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Prometheus Thy Name is Captain
Author's note: I'm an avid reader of comic books and I've always wanted to do a superhero story. I wanted it to be a comic book but couldn't find anyone who would draw this up for me. When I started this work I realized that powers don't change the person, make them angelic or evil, they only enhance who had always been there before. Whether that be a decent man or the worst villain, who knows?
His plastic white decontamination suit had torn wide open when he tumbled downwards into the dark crevice. The meteor that had landed in the deserts of Texas was the size of a small house; right now Eric Falkman discovered the house had a basement.
Rolling down the steep incline, he attempted to slow his fall by reaching out to grab onto one of the ledges that were inside the meteor. Instead, he only ripped the sleeve off the suit, and created a deep gash on his arm. But the cut was the least of his problems. The crevice was getting tighter.
Like a cork, his body became too wide to fit any deeper inside the funnel like hole. His claustrophobia set in as his lungs contracted in his chest, refusing any attempt for air. He attempted to shout for help like a platoon leader but could barely manage a whisper. Sweat dribbled down his forehead, fogging the inside of his cracked helmet.
“Eric!” his younger brother’s voice echoed from above. What little yellow sunlight above him became blocked by his brother’s head. “Eric! Hold on! We’re going to get you out!”
Trembling, Eric forced himself to take in deep gasps of air. If he lost consciousness then he’d be trapped in hell forever.
Then it happened.
The walls of the meteor began to close in upon him. The sharp craggy rock walls, which had cut him up so badly before, were now attempting to finish the job. His legs were flattened like an animal under a tire as the crevice attempted to become one with itself again.
“Oh my God! Eric!” his brother’s face disappeared and the sounds of a scuffle found it’s way down to him. “Get off me! My brother’s down there! Eric!”
The scientist closed his eyes in morbid acceptance and bit his bottom lip. This would be it.
Then the meteor shut itself. He was alone in the dark.
But he was alive. Somehow he was still alive. Taking in a breath he checked to make sure it was so.
Yes, still breathing.
He moved his leg to find he still could. In fact, pain from the gash in his arm and even his broken leg was nonexistent. The inside of the meteor now felt like foam. No longer solid rock, the meteor parted way with his every movement. Reaching his hand outwards, the scientist discovered the rock was putty in his hands. It was unusual. Like moving through jello.
At any other time he’d like to analyze the situation. Try and determine whether or not the meteor had changed elements or perhaps being condensed meant the opposite in physics to this alien mineral.
But he was still claustrophobic.
With all his might he dug towards the surface, tearing his way through the rock. He couldn’t tell how close he was or whether he was even traveling in the right direction. It scared him.
To this very day, Eric never forgot the extraordinary occurrence of what happened next.
Rock around him shattered as his body magically propelled itself through the stone and exploded to the surface in a rain of minerals. Eyes stinging in the bright light, he saw chunks of meteor fly in all directions like a whale breaking water. A large piece destroyed one of the government’s cars as people scattered for cover.
But it didn’t matter. He’d made it up. In fact, he was still traveling up.
Eric looked down to see his body floating upwards. He shouted and tried to reach towards the ground yet only managed to flip himself upside down. No matter what he tried his body continued raising towards the heavens, leaving his brother, with the scientists, gawking below.
By the time Eric had begun to understand how the new magic worked he realized it.
He was flying.
“Dr. Falkman,” the President’s grip was firm but a bit sweaty. All the hands he shook after the incident in Texas were sweaty. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine Mr. President,” Eric flashed a grin that his wife claimed made women swoon. She’d spent extra time that evening combing his brown hair to make it look just right for the dinner at the White House. It was nice to just be in public again. For over three months he’d been confined to a cabin in the deserts of Texas, having people who had no idea what they’re talking about attempting to train him to do something that had never existed.
“Hold for the cameras,” the President said. Eric turned towards the flashes, still holding the smile. It’d taken some getting used to, but at this point in time the media claimed he was bigger than Elvis, the Pope, and God combined.
“So tell me Doctor,” the President went on after the flashes slowed, “how is it to be a god?”
“Please sir,” Eric said. The cameras were still pointed in their direction. “I’m far from being a god. Even further from the one and only. Right now, I’m not completely sure what I am.”
“Well all the public needs to know is that you’re American, you’re smart, and you can freakin’ fly.” The President slapped his hand on Eric’s back. He could barely feel it. “Not to mention you and your brother are even writing a book on that meteor stuff. What did you call it?”
“Tifarium,” Eric said glowing with pride, “The mineral is like nothing we’ve ever seen. It can absorb energy, any type, and amplify it or influence it in any possible way. For me it changed my biology at a level where my cells themselves are…sorry. I’m rambling. My wife is always game to listen and I forget everyone else isn’t.”
“Where are the wife and kid?”
“My daughter needed to use the restroom,” Eric laughed, “she’s actually the most excited about using the bathroom in the White House. She bought a camera just to show the toilet to the class.”
“Kids, they get excited by the strangest things,” the President gestured for them to walk so Eric followed. “My youngest wanted to go to Disney World just to feel how Donald Duck’s feathers felt. Imagine his disappointment when he found out it was just like his stuffed bear.”
Eric laughed with him but found it hard to not stare. The man he was walking with was the head of the country. Even more they were talking about toilets and Disney World. It was unreal, he was certain no one in existence could’ve imagine this.
