Super Paranoid

“Oh, no,” Gina quietly gasped, as her hand hovered over her open mouth. Ronald leaned in close with a questioning look. “Uncle Howard actually showed up.” She nodded across the lawn towards the solidly build older man.

“So,” Ronald turned, looking at the man. “He was on the list your mother gave me.”

“There should have been a pink star next to his name,” Gina rolled her eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

“He might have,” Ronald swallowed a sip of his punch. “What does that mean?”

“It’s the organization thing my mom does,” Gina’s narrowed eyes darted to Ronald then back to her Uncle Howard. “It means invite to the important events like funerals, or weddings.” She clenched her teeth, “Not to ordinary things like the once a decade family reunion picnic.”

Ronald ran a hand through his hair, and hooked his neck, “Uh…I’m not following.”

“Uncle Howard is special,” Gina said with a tilt to her head. “He’s retired now, but he continues to find problems everywhere.”

Ronald blinked at her.

“Uncle Howard used to be called Cobblestone,” Gina whispered then sighed.

Ronald froze with his cup midway to his mouth, his eyes unblinking. “Wait! THE Cobblestone?” His head jerked towards Uncle Howard, then back. Ronald’s cheeks flushed and his eyes sparkled. “Wow!”

Gina let out an “Oh boy,” under her breath. “Yes. THE Cobblestone.” She shook her head with her eyes closed. “Now, it’s just sad.”

“What do you mean,” Ronald asked, shifting to stand closer.

“In his last few days of super hero duty, he defeated Brood,” Gina answered. Ronald nodded. “Brood threatened to get even, like all the villains do.”

“Yeah, so what?” Ronald’s face contorted into annoyance. “Tell me something I didn’t see on the news.”

“Well, Brood is a telepath,” Gina tapped a finger on her temple. “He uses his brain powers to affect things and attack.”

Ronald arched an eyebrow and sighed. “OK.” He drew the word out.

“If something happens to Uncle Howard, he thinks it’s Brood getting even,” Gina said, looking at her feet.

Ronald shook his head, “I’m still not following.”

“Here we go,” Gina nodded towards Uncle Howard.

Ronald turned to see a football roll away from Uncle Howard. Howard stood stiff, with his eyes darting around the lawn. He moved his head to the right, eyes scanning.

Everyone at the picnic went quiet. Several people stepped away from Howard.

Howard’s head turned the other direction.

The kids that threw the football stopped in their approach to their toy.

“I know you’re here,” Howard shouted. He crunched the plastic cup in his hand, spilling the contents to the grass. “Show yourself, you base coward.” Howard’s skin turned red. Dark outlines in random patterns formed over his skin. His shirt ripped, followed by his pants and shoes.

“Oh,” Ronald drew this word out. “I see.”

Howard dashed to the side, smashing through the picnic table that held the food. “Brood! I’ll find you!”

“Quick,” Gina said to Ronald. “Call Denise.” She stepped away from Ronald with her head turning this way and that. “She’ll come and help calm him down.” Gina bolted towards the kids. “Vince, code puppy-dog. Code puppy-dog.”

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