Max looked me over, his wide, five year-old eyes trying to take it all in. “Did it hurt?” he asked.
“Not too bad,” I told him. It sure hurt now, though, having to face my son and daughter at the rails of my hospital bed. Jen stood in the corner seething, arms crossed, her face puffy and red. It hurt like hell.
My son ran his hand over the scratch on my arm, staring intently. “I hope I’m like you, Dad. I hope I have superpowers and nothing hurts me.”
A quick gasp from the corner, as Jen’s breaths grew heavy. I hoped my son was anything but like me. A nurse knocked and entered, a thankful distraction. She checked a few things and it gave Jen a moment to put herself together. When she was gone, Kasey, my daughter, took a step forward, staring at the floor.
“Are you okay?”
Her voice was flat. I wasn’t sure how she meant it. At nine, I don’t think she knew exactly what happened, but it was clear she wasn’t ready to hand me a cape.
“Well, I think so,” I said, wiggling my toes. I reached for her, stroked her curly hair. She had natural highlights like Jen. She kept her gaze down, her lips slightly pursed. “I mean—”
“Max, don’t,” Jen snapped. Max dropped the tube going into my arm.
“Your truck is all smashed, Dad. It looks like robot gum.”
Kasey rolled her eyes. Jen came out of the corner and cleared her throat. “Kasey, can you take your brother down the hall?”
Kasey looked up, cocked her head. She glanced at me then her brother. “Fine. Come on.”
Max put up a fight, but eventually followed his sister out of the room. The door shut, and just as quickly Jen’s eyes filled with tears.
I wanted to reach for her. I wanted to tell her it wasn’t her fault. “I don’t… I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”
She shook her head, frowning at me, her chin quivering. Her eyes were wet again.
I took a breath and saw the tree. A big, thick oak tree right on the turn of Blue Ridge Road. It called to me. Do it, do it now. I thought if I just hit the gas, kept the wheel straight… Finally it would end. I could free myself from the blackness.
“It’s really hard for me not to hate you right now,” my wife said, glancing at the door. “I know it’s hard. I know you’re sick. But if not for yourself, for me? For them,” she said, motioning towards the hallway. “For them, Will.” She broke apart again.
“Did you tell Kasey?”
Her mouth fell open. “No, Will. I didn’t tell her. I won’t tell her you tried to kill yourself. Is that what you were worried about when you drove yourself into a tree? Your kids?”
My head throbbed. The doctor’s knew it. Between my health records, the lack of traffic, skid marks. There was no trace of alcohol in my system. No seat belt. I guess it was obvious.
“I can only say I’m sorry.”
Jen flung herself at my bed. For a second I thought she was going to attack me. Instead she convulsed. “What can I do,” she asked, her voice raw and torn. She lifted her head and her eyes flooded. “Please, Will. Please God tell me what I can do to make this work, to make you want to live.”
There was nothing to do. I had it all. Job, wife, beautiful kids. And yet, the black hole inside me consumed whatever I fed it. For now it was gone but I was so scared it would return stronger, vengeful. It would come while I was driving or sleepless in bed. It would drag me off again, no matter how hard I fought.
But for now, I stroked my wife’s hair. I couldn’t heal myself but maybe I could heal her, take away this anguish I’d caused, this anguish quaking in my arms.
When the kids returned she wiped her eyes. Max came bounding over to me wanting to know more about my superpowers. Kasey looked at the wreck that was her mother and blamed me. I knew then, whatever superpower it took, I was going to have to acquire. For my wife, my kids.
For me to fight off the demons.
In response to the Writers’s Digest Creative writing prompt: Write a scene or story that includes a character with a superpower. https://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/powerful-prowess