“So Doctor,” the President went on.
“Please, Eric is fine,” Eric bit his tongue. He just interrupted the President.
“How about Captain?” the President asked.
The scientist wasn’t sure whether it was a joke or not. Was the President insulting him because he interrupted him? He’d never been this self-conscious since grade school.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Something the public relation yokels came up with. Sounds like a children’s cartoon, gaudy as hell, but after a poll people went for it.”
“Um, what, sir?” Eric was still trying to wrap his mind around what the title meant.
“We want you to be a symbol for this country, Eric.” The President smiled. “I’ll be frank, people are scared witless because of you. But we want you seen as representative for this country, not a 40’s monster movie character. So we put a star of your chest, dress you in a red, white and blue and you’ll be on cereal boxes and leather shoes. What do you say?”
“I’m going to be a superhero?” Eric asked, almost chuckling but thought otherwise.
“No, you’ll be a Captain,” the President waved at another group of paparazzi. Eric did the same.
It took him a few moments to wrap his head around it. Tonight he was having dinner at the White House, his photo was being taken every two seconds, and the President just asked him to be a symbol for the entire country. As outlandishly ridiculous as it sounded he could only find one question to ask.
“What does the outfit look like?”
Annette picked an orange off the stand, pressed it to her nose, and inhaled deep.
“Eric this smells delicious, how many do you think we can fit in the freezer?” she asked, holding the piece of fruit up to his nose for him to smell.
“We could probably afford to buy all the fruit in Oklahoma and buy a billion freezers to put them all in,” Eric said, putting the orange to his nose as well. “Although I think freezing that many oranges would be a waste.”
“They’re like popsicles honey,” she gave him a quick shove. He didn’t move. “I know you don’t like them but there’s a little girl at preschool right now who L-O-V-E’s them. Isn’t that enough?”
“True,” he smiled, enjoying all the fresh sights and smells at the market. It was one of the only staples that stuck after Texas. At this moment they were like every other couple there. No capes, no media, just a couple in t-shirts and jeans. No matter how many government jobs he was pulled in for or how many interviews they forced him to do, the market always stayed the same. As did his family.
“Uh oh,” she looked in her purse with a sigh, “Her snack is still in my purse. I forgot to give it to her when we dropped her off this morning.”
“Perfect,” in a swift movement he scooped her into his arms. She yelped and kicked, but all with a grin on her face.
“Eric! What are you doing?!” Annette laughed, leaning her head backwards to look at his face. Her brunette hair blew around her face covering her green eyes.
“Showing off,” he smiled lifting himself into the air. She squealed as the ground grew further away. The people pointing and shouting below shrunk into complete nonexistence when they grew closer to the clouds.
“I miss the suit,” she fake pouted crossing her arms over her chest. “Capes are the latest rage.”
“This is where our views differ,” he said traveling towards the school. He then paused to look at the ground beneath them, “Which way is west?”
“Better pull over to ask for directions,” Annette teased.
Eric flew through the window of the college building, sending a shower of glass across the tile floor. The gunmen screamed and dove for cover as Eric landed gracefully, the cape flowing behind him.
“Oh God! It’s him!” one of the men shouted and immediately set his gun on the floor. He held his hands up to cover his face, pulling the trench coat closer around him.
“Smart thinking, son,” Eric said with the bravado he practiced in the mirror everyday, “since we’re in a college I was expecting at least one of you to do the intelligent thing.”
The other two gunmen, both disgruntled students who’d taken the cafeteria building hostage an hour before, were pointing two shotguns at him. Their arms rattled in dread at the man who’d flown through a second story window.
In the mirror, Eric thought the outfit looked ridiculous. The long flowing white and red cape was gaudy and the dark blue leather suit with silver star in the middle was more like a children’s costume from Halloween City. For some reason though, most people seemed to surrender at the sight of the flag.
“Shoot him!” the first shouted, pulling the trigger, the second followed suit. Eric stood still and allowed the bullets to bounce off his chest to fall harmlessly to the floor, all with a grin on his face.
“For college students that was a pretty dumb move,” Eric smiled and allowed the heat to well up behind his eyes. Focusing intently on the gun barrel of the first he unleashed the projective blasts from his eyes melting the gun in the boys hands.
In a second, he dashed forward and tapped the side of the boy’s head; knocking him unconscious. The other two cowered and put their hands over their heads. They dropped to their bellies.
“Somebody did their homework,” Eric said recognizing how utterly absurd it sounded. But a camera was watching the whole event transpire. The President had asked him to put on a show. He didn’t like this persona. The ‘Captain’ persona, but drop out rates had plummeted since his unveiling. For the first time people other than his wife and daughter were looking up to him.
As if to confer with his thoughts, the room erupted into applause. Other students rushed forward in a mad dash to shake his hand. At first he’d believe something like this to be unrealistic, almost childish. But he was like a fireman to them. He carried a licensed to do the work; he’d gone through civilian safety training. He had the backing of the President, the senate, and the judicial branch.
He was a hero.
Eric sat in his armchair in the corner of his study. Outside his house people were shrieking at him to come face them. His wife sat beside him and his daughter cuddled in his lap.
“They had no right to say that to you,” Annette said, stroking his arm through the leather sleeve, “there was nothing you could do.”
