I glanced at my watch as I dashed out of my car, afraid I was late to an appointment I didn’t even really want to show up for. My therapist was nice, but lately our sessions had left me just as drained as a mental battle with the Hypnosisters.
I paused as I reached for the doorknob to Dr. Wulfred’s third floor suite. I was completely sure there weren’t any slippery chutes, death rays, or sonic pulverizers on the other side, but I couldn’t look at a door these days without thinking about what traps might lurk behind it. I’d just spent the past week having the Citadel redecorated, and as the general contractor was fond of saying, “Why waste a perfectly useful doorway by putting just a door in it?” On its own the joke was harmless enough, but the fact that he said it once a day and let out the most annoying giggle every damn time was enough for me to feed him to the sharks as soon as all the permits were secured.
Dr. Wulfred would probably say that I wasn’t worried about her door so much as what it represented, which is why I would make sure I never told her that it was getting harder and harder for me to come to our sessions. I’m sure she knew anyway—the woman was a damn good therapist for someone who wasn’t psionically talented.
Stepping into the suite, I saw the door to Dr. Wulfred’s office was closed. As I went to sit in a comfortable-looking but shabby chair, I heard her clear soprano voice through the door, finishing with another client.
My anxiety skyrocketed; no one else had ever been around before any of my other sessions, and I couldn’t risk anyone I knew finding out I was seeing a therapist. Of course, I knew the thought was silly as soon as it entered my mind. My secret identity had never been uncovered, and Dr. Wulfred came recommended specifically because her office was in a part of town that I would never be caught dead in. Still, as the door to the office opened I buried my face in a copy of Cosmopolitan and waited for the outer door to close behind the unwanted guest.
After a few brief moments, Dr. Wulfred herself came out and stood in the doorway of her office. “Good evening, Doctor,” she apologized. “Please excuse the delay. Come in and make yourself comfortable.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” I replied, joining her in the office and half-smiling in appreciation of the formal titles. It might sound overly stuffy and silly between two people in private, but it was a refreshing change of pace to hear it from someone who didn’t even need threats of beatings to correct themselves. My blood boiled whenever I was was forced to hear reporters, political figures, and two-bit would-be heroes screw up and call me out as “Miss Malignant.”
I didn’t spend six grueling years studying theoretical supervillainy with twin specialties in applied scheming and apocalyptic engineering to be called Miss anything.
“Last week, you were telling me about how you were having trouble focusing on your plots against The Amazing Five. Were you able to make any progress?” she asked as I lay down on the leather couch against the far wall.
“As it turns out, I got past that easily,” I said. “Once I forced myself to sit down and shut out the little distractions, the perfect plot just fell into my lap.”
“Oh?” Dr. Wulfred paused, and I could hear her flipping through her notes. “What was that?”
“It was easy when I realized I didn’t need to fight them at all. I called them out for a showdown in Capital City, and of course when they showed up they started doing their stupid little ‘justice for all’ and ‘force of good’ speech.
“All I had to do was rush in during the middle of it, carry off Little Boy Wonder, and lock him in the basement of the Citadel. I didn’t even have to restrain him too tightly. I just threw an iPad and some ice cream in there; apparently they only give him one half-hour of screen time a night and dessert only after he eats all his vegetables. It’s going to be really easy to recruit him to my cause.”
“And this was an effective tactic?”
“Oh, completely. They won’t be knocking on my door any time soon. You can tell both of his Terrific Twin brothers are glad he’s gone, and I just know Mr. Electric and The Feminine Mystique went home fighting over whose fault it was that I got away with their kid. You really shouldn’t go into the superhero business as a family, you know. It’s hard enough keeping your identities secret, let alone keeping your dirty laundry out of your professional life.”
“Ah.” I heard her pick up her glasses and consult her notes again. “If I recall correctly, you said they were your last real opposition. Does this mean you’ll be able to move forward with your master plan of enslaving the country?”
“Well…” I lingered on the reply.
That was the goal, after all, but now that I was so close I didn’t really feel like it was worth going all the way.
Truth be told, if I was going to act, I did need to act quickly. I wouldn’t be able to stand unopposed for long. Rumor had it that France was close to developing a super-serum to turn their elite military troops into unstoppable juggernauts. On the other hand, the natural problem with being a supervillain is that I could never let any of the other major bad guys out of my sight for too long.
Regardless, I couldn’t think of one of them who I’d trust not to at least try to stab me in the back if I let my guard down, and the longer I waited the bolder they might get. Yet, I still hesitated.
“I just don’t know, Doctor. Lately, I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I get up in the morning, I tell myself, ‘You’re Dr. Malignant. You control more territory than 12 percent of the world’s nations, and you have a 25-foot tall pure gold statue of yourself in your secret moonbase.’ Even if it’s all true, it just feels hollow. Yes I’m the leading expert in my field, but I only went to grad school because I didn’t know what else to do when I graduated!”
“Perhaps that’s how it felt at the time. But you surely were interested in a career in villainy for some reason, no?”
I could hear the arch in her eyebrow even though I couldn’t see her face.
“I thought so!” I paused, realizing how shrill my voice was getting. Taking a breath, I continued, “I mean, I know I wasn’t the only girl to grow up with alcoholic parents, or the only one who got bullied by the Homecoming Queen, or the only one who was tormented in middle school when her tampons fell out of her backpack during homeroom. I was just the only one who decided to do something about it instead of just whining in a diary and sleeping with assholes with tattoos and motorbikes when I turned legal. After robbing two banks and burning down the school all in the same day in 10th grade, I realized I was good enough to do this for a living.”
“Maybe it’s good enough to make a living, but is it good enough for your life? It’s clear you are one of the most capable supervillains out there right now—possibly even in all of history. However… just because we’re good at something doesn’t mean that it sustains us. In our sessions, you tell me all about Dr. Malignant but so little about yourself. To me it seems that you’ve spent too much time devoting yourself to your career, and it’s starting to catch up with you.”
I thought back over the past couple years, and saw a pattern of keeping myself busy and occupied so I wasn’t left dwelling on my own thoughts. Even abusing my most loyal henchman, who admittedly was more stupid than anything else, hadn’t helped in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I felt caught off guard, and my temper flared. “So what the hell am I supposed to do about it?”
“Well, for starters, is there anything you’ve seen people doing that you wanted to try? Something out of character for you?”
I paused. I didn’t think she’d laugh in my face, but still… “Pottery,” I mumbled.
There was a silence. I heard her stop in the middle of taking notes. “I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Pottery. You know, clay.”
“Pottery? Making pots?” she asked. She better not be smiling, I thought.
“Well, fine, evil pottery. Whatever.”
“No need to get defensive, Doctor,” she replied smoothly. “Listen. You have some amazing circumstances you can take advantage of. Literally no one knows who you are and what you do for work. Why don’t you leave Dr. Malignant at home and take some art classes at the local community college? Perhaps try something a little non-malignant for a change?”
We’d reached the end of the hourly session, and exchanged parting pleasantries in the waiting room. I shook her hand as I opened the door to the stairwell. The chill of the evening air felt refreshing after the stuffy office, and for a moment I imagined myself, hands covered in clay, instead of Demi Moore in Patrick Swayze’s arms. Snorting in derision, I shook my head, turned on the ignition, and began the drive back to the Citadel.