can I help you?”
Jason Stone shuffled under her gaze, unsure of what to do. Understandably she was still pissed at him. “Nothing. Just ‘hey’.”
“Okay. ‘Hey’,” she retorted.
Tanya wasn’t particularly in the mood to talk to a traitor, and hoped he’d get the picture and leave. Unfortunately that was the last thing he seemed intent on doing, and joined her in peering over the edge.
Silence rang out between them, grating until Tanya finally snapped. “Seriously, what do you want?”
“You looked like you could use someone to talk to,” he shrugged.
“Even if I did have something on my mind you would be the last person I’d want to talk to,” she explained. That he was so unfazed by this fact only irritated her more.
He studied her closely. “It’s about Kaira, isn’t it?”
“Since when is it not about Kaira?” Tanya muttered. “The girl’s a drama magnet. Now she’s got rage issues on top of that.”
“Yeah, but you secretly like that about her, except for the rage part,” he observed. “Your superhero best friend is going through a powerful transition, and the shift in the friend dynamic is freaking you out. Like it or not, you don’t have many people you can confide in about that, so why not me?” The fact that he was right wound the girl tighter – he could probably see the springs aching behind her eyes.
“Look, I’m not saying this to step on your toes or anything,” he continued. “I’m just saying because my friend Tom, you know, my version of you from the other universe, went through exactly the same thing. If I can make things easier for you and Kaira then I want to.”
Tanya huffed. “I have a hard time believing you give a crap about anyone apart from yourself.”
Despite the opposition Jason pressed on. “Look,” he said, “it was a different time. I was desperate. When it’s all about survival you don’t think about other people. Now that I’m here I can afford to. I mean, come on.”
His pleas were becoming more pathetic, which amused Tanya in a morbid sort of way. Why on earth did he think she would suddenly change her mind about him? It had already been stated that she would never forgive him – you couldn’t get any clearer than that.
They stared at the lower pavilion, eyes vacant. After a minute of lingering she had to admit she was getting curious. “So what happened to you and Tommy that’s happening to Kaira and me?” she asked.
Jason smiled as though he were finally making progress. “She’s being herself for the first time,” he told her. “The floodgates are open and a lot of stuff is going to come out, like the anger at all of the injustice she thought she had to accept. Now that she doesn’t have to it’s going to run wild.”
His armchair psychology was sound, and concerning. “So what am I supposed to do about it? Let her be pissed off all the time?”
“Well yeah,” he reasoned. “I mean, she’s justified, isn’t she? You’ve seen all the crap she’s had to go through since grade school. You’d lose it too if you woke up one day and realized that it was wrong for you to go through all of that. It’s not that she didn’t know before or anything, but now she really knows… you know?”
“Let her get it out of her system,” Jason said. “Just don’t let her push you around.”
Tanya choked. That had to be a joke, right? “Kaira? Push me around?”
The boy was unfazed. “It’s more likely than you think. Listen, if you’re anything like Tom was then you love the girl like a sister, and because you’re so protective of her you give her more patience than you would anyone else in the world, meaning she’s the only one who can get away with something like that, but don’t let her. Seriously.”
That, she decided, made a lot of sense. Musing on the point Tanya looked to her unlikely companion and didn’t smile as she thanked him. Not that she was unappreciative, but for him to be a font of wisdom chafed her brain.
“You’re probably right,” she muttered. The admission tasted bitter on her tongue.
“Is that really so bad?”
The answer was obvious, she thought. Then, while shooting Jason a disgruntled eye Tanya took his sleeve and dragged him in the direction of the escalators. “Come on. We need coffee.”
“My treat,” she grunted. “You came to me with some sound advice. I don’t want you to feel like I owe you anything.” Tanya couldn’t believe what she was doing, and Jason seemed just as shocked.
“You don’t have to,” he sputtered. “My advice is free.”
“Kaira would tell me I owed you one, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not after any kind of incentive to be friends. So you’re going to accept this generous gift, then leave me the hell alone so we can go back to hating each other in peace. Got it?”
Jason furrowed his brown in confusion. “But… I… don’t hate you?”
“Good for you.”
Why was it so hard to keep enemies? Tanya didn’t want to be on good terms with Jason, yet there he was offering an olive branch like a jerk. What part of ‘I’ll never forgive you’ didn’t he understand? And now she was buying him coffee. Wherever Kaira was Tanya knew that she was laughing.
