DP Fiction #28A: “The Existentialist Men” by Gwendolyn Clare

Kris has a talent for making toast come out perfectly every time. Never burnt. The rest of us yearn for a superpower so practical.

Ryan has incredible parking-space karma, but only after he has already parked. He’ll circle round and round the block, finding nothing and more nothing, and eventually give up and take that one empty space six blocks away. He’ll bundle up against the cold, scarf wrapped all the way up to his chin and hands shoved deep in his coat pockets, and walk the six blocks to the restaurant. And without fail, just as he opens the door, a parking space will open up directly in front. Once, he ran back to his car to move it closer, but the empty space had been claimed by the time he drove there. The parking spaces are taunting him.

Technology always behaves itself in the presence of Candace. If someone has a computer problem, all she has to do to fix it is walk over and glance at the screen. Of course, as soon as she walks away, the computer begins malfunctioning again. She doesn’t understand what the rest of us are always complaining about.

Julie could disappear, but only once. We all miss Julie.

Hiro is never, ever, in a situation where he might have the opportunity to be a hero. One day he slept in, and that was the day someone lost control of their car on the ice and plowed through the glass front of the café where he usually got his morning coffee. When the flu prevented him from going holiday shopping downtown, a chunk of limestone façade spontaneously fell off a building onto a crowded sidewalk, killing one person and injuring six. If he declines to join us for lunch, invariably someone in the restaurant will nearly choke to death. The rest of us got trained to do the Heimlich, and we try to take him along with us whenever we can, like a shield against the bad luck that seems to cluster in his absence. Hiro, for his own part, tries to stick to his schedule so he’s never not somewhere he’s supposed to be.

Brianna gets improbable injuries. It’s true that she enjoys her share of dangerous activities—rugby, skiing, roller derby—but that’s never when she gets hurt. She sprained her wrist in her sleep. She broke a bone in her foot getting out of the desk chair in her home office. Once, she actually slipped on a banana peel and broke her elbow. At an improv comedy show, she laughed so hard she cracked a rib. Most of the ER nurses know her by name. She has to be especially careful when Hiro’s not around.

Nick always knows exactly what time it is without looking at a clock. This would have been incredibly useful back in the 18th Century. But we all own watches and cell phones, and don’t really need him for anything.

Carlos says he has consistent, reliable precognitive abilities. Unfortunately, his precognition only senses one or two seconds ahead, so he never manages to react in time to change the outcome. This means no one else can really confirm whether or not he has a superpower at all, but we choose to believe him anyway. With everything else we’ve seen, why not? At least he knows what’s coming.

My superpower is that I’m friends with all these people, and nothing extraordinary ever happens to me.

© 2017 by Gwendolyn Clare


gwen-clare-headshotGwendolyn Clare’s debut novel — INK, IRON, AND GLASS — is the first in a YA steampunk duology forthcoming from Macmillan/Imprint in 2018. Her short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others. She holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, a PhD in Mycology, and swears she’s done collecting acronyms. She lives in North Carolina with too many cats, too many ducks, and never enough books.



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David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David is also the editor-in-chief here at Diabolical Plots. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on BlueSky for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

2 thoughts on “DP Fiction #28A: “The Existentialist Men” by Gwendolyn Clare”

  1. I like to joke that I have a useless power as well, in that when I’m working at events, nothing exciting will ever happen around me, no crisis will require my intervention, and I’ll never have to do anything remotely awesome. 🙂 So far, so good.

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