Just a Fan; a Tale of Humility

Just a Fan; a Tale of Humility

I’ve done two rounds of Seven Deadly Sins prompts, mostly because I have such a large pool of characters to draw from. While flipping through other prompt suggestions, I happened to find a list of the Seven Heavenly Virtues (which seem to get a lot less press). In case you’ve never heard of them, they are: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness and Humility. So now that we’ve seen the darker sides of my characters, why don’t we take a peek at their virtues? I almost assigned humility to Domerin, as it’s a common theme among his stories. But ultimately, temperance suited him better. So the final installment in this series features Zita, the humble super hero.
. . .

Humility; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance; not proud or arrogant; modest.
. . .

It became increasingly difficult to update the journal, to write the words from the dispassionate, impartial perspective of a scholar. The Imatria were never meant to walk among their subjects. They were born to be observers, flitting from star to star, watching the universe take shape beneath their feet. They were never meant to be participants in the dance. But the attack against the empress changed everything.

Now Zita sat at the table in the diner tucked between a pair of office buildings in downtown Toronto and tried to make her pen work. It wasn’t the ink that refused to flow; she had already left several blotches among her abandoned efforts. It was the words. They kept getting lodged in her head, or stuck in her wrist, or obstructed by her fingers when she finally managed to shove them toward the pen. Words were such obstinate things, especially when a person tried to give them meaning.

Ironically, she could have written ten papers worth of political discourse. She could have compared current events to any number of historical situations – many of which she just so happened to be present to attend. She could have written a novel filled with opinions about where people should be looking if they wanted to build this bright future everyone kept talking about. But it wasn’t her job. It wasn’t what she was supposed to be writing, and that made it all the more difficult to wrangle the words into submission.

“Did you want a refill, Miss?”

Zita jumped as the voice startled her from the depths of her thoughts and cast the surprised waitress an apologetic smile. “That would be lovely, thank you.” Not that another cup of coffee was going to untangle events of the last three months enough for her to feel comfortable writing about them.

Would it have been so difficult for the others when their planets reached this stage of development? Maybe it had been; some had been well beyond Terrans in the days before the war. But Zita couldn’t help thinking it would have been easier if she had watched it all unfold from her high tower, without ever having met the people involved in the tangled skein of events. It was hard to be impartial when you watched good people struggle and experienced the effects of evil firsthand.

The coffee made a soft splashing sound as it filled the small, porcelain mug. Zita inhaled deeply of the earthy scent, feeling refreshed if not invigorated. Perhaps a rough outline would do for now. So many of her notes took that form these days. She always expanded on them; she had notebooks full of details. But they were never quite the way they were supposed to be written.

She only managed two sips of the coffee and five bullet points before she felt the disturbance. No one else in the diner noticed; it didn’t shake the floor or rattle the plethora of pictures on the walls. It made no sound the patrons or staff could hear. The passing of a subway car would have caused more of a fuss.

Yet the energy reverberated through Zita’s chest, filling her ears with a rushing roar like the onset of a strong summer storm. It was close, no doubt looking for her charge who worked in one of the buildings across the street. And it was strong, though not so strong Zita wasn’t confident she couldn’t take care of it on her own. She might even end up with help this time, if she was lucky. She glanced at her phone and considered sending a text, but thought better of it. He would come if he was close, and he could. And if he didn’t, it wasn’t any of her business, no matter how she felt about the situation.

She dropped more than enough money to cover her bill onto the table, adding an extra twenty for good measure, feeling badly about the wasted coffee as she rushed out the door, tucking the journal and the pen into deep pockets in her jacket. It was her good fortune that she was never far from a narrow, dark alley in this portion of the city and she dove into the first without really paying attention.

Later, after the power had moved through her body, transforming her appearance and granting her access to abilities the Terrans could only dream of, it would be harder than ever to write the words. Not because she wanted to style herself as the hero, not because she wanted to be some avenging angel, because she just felt so damn good about what she did. After all, it had long since ceased to be one life she looked after. She would save dozens, possibly hundreds with her cleansing fire. Then she would disappear back into the dying day, return to a new coffee shop on a new corner and resume her writings, before anyone had a chance to determine her name. There might be pictures in the paper the next day, some might even make it to the regular social media sights later that night, but she would be careful not to look at them, as always. It was hard enough already to keep all the attention from going to her head.

*  *  *  *  *  *

It was Saturday, and Zita was three pages into an update for her mission report. Not the one she’d be able to use if she ever returned to the library in her high tower, so far away from here. But it seemed better to let the words flow than to fight them. Later, she could pick out the pertinent details, write the sterilized, emotionless version. But it seemed she’d never be able to reach that state of zen until she purged the emotions from her gut in a great frenzy of recording such as this one.

She hesitated when she heard the gasp, expecting to see another startled waitress when she lifted her gaze. But there was no half-full coffee pot waiting to refill her glass this time, no pitcher filled with ice water or friendly smile offering her the bill. It wasn’t a student and it wasn’t a colleague. She recognized the young woman standing in the aisle between tables as a friend of her charge. One who had been there that night in downtown when she tangoed alone with a creature of the great beyond, with bones outside its skin and eyes like hell itself.  One of the lives she had managed to save.

“It was you,” the girl breathed, even as Zita made this connection.

“Who?” she asked, hoping she was still as good at playing dumb as she had been three hundred years before when people pointed in her direction while they spoke of witchcraft and unnatural things. It grew harder, it seemed, rather than easier to lie about these sort of things.

“StarStriker,” the young woman breathed, as if she feared the consequences of being overheard. “You look just like her. Your hair-“

“Ah, but I’m just a fan,” Zita insisted with an easy smile. “I dyed my hair to match but look…” She slid the fingers of her left hand through her short hair, wriggling them to highlight where the locks terminated just beside her shoulders. “She’s got hair that brushes the ground. I’m years away from reaching that length.”

The girl stared at her, suspicion written into every line of her body. Zita could tell exactly what she must be thinking; for someone who could wield magic fire, it must not be too difficult to change the length of your hair. What a flimsy disguise, her eyes seemed to say, as bad as Clark Kent and his measly glasses. Maybe she was only one clear snap away from facial recognition software revealing her true identity.

But there was enough doubt in the story that the girl decided not to make a fuss. Instead she smiled, forced though it seemed, and nodded. “I’m a fan too. She saved my life the other day. And if you were her, I’d tell you how grateful I was and thank you for all the good that you do in a world like ours.”

Zita smiled, hoping the mad flutter of her heart wasn’t evident on her face. “That’s very sweet of you,” she replied. “But if I were her, I’d probably tell you that I didn’t need to be thanked for doing the right thing.”

“Humble,” the girl murmured, her smile edging toward a smirk. “I should have guessed.”

But the moment passed. The girl walked up to the front counter to be seated and, by the time she turned back to the table, Zita had gone, leaving another pile of bills for another surprised server.

This will be the last prompt for this year; it seemed appropriate to wrap up the year at the end of this series. But worry not, there are plenty more shorts coming next year! (Domerin wouldn’t allow me to stop. ;)

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