* * * *
A lot of people wouldn’t think it was hard to find a seven foot tall talking ape with glasses, but after hours of searching I wasn’t having much luck. That’s the thing about supervillains – on the whole they might be flashy, outrageous and hard to miss, but they also know the best corners to hide in, and since tracking has never been Glimmer Girl’s best skill I was going to have to wait for Simon to show himself.
The pressure was on and with each sweep of the city I felt the tension wrenching my chest. On Brandon’s instruction I’d talked to Captain Ramirez who wanted to know both what the hell I’d said to Simon to make him flip out and why I wasn’t in school – as if I needed another lecture about that. Really it was like something out of a cop movie. ‘My ass is on the line, the mayor’s breathing down my neck’, you know the drill. Being the city’s hero I was a good target for his anger, because I either had to ‘be useful or get out of the way.’
Whatever. Ramirez was the least of my problems. I was more worried about Simon. He was fine when I spoke to him, right? Maybe he wasn’t completely happy, but it was the little things that made up for it… just like it was the little things that were getting under his skin. Maybe something did had to give.
It was a shame. He had the potential to turn it all around, and still did if he didn’t go and do anything stupid.
Then, as if on cue, he did something stupid.
Soaring to the sound of screams I hoped that it was anyone but him – please let it have been the Society of Sin, Betty Bruiser or even Dr. Vortex! Just so long as Simon hadn’t fallen off the wagon. Even the smallest rampage would earn him a one way ticket back to the Chamber.
My fears were realized the second I saw purple. There was Simon, in costume, lording over the debris, scaring people, destroying in one fell swoop that which had taken years to build. To see the torment in his eyes pull apart his new life made me want to cry. Gods, just once couldn’t there be a happy ending?
Despite the panic nobody had been hurt, at least not yet. Simon’s attack wasn’t random – he’d turned on the zoo that had employed him only the day before. Of course there were less dramatic ways of quitting, but where was the fun in that?
Walls had been blasted down, giving way for the animals to chase bystanders. There were monkeys, flamingos, a furious rhino charging down the street – it might have taken out a taxi if it weren’t for a couple of hard light bolts landing at its feet.
I surveyed the scene. This kind of chaos couldn’t be fixed with punching – the situation called for containment, which wasn’t exactly easy when your power was to shoot bolts from your hands. There was only one thing I could do, and though the city was going to be royally pissed I poured all my focus into a wide-blast and carved a make-shift moat in the road, forming a chasm wide enough to keep the animals from crossing.
Dropping to the ground I stopped for air. Did the plan work? Judging from the ticked off lioness halted at the edge I would think so. Great, I could take care of the next problem. Digging deep for a surge of power I soared to the sky until I was floating eye to eye with the one responsible for all this.
While dashing about the city I’d thought of a great speech to give about goal-setting, tolerance, all that heroic stuff, but it all went flying out the window when I saw his face. “Simon! What the hell!?” Eloquent as always, GG – just like a real hero would be.
“You would not understand, girl,” he snorted, then turned away like he was ashamed. In truth he should have been.
“Okay, time out, big guy. You’re talking like your megalomaniac father, as in the one you don’t talk to anymore. My name isn’t ‘girl’, it’s ‘Glimmer Girl’ and I’m your friend, remember?”
“Leave me alone!” A half-hearted palm flew out in my direction, and though it was easy to avoid it could have still smacked me halfway to the horizon.
“Simon, you need to calm down. Check yourself,” I told him. “I’m telling you this for your own good. Friends don’t let friends lay waste to zoos full of innocent animals.”
“Those animals deserve liberation,” he argued.
“Really, Simon, if you believed that then you would have thought of a better plan. You know that letting them loose on scared people will make them do something drastic and stupid.” He knew I was right – the tension in his shoulders said so. He didn’t want me to see it, but his body language wasn’t exactly subtle. “Why don’t you tell me what this is all about, huh? We can sit down, have that coffee you wanted.”
He snorted with resentment. “Is terrorizing a populace what I must do to earn a shared beverage?”
“It’s either that or I blast you, and believe it or not, Simon, I like you too much to want to do that, but I will if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
“You would never understand,” he grunted.
The ape propelled himself from me and stared with hate in his eyes – hate and loneliness. I felt bad for him, I really did, and soon he would be punished for expressing the sum of his hurt. If only he could have chosen a healthier way.
“Don’t patronize me!” he accused. “How could you ever comprehend what it is like to walk between two worlds, to not be one or the other? To be forever judged for what you are in place of your words, your actions, your more than significant contribution to the world! I walk this path alone, Glimmer Girl. Do not attempt to convince me otherwise.”
