I was eleven years old when I first fell in love with the Wasp.
I was lying on my bed up in my room one night, going over some homework while flicking channels on my TV, when I came across the Jay Leno show. I didn't normally watch it, but for some reason something made me leave it on. He was talking to Janet van Dyne, also known as the Wasp in that superhero team, the Avengers. Jay was just chatting away with her about her life as a superhero, her love life with her husband and fellow Avenger Hank Pym, AKA Giant-Man, the usual sort of stuff.
Now I knew about the Avengers, and I knew who Janet van Dyne was, but up until now I had never really paid that much attention to her, or to any other superhero for that matter. She sat there in a short, silk blue dress that left her shoulders bare and showed off her long legs, and it suddenly hit me how beautiful she was. I didn't care what she and Jay were saying to each other; I just wanted to drink in every inch of her lovely body and face. I was hooked, no doubt about it.
It was kind of pathetic, when I think about it now, but after that I just couldn't get enough of her. I would look for photos of her in magazines and on the internet; I typed her name into Google to find out anything I could about her. She was sexy, but there was also something so very, very....sweet about her.
One day I learned that the Avengers, including the Wasp, would be coming to my school to talk to the kids about issues affecting them. Oh God, this was it! I was finally going to meet the woman of my dreams in the flesh, at long last! I could hardly sleep that night for the excitement.
The next day, I sat amongst all the other children in my school in the main hall as one by one, Colonel America, Iron Man, Thor, and Hawkeye stood up on the platform and gave speeches about things like coping with bullying, drug abuse, and respecting authority. Looking up at them, I did have to admire them for their courage and loyalty, their devotion to our country's ideals.
Afterwards, all the kids swarmed around the Avengers for autographs. I struggled to keep down the butterflies in my stomach as I walked over to Janet van Dyne, clad in her skintight red and yellow costume. "Uh, Miss van Dyne? This is for you," I said, holding out a single bright red rose I had bought the day before.
For a moment she just looked at it and me in a surprised kind of way, and then she smiled and reached out and took it in her gloved hand. "Why, thank you very, very much, young man! This is beautiful," she said warmly, and then she leaned down to give me a quick, light kiss on the cheek. Galaxies exploded into infinity inside my mind at that moment; my legs felt like they had turned into ice water and were collapsing underneath me. I watched her walk gracefully away with my rose in her hand, unable to move or speak. A few of the other kids laughed and snickered at me in my stupor, but I was beyond caring.
Then came the day of the purple lightning in the sky.
My folks were out for the day, so I had the apartment all to myself. I was sitting on the couch with a bag of popcorn watching my favourite TV show, when I saw it and felt it. It was way on the other side of town, but I clearly saw the bright flash from out of the clouds in the distance, and felt the odd vibration that came a second later. Sitting there looking out of the window, I suddenly felt really cold and scared, like I'd seen a freshly dug grave with my name on the headstone. It's hard to explain.
After a few minutes I changed the channel and saw a live news report. The Avengers had arrived at the spot where something had shot down out of the sky in the lightning flash and crashed into the street. A camera crew was filming the Avengers descending into the crater, led by Colonel America. I could see Hawkeye, Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, and the Black Widow with him, but no sign of the Wasp. I felt a little disappointed, but a moment later I was glad she wasn't there, because that was when the man in the tattered yellow costume leaped screaming out of the pit and began tearing into the Avengers - literally. I remember swearing and hurling my popcorn all over the floor when I saw that.
Then the horror really started. The camera was shaking around wildly, but I clearly saw Colonel America lunge for a group of screaming bystanders....and bit chunks of flesh out of them. He and the other Avengers were ripping them apart, spraying blood and gore everywhere. "Oh, Jesus Christ, what's happening!" the cameraman was shrieking. The camera showed only the road now as he ran away from the slaughter behind him. Then there was a growl and a scream as something crashed into the man and the camera, lying on its side on the ground, showed him screaming for mercy before the Black Widow bit into his throat.
I switched off the TV and stumbled into the bathroom. I dropped to my knees and puked my guts out into the toilet, then just sat there shivering and crying at what I had seen. The Avengers had turned into monsters. I could hear police sirens in the distance, lots of them. And then I thought of mom and dad; they were out there somewhere in all that! I grabbed my phone from out of my room and dialed my mom's number. Nothing. No reply. I tried my dad. Zip. Were they already dead? Had those monsters already caught them and....no, I couldn't think about that now.
People were moving around a lot in the apartments above and next to ours, and were running down the hallways outside. Adults were yelling, children were crying. They were getting away while they could. I thought about joining them, opening the door, down the stairs, and running as fast and as far as I could. But what if mom and dad came home and I wasn't here? I had to wait for them. Besides, at the time I figured I might well be safer inside than outside, with those things roaming around. I briefly thought about the Wasp. Had she become infected by now, or was she still safe and helping to contain the situation? What the hell was going to happen?
It's been hours now. I think all the other people in the building are gone. I've tried calling my parents a few more times, but there's no response. A little while ago I turned on the radio. Other superheroes are turning into zombies and are attacking everyone in sight. Virtually the entire city is a war zone now. From where I'm hiding inside the closet, I sometimes think I hear screams and explosions from far away.
My parents are dead, I know that now. I wonder how much longer I've got left. Maybe I should've left with everyone else, at least then I might -
There's a soft footfall outside and the closet door creaks open, and I see her standing there in the twilight, dressed in her costume. She must've flown through the gap under the front door. "Janet," I say softly. Does she recognise me from that day a few years ago at school? I gave her a flower and she loved it. She loves me. She won't hurt me, she's a hero.
Her eyes are cold and hungry. Her skin is no longer soft and beautiful. She runs her tongue over her flaky lips and hisses "Hungry!"
Fourteen-year old Donald Hart died at the hands of Janet van Dyne, the Wasp. She never recognised him as the boy she met years earlier; he was just another meal to her.