Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Consequences of Anger"

This poem was commissioned by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and is a direct sequel to "Pulling It Backward" so read that one first if you haven't already. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"The Consequences of Anger"

After the attack by the wild boar, Chriselda healed
better and faster than anyone expected. The hospital
provided physical therapists who taught her exercises
to keep her muscles healthy while she recovered.

Before long, the terrible gashes in her belly were no more
than a mess of ugly purple and red scars, and even
her broken leg barely twinged when she exercised.

Chriselda even put on muscle, her thighs thickening
and arms beginning to bulge where archery had
already laid a solid foundation of strength.

People began to talk. "The tests came back from the boar,"
her mother said. "It was radioactive, too high to eat."

"Well, that happens -- it's why the tests are required,"
Chriselda said. Wild boar fattened at Chernobyl might
wander anywhere across the width of European forests.

"You're healing so fast," her doctor said. "It may be that
you have gained something from this, more than a few scars."

"I'm just lucky," Chriselda said. "It's nothing special."
She was so hungry that she ate everything on her tray,
even though the hospital food tasted horrible to her;
it was no wonder that she was putting on weight.

Once she got home, it was easier; her mother's cooking
tasted even better than ever, and Chriselda devoured it.

When she outgrew her clothes, thighs no longer fitting
into her pants and shoulders bursting out of sweaters,
her father said, "It's time to stop pretending, Chriselda.
Anyone can see that your body is changing now."

"No, it's not true," Chriselda insisted. "I'm normal!"
Her temper surged within her, and she tried to control it, but
these days it felt as slippery as a greased pig at the peasant fair.

"Of course you are," her father said. "You just have some
new abilities growing in. It will be an adventure to discover
what you can do. We'll find someone to guide you."

When he wrapped her in a hug, Chriselda lost her grip
on her unruly feelings, fear and anger bursting loose.
Her muscles grew and grew, arms and legs monstrous
against the slim lines of her torso, even her new clothes
suddenly so tight that they pinched whenever she moved.

She shoved her father away -- as if he weighed nothing,
the way he flew back against the wall, sagging to the floor.

I don't want a guide! I just want to be myself!
The words raged inside her but would not come out,
only strangled grunts emerging as Chriselda
took out her frustrations on the furniture.

The fury passed as quickly as it had come, though,
leaving her exhausted and panting amidst the wreckage.
Her muscles cramped as they contracted to their former size.

Chriselda's mother would not look at her as she helped
her husband to his feet, one arm clutching the other.
Neither was Chriselda allowed to come to the hospital, only
finding out hours later that her father had a broken collarbone
when he came home with his right arm in a sling.

She could no longer deny the changes in her body, nor
the consequences of anger, and she did not know what to do.

Chriselda's father sat beside her on the couch, stroking
her blonde hair with his good hand. "Everything will be all right,"
he said. "We're a family. We'll get through this together.
No matter what happens, you're my daughter and I love you."

Chriselda wished that she could believe him.

* * *


"How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it."
-- Marcus Aurelius

Each superhero traditionally has an origin story, and we saw that in "Pulling It Backward" before. Radiation is one of the most popular catalysts. Although it doesn't work that way in our world, in Terramagne radiation can turn a latent ability into an active one. Extreme stress is another common trigger for superpowers, and these often occur together.

Wild boars are notorious for being difficult to kill and aggressive even when severely injured. (The following link is graphic.) They charge hunters, sometimes doing serious damage, which is why boar spears have a crossbar: to prevent the boar from charging up the spear while impaled on it. So when I saw this article about radioactive wild boars, I just had to base a superhera on that.

After the hunting incident, Chriselda becomes a berserker. This motif dates back all the way to Viking culture, although it's also a modern trope. The term derives from "bear shirt" and refers to the custom of wearing the skin of a totem animal -- such as a bear, wolf, or boar -- to gain its powers in battle. Chriselda's ability to go berserk and gain extra energy, along with her powers of super-strength, toughness, regeneration, and enhanced senses all reflect qualities of the wild boar.

Wanting to be normal is both an entertainment trope and something people often say in therapy. The kind of denial that Chriselda shows is a common coping method, which can be beneficial in the short term but tends to turn problematic if it lasts very long. There are ways to deal with denial in yourself and in others.
Anger issues can appear in young people as well as adults. Chriselda's volatile temper predates her current situation; it's just a bigger problem all of a sudden. Know how to handle anger and other negative emotions. Anger, fear, and pain are common triggers for berserkers.
People often hurt the ones they love. When this happens, follow the steps to make up for it and to forgive yourself.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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