Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And the Chamber of Secrets

Sarah liked having straight-ish hair. It framed her face. As a normal person it made her look sweet and pretty, if a little devious. As a superhero it looked dramatic and spectacular, long tresses of red hair reflecting in the light over the city. It was good having straight-ish hair.

of course she didn't actually have straight-ish hair. Her natural hair was a bundle of curls and tresses that, if she left it, would look like a poof ball. Perhaps literally. There was an expression that the only honest person a woman was honest to was their hairdresser, but she never told Jan that her genetic structure was screwy. It was one of the things about being a super-being. The fact that she looked even real close 100% human was luck. Given her powers there was every chance she should have a third arm or something like that. But no, she wasn't a character designed by Chris Claremont for one of the weirder X-men stories, or Will Eisner in his supposedly realistic ones. She was Sarah Jennings: Normal person.

And Sarah Jennings, every month or so, trudged over to Universal Salon and had Jan work magic on her hair.

Jan was a nice woman, a large African American woman who was friendly, good with hair, and quick with a smile...if occasionally a bit quiet for a hairdresser. Which was perfect for Sarah.

The salon was busy on a late afternoon. She had an appointment for 4pm, but when she got there Jan was still busy with someone else’s hair. She had a nightshoot tonight. She didn't like it, but well, it was life. A night-shout actually. Working with guns on set (one of her primary jobs) was messy and loud, even if she could wear ear protection she always got powder on herself. It was an irony of kind of both her jobs. She wasn't actually very good with guns - in the shoot a broadside of a barn department (well, she could hit the side of a barn...). Armourers on film set were frequently ex-military, or cops, who really knew guns in the talk to them and join the NRA sense. She went to a class and now had a little card. Of course, unlike her most of them hadn't been shot hundreds of time and walked away from it, or had thugs throw them at them in anger after they were done wasting bullets. Most people thought superman didn't bother with guns because, well, why would Superman bother? They didn't know really, again, broadside: Barn.

But now they were going to a high school in the middle of the night, to shoot blanks in the hallways in an elaborate chase sequence through the stairwells and halls. They’d be doing fights, and stunts...and well, having a rough evening all around. An evening where people would sweat, skin there knees, and inhale too much gunsmoke.

But, well...she should look her best for it.

She had this moment of calm, and before she got dirty and smelly she had the option of reading magazines. Marie Claire, Vouge, Redbook - all the stuff she normally kept away from. This could potentially be fun, but not today. She had serious stuff to do.

She was reading Harry Potter. Book 2. She was doing this.

Whenever she looked at it she felt slightly guilty. Sarah was a girl geek. Harry Potter, as a fan phenomena, seemed designed for girl geeks. Yet she never really got into it. She had watched a couple of the movies over the years but could never crack open the books.

They were big books, and by the time she was consciously aware of them there were, like, three or four of them. Big books usually didn't stop her - she had enjoyed Wheel of Time, Archangel, and Mortal Instruments, even Game of Thrones. All of which were large and multivolume works.

She felt guilty though. Harry Potter, friends told her, was one of the seminal works of recent fiction – fantasy genre or otherwise - and the intricate universe it created was amazing. And, as mentioned, written by a woman. It also wasn't really constructed as a romance, had a non-female protagonist, and did have a complex universe that may or may not have been stolen from Dungeons and Dragons, but was something remarkable. In short, despite jokes about how the the rules of quiditch where *stupid*, that it takes nearly 3000 pages to do anything, and how some characters were incredibly deep while some were stereotypes, it was a good book series worth study. Which she should have read long ago.

Unlike like Twilight, which Sarah *loved*. Mostly because Edward was dreamy.

Sarah opened the book and sighed. She had managed to get through the first book and thought it was fun. It had a good sense of its own reality, creating a world where a 12 year old can function yet it suggested adults lived in, if only at the sides. The central mystery, the fact that the seemingly nice teacher was the villain while the evil teacher, while thoroughly unpleasant, was in fact a good-guy, had been fun. As had all of the magic stuff. 

She was 100 pages into this book...and found it was less so. Not lacking in fun, just less of it. Lots of stuff about house elves and magic car chases. Still, she read on. she owed it to...the publisher who already bought the book? The people who had read it 10 years ago and weren't going to talk to her about it? JK Rowling, who she once saw on the Simpsons and who seemed to have the proper level of weary resignation in dealing with fans?

She continued. There was magic here. She just had find it.

Even in a very bright salon, with mid 90s R&B hits playing in the background. Toni Braxton. She liked Toni Braxton abstractly. Something about waterfalls and chasing them.

Sarah looked over to see one of the other dressers working on a woman with long hair - and by long, I mean like 4 or 5 feet. It was weird. Did she wear it up or something? Sarah thought of Cord, a superheroine who lived in Denver. Her power was she could control her hair - turn it into ropes, whips or vines, or just use it to attack and grab people, like tentacles. It seemed a kind of painful power, as her hair was part of her. But in video Sarah had seen it looked kind of cool. Not always useful, perhaps, as Cord combined it with natural martial arts and a helicopter, but cool. Sarah had never met her. Despite the fact that going east Denver was probably the first really big city. Shame. The superhero world was pretty small, but it wasn't a very social one - no national conferences or stuff like that - that could be fun...

