Wednesday, March 28, 2007


"I think we should take it easy for a couple weeks, lay low. That woman has been front-page news for the past two days, and every tabloid in town is talking about freaks and masked madmen running amok in the city," Alex said. "And we should give ourselves some time to heal," he added, noticing just how big the bruise on Miranda's face had become. He wondered how her other injuries – a cracked rib, sprained wrist, the bruise across her back, and lesion on her head – were healing. Miranda was smiling, though, as she usually did. She lounged in a leather chair in Alex's living room, sipping a glass of vegetable juice like it was a shot of whiskey. The oversized chair fit her like a small couch. She rested her head on one cushioned leather arm, and her legs bobbed and swung aimlessly as she let them dangle over the side of the other arm. Miranda looked up from her V8 and was embarrassed to see Alex eying the unsightly green and brown mark on her cheek.

Alex was somewhat ashamed, too, that he'd come away with only a lump on his head and a concussion. Then he looked over to Thomas, ostensibly inspecting a bust of Socrates, but most obviously preoccupied with his thoughts.

Alex resented Thomas a bit, but he could not quite determine why. Perhaps it was because Thomas had used his power to decisively end the conflict, the fight with the long-armed woman, when he had previously only proven able to distract and confused criminals, while Alex himself had been helpless and unhelpfully unconscious. Or perhaps it was because of the odd mood that Thomas had been in since that night. Or maybe it was because Thomas had come through the whole ordeal unscathed. Alex felt the lump on the back of his skull. He doesn't have a mark on his body, he thought, not even a scratch.

"I feel that something big is about to happen, or maybe it already is happening," Alex said as he stood up. Thomas could tell that Alex was going into lecture mode. Miranda sat up slowly, holding her side, and continued to sip her juice. "First we had the 'New City Devil' kill a convenience store clerk, and now we have the 'Long-Arm Lady' attacking random people on the street. Something connects these two. Something or someone is behind these villains."

Thomas cringed at Alex's use of the word 'villains.' "They were probably just down-on-their-luck freaks high on meth." Miranda looked over at Thomas, surprised that he was talking. He had not said much in the past day. Thomas looked at Alex's stern face. "It is just a coincidence," he mumbled in conclusion.

"Nothing's a coincidence," Alex said. "These aren't isolated incidents. I can feel it." Miranda nodded as if she felt it, too. Thomas rolled his eyes. More superhero voodoo nonsense, he thought.

"There's something much bigger going on here. We just can't see it, yet. We need to wait until it shows itself again."

"Wait?" Thomas spoke up again. "Wait for what?" Alex was about to answer, but Thomas kept speaking, "I'm tired of waiting. We sit on rooftops and wait for what? For small-time robbers and would-be muggers?" Thomas looked to Miranda for support. There was compassion in her eyes, ever present as it was, but she offered no reinforcement. He looked back at Alex. "You're always saying that we're superheroes, right? So, shouldn't we be going after supervillians?"

Alex said, "We just got our butts kicked by a supervillain. Don't you think we could use some practice before whatever evil is coming gets here?"

"Spare me your super intuition power. There's no evidence and no reason to even believe that there is any connection between the crazy woman we fought the other night and that freaky Devil guy." Alex waited for Thomas to finish. His frustration grew. Thomas continued, "Instead of wasting our time waiting for some ethereal evil shadow to fall over New City, or wasting our powers on stopping misdemeanors, we should be getting at the root of crime. We should be going after drug lords and crime bosses, the real evil in this city?"

"I understand your zeal, but jumping right into the big leagues is dangerous. Some of us already put more than we can afford on the line as it is," Alex said.

"You're scared," Thomas said matter-of-factly. "You're scared to actually do something. You're scared to get your hands dirty."

"Thomas," Miranda said, trying to stand up fast. She winced and held her side.

"You're darn right I'm scared," Alex said taking a step toward Thomas. "When we come back with bruises and broken bones from one encounter with one person, you can bet I'm going to be scared. But I guess you wouldn't know anything about getting hurt, would you?"

