Helen Keller–Jeffrey Birch

As part of our Superhero Week event, we ran a flash fiction contest. The contest guidelines were: submit a story of 1,000 words or less on the subject of superheroes or superpowers. We received seven fantastic entries, and we’d like to share some of them will all of you.

Helen Keller was the winning entry, submitted by Jeffrey Birch. When asked to tell us a little bit about himself he said: “I’ve also been making superheroes out of the people around me since I was four. A couple years ago I ran out of new ideas so I tried something new. I had people choose their own powers and built superheroes around them with those powers. I’ve currently made thirty unique heroes in three different teams and it’s some of the best fun I’ve had writing in a very long time.”

While all of the entries for this contest were exceptional, Helen Keller instantly stood out from the rest. It takes a genre concept we thought we understood and gives it a startling new twist. It is short without being abrupt, and the innocent voice of the protagonist only makes the subject more chilling.

Have we got your attention now? Read on for the story!

**

“Hello there dear!”
“What’s wrong with her eyes? Why isn’t she responding?”
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

I wasn’t supposed to know what was being said, but it happened anyway. Even if I didn’t know the exact words that were being said, I could feel it, their polite introductions, the initial confusion, and eventually the emotional backpedalling. Shock. Pity. Maybe a little bit of disgust. I was used to it. It was honestly almost boring how everyone reacted in almost the exact same way.

I had been born without sight or hearing. By all rights I shouldn’t be able to communicate or understand what was going on. I was supposed to experience the world solely through the clumsy sign language that had been almost beaten into me when I was almost a toddler. But I refused.

Every since I could remember, I had been able to experience others. I could reach out and feel their minds, understand their thoughts, their hopes, their fears. My mother suspects that I am more aware then I let on, I can feel her suspicion when I happen to wander into the guest room just as people arrive. My father is too oblivious to notice it. He focuses almost all of the energy that should be spent paying attention to me on protecting his fragile little daughter from the scary outside world.

Like I really have to be scared of the world.

My mother and I went shopping once. We were walking home and I could feel a man behind us. He scared, so very scared. But that fear was because he was focused on my mother’s purse, her nice jewelry. He wanted it so bad that I could see their images in his mind like they were lit up with neon lights. I will admit that I was scared, so I lashed out without even breaking stride. I felt his fear swell in his brain, primal terror that overwhelmed every conscious thought that he had, and then he was gone, his mind disappeared. The people near him panicked. He wasn’t responding. I got too far away and their concerns faded away, their voices became too distant.

I’m not scared of the world, the world should be scared of me.

Whenever a person gets over the shock of meeting me and start asking me questions, the same one comes up over and over again.

“What does the world look like to you?”

I always end up giving them the stock answers: darkness, smells and sensations, an endless silence, answers that they expect. They are satisfied and pet me like a good little girl. If only I could explain my world to them. It was a night sky with endless stars. Lights doing their own little dances, lights with hopes and dreams and fears. None of them knowing that they were being watched, their every thought laid bare to me. They never know that if they step the wrong way, if they refuse to dance to my tune, then they will be snuffed out like candles before a careless gust of wind.

About Master Class

Interested in submitting something of your own in exchange for feedback? We’ve launched a Master Class program intended to help you do just that. Your submission, along with our honest opinion, will be published for you to share with others. While the idea of public critique sounds terrifying, it is often beneficial to see the flaws in others work analysed, and participating in the program helps us provide that.


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