But wait. She was being distracted from Harry Potter. Curse the woman and her digression-causing lengthy hair.

She must be a supervillain...

"Hey, I can see you now, Sarah."

Sarah got up, watching the woman suspiciously.

"How long have we gotten it, Sarah?" asked Jan "Want it half-inch?"

"That sounds about right," said Sarah. "I'm just getting a little frizzy."

Jan nodded and quietly got to work. Working the straighteners would take some time and require ironing which Jane worked on.

And Sarah had a book. Ooh Mr. Potter, take me to Hogwarts...

She got into it. They where playing one of the improbably scored games of Quiditch as Jan worked, feeling herself transported to another world far away from...

Sarah heard something. Of course she heard something.

Outside someone was getting smashed into the window. It wasn't quite hard enough for the window to smash, which somehow worse. Sarah had been through her share of windows. That actually didn't hurt all that much. It’s when the glass held that you noticed it. Glass - harder than you might think.

The person against the wall was obviously a homeless man. She couldn't tell his age, but the age of homeless men was often hard to gauge. He wore a large trenchcoat that would offer some protection against...what exactly she wasn't sure. He was fighting, or being assaulted by, another homeless man. His attacker was wearing a similar trenchcoat. They could be part of the trenchcoat mafia that so terrified the early nineties. Sarah sighed.

She was being pampered. Her hair was being done, she was reading Harry Potter, and Sarah was feeling good. Her first impulse was to let the scene play out, let find its own end.

But...

Well...

She saw blood. Not “someone’s going to die” blood, but blood nonetheless, on the window.

And even without that, she knew she would not have been able to let it carry on.

She pushed off the sheet.

"Hey!" Jan protested.

“Be back in a minute.”

Sarah walked out the door to see the two men still fighting. He first was clearly much older and weaker then the man who was beating him. The younger man looked like he would make a good thug, maybe even a minor villain, if life had been kinder. He had big eyes. Not big ears, mouth or teeth, but rather large eyes.

"HEY!" she shouted at them.

You would be surprised how often that worked.

Big-eyes looked at her (using said eyes). Nope. It wasn’t going to work this time.

He punched Sarah square in the face. She sold it. This kind of thing was always tricky for Sarah. ‘Mazing Girl, naturally, didn't feel much of any pain - she could have taken it all day and her worst injury would be boredom. But "Sarah", ‘Mazing’s non-face-punch-taking alter ego could not. At least, she could not be seen to. So Sarah sold big-eyes blow, reacted to it as he might expect. But really, she didn't know if she did a good job there. She could have over sold it or under sold it. The fake taking of punches was a skill Sarah didn't really have.

He came at her in a rage of a scream, unfocused and unworded, using his larger mass to simply attack her for everything he was worth.

Sarah wasn't wearing her costume - she was wearing several hair care extends in her hair, but not her costume. What she was about to try might work, but it was risky...

She grabbed him. Sarah moved her body, picking him up from the ground and slamming him into the street with a considerable amount of force.

It looked like a judo throw, but wasn't a judo throw...well, it did the trick.

He kept screaming. He just kept screaming.

He kicked at her. She sold it for a half a second - before she realized that the wild attack didn't even make any contact. She hoped no one noticed.

****

It took about 10 minutes for the police to come. During that time a couple of people helped her with Big-eyes, who clearly looked to be on a non-prescription drug of some kind. The noise got to her.

She sighed.

Sarah looked at the man who Big-eyes had beaten. He was certainly older, obviously defeated in life...a sad wreck of man. She got his name: Thomas. He was minding his own business in his place in the alley when...well, when Big-eyes showed up out of nowhere.

Sarah knew what would happen. Big-eyes would spend a couple of days in the psych ward, and then be released...and probably get more of what he’d been on this time for whatever fucking reason, maybe even bother Thomas again. Not much the law was that interested in doing. Californian penal law was fucked. Sarah knew this pretty well. Actual dangerous persons were less of a priority than locking up someone who stole a loaf of bread 15 years ago. Fucked.

Sarah had done what a superhero should do. She had beaten the bad guy, even if he wasn't much of a threat. The police came, got a statement, and suggested they might contact her about pressing charges (but probably not). Sarah went back into the salon.

Jan said nothing about the fight. "I have an appointment in 10 minutes, we can finish up the hair straightening."

Sarah sighed, and got back into the chair, and opened her book.

And strangely, got much more into Harry Potter. Something about it clicked. She didn't want to think of the contrast between its world of black and white, and her existence as a whitish light source in a world of muddled greys. But something. Harry was the chosen one - and the books made what that meant more clear than the movies. She wasn't the chosen, but the fact that she tried, that she reached for the light, made her relate. It was better to light a candle then curse the darkness, and as Jan straightened her hair to its heroic best, Sarah felt good.

Even though Hermione was a little bitch.