"Guys," Miranda said.

"I did what I could. And at least I got the job done. I killed her before she killed you." There was a brief pause. This was the first time since that night that Thomas or anyone had mentioned the long-armed woman's gruesome death. "Maybe I should have let her work you over a little longer?"

"All right! Just stop it," Miranda commanded. Both men looked over at her. She was not smiling.

Thomas huffed, "I'm going home." He turned and pulled a cigarette out of his pocket as he walked. He lit it while he was still inside Alex's apartment. He knew Alex disapproved of smoking anything except expensive cigars.

Alex ignored the effrontery and tried to regain an air of authority by calling to Thomas as he walked away, "We all need some rest and some time to think. We'll meet up in a week and discuss the direction we each want the group to follow."

"Yeah right," Thomas said under his breath as he stepped through the apartment door.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about identity recently, how it's formed, what it's made of. It seems that one's identity is a patchwork of self-assessment, societal labels, and scientific jargon. It all comes together to describe a person, but one's identity is never really who they are. They are more, much more than a bundle of ideas and words. Who I am is more than a demographic and a statistic.

But this does not mean that the labels that make up our identities are without value. Knowing how I am defined -- by myself and by others -- could be very useful for discovering who I am, why you am who I am, and how I got that way. Thus, I have tried to map out my identity along some major categories:

Category Identity Evidence Comments
sex male unambiguous male genitalia, male hormones, and masculine body/facial structure By “unambiguous” I mean readily identifiable and of adequate proportion and reasonable placement. And no, I don’t want to hear any dissenting opinions.
gender man view men as equals and opponents, objectify women, strive for self-reliance, am prone to violence, suppress emotional responses, prefer to communicate in terms of logical reasoning, view sex as power This one was a hard one, and I’m not sure I completely got it. Gender, as I’ve tried to define it here, is a construct of society. I tried to ask myself what traits I posses, positive or negative, that identify someone as a “man” in modern American.
sexual orientation non-deviant heterosexual perform sexual acts solely with and desire only opposite-sex sex partners I added the "non-deviant" with some reservations. By "deviant" I do not mean to say that what others may choose to do is bad or wrong. "Non-deviant," in this case, is a reference to the fact that I do not participate in any non-heterosexual activities. There are some people who engage in some homosexual acts, but are predominantly (morally, mentally, physically, or whatever the cause) heterosexual -- these I would consider to be "deviant" heterosexuals. Likewise, there are those who are homosexual who may, for whatever reason, perform heterosexual acts: deviant homosexuals. I'm not sure what the middle ground would be.
sexuality straight am uncomfortable with personal physical intimacy with same-sex/gender, refuse same-sex/gender sexual advances, approach only opposite sex/gender for sexual acts This differs from "sexual orientation," in my mind, in that "sexual orientation" is what a person desires and "sexuality" is what a person actually practices.
race Caucasian am descended solely from European Caucasians This is true as far as I know.
heritage white was brought up in a light-skinned family that claimed no inter-racial ancestors, think of people as white unless otherwise noted as "black," "Asian," etc. I had trouble with this one. My evidence seems forced.
class status middle-class had my essential needs taken care of (and them some) while growing up, have a sustainable sustainable lifestyle, do not have an overwhelming amount of debt, have a post-high school education Although I don't know exactly what demarcates the different classes, I think it's fairly easy to identify them.
religion non-affiliated do not attend any religious service, do not appreciate circular logic and self-aggrandizement often associated with religion I almost wrote "post-Christian" for this one. By this I would have meant that I still appreciate the mythology and literature of Christianity, but do not necessarily believe that any of it is true or particularly relevant to my or any other modern life.
spiritual belief agnostic believe that there is some purpose to my life and human life in general, do not know or particularly care to know the source or scope of this purpose "Agnostic" means "without knowing." For me, agnosticism is not only not knowing what greater power may or may not exist, but also being content in not knowing. Atheism is too adamant for my tastes.
political party affiliation Libertarian oppose the recent fusing of Republican party with the religious right, find many Democratic viewpoints too socialistic, oppose overreaching government involvement in my personal and business life and the lives of others I've never voted Libertarian, nor am I registered. I would have very recently aligned myself with the Democratic party, but some recent political reading has led me to realize that I would like our nation to pursue the tenets of the Libertarian party platform: less government, more personal responsibility.
political ideology conservative believe that government money should be collected in equal shares and should only be spent on services that benefit or can be enjoyed by every citizen, would prefer less government to the point of anarchy rather than more government to the point of socialism I recently told someone, much to their chagrin, that I am more closely an Anarchist than an espouser of a republic or a democracy. If a representative government is equally likely to slide into either an all-governing socialism or free-for-all anarchy, I'll choose anarchy.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Alex heard quick footfalls echo through the quiet night. Someone was running. What are they running from? Alex wondered. Or what are they running to? He jogged to the opposite edge of the building and looked each way down the sparsely lit street below him, but the source of the sound had faded into the darkness. Alex saw a man slowly walking in his direction carrying some sort of duffel bag. In the other direction down the street, he saw two moving figures at the limit of his vision. They were prostitutes. He’d talked with them before, letting them know that he did not approve of their choice of careers, but if they ever needed any help, to yell for him. They both had laughed and one had said, “Hey, Superguy, for fifty bucks I’ll let you look at my bat cave.”

