The Outtake Girl
Not all superpowers are useful. Like the power to fly but only indoors and with your eyes closed, or the power to control a very rare and very beautiful flower by asking it nicely to do things. Interesting powers, perhaps, but not particularly useful.
These powers are much more common than ‘helpful’ powers. For every kid with the strength of ten jacked-up rhinos, there’s some poor girl suffering because her feet secrete a shiny, silvery gel like a snail whenever she walks. She can’t wear shoes or socks because they fill up, and taping over her soles causes excruciating pain. She skates wherever she has to go, and stays in her apartment as much as possible.
Also much more common are powers that aren’t obvious enough to acknowledge. Powers and abilities that the owners use every day but put down to luck, bad luck, or just plain coincidence. The man who inserts USB sticks correctly the first time, every time; the girl who wakes up exactly twenty-five seconds before her alarm, regardless of when she sets it; the old man who, though he’s never really thought about it, has never had a problem eating incredibly hot food. If he wanted to, he could eat molten lava and neither his throat nor stomach would protest. But he’s never tried to.
The Outtake Girl
Given the chance, Outtake Girl does something wrong. Fluffs her lines, says the wrong thing entirely, stands in the wrong spot. Always something silly, minimal, even unimportant, but if it’s there to do, she’ll do it wrong. Stapling the wrong side of a document, using a permanent marker on a dry-wipe board, sneezing uncontrollably in the face of the first attractive man to talk to her in weeks.
Her home is small and neat, with bits of cushioning foam taped onto every sharp corner, since her elbows and shins are inexplicably drawn to such things. The knives in her kitchen drawer are the dullest she could find, and all the pictures and frames she has put up over the years now sit on the floor, resting below where they’re supposed to be. She under-cooks food, then over-cooks it trying to redress the balance. When she sings she mixes up lyrics from different songs and, if she’s singing along to the radio, ends up mumbling over even the most popular choruses.
Were her life a movie, the director would sigh wearily, yell cut in the middle of every scene, and demand a million retakes.
His power, which it shouldn’t be called, is similar to The Outtake Girl’s in that it doesn’t help anyone in the slightest. In fact, it so often hinders him that he’s sort of becoming suspicious it might exist.
Any time One-Inch-Out Man puts something somewhere, it’s always one-inch out. Not a problem when he’s parking his car, for example, since an inch doesn’t make all that much difference.
But when One-Inch-Out Man puts a cup down on a desk, it’s always just an inch too close to his busy hands. He’ll at the very least nudge it, or send the entire thing flying from the desk. If he puts down a box to allow him to open a door with free hands, the box will invariably be ever-so-slightly in the way of the door. Reaching for things is impossible for One-Inch-Out Man, since everything is always an inch too far away.
And it isn’t always an inch. It sometimes appears as a minute, which makes him miss the bus, or a single step which means the puddle at the side of the road splashes him when a car drives through it.
Without that minute, he would have made the bus; without that last step, his shoes would have stayed dry. These inches/minutes/steps/whatever often gang up on him like this.
In his pocket, he always carries slightly less change than he will need.
This should be the beginning of a much larger story – a sprawling, delightful epic in which the two meet, romance each other albeit awkwardly, and spend the rest of their lives together, learning to make up for each other’s afflictions. Years of mild frustration, knocking into things and always being slightly, ever so slightly, in the wrong place. But happy, content, and in love.
It would have been perfect, possibly even a cure for them both. One would have distracted the other, both ways, and their powers might have gone in search of other people to annoy.
But she didn’t adhere to fate’s script; she read the dry cleaning instructions on the protruding label of the woman sat in front of her, instead of looking out of the window at the man running, a minute or so late, towards the bus. They didn’t meet as they were supposed to, they didn’t even share a meaningful glance. He watched the bus leave as he ran across a field towards the stop, cursing as his thin, wind-blasted tie repeatedly slapped him across the face.
At work, The Outtake Girl tripped over a printer’s power cable instead of walking confidently down a corridor, and was helped to her feet again by a mousey, short man in a slim, flannel suit who asked her out for a drink, or a movie or something, sometime, maybe a meal, if it suited her? The rehearsed script in his head turned its back on him, leaving him floundering in a mire of social awkwardnessDespite the blood that dribbled liberally from her nose, she managed to smile and nod before passing out.
That night, as One-Inch-Out Man undressed, he was surprised to find his heart an inch out of its usual spot, somewhat embedded in his ribs and peeking from the skin it usually hid behind. It looked like a tomato had struck him and exploded beneath his clothes, and it took him by complete surprise; it’d never happened before and he couldn’t think why it would happen now. He chewed his lip and pondered as an intense, burning pain emanated outwards from his newly exposed organ.
His final thought, a moment before death took him, was “One inch! I knew it!”
His funeral, in which the casket nudged the lip of the grave it was lowered into, was held one week later, roughly an hour before its intended start time, and in the wrong cemetery.