“I messed up Annette,” Eric said, a tear squeezed out the corner of his eye and dropped onto the blue leather. “Half of an apartment building was destroyed when that man shot me.”
“How did it do that?” she asked, eyes wide in concern.
“Tifarium,” Eric said with a snort, “the guy was a fired scientist and figured out how to turn it into a weapon. And he did so with this,” he reached into the bookshelf beside him. He picked a thick hardcover book, “the book Ray and I wrote about our studies on the meteor. I didn’t build the gun, I just made the instruction manual.”
“You can’t blame yourself, honey,” Annette patted her daughters beautiful brunette head. “There was no way you could’ve foreseen this happening. You’re not God.”
“But they think I am,” Eric looked out the window at the protestors. “To them, I’m a god that killed ninety-eight people in an apartment building by being blown into it. By one accident I created orphans and widows.” He looked at her, eyes begging for answers, “I’m just a human, Annette. I’m a scientist. Why did I ever think I could be responsible for people’s lives?”
“You take care of us pretty well,” Annette ruffled her daughter’s hair. “But I don’t expect you to look after a whole country. Just go back to your work. Back to Ray, maybe tell him to keep some findings secret. If people are using it as weapons then something should be done to keep people out of danger.”
“I’m beginning to think tifarium itself is dangerous,” he looked over at the shelf where a potato sized hunk rested in a glass case. “Maybe even what it creates.”
Children yelled to one another in the large play structure hanging over Eric’s head. His daughter waved to him from the window of a plastic spaceship and he waved back. From the doorway, Ray Falkman walked in carrying the tray of fast food they ordered. He sat down across from his brother and divvied out the meals. From years past Ray had always been the one to sort the food when they were children. Several times he’d been caught hoarding fries. Even at this time, Eric noticed his packet was half full. It was these moments that took his mind off the apartment building and brought him back to the life he used to lead.
“So why’d you call me here?” Eric asked, keeping a close eye on his daughter. “I trust you didn’t want to race me to the top of the spaceship again?”
“I always lost,” Ray laughed, “but that is actually part of the reason I asked you here.” Ray leaned forward with arms on the table. He had transitioned into scientist mode. The sparkle in his eyes and wide smile betrayed his excitement. “I remember when we were kids and how you’d race to the top so quickly it left me in the dust. But you’d always come back for me and help me to the top. You had me in awe, man. You were my hero.”
“Why does this sound like a proposal for money?” Eric asked.
“Funny. But this is serious.” His brother looked up at the play set, “Remember when you first fell in the crater? I told people later that I was worried. But I wasn’t.” Looking back at his brother, his eyes glittered, “I knew you would come out of there. I knew you would survive. I had complete and utter faith you would. And when you flew out of that crater you proved to be everything I saw in you and more.”
“Easy,” Eric shifted uncomfortably, “if you keep sweet-talking me I’ll blush. Not that I’m not flattered, but I’m not God. I’m just your brother.”
“But isn’t this weird?” Ray asked, “I mean, according to the Bible, God made man. Right? So how is it that man can create something that’s even better than God’s creation?”
“Hold on,” Eric held up his hands, “First off I didn’t create myself. If anything I’m like DirecTV. The television’s already made, I’m just the add-on that enhances it. Second, these abilities weren’t made in a lab. It was some freak accident.”
A grin crept across Ray’s face like it had on Christmas morning, “Until now.”
Eric leaned forward with both hands on the table, “What do you mean, until now?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” his brother rubbed his hands together, “but ever since that happened to you I’ve been trying to duplicate the process. And guess what?” Ray pulled a rock out of his pocket and turned it over in his hands. With a quick pinch the rock crumbled apart to the floor, shattered. “What do you think?”
Eric looked from the remnants on the floor to his brother.
“Ray, how the hell did you…”
“All it takes is a proper amount of adrenaline, endorphins, copious amounts of liquid oxygen, and tifarium mixed into the bloodstream. That, and the meteor rock needs to be radiated with microwaves before being injected. I figured it out because of your claustrophobia, the wounds you suffered when falling, the oxygen tank, and the Texas heat on the meteor. I just needed to get the dosages right. You were the perfect accident.”
“So…you can do everything…?”
“Not yet,” Ray said with a sigh, “Like I said, you were the perfect accident. The best I can get for myself right now is strength, moderate invulnerability and some enhanced speed. But I think it has to do with different biology too. Some of the rats were able to fly an hour after injection.” He smiled, “Which just proves how you’re the hero. The Captain.”
“You can’t let this get out, Ray.” Eric said quickly, “Destroy the data. Burn it. Do everything you can to make sure no one else finds out.”
Ray’s smile wavered, “What? Why?”
“I could ask the same of you,” Eric said, tempted to hit his fist on the table, “Why? Why did you do this?”
“Because people look up to you,” Ray said, “and even though I love that, I think it’s a problem. People don’t know you the way I have. They haven’t seen you up close, but this way they can. They can see you the way I do, not from afar, but from right beside you.”
“I just can’t understand it…even after Seattle? After I killed those people from the tifarium gun? You went and tinkered with that junk even more?”
“It’s not junk, Eric. It’s the cure to stop those accidents from happening.” He put his hands on his brother’s arm and lightly squeezed. To Eric’s shock he actually felt his skin pressured by the grip. “I can understand how daunting it is to be who you are. And with one little accident people are determined to blame you for it. But this way I can get them to understand. This morning I ripped the door off my bathroom. I can’t comprehend how you controlled it so quickly.”