Alex listened. He could not hear the running footsteps any more. A car slowly meandered across an intersection some blocks away. A figure stumbled out of a doorway in a building across the street. It wobbled for a moment then quickly descended the stoop stairway. The figure had long hair and an odd shape to its body. It spotted the man with the duffel bag and began to run toward him. It screamed something in a woman’s voice.

The man with the duffel bag turned to see the woman fast approaching. He wasn’t sure whether she was coming for him or running past. He looked around the dark and empty street to see what else might be provoking this woman. He turned to run just as the woman reached him. She tackled him. Her arms flew up and down striking him repeatedly as he cowered in fear and confusion underneath her.

Alex pressed his finger to his temple, activating the communicator in his mask. “Fire Ant, Confusio – eh, Mind Bender – action in the street.” He stood up and waved his hand to the two other superheroes a couple rooftop corners away. “One-on-one attack, one block over. Meet at my position on street-level.” He pointed down to the street three stories below. The other two nodded and began their descent down a rickety fire escape. Alex, using a high-tension line and a clip from his belt, repelled down the side of his building and within moments was joined by his two cohorts in crime fighting. They advanced on the attack in progress.

The man with the duffel back clutched it loosely and did not move. Unconscious, dead, or playing dead? Miranda thought as they came within yards of the attack. The attacker still sat on top of her victim but had ceased hitting him. She gripped him by the collar and asked him repeatedly, “Who are you? Where is he? What did he do to me?” Occasionally she would scream unintelligibly. No one in the surrounding buildings turned on their lights or poked their heads out of their windows. The whores down the road had taken off, lest the cops come around to break up the fight.

As they approached the violent woman, she suddenly turned to face the superheroes. Her hair was mussed, her eyes wide, and her face was flushed. She jumped up and rushed toward them, flailing her arms. She was nearly as tall as Alex, but seemed much lighter and lankier, though her frame was concealed by her long trench coat. She looked like a hunchback. One shoulder gently sloped down; the other was bulbous and disproportionately large. The arm of that shoulder was thick, stiff, and ended in a stub rather than a hand. Alex was confident he could subdue this crazed, deformed woman.

While Miranda veered around the attacker, checking on her victim, Alex met the wild-eyed woman and grabbed at her arms, but she quickly had him backpedaling. Her slender frame had belied her strength (or, more accurately, her ferocity). Alex struggled to restrain her, trying to gently tell her, “Calm down.” She didn’t hear him or she didn’t care, and quickly forced Alex up against the nearest apartment building. “Do something!” he shouted over to Thomas.

