Curiously nerdy posts.
I’m slowly getting back into the writing game, and figured I’d write up a new intro for my first novel involving my favorite character. Figured I’d post it here for fun. Enjoy!
Hi, I’m Joe Mason. You probably don’t recognize my name, but I’m the one who destroyed the world. I’m not a villain, or insane. I’m actually a pretty normal guy, aside from one tiny little detail lurking in my DNA that changed my life forever. Well, and of course the whole destroying the world thing.
You see, there was once a great hero. A legendary, amazingly badass hero, like you’d read about in an epic fantasy novel, or a comic book. Everyone loved and admired him. He saved the world numerous times, and even slew a dark lord and a sky full of dragons one time. Well, one day he discovered a threat to the world that he knew he couldn’t defeat by himself. So he sacrificed everything and everyone he’d ever loved, and dedicated himself to be prepared for the day that threat came, so that he could save the world one last time, even if no one ever knew about it, and die a nameless hero instead of a legend on everyone’s lips.
And me? Well, I killed him. I had a good reason, but he’s dead, and now that same threat he knew about has come for the rest of us.
Which is why I found myself outside a warehouse in what was left of downtown Atlanta, punching a brick wall with busted knuckles. The skies were a thick muted gray, the same way they always were. Most of the ash in the air was finally starting to die down, but everything outside was still covered in it. Most days, the sun was only visible for two hours, tops. But, more than anything else, it was the silence that always killed me when I came outside. The entire city was hushed, like a kicked dog cowering in the corner, afraid to make a noise just in case its big mean owner was still around in a bad mood.
The shiny red of my blood stood out from the mottled ashy bricks like a highlight marker. I’d already been at it so long that the pain was already long gone, and my arms were numb to the elbows.
Every day, I came out to the same spot, and punched the bricks until I broke every bone in my hands. Then I’d go to sleep, and wait for them to heal until the next day, when I’d come out and do it all over again. Guess I was making progress, though. The bricks were starting to crack before my knuckles did. I’d even stopped making any gasps of pain every time I hit, too. But I couldn’t kid myself. Even with my gift, I was never going to be tough enough to live through what was coming.
I heard her before I saw her. Which makes sense, I guess. These days I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. The scar curving down her jawline would glare at me, and remind me of everything that was wrong about me, and how much I sucked at protecting anyone I cared about. There was no telling how long she’d been standing there, watching me punch a wall until I broke my hands. I stopped, and took a deep breath, feeling the sweat roll off my skin.
“Is it that time already?” I asked.
“Yes.” Her voice just barely crept above a whisper.
“Okay,” I replied, fumbling with the buttons on my dirty white shirt. One day I’ll actually remember to undo the buttons before breaking most of my fingers, but that wasn’t today. I could feel her eyes locked on me, watching me as I stripped to the waist with the speed of an old man.
“We don’t have to do this, you know,” she said, after a couple of minutes. I’d only opened three buttons so far.
“Yeah, we kinda do. It’s the only way I can get strong enough.”
“No Joe, I mean all of this. No one asked you to stick around and try to play superhero.”
“Maybe that’s because everyone else already gave up and went into hiding,” I groused.
“Have you ever thought that maybe they’ve got the right idea? We could move away, hide somewhere far away from all this. The news is saying that only large cities are getting hit so far. My grandparents have a farm in Texas. We could… have kind of a normal life, for at least a little while.”
I sighed. She’d clearly thought all this out. But I hadn’t come this far to give up now.
“I’m not backing out of this. But you’re right. You should go there. I know they worry about you.”
“And I’m not leaving without you! You know that,” she snapped.
“Then are you gonna help me, or not?” I growled at her, finally turning to look her in the eyes. They were weary, but still the same fiery blue-green that I’d first admired all those years ago.
“Fine, fine,” she said, pulling a Glock 22 out of the waistband of her torn jeans and pointing it straight at my chest. Center mass, just like her dad taught her.
“Are you ready?” she asked, all inflection gone from her voice. I gritted my teeth.
“Bring it on.”
I felt the pain of the bullet pounding through my chest before the pop of the gun. Incredible pain seared through me as I gasped for breath, shocking washing over me. Then another bullet hit me, making me stagger. The third one knocked me on my back. I watched blood seep down my chest. At least I could still breathe. Sometimes she got a lung; that was the worst.
“Ow,” I allowed myself to say it between sucking breaths, my body walking that fine line between shock and death. No matter how many times it happened, or how many worse injuries I’ve taken, it never stops hurting any less.
She walked over to where I lay, watching me with cold, dispassionate eyes. She looked like a giant from where I was on the ground. Then she pulled a stopwatch from her worn denim jacket, and clicked the start button.
She watched me patiently, listening to me breathe. I watched her as I fought for every bit of air I could get, the pain pounding every sense I had. Looking down at my chest, I watched as my gift did its work. The blood seeping from my ribs stopped its steady stream, like a cold can of soda turning warm. The pain of the shots slowly started to fade.
Then the worse pain started. I gasped as I felt the bullets slowly push themselves back out of the holes they’d made in my chest, the glint of brass shining through my blood. Soon the flattened metal pushed its way free of my body, and rolled down my side to clatter on the pavement. I knew in an hour, I would only have three red marks on my chest to show for what I’d just gone through. That, and a vicious hunger for a gigantic burger grilled straight out of my dreams.
“One minute, six seconds,” she finally said, clicking the button again once the last bullet fell. “Down three from last week. Keep this up, and you’ll be getting back up in thirty seconds by Christmas.”
“Best gift ever,” I replied hoarsely, hoping for a glint of a smile from her.
Spoiler alert, I didn’t get one.
“Dinner is canned beans and tomato soup. Get up in ten minutes, or there won’t be any left over for you,” she said. Some days, that was doable. Other days, I might as well chow down on the dirt, because I wasn’t going anywhere.
“When do I ever get a break?” I asked aloud, staring at the ruined gray sky. As always, it had no answers for me.
“You made that rule. You’ve made every rule. Just like always,” she said slowly. For a second I thought I saw the glint of a tear in her eye, but she turned to walk away before I could tell for sure.
I knew I was putting her through hell. But she was all I had, and she knew that. She’d paid it for it too many times already. I was just too much of a coward to face what was coming by myself. That’s the problem with being able to heal from almost anything. Any scars I pick up always go away, but the ones on the people I love always stay behind to taunt me.
Not every hero has the luxury of being a good guy. The hero had told me that, before I killed him. Only recently did I really understand what he meant. But a lot had happened before that, and a lot had happened since then.
Best to start over, I think. Best to tell you everything, right from the beginning.
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