Back in January, when I was asked to be part of this year’s Twitter Fiction Festival, I was thrilled. Not only were there a large number of authors I adored and admired, but the combination of social media and publishing was the perfect mashup of all the things I loved.
However, with a list of featured authors that included people like Emma Straub, Gail Carriger, Julie Kagawa, Jim Gaffigan, Ben H. Winters, and Ian Doescher… well, it was pretty easy to get intimidated and anxious almost immediately.
So I decided to just have fun, and go with a genre I’d never played in, but always loved. Web comics.
I’ve been a fan of web comics since… well, probably since my early college years, starting with my obsession with Homestar Runner. Over the years, I’d end up falling in love with comics like XKCD, Diesel Sweeties, Hark a Vagrant, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and artists like Zac Gorman, Kate Leth, and Anthony Clark. I flip through my favorite every week, and always wanted to try my hand at it.
And #TwitterFiction sure seemed like the perfect outlet. The stories are meant to be short, quick, span a few tweets (or sometimes only one), and that’s it. Web comics use a few squares and sometimes a single image to tell a story or convey a feeling.
For my Twitter Fiction Festival story, Already a Hero, I teamed up with Juan Carlos Solon, an amazing illustrator from Toronto who did the adorable 8-bit pixel art for my first book with Quirk. He even went so far as to animate the images for the piece! The animated gifs wouldn’t appear on Twitter, so here they are, for you! And I hope the story and the images make you smile.
Already a Hero by Eric Smith
Illustrated by Juan Carlos Solon
Late on one Thursday afternoon, the phone rang right on cue.
This had been going on for weeks, so it was nothing new.
“He’s sick again, his heart meter’s dry,” the teacher said, so cool,
“You’ll have to drive on over, come and pick him up from school.”
His Mom arrived, she walked right in, and sighed with the school nurse.
There was her son, he had no hearts! (Though things could be much worse.)
“What happened dear?” his mother asked, her voice so kind and sweet.
“Where did your hearts all go this time, why are they incomplete?”
“Mom, I don’t know,” her son replied, “Outside or in the gym?
I lost one yesterday in dodge ball, I can’t seem to win.
And on the swings I fell, and then I dropped some blocks today.
So I don’t know, I guess they’re gone, there’s nothing else to say.”
So, his Mom took him home and hugged him tightly for a while,
Then his heart meter went back up and he began to smile.
The following week, as it had been so many times before.
She got the call, showed up at school, on Thursday right at four.
There in the nurse’s office, where he sat so low and tired,
His Mom looked at him in the eyes to learn what had transpired.
“I want the truth,” she said, “and please, son, don’t pretend or lie.
Where do your hearts keep going, son?” And he began to cry.
“Well, A.J. never has a lunch, and Chris, he missed his Dad,
And Jen gets picked on every day, and Dan, he’s always sad.
And Britt has nightmares at naptime… Mom, what’s the fuss about?
I only want to help them, but my hearts keep running out.”
It seemed his world was full of hurt, he knew not what to do.
But give his hearts away to help the other kids pull through.
That’s why he got so sick each week, and always got sent home.
He gave his hearts to everyone, so they’d feel less alone.
“You keep it up,” his mother said, “and I’ll be here, okay?
It takes a hero to do this, to give your hearts away.
Just save a little love for you, that’s totally alright.”
And his life meter filled back up as she hugged him so tight.