This poem came from the April 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by the_vulture, who wanted to explore the relationship between school bullies and mad scientists. To this prompt I added my own knowledge of the very grave problem of bullying. (Read some resources on how to stop bullying.) It's just that some targets have more resources than others, and in a world with mad scientists the consequences can be a great deal more colorful...
Mad science doesn't start in a lab.
It starts in a playground.
It doesn't start with maniacal laughter,
but with a snicker hidden behind a small sticky hand,
and then no longer hidden.
It doesn't start with a name that everyone fears,
but with a nickname that everyone mocks
except for the teachers who never seem to hear it.
It doesn't start with a Thingamabomb to destroy the Earth,
but with a sly tripping foot and a skinned knee
that no one will come to kiss away.
It's less about being alone at the top of a tower
than about being left at the top of a teeter-totter
to crash into the unforgiving pavement.
It's less about inventing things to intimidate the whole world
than about work that was done and then stolen
so that someone else could reap the praise for it.
It's less about the monsters in the basement
than about the monsters in this week's fashion wear
baring their terrible, perfect teeth in a parody of a smile.
It grows in the lab,
under the humming fluorescent lights,
surrounded by the honest danger of scalpels and electrodes.
It grows in the library,
25 somewhere between Machiavelli and Maxwell,
surrounded not just by the wisdom of the ages but also the cunning.
It grows in the office,
around the power and the pain,
surrounded by the intricate, meticulously filed plans.
It should come as no surprise,
after a lifetime of cutting words,
if some of the cuts should fester
until they begin to poison mind and body.
It should come as no suprise,
but somehow it always does --
that they could torture with impunity,
without effect, without limit, without discovery.
And then one day
the hidden strings snap
and it's nothing so simple as a gun
that the ravaged madling brings to school.
It's a robot the size of City Hall
with feet bigger than school buses
to teach the bullies how small and helpless they really are.
It's a Doberdragon slavering acid
that burns like a thousand insults and leaves scars
on the clear and flawless skin for everyone to see.
It's a projector whose flickering indelible light
50 shows the tormentors' worst nightmares all over the walls
because if someone's secrets aren't safe, then no one's will be.
When the screaming and the running are all over
and the dust has settled back into the cracks,
everyone will ask why it happened
but no one will ever arrive at the right answer.
The image in that mirror is too terrible to behold.
Only the madlings know,
the ones who quietly slip away amidst the chaos,
never to return to the realm of the ordinary.
Once they have touched the cracked hollow of the sky,
there is no going back to a life of illusions.
They prefer their evil open and unsmiling,
their truths as smooth and cool as the teeth of a trap.
Oh, there's a reason for the foot-thick castle walls,
the moat full of cyborg piranha,
the escape hatches and webs of hidden tunnels,
the freeze rays and death rays with their unblinking crimson eyes,
and even the ultimate weapon of the Destruct-O-Switch.
There's a reason for all of those things,
but it has nothing to do with the heroes
71 who think everything is about them.