This story was written in response to a writing prompt on r/writingprompts.
The writing prompt was:
Images of infernos light up the TV screen. The news ticker at the bottom of the screen tells you that it’s Fairfield, California. Not far away. The flames are licking the edges of the suburbs. There are images of cars with melted tyres. The ‘on the scene correspondent’ is exchanging information with the anchors in the studio. The authorities and the firefighting services are overwhelmed. They are saying they weren’t prepared for this.
But they should be prepared. You gave them plenty of notice of your retirement. They have done nothing to help themselves. But you still feel guilty.
You pat the bed looking for the remote. How do TV remotes always manage to go missing in hotel rooms? You stand up and turn off the television the antiquated way, by hand, then you head to the bar.
The hotel bar is open but empty. The staff are wearing black cloth face-masks. You ask for a beer. It’s cold and refreshing. You take a few sips and take it outside to the poolside. One of the staff stops you at the door. “Sir, there is a lot of dust in the air at the moment from the fires…”
“I’ll be OK,” you say.
You sit at the far side of the pool on a recliner. The horizon is orange. Is there anywhere in California that doesn’t feel close to the fires? You concentrate. A sphere of water, about the size of a fist, floats out of the pool, then spreads to form a thin, protective layer around you until you’re enclosed under a shield of water. It’s cooling. Some specks of ash settle on the outside of the water shield.
When the beer is finished you head back to your room. COVID-19 has made your retirement (or is it hiding) a lot less enjoyable than you expected. You tell yourself that you keep moving around luxury hotels so that ‘they’ can’t track you down. The phone calls and visits begging you to come back were becoming unbearable. But if you were really trying to escape, why stay in California, so close to the action?
The lift dings informing you you’re at the top floor. You wonder what is on TV. These are the highlights of your day now and secretly, you love it.
You’re about to put the key-card into the door when you hear a thud from within the room. You hesitate, have ‘they’ found you again? You hear thunder crack from outside and then heavy rain. That’s strange. None of the weather channels predicted a thunderstorm. Maybe that’ll help with the fires. Maybe you don’t have to intervene after all. Maybe you’re just paranoid and the bump behind the door was the weather.
Inside the TV is on and there is a male child, maybe 10 or 11 years old, sitting on bed, watching the TV, with wet hair. He turns his head to you and reveals a huge grin.
“Who are you?” you ask.
“Rain? As in, it’s raining outside.”
“Yes, it’s my superhero name. I did that,” he says, pointing out of the window.
“How did you get in here?”
“Oh, I just told them you were my dad.”
“How did you know my name and where I was staying?”
“You don’t use a VPN do you?” He smiles. You don’t know what a VPN is. It gets advertised a lot on YouTube and you thought it was shady. “Look,” says Rain, pointing at the TV, “it’s working.” The news anchors and correspondents are celebrating the rain and saying it should at least slow down the fires if not extinguish many of them completely.
“You’re an abnormal?”
“You can control the weather?”
“No. Just rain. All I can do is make it rain.”
“Yeah, sometimes I can control that. But it makes me tired.”
“Well that’s great, what are you doing here?”
“I want to be a superhero,” he says, shrugging.
“Well that’s easy. You’re an abno’, you have ‘superpowers’, just start doing heroic deeds.”
“No I want to be like you,” he pauses, “like you were anyway. No offence. But you know, working with the authorities and doing things on a big scale. How do I let the right people know what I can do? How do I help lots of people and how…”
“How do you get the recognition and get famous?” You finish his sentence.
“I get it. Doing good deeds that nobody knows about, that people just think is luck, it gets exhausting. Watching the idiots ride their luck and then not make any changes to their lives. They just expect their luck to keep going. It makes you feel like you’re not helping at all.”
“Yes,” he smiles, he feels understood for the first time maybe.
“Well,” you sit down on one of the chairs, “don’t.”
“Don’t put yourself out there. Don’t try to help. Don’t try to do the right thing. They will start to depend on you. When they think that you’re willing to intervene they won’t take responsibility for their own fate. You won’t be helping them. You’ll be making them dependent on you. And when you’re old and you want to retire, like me, they will blame you. They will make you feel guilty for leaving . They will take your blessing, your offering, for granted and act as if they are entitled to your power. They will never let you rest. You will become their slave.”
The kid frowns and you worry that you have gone too far. Then the rain suddenly stops. He jumps off the bed and leaves the rooms. You sit there for ten minutes, in case he comes back. He doesn’t. You pick up the remote and press ‘guide’. Auctions Hunters is on, nice. Maybe tonight won’t be a waste.