The Hero was inspired by my high school experience in competitive freestyle skiing, which devolved from a fun weekend sport into Lord of the Flies. One of two narrators, Junior Nix joins a sport known simply as “the game” that practices in the marsh behind the town church. Though he starts playing only to appease his father, his natural skill makes him a superstar, and he even begins to enjoy the game, mastering its seemingly made-up rules. The second narrator, bumbling Chris Kirkpatrick, has been on the team for years, but has never understood how to play the game, or found the acceptance Junior so effortlessly attains.
When Junior’s skill earns the team a spot at the national championship, the athletes begin buckling under the pressure to win. The game turns deadly as the rules morph in response to the growing hostility among the athletes. Chris becomes the team’s scapegoat when he refuses to leap a tank holding a mysterious beast; as Chris struggles to keep up, Junior helps him train for, and ultimately survive, the championship. In the end, however, not even Chris can save Junior from losing himself to the game.