"I am!" Thomas shouted back. He looked desperate and panicked. "I think she's too hopped up on drugs or something for me to get through!"

"He's still conscious," Miranda said, still leaning over the man with the duffel bag. She instructed him to crawl to safety and then dashed to help Alex.

Miranda reached up on the taller woman and grabbed an arm and her coat collar. She yanked the hysterical woman back and sent her flying into the street. The woman immediately bounded back up and screamed, roared actually, at the trio. She yelled, quite unintelligibly, "Why are you protecting him? Where did he go?" The three superheroes were barely able to understand her insane-sounding questions. They stared her down and stood their ground.

The woman screamed again. With much ado, she began to gyrate her stubby arm and hunched shoulder. Then suddenly, the sleeve of her trench coat became shredded and an arm as long as the woman was tall whipped out from inside. Miranda ducked as a large hand flew toward her and grazed her head. Thomas was stunned. "What the crap!" he managed to mutter.

Alex took advantage of the long, slow arc of woman's impossibly long arm. He vaulted over Miranda and dove at the long-armed woman. He tackled her to the ground and slapped on a full nelson. Undaunted, she reached behind her back with her long arm and gripped Alex's head like a grapefruit with her over-sized hand. Alex grunted as she squeezed his skull and pulled, stretching his neck. She rolled over and slammed his head into the ground as she did so. Dazed, Alex loosened his grip. The long-arm woman broke free.

"I'm going to kill him!" the long-armed woman screamed, perhaps regarding Alex, perhaps regarding her long-gone would-be killer. Before the crazed woman could stand, Miranda grabbed her long arm tightly. The small woman pulled hard on the arm, yanking the taller woman off her feet. Miranda then swung the woman around in a semicircle and released her. She sailed across the other half of the street and over the sidewalk, landing four feet from Thomas's feet. Not knowing what to do, Thomas lunged at her. She swatted him in midair with her large palm. He fell to the ground some feet away and rolled several more.

Miranda advanced toward the enraged woman who was just getting up. The much smaller woman with arms of reasonable length, did not anticipate her obvious disadvantage in reach. Miranda was met with an incredibly powerful sock to the midsection. Even through her body armor, Miranda's midsection caved to the blow. She doubled over and sank to her knees, trying to regain her breath.

The long-armed woman was about to strike again, but her large fist was caught by both of Alex's hands. The two, the superhero and his villain, stood regarding one another for a moment. There was a disturbing twinkle in the woman's eye, something manic and disoriented. She was frothing at the mouth and breathing heavily. Alex wanted to say something to her, to try to understand her, to try to sympathize with her. She flung her arm, with him still holding it, over her head. He was sent head first into the building behind her. He crumpled to the ground.

Miranda was breathing now, deep breaths, trying to catch up on the oxygen she had missed out on. A large hand grabbed her side, its fingers nearly encompassing her waist. Miranda yelped with her new found breath. The long-armed woman lifted the small girl off her feet, then slammed her to the hard concrete on her back.

The young girl woman was limp for a moment, then came back to consciousness just as the long-armed woman began raining down quick jabs with fists large and small. Miranda tried weakly to fend off her attacker. The sharp blows alternated between her head and her midsection. Miranda curled into the fetal position and covered her head with her hands to protect herself. Several more painful blows struck her back and her side. A large hand wrapped around Miranda's ankles and she found herself being dragged down the street. "What do you know? What did he do to me?" the long-armed woman asked feverishly. The long-armed woman stopped and lifted the small girl off the ground upside-down. Miranda opened her eyes. Her head swam and her vision was blurred. "Why won't you answer me?"

The woman raised Miranda higher and seemed about to smash her to the ground once again, when someone shouted, "Stop it!"

The woman dropped Miranda, and the superheroine landed painfully on her shoulder. She looked up to see Thomas standing before the woman, their eyes on the same level and with an intense look. The woman reached for Thomas with her large hand. She stopped halfway, and her hand began to shake. Then her arm. Then her whole body. With her small hand, she touched her face, as if to see whether it was still there. Thomas breathed heavily. He looked as though he was in a trance.