“I don’t want them to understand!” Eric shouted, drawing looks from other parents. He took a deep breath, then said, “Ray, I don’t wish this on anyone. Every moment of my day is spent worrying about hurting the people closest to me. I’m terrified to play tag with my daughter. Do you know what that’s like? Everyone around me is a paper doll and every object a glass figurine. At the end of the day I thank God that just barely managed not to hurt anyone.”
“This is exactly what I’m talking about though,” Ray shook his head playfully. “When you’re prepared you never harm anyone. Why? Because you’re my brother. All-powerful.”
“All-powerful?” Eric leaned backwards as if he’d been struck. “Ray…I told you, I’m not God. Why are you talking like I am?”
Ray smiled sadly, “Maybe you don’t see it, but I do. And soon the whole world will.”
Eric chopped onions as his wife stirred the chili. His daughter was dancing around the dining room with the new puppy they’d bought her for her birthday. She named him Cosmo and had spent the last hour brushing his hair and giving him a bath. She wanted him to look presentable for the party.
“Now who is Blaster again?” Annette asked stirring the pot.
“She’s married to the Copper Bullet,” Eric pushed the onions into a bowl with the back of his knife. “She’s actually related to Steve Jobs. Lizzie or Leslie, they both think their identity is secret so just pretend not to know.”
“They’re not showing up in costume, are they?” she took a taste of the mixture and then added more salt.
“I thought you liked the costumes, Hon,” Eric said, beginning to chop some fresh slices of tomato.
“I like yours, but all the new ones are just tacky. Especially that Badger character. The man looks awful in spandex.”
“Tights, what were they thinking?” Eric muttered, “And all those people naming themselves after gods? I never knew Zeus wore a mask with a giant Z on the front. Don’t even get me started on the girl who called herself Jesus.” He dumped the new bowl of vegies into the pot. He then wrapped his arms around Annette to give her a kiss on the cheek.
“What was that for?” she asked, smiling slyly.
“For sticking by ‘The Captain’ even after retirement,” he said and swayed with her as they stood in front of the pot.
“Ray’s the one upset about it, not me,” she remarked. “And I would hardly consider this retirement. Every few weeks you’re called into an interview to be asked what it’s like to ‘be replaced’. Every once in a while some kid drops out of the sky and asks for guidance in his ‘mission’. Not to mention all the potlucks these people have. Although I feel like they’re more of a costume party.”
“Don’t tell Badger that,” Eric snickered, “last time anyone made fun on him he was found drunk on top of the Chrysler Building.”
“What about you?” she asked and turned around to face him. “Don’t you ever miss the one liners and capes?”
“Not even a little,” he leaned down to plant a kiss on her lips.
Eric stared blankly at the charred bodies that kneeled on the cold concrete floor. A breeze blew through the old abandoned warehouse. It caught onto his cape, blowing it about him. A bit of his daughter’s finger blew from its place to disappear in the breeze. He gasped and reached forward to catch it but couldn’t feel it.
With all his strength he couldn’t touch his daughter’s finger. He wanted more than anything to hold her hand, but to do so would lose her forever.
It had only been an hour. One hour after his family was kidnapped, with the note daring him to return. Now they lay dead charred beyond recognition. During all the dramatic movies he’d expected the antagonist to wait at least a day. It had been a fools dream, it only took one second to kill someone.
He took a step closer to them, his wife’s arms were wrapped around his child. She had been shielding her, protecting her like all mothers would. Her brown hair, the same color as his, was now black dust. Annette had been his dream girl since he was 18 and when they married, he’d expected the dream to last forever. Seeing them as lifeless husks of human cinder turned his dream into a nightmare. A nightmare that was reality.
Suddenly the door to the warehouse opened, allowing policemen to rush into the building. Among them was his brother, Ray. Most importantly, a wind had followed them in. A strong powerful gust.
“NO!” Eric shouted watching his family disintegrate into the squall. “No! Dammit no!” He dropped to his knees in an effort to shield his family from blowing away, a fool’s quest. His own sudden movement blew the rest of them away.
Like that, they were completely gone.
“Eric!” his brother rushed towards him, trench coat rustling behind him. “Oh my God! What happened?!”
Eric remained on his knees, tears streaming down his face, mixing with whatever grit was left of his wife and child.
“They’re gone Ray! They’re both gone!” He sobbed, scooping the little bit left into his gloved hand. “I-I don’t even have a body to bury! Their ashes are scattered in a warehouse, Ray! A damn warehouse!” He hit his fist on the floor, shattered the concrete in a circular pattern.
“This isn’t your fault Eric,” his brother crouched beside him and put his hand on his shoulder. “They already caught the guy who did this. Dr. Starlord is bringing him in now.”
“No,” Eric shrugged his brother’s hand off, “it’s your fault, Ray.”
“You’re fault!” Eric stood up, a bit of dust still in his clutches. “You made them, Ray! You made more of them! You created more powers! For this?!”
“My family is dead Ray!” Eric shouted. “They’re dead because you created the man who killed them!”
“Eric…Captain…” he began but Eric roared angrily. He shot through the ceiling, breaking the metal roof as he soared through the sky. The bit of dust still gripped in his hand.
