Scarlatina!

By Derek McCormack

Gangway for Captain Marvel?

I bought Whiz. I played RIFLE RANGE! Shot fifteen coons.

I grabbed the knobs on ELECTRIC ENERGIZER! Got zapped by fifty volts.

MYSTIC PEN TELLS ALL! A ballpoint hung from wires. It jerked across a sheet of paper. The sheet slid down a chute.

“Destiny Awaits.”

Thunder. Sky flashing like a pinball backglass. I ran for home. Halfway there it started coming down.

***

Billy Batson peddling papers. Some man coaxes him onto a subway car. The subway zips Billy to a cavern. There’s a man on a throne. White hair, white beard.

“I know everything,” the old man says. “I am Shazam!”

Lightning hits Billy. When the smoke clears he’s twenty-five. He’s got gold tights on.

Mom came into my room. She grabbed the comic and palmed my forehead.

I gulped aspirin.

***

My temp spiked. Scarlet streaked up my chest.

Dad drove me to Emergency. The doctor hooked me to a drip.

Days sleeping and sweating. The fever spread, pharynx to heart. The doctor taped electrodes to my chest.

“The ECG will trace your heartbeats,” he said.

He turned it on. The pencil drew lightning bolts, then U-shapes.

The doctor wheeled the machine up to my bed. He put a steel cylinder in each of my hands.

A hundred amps of galvanic electricity.

***

Dr. Sivana’s got a machine to silence radio signals. He wants fifty million dollars or he’ll end broadcasts forever.

“Shazam!” Billy says. He flies to Sivana’s lab. He hurls henchmen at machines. Coils, springs, control panels.

The doctor sat down on my bed. “Your heart’s been scarred. Excitement could weaken it. Or worse.”

He confiscated the comic. Ten minutes later an intern wheeled in the library cart. Plopped Little Women on my tray.

I shambled to the elevator. In the gift shop I bought a pad of paper, a pack of coloured pencils.

***

The judge eyed some kid’s crayon portrait of Batman. The Flash in pencil.

Then my panels: Scarlet fever’s wasting Derek McCormack’s heart. The doctor hooks him to an electrocardiograph. Hospital lights die, then surge back on. Ten-thousand volts rip through Derek. He rises from the smoke. All muscle. A red S on his chest.

“First prize goes to Scarlatina the Immortal!” He awarded me a silver dollar. I slinked out of the arena and up the midway. Cotton candy blue as electricity. Guys firing rifles at ducks and darts at balloons. TEST YOUR STRENGTH scale like a ten-foot thermometer.

A man barking in a GRAPHOLOGY booth. “Have your handwriting analyzed!” he said.

I gave him a sheet. Destiny Awaits.

“Who wrote it?” I said. “What does he want?”

Derek McCormack is author of the novel Dark Rides (Gutter Press). He has been named one of the best young writers in North America by Details magazine. He lives in Toronto.


 

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