A trickle of blood crept out of each of the tall woman's nostrils. She tried to wipe it away with her small hand, but smeared it across her cheek. She still trembled. Her arm still reached for Thomas. She began to whimper.

The long-armed woman's hand slid down her face and felt around her neck. She lifted her chin but never broke eye contact with Thomas. She felt her throat. She positioned her fingers. They dug into her neck. She grabbed her trachea and began to pull it out of her body. She gurgled as she crushed her windpipe. Blood began to dribble down her neck and chest and stain her trench coat. Her large hand slowly stopped futilely reaching for Thomas and encircled her other arm's wrist. She yanked and came up with a handful of her own gore.

Miranda watched the long-armed woman collapse to the ground. Despite the pain in her back and head, she forced herself up onto her hands and knees and surveyed the area. The man with the duffel bag had crawled many yards away. He had stopped moving. So, too, had Alex. He looked like he was asleep, sprawled out like a bum next to an apartment building. She saw his chest move up and down and was relieved. She looked up at Thomas who hadn't moved. He was staring into nothing, through where the long-armed woman's eyes had been before she had collapsed. Miranda looked down at the woman, a heap in a pool of blood. She heard a pathetic, last gurgle come from the woman's gaping neck hole "What did you do, Thomas?" It was not accusatory. It was not curious.

Thomas shivered. He felt like an overinflated balloon yearning for someone to pop him. He slowly looked down at the woman, now dead. He realized he hadn't been breathing for a while and sucked in the cool, dark air.

"What did you do?" Miranda repeated. She did not know why she said it; she didn't want to know the answer. But she could think of nothing else to say to him at the moment. Miranda sat back on her haunches. She wanted to get up, to give Thomas a hug, a reassurance. She wanted to be with him in his kitchen eating scrambled eggs and bacon, pretending not to see him steal glances at her. She wanted to be where they'd first met and he'd smiled down at her as she sat on the sidewalk, startled by his disappearing act. She wanted to take him anywhere besides here and now, where he stood looking down at the body of the first person he had ever killed.

He blinked a few times and stared down at the woman on the ground with unsure eyes. Then he nodded, as if he had agreed upon something. He looked over at Miranda. "I killed her," Thomas said, answering her question. For a brief moment, Miranda thought she saw a smile begin to spread across his face.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Third Time

Another darkened bedroom. Another syringe. Another dark figure lurking.

Dr. Taylor, or Dr. Kammerich depending on who was looking, took a step toward the bed. On it lay a sleeping figure. Dr. Taylor took another creeping step. It felt like there was something under his foot. He looked down, and in the darkness it looked like he was standing on a large glove. He looked up. Two startled eyes stared up at him from the bed. A foot hit him in the side of the head and he fell backwards. I can't even succeed at destroying my failures, the multi-named doctor thought as he scrambled to find his syringe in the dark.

There was the sound of someone fumbling against a wall a few feet from the bed and heavy breathing. A lamp flicked on in the corner of the room. The doctor saw the oversized hand at the lamp switch. He followed the skinny, five-foot-long arm back to its source, a startled looking woman, sitting up in her bed. "Dr. DePalma?" she said, recognizing the man crawling about on her floor.

With one quick, fluid movement, the doctor snatched up the syringe in front of him, stabbed it into the long-armed woman's leg, and slapped down the plunger with the other hand. The long-armed woman screamed from the brutal administration of drug. The neurotoxin, the doctor's own concoction, began to flow through her.

With her other leg, the long-armed woman kicked the doctor in the head again. The doctor caught himself on his way back to the floor and began to scramble toward the door. Still sitting on her bed, the long-armed woman reached for the doctor with her longer arm. He was just out of her reach. She tried to stand up, but howled from the pain in her leg. She ripped out the syringe and threw it at the figure dashing through her door. She began to feel woozy. She stood up to try to give the doctor chase.

