I have always wondered what peoples' reaction would be were they to encounter an actual "superhero". Graphic novels, comics, movies and books describe the awesomeness of protectors like Superman, Wonderwoman, Spiderman and Mr. Fantastic, and how everyone reveres them. Spiderman has a hard time being accepted into his world because many, including his boss, call him a villain. The X-Men movies also voice the issues that normal humans would have with some people having super powers. I am not sure that we would ever give them a chance to show their benevolence. I think that jealousy would be a catalyst for the fear and isolation of superhuman beings.
For this story I wanted to combine the world of superheroes from the Marvel comics, Greek mythology, some space nerdiness and the concept of colonization of a new frontier along with Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. In this world the superheroes from the Marvel comics exist or once existed and are known throughout the colonies in the Milky-Way Galaxy.
A young girl with super powers tells the story of how she acquired her powers that make her so different from the other colonists on her star, Charon Moon Colony Seven, her struggle in isolation and her attempt to enter back into the colony through baking. You may recognize Charon as the ferryman for the River Styx in Greek mythology, but Charon is also the name of a dwarf star of Pluto. In Mel's world nine Charon moons have been discovered and inhabited by humans.
Mel's only friend Mat acts as her nerdy protector and poet. I shortened Ma'at the Egyptian goddesses of justice's name, to Mat, so his name is not missing a letter. He voices the only reason and truth amongst the colonists because he does not fear or run away from Mel when she becomes different. For Mat, Mel's "M" means muse, not monster or menace. Melpomene was the Greek muse of tragedy and song. Mel's real name is not Melpomene but Mat calls her this because of her sadness and loss of all of the people were close to her, but she still sings and acts as Mat's muse and inspiration.
The way that the Colony Elders seek to isolate and mark Mel comes in the form of an "M" that Mel must wear all the time. This label parallels the letter that the elders of Boston force Hester Prynne to wear in the Scarlet Letter. I did not give the real meaning of the "M" but I did provide several possible definitions. Mel's "M" could mean muse, menace, monster, or magician. Like the "A" that Hester Prynne wears, Mel's "M" does not represent one thing.
Unlike Hester Prynne, Mel has no partner in her "crime", but she does find herself alone in accepting its punishments and consequences. They both have a single companion, protector and ally whose company they regret from time to time. The forest stands in in both stories as a place of wild and beautiful but different creatures and happenings. Hester's daughter Pearl finds herself in harmony with everything that lives and happens in the forest and Mel gains her power on one of her trips into the forest.
The color red also parallels in "Super(Heroine)" to Scarlet Letter. The red light that flashes, giving Mel her powers, her initially red glow, the red moonstone forest, and the red dust that settles after the earthquake.
I once read that on another planet called Earth, humans revere people with my powers. Those people wear letters on their chests that stand for "super" and "wonder", but even they hide their real identities. Here on Charon Moon Colony Seven I am not permitted to hide my identity. As soon as the citizens of Star Seven found out that I could fly, had super strength, x-ray vision, and could bake better than all of their wives, they stuck this "M" on me and started selling kryptonite necklaces. Kryptonite acts the same way on super humans as garlic does on vampires, i.e. it does not do anything. They are both rumors. I started the kryptonite one to give normal humans some sense of security around me. When I walk outside to get my mail, my neighbors avert their eyes, scurry back inside or pull their bathrobes closer around themselves. When they do the latter I want to scream at them, "The term x-ray vision means I can look through metal, concrete and wood, not clothes! As if I would even look!" There may be a time in the far future when these people realize that I am not here to hurt them or disrupt their peace. Until then, maybe I can convince you.
On the night of my sixteenth birthday my friends and I grabbed flashlights and trekked out to the moonstone forest behind my house. These strange growths of red rock that look like trees intrigued the first settlers on this moon, but were normal to us. About a mile in we stopped and lay down to watch the moon traffic, visible only from the Charon Moon colonies. We watched silently as the other eight moons orbited around Pluto. As we made our seventh orbit all of the moons began to slow down, an event not predicted to happen for another four million star-years. This lack of motion startled us out of our awe and we looked around at each other in panic as the eight other Charon moons aligned themselves behind Pluto, seemingly to aim themselves at us. A blinding red light flashed and every nerve in my body complained as electricity stampeded through my body. When I regained consciousness, I became aware of a faint rosy-hued glow, but could not locate it. I recognized my friends' faces, but they seemed terrified. I looked down as my shimmering self slowly rose in the air and my friends ran away screaming, "Monster!"