“But you’re not alone,” I told him. “You don’t know it, Simon, but you just told my life story.” Careful, Kaira – don’t reveal too much. “There’s a better way than this. Please, give me your hand.”
My palm stretched out as an olive branch. It was better than a closed fist. I knew he would take it.
Simon considered the gesture and shook his head. “You are wrong,” he muttered. “I am alone… but at least I will not be alone for long.”
Before I had the chance to ask he’d already drawn another weapon – stupid me was still trying to talk. I tried to dodge but there was no avoiding the beam’s scope.
What did he hit me with? Something strange was happening. I’d never felt anything like it before…
* * * *
Tanya was struggling. It had been, what, two hours? Two hours since she’d asked Jason to join her for coffee, a labor she hoped would only last the handful of minutes it took for her to chug an icy frappicino, but she’d been caught up and couldn’t leave. Gods, she didn’t even want to leave! Despite her hatred of him Jason was great conversation, and given the chance she would chat with him all night.
She listened to his stories about Tommy, the guy who was supposed to be the male version of her.
Jason lit up as he spoke. “Tommy always told me not to get so down. He’d say ‘dude, I was born a guy and I have bigger boobs than you.’ And I’d say ‘yeah, but… that’s because you’re fat and junk.’ So he gave me this look and stuffed a donut in my mouth, then told me to get back to work!”
There were a million stories just like that, all just as dorky, and Tanya laughed with them. They sounded a lot like her and Kaira, but that was the whole point, wasn’t it?
“Kaira was always super-jealous of my boobs,” she confessed, “and I’d be like ‘take them!’ I mean look at these things. I could easily stand to lose half of that.”
“So long as it’s half the total mass and not just a single boob,” Jason laughed. “You’d both look really weird with one giant boob each.”
“You know the freaky part? Kaira made exactly the same joke.”
Coffee had turned to talking, and soon the talking had turned into a stroll through the park. Not that they were trying to be romantic or anything – that was the last thing on their minds, but the college crowd made the shop stifling, and the rowdy twenty-somethings were getting in the way of their string of anecdotes.
Strangest of all Tanya found herself not wanting to hate the guy. Maybe it was because she felt disconnected from her other friend or maybe it was because he was a decent person deep down, but either way she couldn’t be bothered with anger anymore. It wasn’t like she needed more of it to carry around.
“Listen, about this whole ‘never forgiving you’ thing…”
“I know,” Jason said. “It’s cool.”
She shoved him in the arm and tutted him. “Let me finish, you jerk!” Tanya grinned to let him know that everything was okay. “Like I was saying, I may have been a bit hard on you. Turns out you’re kind of okay.”
“’Kind of’ okay?” he repeated.
“Hey, don’t push your luck! Yesterday you were the biggest ass in the world. I can easily put you back on my $#@% list.” The fact that she was laughing as she said it did not make her sound convincing, but she didn’t care.
Jason grinned and shrugged. “Apology accepted.”
Tanya scoffed. Perhaps she was premature in letting the walls down, but at least he had a sense of humor about it all. That definitely counted for something. Maybe after a while they really could be friends. Who knew?
It was already dark, meaning Tanya had somewhere to be. “Listen, Jason, I need to get back home. Usually my mom is pretty liberal about curfew, but it’s still a school night and… you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Me too.”
“You need a ride?”
The boy grinned with every tooth in his mouth. “I’d really appreciate it. I mean I’d usually fly, but since TASK took my powers away it’s either the beetle or the bus.”
She gestured for him to follow as she started the journey back to her car. Why not give the kid a lift? It seemed the least she could do after keeping her entertained for the afternoon, and the evening, and boy, the time really did fly past them.
Halfway through another story, something involving Kaira and a wardrobe malfunction at a water park, Tanya was halted by a picture in a store window. A retailer selling TVs had left a few of them on, and broadcast was a news report with the headline ‘Simon Simian attacks local zoo.’ Also on screen was the aura of Glimmer Girl for whom Tanya feared.
“She’s going to be fine,” Jason said. “Monkeys and apes are pushovers. They’re more annoying than anything.”
No sooner had he spoken than a burst of light enveloped the picture, and when it dimmed the superheroine had changed. What remained was only vaguely human – elongated limbs, hunched shoulders, massive proportions – she was no longer a Glimmer Girl, but a Glimmer Gorilla!
Tanya blinked at the image not sure of what to think. Scared as she was for her friend she was also confused. This didn’t make any sense.
“I think you spoke too soon,” she muttered to Jason.
* * * *
To be continued…