Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. I had no idea how my best friend, my Evil Empress and Dark Overlady, managed it, when the midnight sky was almost black, far from any description of 'blushing', but she did.
It was the kind of petty nuisance and whimsically dark aesthetic she thrived upon; the sky turning dark red in the middle of the night, shot through with lavender clouds, bright enough to wake the light sleepers and confuse astronomy and meteorological experts across the country, but not dangerous enough to really spur anyone into action.
I had chosen well in my first companion.
It hadn't been meant to come to this. I never wanted to be an Evil Overlord. I just didn’t fancy dying young by becoming a Superhero.
I wanted to be left alone, to get on with my life as best I could, after gaining the unbelievably shitty power of spontaneously turning into a wombat.
No, you didn't mis-hear. A wombat. A large, furry boulder that makes people squeal over how chonky it is. Very dangerous, much use in a fight.
Stop laughing, or I'll dunk you in fish guts and throw you in the snapping turtle-infested moat.
Yes, snapping turtles. They're cheaper and easier to feed than alligators or crocodiles, and the Minions don't fight over whose turn it is to look after them.
Anyway, back to the point...
I mean, what good was Wombat Metamorphasis in a fight? I was too heavy to throw at enemies, to slow to charge them, and not quite so cute and cuddly that an opponent could be relied upon to coo over me rather than noticing an ally sneaking up on them. Maybe I’d trash a mode of transport when it tried to run me down, but the fractured bones and recovery time were not worth it.
I didn’t want this world of Archenemies, Doomsday plots and debilitating injuries. I wanted to get up, go to work and enjoy my hobbies undistrubed. I wanted enough spare time to actually plant the pear tree I'd bought at the weekend market and try a few recipes.
Was that simple desire really such a crime?
According to the other local Superheroes, who could fly, see through walls, punch really hard and walk away from being run over, or had billions worth of hi-tech gadgets... yes. Yes it was. Apparently, I was being incredible selfish and should be ashamed of myself.
My response... wasn’t especially polite. Certainly not repeatable in a public forum.
I didn’t ask for these powers. I didn't want them, and if I tried to fight crime with zero training and uncontrolable transformations, the only thing I would achieve was an early grave! Who would volunteer for that?
The Superheroes left, and I foolishly thought that was the end of it.
Yeah, I wish...
The biggest problem with not being able to control transformations is that it makes planning ahead almost impossible.
My friends were patient and tolerant of missed meet-ups and cancelled plans when I lacked opposable thumbs and couldn’t open doors or drive anywhere. Still, I knew that the increased scruitny from so-called Heroes wore on them, and the wasted money on tickets and eating out when I didn’t show up to split the bill grew frustrating. I didn’t blame them, and they didn’t hold it against me, but it always hurts when friendships become strained.
I wasn’t exactly a party animal, even before I gained the ability to randomly turn into a marsupial, but I noticed when the invitations came fewer and farther between.
I came into work early and stayed late, making up for the times when my stubby little wombat paws made me incapable of anything but rotating slowly on the swivel chair as I waited to turn back. I wasn’t looking forward to my next performance review, but I had no control over that. There wasn’t much I could do about the interns who squealed and clustered around to try and pet me, either, but I gained a new appreciation for Demelza, my fellow PA, who had a Resting Bitch Face to rival Vivien Leigh and a very low tolerance for time-wasters.
Like now, for instance.
Demelza had calmly diverted all calls to her phone, and her silent stare had already made two interns guiltily slink back to their jobs, without even saying a word!
There would probably be another note from HR in her file about being brusque and the importance of creating a welcoming environment by tomorrow, but that wasn't new. It was that very attitude and efficiency that minimised interruptions to the Boss’s online poker games and made sure he only had to deal with the important things. Demelza was too valuable for Management to fire, and everyone knew it.
Now, if I could just turn back before the boss emerged from him meeting or I gave into the urge to bite the next hand that groped me without my consent... I gave a warning growl, and Deme let out an expressive sigh. “If you lot aren’t back at your stations by the time I finish this paragraph, I’ll re-arrange the duty roster with all of you on the jobs you hate most.”
One of the newer Interns was still getting a handle on the finer points of discretion and valour. “Do you have to be such a killjoy? What’s the harm?”
Demelza also had a Judging You stare to make Ava Gardiner weep in envy. The rest of the Interns scurried away as she finished typing and reached for a pad of post-it notes. No-one had to be sentanced to a week of digitalising old tax files more than once before they learned to fear the power of the duty roster.
Less than a minute later, I transformed back, sprawled across my chair. I rolled off and hit the floor with a thud, trying to re-orient myself to human limbs. Did I mention that my powers sucked? “Thanks for that.”
She flashed me a quick smile. “No problem, it’s what friends are for. Besides, you have enough people harassing you; they don’t need to make it worse.”
That was true enough. I re-activated my phoneline, “Honestly, there are times I’m tempted to take over the world, just so I can order them to leave me alone.”
Demelza laughed quietly, “It’s worth a shot. The paperwork might even be worth it.”
It had been a surprise to find out that even Superheroes and Villains had to fill out paperwork. Some things were universal. I grimaced at the thought, then brightened. “Wanna join me and become Empress of my Dark Legions?”
Her lips twitched again. “Will you make it a punishable offence to hit on, harrass, or mansplain my job to me?”
None of those things sounded very in character for an Evil Overlord, unless you were a Faux News reporter giving a ‘debate’ opinion. “Sure.”
Demelza smiled, and it was the first time no-one had run screaming across the background at the sight of it. “Then I’m in. I think I’ll make my exit by giving the floor manager a black eye next time he suggests I’d be more successful in getting a raise if I wore more revealing clothing.”
I was pretty sure most of the office would swear blind that they hadn’t seen a thing. The female population of the office, anyway... “Well, I suppose there’s one reason to be glad about this power. No chance of any sexy knock-off costumes.”
My future Dark Empress laughed, clear and joyous and if I’d been at all inclined to romance I might have been tempted to ask her to dinner. “Can you imagine trying to turn a wombat into a sexy halloween costume?”
Never mind, she was perfect for the of Evil Queen, or whatever appellation she chose. “I can now, damn you!"
This is the prologue, I'll link Part One here when I finish it...
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