The mineral was just as he remembered it. Cool to the touch whilst radiating power. He placed the full of his hand on the object to run his fingers along it. He pressed his hand against the rock to feel it crack under his strength. In the beginning he’d been happy with power, proud of it. Now he just wanted to be cleansed of it. But this wasn’t why he was there.
He rubbed his thumb and forefinger around the heart shaped locket that hung around his neck. Inside was all that remained of the ashes of his family. He made sure it would be sealed forever so no one else could hurt his family. He carried it around with him wherever he ventured.
“Captain?” an intern jumped off the top of the small hill. He then dramatically landed on one knee with his fist touching the ground. These days everyone landed like that, it was corny to begin with, but now it’d become a cliché.
“You can stand up now, son,” he winced recognizing the title he had once given to anyone younger than him. Old habits died hard. “I’m just taking a look at this. And just call me Dr. Falkman. I haven’t been The Captain in over a year and I intend to keep it that way.” He gestured at the large hill of tifarium protruding out of the ground. “Is this the smallest of the meteors?”
“It is, we call it Site 23C. Only meteor in Kansas,” the boy put his white gloved hand on the mineral, wonder in his eyes. “Why? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I have it covered, thanks,” he shooed the intern away. He didn’t bother to watch the boy leap through the air. He’d had enough of that.
Instead, he placed the one hundred and twenty ninth electrode on the meteor and flipped a switch on the control panel in his hands. If everything went as he expected it would no one would even realize how close they were to-
“Eric!” his whole body tensed when the voice came from the sky. Dropping down graceful as a butterfly, Ray landed in the grass next to him. He was dressed in a suit and tie, his face made almost entirely of a grin. “It’s great to see you again. It’s been over a year.” He pulled him in for a tight hug. Eric stood stoic. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me you were here, I just had to see it for myself.”
“Flying, Ray?” Eric asked toying with the device in his hands. “I thought you didn’t have that.”
“Yet,” Ray smiled and slapped his brother on the shoulder, “I said I didn’t have it ‘yet’. But science has really improved since you left. Tifarium has opened a whole new world for us. The impossible became ‘give me a few minutes’ practically overnight. And it all started with you.” He looked at the electrode on the meteor. “Speaking of impossible, what lured you out of the observatory? I’ve been calling for months.”
“An experiment,” he turned several dials on the control panel in numerical order. The red button in the center glowed a deep crimson hue, staring back at him like an angry eye.
“You should’ve called me, I might’ve been able to lend a hand.”
“No, Ray. Wouldn’t want you to kill someone else’s wife.”
“That’s a low blow,” he crossed his arms over his broad chest, “you know it’s not my fault.”
“Do I really? Because I told you to destroy all the research of human trials with tifarium. Then you up and designed the whole damn process. Every few months I see an advertisement for advancement in human flight or a way to increase strength. These aren’t heroes anymore, they’re bipedal iPod’s.”
“How can you say that?” Ray asked, looking like a wounded puppy. “This has all been to make people more like you.”
Eric’s eyebrows rose, “I thought it was for making people understand what it’s like to be me.”
“That was until you retired and then locked yourself with a telescope,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re forgotten. Your fan club is still popular. People are begging for your return more than the Rolling Stone reunion. They’d love it if you showed up for the unveiling of the new Tifarium Museum. They have a whole wing devoted just to us, the wax figures are amazing.”
“Yeah sure, maybe I can wear a t-shirt that says ‘Ray for Senator’ and sing the national anthem out of my butt,” Eric muttered.
“I know this is a hard time for you Eric but it would mean a lot to me,” Ray rested his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “People are looking up to me the same way they looked up to you. I was awarded Scientist of the Year three times in a row, people keep expecting new things from me. I can produce, but I want to do more. I want to lead people, like you did.”
“I didn’t lead, I was Ronald McDonald for the United States of Corny-Copia.”
“Eric. You were The Captain! You saved the world while doing so with style. You are the hero of every child in America. I can understand bitterness, but you’re saying that means nothing? A god doesn’t throw away power; he revels in it. He revels in it because he can do so much good.”
“You think I’m a god?” Eric asked. “Well then that means you’re a god then too, right?”
“Eric, what are you getting at?”
“How does it feel to have the power of a god?” he asked. “Does it feel good? And not just physical, mind you. You’re going for governmental power now right?”
“To help people,” Ray added, “I’m doing it to help people in ways physical power can’t.”
“That’s all this has been about,” Eric said in a chuckle. “Power, isn’t it? A god isn’t love or kindness or wisdom to you, is it? A god is just power. That’s why you think people can be them.”
“So what if I do?” Ray threw up his arms, “Is that wrong? This…” he placed his hand on the meteor, “this is power. But we were the ones that turned it into something useful. Isn’t it odd that God didn’t give us these powers from the beginning? If he wanted his creation modeled after him, then why didn’t he make us gods?”
“Maybe there was a reason for it. To make sure we don’t destroy ourselves.”
“Or maybe it’s because there is no God,” Ray said eyebrows cocked. “You ever think of that? Just think, if there was a God he would’ve given us these gifts. And even if he didn’t want us to have them, we have them anyway. Why doesn’t he destroy us?”
“He’s doing what I’m doing,” Eric put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “He’s giving you a final chance. Give up on this; this quest for power. I can see it in your eyes, Ray. What I never wanted to become. Take a step back and look at this world. You’ve unleashed power that we were never meant to have. People are dying, like my family. Ordinary people, caught in the crossfire of super people.”
