Side Effect of the Superhero Project by Nicole Dragonbeck

For Laura Williams, a cute duck.

I am a duck.

This thought chased itself round and round Will’s head. He tilted his head and looked down at his body. Yes, feathers, wings, webbed feet. He was definitely a duck. He tried to speak, but when he opened his mouth all that came out was a loud and obnoxious quack!

He flapped his new wings frantically. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This was all wrong. This was…all Francescas’s fault!!

He waddled across the room, fuming. Why had he let her talk him into this? Oh yeah, that’s right. She had batted her eyes at him, and he had fallen over himself to help her out with this dumb project.

It was supposed to give Will x-ray vision and super-strength. That was what Francesca had told him to convince him to participate in her school project. The idea had appealed him. Now he wished he’d never heard of the ridiculous Superhero Project, as she’d titled it.

That’s the last time I ever do that again. It doesn’t matter how prettily she smiles at me, Will thought. He just hoped to God this was reversible.

He blinked. The x-ray vision was a little distracting. And apparently with the super-strength came a strong desire to life incredibly heavy things. Which was kind of difficult with the side effect of being a duck. Will started to hyperventilate.

She’ll be back tomorrow morning, Will remembered. To see what the effect of the potion was. She won’t be expecting this.

There was nothing he could do for the time being. He might as well go to sleep. At least that way he wouldn’t dwell on every awful possibility he could be faced with. He went to his bedroom, flapped up onto the bed, and settled in the middle of the pillow. Tucking his head under his wing, trying not to be distracted by the sight of the bones in said wing, he managed to fall asleep.

“Hello?” a faint voice from the front of the house woke him.

The sun was streaming through the window. Will shook his head, disoriented. It was his room, but it looked weird. Why was he sleeping in such an odd position? And why was the hallway visible through the wall?

“William?” the voice called again. “Will, where are you? It’s nine o’clock.”

There was someone in the kitchen, moving through the hall to the back of the house. Francesca!

Will tried to call out, but a squeak and a quack came out instead. Everything came rushing back to him. He was a duck with x-ray vision, and she was here to see what her potion had done to him.

Damn! Will fell off the bed, skidded to the door, and flew into Francesca’s face as she poked her head into his room. She screamed, and Will got a moment’s satisfaction in causing such an effect. When she tried to kick him, he rethought his plan.

He quacked at her, trying to say something she would understand. Only duck came out. Thinking quickly, he flapped into the kitchen, hoping she would follow. After a moment, he heard her footsteps coming after him.

The glass the first potion had been in was sitting innocently on the bench next to the sink. He flew up to it and tapped it with his beak. Francesca watched him warily. He tapped it again, and understanding dawned in her eyes.

“Will?” she said, eyes wide.

He nodded.

“What happened?” she asked when she had gotten over her fright, coming over to stand next to him.

Will quacked angrily, flapping his wings and trying to bite her fingers. She pulled out of his reach.

“Right, you’re a duck. You can’t exaclty explain,” Francesca said. “Calm down. This can be fixed. I think.”

Will sniffed. It better be able to be fixed. I don’t want to spend my life as a duck.

She picked up the cup, a layer of the potion she had concocted lining the glass, and looked at it with bright eyes.

“I’m certain I followed the formula,” she said. “I wonder what happened?” She glanced down at him.

He quacked a short barking retort.

“I know, I know. I’m going, I’m getting on it,” Francesca said, trying to sound soothing.

Will was not impressed and ruffled his feathers in indignation. She pulled her spellbook out of the backpack she was carrying and opened it to the middle.

“Now, there’s an antidote listed here, and hopefully it will take care of this little side effect,” she said, more to herself than Will.

It didn’t sound very promising, but it was all they had to go on, and Will wasn’t going to be much help, what with no opposable thumbs and a vocabulary of “quack.” Francesca began to mix up another potion, muttering to herself. After an hour, she turned to Will with a proud smile, holding up a glass that was filled with what looked like green milk.

She held it in front of him, and Will took a big gulp. It tasted like dirt and old socks, but he drank as much as he could. He tried not to think about what horrible thing could happen to him if this went as wrong as the first potion.

There was an explosion of purple and blue twinkles and a loud bang, and William was lying on the floor, completely naked. He was extremely happy to find he was also completely human again. His eyes were normal, and he no longer wanted to pick up a car just because he could. Will sat up and let out a whoop of joy.

“I’ll get you some clothes,” Francesca said, averting her eyes.

She left and was back in a minute with a pair of pants and a t-shirt. Will dressed, refusing to speak to her for the moment.

“So, what was it like being a duck?”

He turned to her. She had a notebook out, pen poised, looking expectantly at him.

“Are you serious?” he asked.

“It’s for my project,” she said, batting her eyes at him. “It didn’t go as planned, I know, but if I put this into the report, I think the professor will be so impressed with my avant-garde…”

Will walked to the front door, opened it, and stared pointedly at her. She pouted. He didn’t back down.

“I don’t have time to put together an entire other project,” she said, pen still poised over notebook.

Will didn’t say anything.

“I’ll probably flunk,” Francesca tried again.

“Goodbye Francesca,” he said.

He closed the door behind her and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Well, that was quack!” He clapped a hand over his mouth, horrified. Steeling himself, he opened his mouth again. “Weird,” he finished.

 

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