ElectivePil

Everyone assumes it’s glamorous, being a superhero. And maybe it is glamorous for the big guys. If you’ve got a heavy-hitting power, like colossal strength or mind control, I could definitely see glamour being part of the lifestyle. Other powers, like invisibility or teleportation, could also open some doors, professionally speaking.

Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of superpower I got stuck with.

“You say here you’re classified as a Sub3, Class 6 Superhero.” Ethan Briggs sat across from me at a round table in a glass-walled room, finger resting on the white paper of my resume. “But you don’t cite specific powers.”

I smoothed my black skirt over my thighs, suppressing a surge of annoyance mingled with dread. I hated interviews. I also hated skirts. My mother had convinced me to this wear one, along with the stiff blouse. I’d tried telling her people at tech startups don’t wear business casual attire. My mother had argued no matter what they’d be wearing, I needed to present myself as a serious person—one capable of behaving like a professional.

On the other side of the glass, employees drifted by. Men and women alike wore skinny jeans and leather sneakers and scarves or hats. I felt frumpy and over-starched. At least I’d drawn the line at the pantyhose.

Ethan Briggs also wore skinny jeans. A few years younger than me, he was already a millionaire. He’d skipped college and built an app that did something I didn’t fully understand. In fact, everyone here looked younger than me. Never had I been more aware of how my four years at the Center for the Integration and Advancement of the Superhero Population (CIASP) compound had set me back.

“My power isn’t relevant to the position.” I’d rehearsed this line. Now I attempted to deliver the words in a relaxed tone, resisting the urge to uncross my legs. That didn’t seem like a good idea, what with the skirt and the glass walls and me really, really needing this job.

Ethan Briggs pushed my resume aside, revealing a printout with the CIASP logo emblazoned at the top just above my name. I stared, too shocked to try to cover my surprise. It was my chart. Right there, on the table. Everything CIASP knew was public record, of course, but still. Didn’t most people do their creeping in private?

The finger now tapped a line on the printout. “I’m not totally clear on what elective pilistasis is.”

Elective pilistasis. The very words made frustrated anger bloom in my chest. I wanted to snatch the printout away, to tear it into tiny, tiny pieces as if doing so could somehow also shred my designation as a superhero.

Ethan Briggs waited, radiating thinly veiled curiosity. I didn’t want to explain. I’d become a CPA precisely to avoid conversations like this. After all, what occupation could be less superheroey than accounting?

I’d become a CPA precisely to avoid conversations like this. After all, what occupation could be less superheroey than accounting?

Discrimination based on superhero status is technically illegal, but I suddenly understood Ethan Briggs had never been serious about me. He’d only arranged this interview to see a superhero in the flesh. To shake hands with one, and decline to hire her.

How many times at CIASP had I looked a man in the eye across a table and tried to convince him I was nothing more than I seemed? How many more times would this happen before someone believed me?

My power wasn’t glamorous, useful, or interesting. Explaining it invariably led to disappointment for others, embarrassment for me. I folded my hands and answered in the measured, steady tone I’d mastered during CIASP evaluations. No emotion. State the facts. “It means I can decide whether or not my hair will grow.”

Ethan Briggs sat back, blinking. “Oh.” His pale eyebrows pulled downward. His eyes flicked to my haircut, then back to the CIASP logo on the page. I knew he was now thinking about my haircut in a way he had never thought about any other person’s haircut before, ever. He was also wondering if I didn’t have to shave my legs.

I waited. On the other side of the glass, three employees in skinny jeans walked by, laughing. At last, Ethan Briggs gave a nod.

“Okay, well. That’s cool.” Another pause.

Dread got the upper hand. This was it. Now he would say working at a startup meant being part of a team, but being a superhero made me, by definition, a bad team player. Such dismissals were a frequent topic during my weekly underemployed superhero support group meeting.

“The thing is,” Ethan Briggs’ face broke into a grin, “this might be shallow of me, and I probably shouldn’t say it because it’s maybe insensitive or something, but I can’t get over the idea of how cool it will be to have an actual superhero for a CPA. I bet no other startup has one. We’re totally putting it on the website. It’s going to be awesome.”

Ethan Briggs stood and leaned across the table, extending his hand. “You’re hired.” He gave me a conspiratorial wink, as if we’d just pulled off a heist. “You start Monday.”

I stood also and put my hand in his. His grip was soft but friendly. “Thank you.” My voice tightened and my eyes felt hot. For the first time, my superhero status hadn’t worked against me. It had actually gotten me a job.

As he headed towards the door, Ethan Briggs looked back over his shoulder. “Oh, but feel free to wear something more comfortable next week.” His eyes strayed to the stiff collar of my blouse. “We don’t really do the whole business casual thing around here.”

Meet the Author

robin-stephen-webRobin Stephen has always been enamored with magic. When she was a child that meant reading all kinds of books. When she was a slightly older child, it meant trying to write her own. Now that she’s an adult, she still spends significant amounts of time immersed in worlds that don’t really exist. She currently lives in Iowa City, where she spends time with her husband, trains horses, and writes.

Robin’s short stories have been published in a number of print and digital formats. Her fantasy novella trilogy, Chronicles of the Tessilari was published in 2015 by Brown Wing Press.

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