On Michelle’s fourteenth birthday, a long thin box wrapped in Batman paper sat by her plate at the kitchen table. Michelle ripped off the colorful wrapping to find the one thing she’d asked for: the new Sinistra action figure. Sinistra had a long waterfall of shiny violet hair, green eyes, and her trademark black vinyl catsuit. She was perfect.
“That’s the one you wanted, right?” Mom asked, fiddling with her coffee cup.
“Yep. Thanks, Mom.”
“I thought you’d want Mr. Majestic. Isn’t he the hero in those comics?”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “Ugh. He’s boring.”
And if you wanted Michelle’s opinion, Mr. Majestic was kind of a dick. He’d taken Sinistra under his wing after her parents had been killed by the Bone Grinders, the gang of arch villains menacing their hometown of Shadow City.
But Sinistra found the special serums he’d used to develop his powers, took them herself, and killed all the Bone Grinders with her own hands. And Mr. “Majestic” had cut her out of his life for that. He couldn’t condone killing, not even in revenge.
Michelle had hurled that particular comic at her bedroom wall. OK, maybe Sinistra had done some really bad stuff after that. But as far as Michelle was concerned, you couldn’t introduce an orphan to a whole bunch of cool shit and then get upset when she used it to pay back the people who’d destroyed her life.
Michelle spent that Sunday night working Sinistra free of her packaging.Smells of vinyl and plastic washed over her as she finally got the last twist-ties undone. Collectors would have a heart attack if they saw what she’d done, but she didn’t see the point in keeping an action figure taped up in an unopened box forever.
And getting the doll was pretty much the best thing that had happened to her all weekend. Dad hadn’t even bothered to call on her actual birthday, and she didn’t have enough friends for a party.
Michelle set Sinistra up on a stand and held a finger to one of the doll’s black-gloved hands.
“You’re so awesome. I wish I was you,” she whispered. She imagined walking into school wielding Sinistra’s feared Firetouch, an ability to set things ablaze just by pointing at them. But even Sinistra’s enhanced strength would be cool. Really, anything more than what she already was would be fine with her.
And then something happened. Michelle tried to jerk her arm away as a hot, prickly, terrifying, and exhilarating sensation swept through her, but she couldn’t move and the bizarre feelings kept coming.
She finally yanked her hand back and stared at the doll, gasping, her head spinning. “What was that?”
But Sinistra’s face displayed nothing but its customary cruel smile.
Michelle’s pulse quickened as she jumped up from her chair. She flexed her hand. It felt different. Powerful. She grabbed an empty Coke Zero can from her desk and squeezed it tentatively.
It crumpled like a used tissue.
“No way,” Michelle murmured. She seized her hated Earth Science textbook and pulled it open. The book tore apart like kindergarten construction paper.
Her heart pounded as she thought about what else she might be able to do — and who she could do it to. And she started to laugh.
Michelle’s best (okay, only) friend Holly was hovering by the water fountain when she walked into school on Monday morning.
“H-hi, Mich.” The overhead light glinted off Holly’s braces as she spoke. “I think maybe Roxanne is late today. Haven’t seen her or her friends yet.”
Roxanne and her clique had hated Michelle since the first day Michelle had appeared in Harrison High. They’d make pig and cow noises when she passed them, push her down steps, knock her books out of her arms.
Holly narrowed her hazel eyes as she looked Michelle over. “You seem…different today. Did you get new clothes for your birthday or something?”
“Nope. I’m the same old me.”
But she wasn’t. Michelle felt better than she ever had in her life. Lighter. Stronger.
For once, she actually wanted Roxanne to be in school. And at lunchtime, she got her wish.
“Hey, look. Here comes Moo-chelle.”
Roxanne and her friends, sitting on the railing by the school’s front lawn, snorted and mooed as Michelle passed them.
“Hey! Moo-chelle! Where you off to so fast? Krispy Kreme having a sale?”
Roxanne hopped off the railing and blocked Michelle’s path.
That was exactly what Michelle had hoped she’d do. “Don’t you have someone’s backseat to be in, Roxy?”
Roxanne’s pencil-sharp eyebrows shot up. Michelle had never, ever talked back before. She hadn’t dared.
“What did you just say to me, bitch?” She grabbed Michelle’s T-shirt.
Help me, Sinistra. Michelle pushed Roxanne’s chest and a sensation like an electric jolt shot through her arm.
Roxanne sailed through the air as if she’d been hit by a freight train and landed in a limp heap across the lawn. Passing students froze, gasped.
“What the hell?” Roxanne’s friends jumped off the railing and stormed towards Michelle. Michelle pointed at the ground in front of them. Please let this work.
The grass burst into flames and Roxanne’s friends leaped up and down and then tore off, screaming. Roxanne hauled herself to her feet and wobbled after them.
Michelle’s fingertips burned for just a few seconds, but that faded. But the grass in front of the school? That kept burning. It was wonderful.
This, Michelle thought, was going to be seriously fun. She pointed at some bushes by the front of the building and set them ablaze.
And then Mrs. Grant, the principal, ran outside, elbowing all the gawkers out of her way. Her graying hair fell from its messy bun as she rushed towards the fires.
“Michelle? What do you think you’re doing?” she shouted.
“Just showing everyone who the real power is here.” Michelle tossed her hair, smirked, and set another bush on fire.
And then Mrs. Grant opened her lipsticked mouth and shot enormous blasts of thick, icy air over all the burning bushes and grass, extinguishing Michelle’s beautiful fires in a matter of seconds.
Ice breath? Michelle staggered backwards in shock. Only Mr. Majestic could do that.
“How…how did you…?”
Once Mrs. Grant appeared satisfied that her school wasn’t about to burn down, she turned to Michelle, her dark eyes narrowed. The odor of singed grass still hung in the air as she spoke.
“It’s like this, Michelle. Back when I was your age, I had this Mr. Majestic action figure. And maybe I didn’t have many friends either. Maybe I wished for the same things you did.”
She cleared her throat and readjusted her bun before continuing. “I know you’ve had a rough time here, and I’m sympathetic. But this school?”
She leaned close. Her breath felt cold on Michelle’s face. “This is myterritory. Set any more fires or injure any other students, and you’ll find out what else I can do. And I’m not just talking about expulsion. Do we understand each other?”
Michelle nodded, trying to force out a “Yes, ma’am.”
“I want you in my office after school so we can discuss an appropriate punishment. And I suggest you start learning how to resolve your problems peacefully.”
Mrs. Grant cleared her throat, adjusted her navy blazer, and marched back towards the school. Students stepped back to let her pass. Way back.
A furious heat burned in Michelle’s ribcage, hot enough that she was surprised she didn’t catch fire herself.
This was not over, no matter what Mrs. Grant thought. After all, Michelle couldn’t be much of an archvillain if she didn’t have an equally powerful enemy.
And now she had one.
Originally featured in The Weekly Knob,  September 28, 2019