Before she made it to the door, she had to stop. Her vision was blurring and her skin felt like it was aflame. She held her head in her large right hand and tried to steady her dizzy head. The only thing she could concentrate on was her rage.

The drug was supposed to have killed her within minutes, especially since the doctor had included even more poisons in this batch than he had with the batch that had failed to kill one of his earlier patients. But the doctor was a better Frankensteinian than a pharmacist, and had neglected to realize that some of the drugs counteracted one another, and, thus, the drug would not kill anything but the mice he had tested it on. In fact, the drug served only to dull the patients' senses and awareness and increase their energy and emotions. The recipient of the drug was nearly impervious to pain for hours, and for several hours more would be in a state of heightened anger and confusion.

The long-armed woman walked to her closet like she was drunk and pulled out a coat and a pair of shoes. She laboriously put them on over her pajamas. The entire time the only thought she had was of finding the doctor. Her intention was justified, perhaps, but her actions were irrational. I have to find him, she thought. I have to find him and kill him.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

He Says

The sun was rising over New City. At the cost of some bruised knuckles and zip-tie handcuffs, the three superhero's, Paladin, Fire Ant, and Confusio, had prevented a burglary, stopped two muggings, and helped an elderly blind man and his dog find their way back to their apartment. "An eventful night for our first outing as a trio," Alex said. The three ducked into Alex's SUV, parked downtown, several blocks from where they had spent most of the morning hours. Thomas reached up and began to pull off his green mask. Before he could get it over his eyes, Alex said, "Don't take your uniform off until we're back at headquarters."

Thomas turned to the backseat. He gave Miranda a confused look. She shrugged. Her mask was already off, and she was pulling the hair tie off her ponytail. Thomas turned back to Alex. "Headquarters? You mean, your penthouse?"


"But the windows are tinted; no one can see us in here."

"While we're still on duty, we need to be prepared at all times. So, we must remain in uniform."

Thomas looked back at Miranda. She smiled. Thomas smiled back and tattled on her, "Miranda took her mask off." Miranda stifled a giggle.

Alex did not loosen his hold on seriousness. He looked into his rear view mirror as he pulled up to a stoplight. "Fire Ant, keep your uniform on. And don't refer to each other by your given names while you're in uniform."

Thomas looked back at Miranda shaking her head and replacing her mask. Instead of poking through the hole in the back, her shoulder-length hair fell out from under the mask and made it look as if it she was sporting a superhero mullet. Thomas decided to press his luck with Alex. "That reminds me: What was wrong with 'Mind Bender?' 'Confusio' sounds stupid."

"We'll discuss this when we get back to headquarters."

"I'm hungry," Miranda said, preempting Thomas's retort.

Thomas thought for a few seconds then added, "Me, too. Hey, do you guys want to go to my place – after we get out of uniform, of course – and I'll cook everyone breakfast?"

Miranda was quick with an enthusiastic affirmation. There was a long pause before Alex answered with a polite "no thank you."

A moan of delight and something that resembled "this is delicious" fell out of Miranda's mouth, along with a few bits of scrambled eggs. Thomas looked over his shoulder at her while he was pouring a glass of orange juice. He watched the petite girl shovel eggs into her mouth for a few moments and almost spilled his orange juice onto the counter. He took a quick glance at her skinny legs under the table before turning back and capping the juice jug.

As he replaced the orange juice in the refrigerator, Thomas remember that he was still a bit irritated about the discussion he had had with Alex back at "headquarters." He sat down at his small kitchen table with Miranda and chewed on some bacon. "I know he wants us to use our code names or whatever so that people don't find out our real identities, but 'Confusio?' It sounds like a idiotic magician or something. I still don't know what was wrong with 'Mind Bender.'"

Miranda said, "It's not as bad as 'Fire Ant.'"

At least 'Fire Ant' makes sense. You can lift several times your own weight and you have a red costume."

"Maroon," she corrected him.

"Confusio doesn't mean anything. What, do I confuse people into submission?"