“If you’re referring to the fight between the Copper Bullet and Venomite, it’s being dealt with. Venomite is already in prison and a memorial is being held for the humans who died.” Seeing his brother’s wide eyes he elaborated, “I announced free procedures for everyone who wanted power. Those people said no and suffered for it. I can’t help it if they wanted to stay human.”
“We’re both human,” Eric pleaded, “we’re not gods. We are people. We have flaws, dreams, desires, we make mistakes. I can tell the power is getting to you; you’re slipping. Ideas of grandeur. I mean, this isn’t even historically correct. Even Zeus had flaws.”
“The difference between me and Zeus is that I’m really powerful,” Ray turned away. “The world is changing, Eric. You’re still living in the past; you need to move forward. That’s where everything is going. We’re not human anymore. Accept it.”
“All I have left is my humanity,” Eric sighed. “I’ve lost everything else. I give that up and I’m nothing.”
“You still have me.”
“Then why do I feel like I lost you?” Eric asked. “Because from where I’m standing, you’re a god. And hard as I try I still can’t reach you.”
“I was wrong,” Ray snapped. “My campaign doesn’t need you. We’re living in the tomorrow now, your ideas just slow us down.”
“People who live in the past tend to see what’s coming. Could it be that you’re looking so far into the future you don’t see what happening now?”
“What do you mean?”
“Tifarium is dangerous. The more we use it, the closer we’re coming to the end,” Eric looked up at the stars.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Ray demanded. “What ‘end’? What aren’t you telling me?”
“I’m not even sure why I’m doing this?” Eric snickered looking at the electrode he placed on the rock. “The way things are headed I’m not sure we even deserve to live.” He closed his eyes but decided to give one last warning, “Ray, tifarium is magnetic. Not to metals, but to itself. This right here,” he rapped on the meteor, “Is positive. The negative is a asteroid belt short of Pluto.”
“There’s more of it?” Ray asked, eyes lighting up.
“Yes. But because we’re using it so much, radiating it at the rate we are will bring a chunk of tifarium the size of the moon crashing into Earth.”
“I’ll come up with a solution,” Ray began pacing. “Fight tifarium with tifarium. Simple. If we use up the amounts in North and South America I’ll be able to give people an even more concentrated dose. It’s like taking the training wheels off. With a few years of research we’ll be powerful enough to push the meteor into orbit with Mars, or maybe even Earth. A whole moon fit for mining.”
“Ray did you hear me? I said we need to stop using tifarium. Not more of it!”
“No, no, no, no, no Eric!” Ray laughed. “This is a chance for us to both be heroes. We can actually save the entire planet! I can give you even more power; you’ll be The Captain leading the charge. I can work with other scientists and diplomats to make you an even bigger symbol. This is your chance! To move back into the spotlight and be exactly how I see you. But this time, I can be right beside you.”
“I was right,” Eric murmured, “I did lose you.” He turned away, trying to hide a tear. He cleared his throat before saying, “I already have a solution. I’ve figured out a way to nullify the magnetic pull tifarium has. By doing so it will kill the radiation it gives off and otherwise leave it nothing more than a hunk of marble.”
With that, he pressed a blue button on the panel and waited. Ray was yelling something at him; he didn’t notice. He just stared at the mound of tifarium, hoping his math had been right. The electrode he placed before them glowed brightly from the power he’d connected to it from the nearby grid. Miles away from their deserted spot he saw the lights of the nearby city dim until they went black.
“There’s another way!” Ray reached out to pull off the electrode.
Slapping his brother’s hand away, Eric and Ray watched intently as the hill trembled. Little bits of tifarium trickled to the ground. Then sparks began shooting off of the hill, hitting Eric’s clothes making scorch marks.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Eric muttered and pressed the button a second time to end the current. But the electricity continued to flow through it. The hill vibrated at a much faster rate now, a blur to the human eye. Ray grabbed Eric’s shoulder and pulled them backwards.
“What the hell did you do?!” Ray shouted as the hill cracked down the middle with a sound of lightning. “You’re killing it! Shut the damn thing off!” He slapped the control panel out of his brother’s hands. But it was already too late.
Then it burst into a flash of light. The second before Eric turned away he saw something in the flash. Something terrifying familiar. Something beautiful.
Then the hill disappeared, leaving a burn mark in the sand.
It was finished.
At long last, he’d slaved over the small device for over three years. It was more complex than a Swiss watch, more irresistible than a nuclear warhead, and was more important than anything he’d ever done so far in his entire existence.
“I told you I wasn’t God, Annette,” he spoke aloud in the empty cabin, rubbing the heart locket, “but it’s strange how often I have to play him.” He picked the small silver coin sized device off the crudely thrown together metal pedestal. Holding it up to the flickering lights he admired his work. Even though it had taken years, he’d been happy to do so. It felt nice to work with his hands again. Like in the old days.
“What should I name you?” after years alone in the cabin in Texas he’d grown the unattractive habit of talking to himself or inanimate objects. He knew he wasn’t crazy; he was just lonely. However, since he’d let his facial hair grow out into a full grown Neanderthal like beard he could understand how someone might mistake him for a loon.