At first nobody believed what had happened because only the bright cherry tint emanating from my body testified for me. I looked more sunburned than superhuman. Controlling my powers did not take as long as getting the radiation to go away, but the Colony Elders were not willing to wait for me to get myself together. The old coots bid me wear this awful red "M". Whenever I became angry or overemotional, I would hover several feet off of the ground, grind a pencil into dust between my thumb and index finger or take an unwanted glance into the inner workings of the boys' locker room. All of my classmates, teachers and former "friends" stayed as far away from me as possible. Everyone except for Mat.
I suppose that I should have been more grateful from the beginning for Mat's friendship, but I mostly resented it when he started following me around. Mat studies star patterns avidly, writes tragic poetry and reads novels about other planets and stars inhabited by humans. When Mat began following me around school I figured that he had some weird nerd crush on me. Mat never stopped talking and people snickered when we walked through the hall. I spent all of my free time trying to avoid him; however, Mat proved to be extremely determined to be my friend. When I returned to school, glowing like a jack-o-lantern, Mat's puppy dog loyalty never faltered. He showed me the comics and histories of the freaks like me; only on other planets they were called heroes.
One day, about two week after I had been changed, some stupid football players at school decided to test my powers. Eleven of them gathered around me, and I could have beaten them easily with my strength, but doing so would have ruined my life. The Colony Elders would have banished me, and sent me to some newly discovered planet. So I resolved to do nothing, and let them bother me. They trapped me against a wall, and one of them came closer. He started poking at me, and taunting me, provoking me. As much as I would have liked to send him flying into next Monday, I just stood there. They all drew closer.
"Please stop," I said. The boys snickered.
Suddenly, Mat came skidding through the mob and stopped in front of me, facing them.
"Hey, fellas. Coach is looking for you and he says that if you show up late, you have to run sprints," Mat said.
To my surprise they groaned, looked around at one another and skulked off. From then on we switched roles: I was the dependent one, but Mat was okay with that.
My parents had no interest in supporting me, much less being associated with me in any way. They never mentioned me, and no one ever asked. Whenever we had parties, my parents told me to stay in my room and not to make any noise. I felt like Harry Potter without Hogwarts. As soon as I was done with high school, my parents kicked me out and gave me money to keep me quiet and out of trouble. I guess that shows that they cared a little bit…maybe. I had no intention of going to college, so I bought a building in town and turned it into a bakery.
Baking allows me to escape the loneliness I feel because of all the effort baking takes. Like chemistry, if you do not pay attention you could end up with singed eyebrows or a very sad-looking soufflé. My pastries do not judge me. I channel my strength into kneading and stirring. I never use a timer on the oven because I can see right through the door. The citizens may be afraid of me, but they cannot withstand the temptation of my baking, especially my moon pies. I cater every event on Moon Seven in need of cakes, breads or pastries. Outside the front door of the bakery hangs a bright and inviting sign that says "MEL'S BAKERY". On weekends Mat does not have classes, so he keeps me company while I knead, stir, bake, and frost. He also protects me from obnoxious children who run in to laugh and point at my "M". I often force-feed him cupcakes and bread. Mat has the stereotypical starving poet look. I sing while I work and Mat calls me Melpomene and scribbles in his journal, though I never understand why.
On April 18 of the star year 1,900,006, tremors rocked Moon Seven, destroying homes and buildings and crumbling most of our beautiful crimson moonstone forest. Dark red dust settled over the wreckage and people climbed out of the debris cautiously. As soon as I wheedled my way out from between the ovens, pushing heavy pieces of brick wall aside with ease, I flew high above the rubble and scanned my ruined bakery for Mat. I found him pinned beneath some rafters.
My poet had been killed.
I lifted the beams gently from his gangly frame and rose again into the air. I laid him down next to the bakery's fallen sign. After trying unsuccessfully to stop crying I walked about, offering help to those who would receive it. It seemed that in times of desperation, very few of my enemies remained my enemies. The acknowledgement of my powers in a positive manner came abruptly and chaotically. Suddenly everyone seemed keen to learn the extent of my powers and begged me to use them to save the townspeople. They called out to me, "Mel, Mel! Please will you save (insert name here)?" Several even apologized for treating me poorly in the past. It felt so good to show off and get so much encouraging attention. I wondered if Superman felt this way all the time.
When I had finished, I returned to Mat. I pulled his journal from his pocket to finally understand his strange ways and words. Mat had mostly written about me, but also he had written down the lyrics of the songs that I sang in the bakery. Abandoned again, I read and reread Mat's journal with hope that I would find him emerging, alive, from its pages.