"Well ... yeah, kind of. That last guy we got looked pretty confused. What did you make him think was in his hand?"

"A turd." Miranda laughed at him. "What? It was the first thing I thought of. It worked didn't it?" They both munched on bacon for a bit. "'Paladin.' What does that even mean?"

"Alex says it's a knight that does heroic deeds."

"Sure, he gives himself a cool name. What's with Alex, anyway? I mean, he doesn't really have any superpowers. So, why's he want to be a superhero?"

"Alex says that powers don't have to come from within your body. He says his powers are his influence and his money." Thomas sighed and conceded that this made sense. "And plus, he says that he got shot and died." Thomas raised his eyebrow. "It was a while before I started working with him. During one of his first nights out, he took off his uniform and body armor to take a rest. Then some guy came out of nowhere and shot him. He didn't really die, I don't think. I think it's, like, a metaphor. Before he was shot he was Alex Sander who dressed up as a superhero at night, and after he was shot he became Paladin who dressed up as a millionaire during the day."

"So, what really happened?" Thomas asked."

"He says that he swears that he could feel the bullets hitting him and falling down. But then a minute later, he felt better, like nothing had happened, like he hadn't been shot. He says he felt changed. He says that he could feel things, that he could sense powers of good and evil moving throughout the city. Then he got up, much to the surprise of the guy who shot him, kicked the gun out of his hand, and stopped his first crime," Miranda shrugged. "He's been doing it ever since. He says that his power is his ability to sense the forces of good and evil."

Thomas wondered out loud, "Did he have any bullet holes?"

"He never says anything about that."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Make Lemonade

It had been three days since Brandon had punched a hole through the convenience store clerk's head when Brandon found himself perched atop a crying hobo, hissing blood into the destitute man's face. The poor man was pinned to the ground, a node of bone from Brandon's shin poking into the soft skin between the collar bone and the shoulder. The crying man shook his head, yelping in pain. Blood dripped from Brandon's face, spattering the dirty hobo's face and the grey cement with color. Several of the prostrate man's friends, homeless all, stood by some distance away looking on. "See. He wasn't dead," one of them said. He turned to the others, "I told him that the Devil was just sleeping." And so Brandon was introduced to Jesse, Buckman, Mr. Tim, and Fool as the Devil.

Brandon, angry, annoyed, and in constant pain, hated just about everything that had happened to him in the past few months, but for a moment a sparkle of optimism twinkled in his blood-encrusted eyes. Brandon got off the homeless man and let him crawl back to the comfort of his companions. After an short standoff between the bums and the blood-dripping oddity that had invaded their overpass, the self-proclaimed spokesman of the group, Jesse, stepped forward and asked with a giggle, "You are the Devil, aincha?"

When life gives you lemons... Brandon thought. "Yes. I am Satan!" he bellowed. "And I've come for you, for all of you!"

"What do you want?" Jesse asked a little frightened.

"I want you to do what I say," Brandon commanded. "Or else. Or else I'll rape your souls!" he added for good measure. The one he had earlier pinned to the ground nodded his head as if he knew first hand just how painful a soul raping could be. The others seem a bit unconvinced. "I'll pull your hearts out, pound them up your asses with my netherworldly cock, then shoot my lava cum onto the backs of your heads until it melts away your skulls, so I can eat your brains like pudding." This statement convinced the others; the consensus seemed to be that Brandon was, indeed, the Dark Prince.

At first, the group of bums cringed in Brandon's presence, addressed him as "Prince Satan" or "Your Majesty," and never met his gaze. They feared him and obeyed his every order, lest their bodies and souls be sodomized. But after a week of only having to supply the Devil with stolen pain-killers, begged-for junk food, and an endless stream of Cokes, the bums quickly started to fear him less, and simply accepted him as their leader. They began to view Brandon less as the Great Tormentor and more as a mentor. Buckman, the resident philosopher, especially grew fond of Brandon, sitting before him, asking him questions about death and the underworld.

