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.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT final two paragraphs. Despite the physical struggle in the rest of this section, those last few paragraphs pack a huge emotional kick to the groin.


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