Thomas knew Louis was feeling miserable. He probably had good reasons, though. Louis’ parents had put a lot time, effort and expectations for the last treatment to do wonders but, quite like previous ones, the kid showed no sign of clinical improvement: he’d lost weight, had long shades on his pale blue eyes and barely spoke. His look wandered between the worn-out curtains and a salient drip –to which he’d be attached only too often–.
But Thomas had a plan: there was something he could do for his friend and, perhaps, for himself too. That’s why he’d carefully hidden a brand-new Wolverine costume –boots, wig and all–.
“Stand up and look out of the window at eleven o’clock”, said Thomas before leaving the room. Louis looked back and nodded, barely realising that Thomas carried a new backpack.
Kids would all gather up in the hospital terrace, a large garden-like playroom where they could spend long hours and pretend there was no such thing as a long-standing illness hovering about. Thomas hated that way of referring to cancer: it was plain to see they were bald and skinny.
On its north face, the place had a surrounding inner fence the height of an adult at its perimeter, which would lead to a sort of nobody’s land –the remnants of the original building’s roof–. This had, in turn, a low outer wall that marked the limit of the building.
Thomas knew he could only use some six minutes in the whole process. Sometimes wardens took a little bit longer than usual in the shift change, but that was it. He hoped to count on the distraction caused by a myriad of boys playing around to grant him an extra element of surprise.
He checked his watch: it was 10.52. He caught a glimpse of the caretaker walking back towards the main door, took a deep breath and set off. Sneaking off to a corner where the fence took a ninety degrees angle, he started to climb. He looked up and felt awkward at first. Perhaps he wasn’t strong or bold enough; maybe it was a no go. Then he thought of Louis: how long did he have left to live, how long left for himself. “I need to visualise it”, he added in his mind. He made it to the top and struggled a little to get down on the other side. A quick check across the fence served to reassure him that for now, no one was missing him. He ran towards a large air conditioning installation that stood between the fence and the outer wall, which would serve as parapet. He realised he only had three minutes left; took of his gown and felt the winter chill –it was a fair morning, but the sun was not yet warming up–. He checked for all the garments in his pack and put them on without hesitation.
“There we go”, he thought, “It’s performing time”.
Compared with the previous effort, he found it a piece of cake to get on the outer wall. Still, a new feeling appeared: vertigo. He looked down for a millisecond to realise how tall a twelve-storey building can be. Then, looking back, he saw all the kids staring at him in wonder from within. He heard some masculine voices scream and hurried on to reach the bespoke spot. When he made it there, he started to strike the best Wolverine pose he could ever produce. Upon closing his eyes his last thought shaped up: he wondered what it would be like to cure himself through regenerative powers, grow real hair and fight foes with retractable adamantium claws.
There was nothing Bill and Candice could do or say to cheer their son up, not that day.
“Don’t you want to go play with the others?”, said Bill. “By the way, where’s Tommy?”, he added.
Louis, at last, reacted. He remembered he had an appointment. He got up from his bed and walked to the window, where he drew the curtains. He opened it and looked out.
He saw nothing different, at first: the same dull view –ominous skyscrapers and the ever-flowing traffic of the city–. For a moment, though, he looked up. Then he saw him.
“It’s not possible”, he muttered.
Bill and Candice joined him and stared in amazement.
Up on the verge of the building wall there stood Wolverine. He had a defiant look in his face, his crossed arms wrapped up over chest and his long protruding claws pointing upwards.
Candice saw, for the first time in months, his boy smiling radiantly. There was also a new light in his eyes plus streaming tears down his face that, she knew, had nothing to do with sadness or fear.
To all our superheroes.