However, Fool, and sometimes "Damn Fool," as he was so called by Jesse and Buckman, would never venture much closer than a yard to Brandon. Jesse would later explain to Brandon that Fool hadn't wanted to hurt him that day they first met. "He thought you was dead, o' course,," Jessie said and laughed inappropriately long, then continued, "and just wanted at whatever you mighta had that was useful."

"I didn't wanna – I didn't wanna – I didn't wanna – I didn't wanna – I just – I just –I just wanted to – I just wanted your boots," Fool clarified.

Mr. Tim didn't talk much and kept mostly to himself. His face drooped with Mongoloidism, and his tongue often seemed too big for his mouth. He obeyed Brandon dutifully, like the rest of the group, but never really showed much interest in the blood-soaked man. Fool picked on him every once in a while, but the other two watched out for Mr. Tim like he was their little brother.

"So, what's Heaven like?" Buckman asked Brandon one day while watching his master carefully open up his wrist with a razor that Jesse had just procured for him. Sitting on a milk crate that the group had offered him as a gift, the Devil looked up briefly at three bums sitting on the ground before him, and Mr. Tim occupying himself with something on the ground several feet behind them. He mumbled that there was no such place as Heaven. "Then, where do good people go when they die?"

"They go to Hell, just like everybody else," Brandon idly replied.

"So what's the point of doing good things?"

"Exactly," Brandon said. A spurt of blood jumped out of his arm into a sticky pitcher sitting next to Brandon's makeshift throne. Once it was full, he would have Fool dump it somewhere far away, so the stray dogs wouldn't come sniffing around again.

"Exactly," Jesse repeated and cackled. "Get it?"

Brandon didn't believe that Jesse did get it. "God wants you to do things for Him. He wants you to pray to Him. He wants you to praise Him. He wants you to worship Him. He wants you to do good deeds in His name. It's all for His benefit. What's in it for you?"

This question stumped Jesse. Buckman thought for a minute then asked, "So why does everyone say that you're the evil one if God's so selfish?"

"God made up good and evil so he could control people." Brandon, as always, was enjoying his pseudo-philosophical musings. His audience of half-crazy, uneducated homeless men admired his apparently thought-provoking words, no matter how much sense or logic they lacked. "He tricks people into doing good – the things he wants you to do – by fearing evil – the things you want to do."

Buckman thought he would correct the Devil. "You mean the things you want us to do."

"No, the things that you want to do, but God doesn't, those are evil. It's true, I want you to do things that I want you to do from time to time. But I also want you to do whatever you want to do – good, evil, or whatever."

Mr. Tim, who had apparently been simultaneously been pulling weeds from the cracks in the concrete at the periphery of the underpass and listening to Brandon, turned to the group and grunted. Brandon looked over to him, surprised that he was paying attention. Seeking a bit of vengeance for all the times that Fool had pushed him around and mocked him, Mr. Tim said, "I want to hit Fool. In the head."

"Go ahead," said Brandon. "I want you to do what you want." Fool turned around just in time to see Mr. Tim's hand hurtling toward his face. The awkwardly swung fist struck Fool in the ear. He squealed and curled up into a ball. Mr. Tim giggled and backed away to the edge of the underpass, completely satisfied.

"I want to hit Fool, too," Jesse announced. Without waiting the Devil's permission, he swung at the back of the curled-up figure next to him on the ground, then laughed with glee. Buckman, too, without warning, struck the little man.

Fool finally scuttled a few feet away, just out of the others' reach. He looked up the Devil with fear and pleading in his eyes. "Hey. I don't – I don't – I don't have to – Don't no one hit me – I don't have to take this!"

"You're right. You don't." Brandon looked into all of their faces, then down at his arm, still dribbling blood into the pitcher. When life gives you lemons... Brandon thought. "None of us do."

Friday, March 02, 2007


Thursday came and went and I didn't even realize that I forgot to write a new addition to Superhero. As punishment for me being a slacker, I'll write three parts for you next week! Stay tuned.

Circa Now