“I think I’ll name it the Key,” he smiled at the tiny object and put it in his pocket. He heard Cosmo barking from the front yard, a visitor. Wiping his hands on his jeans, he turned his attentions away from the device to move towards the door.
The cabin had once been filled with chairs and tables but now the only furniture was a bed. Wires, generators, tools, and pieces of machinery filled the rest of the room. It was his mad science lab. A place he was rather proud of.
“Mr. Eric?!” he stepped into the light to see his neighbor Violeta wandering down the dirt path towards his cabin. Cosmo ran up to her and wagged his long tail playfully, prancing in circles around her. She moved towards him slowly due to her large pregnant belly. For just an instant, with Cosmo running beside her with her hands held to the side to balance her steps, she became his daughter. She was wearing a flower covered dress and sandals. Her raven hair flowed behind her like a long gown. Just like his daughter in her Easter dress.
Then it was gone.
Realizing he had been staring, he raised his hand in greeting the Hispanic teenager. “Violeta! I was actually just about to come over and see you.”
“I decided to take the incentive and take a final walk down this lovely strip,” she patted Cosmo on the head. He barked happily. “Remember when his fur looked gold?”
“Everything looks red these days,” he squinted upwards to stare at the sky.
From his porch he could see the sky was still filled with the dark crimson hue of the approaching meteorite shower. At this time of day the sky would’ve been a beautiful cool light blue, flawless as the color of a calm lagoon. Now, it twisted and rolled ablaze with the fires that brought doom toward his world.
“I just wanted to let you know how the assault on the meteor went,” she walked up to him panting. He offered her a seat on the porch which she took gratefully.
“From the looks of things it failed,” he stared up at the still existing meteors.
“The President sent all the flyers into the sky, “ she squinted at the brightness of the approaching apocalypse. “They planned to push it away but they were burned to cinders before they touched it.”
“Invulnerability has varying degrees,” Eric shrugged while he took a seat across from her. “I thought some people would’ve learned that by now.”
“Last time I checked, the clock said we had two hours left before our planet was ripped apart by the gravity field of that,” she pointed at the meteor. “After I walked here we probably have one hour.”
“You seem okay with that,” Eric said.
“Best to spend the last hour with a friend,” she smiled at him, “Besides, I already spent a month in denial, a month in panic, a month in depression, and now I fully accept it. Also, everyone at the shelter has already abandoned it. Though I enjoy eating as much pudding as I want it is not the same without company.”
She reached into her jacket and pulled a small pudding pack from her pocket.
“I planned to eat one with you but the walk made me very hungry,” she tossed him the cup and he caught it easily. “Actually, I wanted you to have two and I would have two but alas, we ended with one.”
“Any pudding is good pudding,” he scratched his thick beard with a long yawn. “So have your parents contacted you yet?”
“Turns out that even at the end days they will not talk to the daughter who went and got pregnant without graduating, going to Harvard, finding a successful job, dating a prosperous man, and then marrying him when I reach my thirties. Nineteen was to soon for them and they still hold the grudge.”
“That’s sad,” he patted her hand gently.
“This coming from the crazy hermit who lives in the woods,” Violeta scratched Cosmo behind the ear after he had sat down beside them. “You are lucky to have even one friend.”
“I’ve got Cosmo,” he said and rubbed the dogs back with his foot.
“It is strange how he is the only animal that is not acting crazy,” she said rocking in the chair. “All the other animals are stampeding through cities one way in the morning and then the other way at night.”
“They’re trying to run away from the meteor but since the Earth is rotating they just end up going in circles. But for some reason Cosmo is okay with it.”
“Mr. Eric,” her voice now took on a business tone. She attempted to put her hands over her lap but only succeeded placing them on her knees. “I have a proposition for you.”
Enjoying how the nineteen year old was being so lighthearted in light of the oncoming doom, he nodded for her to continue.
“Because the end of the world is upon us and we are going to die in a fiery explosion, I would like to know your last name and your history. You know everything about mine, but I know nothing of yours.”
“Isn’t saving your life payment enough?” he asked, remembering when he found her pregnant, alone, and malnourished sleeping in the shed behind the cabin seven months ago.
“No,” she smiled.
“Alright then,” he put the pudding pocket on the floor and rocked alongside her. “How about this, I get to ask you one question. Then I’ll tell you everything.”
“Fair enough, but make it quick, we are kind of short on time.”
“Here it is: You’ve told me your family had a lot of money, but you never chose to get powers. Why?”
She scratched her chin thoughtfully in a comical way; he smiled. “Well my mother and father forbade it, but that means nothing. I would have done it anyway. I suppose the real reason is their title.”
“Yes. I do not believe them to be gods. Maybe not even heroes. If you see them on the news they are selfish and ignorant. I suppose anyone who calls themself a god is ignorant.
“I was always raised to believe there was only one God. That god does not fly or shoot lasers out of his nose. He can create and destroy like those people, but he does so with people’s best interest in mind. These heroes do not.”
“So what do you think makes a hero?” he asked stroking his beard thoughtfully.
“I suppose the quality of a hero is more of what the gods lack. Humanity. A god cannot be human and a human cannot be a god. But even the belief that you are no longer human is enough to lose your humanity.” She looked up at the sky, “I had a friend who became a god. She said she felt powerful enough that she could do whatever she wanted.
