J A Garrett

Curiously nerdy posts.

Another random act of fiction.

Just for kicks, here’s a piece of my own writing I’ve been polishing up lately.

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.
It’s a long story. You see, there was once a great hero. A legendary, badass hero, like you’ve read about in an epic fantasy novels, or comic books. Everyone loved and admired him. He saved the day countless 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 he would die a nameless hero instead of a legend.
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 choked with ash, from where at least half of the city had been vaporized overnight. Most of the gray 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. The skyline was full of crumbling skyscrapers, like a giant kid had gotten pissed and kicked over his legos.
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. I could count the number of people who walked by in the past month on one hand, and don’t even get me started on cars.
The shiny red of my blood stood out from the mottled ashy bricks like the scribbling of 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 would come out to the same spot, and punch 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. But I couldn’t kid myself. Even with my gift, I was never going to be strong enough to live through what was coming.
Even so, I did it for hours. Sometimes I’d pass out from the pain, and get back up to do it again.
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, every pink inch telling me how much I sucked at protecting anyone I cared about. There was no telling how long she’d been standing there, watching me punch bricks until I broke my hands. I stopped to take a deep breath, feeling the sweat roll down my skin.
“Is it that time already?” I asked.
“Yes.” Her voice 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 going to be 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. Or worse, but neither of us were willing to voice that.
“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. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d made eye contact with her. 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 bang of the gun. Pain seared through me as I gasped for breath, shock washing over me like ice water. Another bullet hit me, making me stagger. The third one knocked me slumping against the wall. I watched blood seep down my chest. At least I could still breathe. Sometimes she hit 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 sat on the ground. Then she pulled an old 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 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, glints 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 blotches on my chest to show for what I’d just gone through. That, and a vicious hunger for a gigantic burger.
“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 pretty doable. Other days, I might as well chow down on the dirt, because I wasn’t going anywhere. Today was feeling like one of those latter times right about now.
“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 alone. If I didn’t die, I’d come out looking pretty much the same, at least on the outside. Anyone else, not so much.
That’s the problem with being able to heal from almost anything. Any scars I pick up always fade 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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This entry was posted on December 4, 2014 by in Literacy, Writing and tagged , , , .
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