Reid Reilly had locked himself out. He checked there was no one else in the hall, no one else to see. He morphed his fingers into the dimensions of a credit card and jemmied the lock. No one must know he is FlatMan.
With relief, he closed the door behind him, glad to be home away from all the clamour and attention. The civic reception in FlatMan’s honour had gone very well. The Mayor had awarded him the key to the city. The crowd had gone wild when their very own superhero had made his entrance, peeling himself away from a poster. How they’d roared! How they’d cheered! The Mayor’s speech was a peon of praise and gratitude, thanking FlatMan for saving all those lives, yet again – on this most recent occasion from Fire-Breath and Blasto, thwarting their explosive endeavours by making himself a giant blanket and stifling the villains’ fires. Now in asbestos cells, those two faced a long stretch before they could hold another orphanage to ransom.
Reid Reilly poured himself a drink of water – carbonated not still – and raised a toast to his alter-ego. He’d always wanted to be a cop but had failed the medical on account of his flat feet. Now, as a self-employed vigilante he had the admiration of an entire city and the adulation of all its children.
“Tell us, FlatMan,” the Mayor had shaken his hand, “What will you do with this award, the latest in a long line of many?”
“Oh,” FlatMan had shrugged, “I’ll put it with the others. In my flat!”
The crowd laughed and whooped; that joke never fell flat.
Representatives of the press hurled questions about his private life but the Mayor told them that was wholly inappropriate. Wasn’t it enough that the man had saved the day? Didn’t he deserve some privacy?
“What about Bubble-Girl?” asked one reporter who would not be put off. “Didn’t you two have a thing at one time?”
Ah, Bubble-Girl… Reid Reilly raised his glass again. They had flirted a little when he’d apprehended her in the act of robbing a jewellery store and he’d enjoyed wrapping himself around her curvaceous, lycra-clad figure until the police arrived.
FlatMan looked the reporter in the eye. “No,” he said flatly.
Then he folded himself like a paper aeroplane and leapt from the podium. He soared over the heads of the crowd before rising on an air current and flying up, up and away.
Now, in his flat, with his flat-pack furniture and flat-screen TV, Reid Reilly found the bubbles had gone out of his drink. When you’re not doing what you’re good at, he thought, when you’re not doing what you love, life is, well, rather flat.