by The Dark One
A fictional short story written for a contest about what it takes to be a hero, 3rd place
It Takes a Heart
By: Matthew Harper (T.D.O.) January 17, 2008
What makes a hero? The super powers they are gifted? The heavy burden they always seem to carry so lightly? The cool outfit they always seem to have handy? Or is it something else entirely? I found out through a horrible incident I will never forget…
The day was May 18, 2004 and I was 10 years old. It was near to midnight when it happened; I woke up with my heart pounding and my mind racing, I didn’t know why until I felt the cool air coming in from my window. Mom always closes my window at night, before I go to bed, she says I’ll catch a cold if I leave it open. I got up to close it, wondering why mom had forgotten tonight, and how I hadn’t noticed earlier. I got the window halfway closed when I heard a shout from across the house… Mom and Dad must have been fighting, I guessed, that’s why she forgot.
I went back to bed, hoping they would stop soon. Mom and dad fought like this sometimes, always after they thought I had gone to bed, so I wouldn’t hear. It never seemed serious and they were always happy the next day; I thought all parents acted like that sometimes. The air had stopped and my room started getting warmer really fast, I tried to go back to sleep but the cover was suddenly too hot. I got out from under the blanket, wondering if I had caught a cold and what I should do, when another yell came from inside the house. It didn’t sound like Mom or Dad. It was definitely a man, but it didn’t sound like my Dad.
I thought I imagined it, until I heard a woman scream. I thought it was my Mom, but I wasn’t sure. It sounded like they were in pain. I couldn’t think straight, that scream seemed to have broken my brain. It was getting even hotter in my room, and there were footsteps coming towards me, big footsteps. They sounded like the steps a grizzly bear would take. The door to my room opened and a man stepped in wearing all black. He had on a mask and he was wearing a cool looking belt. He looked like a super hero, Batman, I thought. Until I saw the woman he was dragging by the hair behind him, I thought she might be the villain, but she didn’t look mean. She looked like she was crying, I didn’t know the woman, but I wanted the man in black to stop hurting her.
He hurried in and threw the woman on the bed next to me. he had a mean voice and he seemed to almost growl when he told her to “Keep the brat quiet! I hear one tear fall and he‘s dead!” I knew that this was the bad guy, the woman didn’t look like a hero though, she looked like a normal person. Then I thought of Superman and Supergirl. They looked like normal people too, until they showed their super powers; but she was crying. Heroes never cry, that meant that the hero hadn’t made it yet. He was probably on his way to save the girl.
The man moved to my window and looked out, watching the red and blue lights that had just appeared. I realized those were the cops, but in the comics the cops never do much. The villain always had a clever plan to keep the cops away until the hero showed up. I figured that the hero would arrive any second and sat back, relaxed, to watch the villain get his butt kicked.
The girl spoke to me, “Everything will be okay, he‘s going to leave soon and you‘ll be safe.”
“Of course, the hero always comes to save the women and children!” I replied with a smile. It all seemed ready to fall into place, the cops just started to call on their megaphones. The hero always showed up right now! I beamed and waited. The hero didn’t come busting through my window. The man just yelled at the cops to get back, I looked out my bedroom door and realized why it was so hot in my room. The man had started a fire near the front door to keep the cops out, it was blazing! No matter how hot the fire, it wouldn’t stop the hero. The hero always ran through and came out unharmed every time. Didn’t this guy read comic books?
The man was starting to get annoyed at the cops now; I wondered where the hero was and didn’t listen to the conversation… until I heard my mother shout “NO!” The sound of my mothers voice caught my attention in time for me to look around at the man in black pulling out a gun. The gun never hurts the hero, I thought, so what is he aiming at? He pointed the gun at me. My eyes went wide and I finally realized that I was actually in danger here! That hero had better get here soon!
The man repeated his last sentence to the cops again, “I want out of here with a promise that I will not be arrested for any of this! I want out of here scot-free, or the kid‘ll be coming out on a stretcher!” He cocked the gun, none of my super villains were this violent! No way this guy was from my comics! If Superman was coming, he had better get here now! There was a lot of hushed talking outside and the cops seemed to actually be trying to decide what to do. Or maybe they were stalling for Superman’s sake; maybe he was off helping another kid and would get here soon.
“You took too long! I‘ve got hostages to spare!” The man looked back at me and pulled the trigger! The world stopped spinning, the gun fired in slow motion, and the woman jumped in the way! The bullet hit her instead of me. She fell to the floor, a puddle of black blood pooling around her. This was NOT in my comics! Superman wasn’t coming. Batman was busy, the Flash was on hold, and I was all alone with this man who had just shot someone! The comics didn’t go like this!
The man smiled, actually smiled! He opened the window and jumped out. The cops never saw him leave, they were busy trying to stop my Mom from running through the flames at the door. I finally looked back out my bedroom door; the flames weren’t just at the door anymore, they were almost to my room! The cops yelled and a fire truck pulled up outside, my Mom took her chance. She ran through the flames, yelping and getting burned, all the way to my room and slammed the door behind her. She made sure I was alright. Then she noticed the woman and asked me what happened, I told her that the woman had been shot trying to save me. She sat down on the floor with me and cried for her, saying that she deserved better than a bullet. I thought she sounded like one of the heroes in my comic’s right then.
The firemen were outside now, spraying the house with water, while my Dad told the cops the man had run. They sent three cars after him and the other two stayed near the house to get me and my Mom out of the window. The fire went out and the police helped Mom and me out. The cops caught the man who ran away, and I finally found out the whole story. The man had brought the woman from the last house he robbed. He had thought to rob us, and “do, only God knew what with the woman.” Or so says the cop who told us this.
He got in through my unlocked window. My Dad called the police when he heard the woman yelling at the robber. My parents came downstairs, but were chased out of the house at gunpoint when the robber found out that the cops were coming. He set the floor and walls, near the door, on fire to stall the cops. Then he brought the woman back to my room, in case I had woken up. Apparently, he “probably didn‘t want to hear the kid crying” while he talked with the police. He tried to shoot me, thinking he could still threaten the cops with the woman. He slipped away when he thought no one was looking. Luckily, my Dad was watching and started to chase the man himself. He let his anger get the best of him. When he got shot at, he thought better of it, and came back for the police.
What makes a hero? I thought about that a lot over the next few weeks. I thought about everyone I considered to be a hero now: The police for catching the bad guy, the firefighters who stopped the fire before it destroyed our house, and the woman who gave her life for a kid she didn’t know. Of course, my parents for loving me, both risking their lives to save me and stop the villain. Is a hero just in the powers? No one who saved me that night had super powers. Is it the suit that makes the hero? The only person who was dressed like a hero from my comics was the bad guy. What does make a hero? I thought long and hard and I can say that a hero is made by heart. The courage to risk their life or maybe even give their life to save someone else. The will to stop the villain or put out the fires of someone else’s home.
The emotion that allows you to love and care for another is what makes a hero. If you can love and stand up for others in any way, you are a hero. I think there are more heroes today than most people would guess, those heroes just haven’t found their call to action yet. They are waiting for their turn to help someone else, to be a hero, without even realizing it. My comics burned that night… and I didn’t care.