“But if you have no one to answer to, no one to stop you, then you only worship yourself. That is what I am afraid of. If I am given power, would I be responsible enough to know how to use it? Would I still follow the rules? Or would I do whatever I wanted and lose touch with who I was? That is why I never got them. I do not trust myself because I am human. And even if I thought otherwise, I would still be human.”
Eric smiled, “You’re a very smart girl, Violeta. I’m glad to have known you.”
“I only wish I could know my baby,” she rubbed her stomach thoughtfully. “But maybe it is better this way. To be raised without all the confusing ideas of gods and meteors.” She then snapped her fingers, “Now hurry up and tell me your name before we become ashes.”
“My name is…” he stopped when he picked up the sound. The familiar screeching sound, like a jet roaring by. It was faint, small, but growing louder with every passing moment. Eric stood up, his seat still rocking on the wooden porch. Cosmo sensed it next; he snarled at the sky. His ears curled back with teeth bared.
“What is it?” she looked in the sky as well.
“The President,” Eric turned to her, “Violeta. I need you to do something very important for me, okay?” He pulled the Key from his pocket and placed it in the palm of her hand. “This is a gift for you. A key. Alright? Don’t ever lose this, it will open a door for you.”
“What door?” she asked, looking from him to the quarter sized device in her hands.
“To a better place,” he smiled just as the ground erupted before them. A shower of dirt sprayed the cabin porch, bits flew into his eyes but he made sure to shield Violeta from the spray.
“So this is where the elusive Captain has been hiding,” Ray said brushing off dirt from his expensive tuxedo, “Nice beard and flannel, Eric. Giving up on Captain to try out Paul Bunyan instead?”
“You’re filling in that hole Mr. President,” Eric stepped off the porch, looking at the crater. “This may be your country, but that’s my lawn.”
“Funny!” Ray clapped his hands together, “much better than any of the other gods I sent at the meteor.”
“All the flyers, right? Funny how you’re still here.”
“Earth needs a President when all is said and done,” Ray waved at Cosmo who bared his teeth and snapped his fangs at the brother. “It took years but we finally tracked you down. Less than an hour ago the lab boys sensed a spike in ultraviolet ruby radiation here. Just like back at Site 23C.”
Ray took a step forward, “Before anything else I’d just like to thank you for not going on a vendetta against the meteor sites. Even though I wouldn’t have preferred it, it’d make you a fugitive to destroy government property. The last thing we needed was all our meteor rock becoming ash.”
“How’d your plan work out?” Eric asked looking up at the sky, “I don’t mean to criticize, but won’t it be hard to mine tifarium when it’s sticking out of your chest? That is if we don’t melt first.”
“So it didn’t work out exactly the way I wanted it to,” Ray shrugged dismissively, “But we made more advances in three years than the entire world has done in two centuries. Such as what happened to that meteor back at Site 23C.” Ray picked at his fingernails, “It’s incredible that you discovered a whole other world. Not to mention how you probably found a way to get there safely, am I right?”
“How did you…”
“Know? Jeez Eric, I keep telling you. We’re living in tomorrow and technology is always changing. Wasn’t that hard to find out you sent the rock to a different dimension. Just like a radio. Our world is FM and the new world is AM. Both existing in the same place but unaffected by the other. Which means the other world will survive when ours dies. Problem is, my lab boys can build the gateway across but we can’t unlock it. But you can.” His features changed to that of a statue, stony. “Were you really going to leave me behind? Run off and let me die while you’re in paradise with that girl over there?”
“No. You and I are both staying here. She’s going.”
“Oh my God,” Ray rolled his eyes, “Will you give the hero thing a rest? Honestly! Is this like your swan song? The final great act of the heroic Captain? I’d hate to tell you, bro, but we don’t need you anymore. I didn’t become President with your help. We didn’t make all these advancements with your help. We’ve gotten along just fine without you. You’re a relic now. Nothing more than a paragraph in the history books.”
“Funny,” Eric clenched his jaw, “seems like you need The Key to get to the other world.”
“That’s just because we didn’t have enough time to fix all the bugs. If we had an extra month we could’ve figured it out.” He smiled, “Remember back when I invited you to that fast food place? When I told you about my discovery? About how I always believed in you, that you were like some god? I was freakin’ pathetic. I worshipped you. You! Of all people! It’s hilarious.
“It isn’t until I became a god that I saw what you really are. You’re not a hero, or a god, or even human. You’re a ghost. You spend all your time thinking about Annette or who you used to be or ‘the good old days’. I guess the real reason I liked you is the same reason people still like The Beatles. You and your ideals are vintage. Sold on eBay or craigslist.”
“You think of that yourself?” Eric asked.
“Power puts things in perspective,” his brother clenched his fist and opened it again. “I made sure I gave myself the most. Like you said, I’m God. You can’t reach me and I don’t even hear the crunch when you’re under my heel.”
“That’s why we’re staying here,” Eric looked back at Violeta with a soft smile. “She’s going to a world where there aren’t people like us. Where gods don’t walk the Earth. Back to simpler times.” Eric turned to look at his brother, the man’s shoulder’s falling and rising as he simmered in rage. “I miss you, Ray. I was always afraid I’d turn into you, that’s what kept me grounded. Not wanting to lose my family. But I lost them anyway. Please just forget about the power.”
“So that’s it? You’re sparing the other world from us and our power.” Ray snorted with a sarcastic smile. Then it was gone, replaced by a glare, “You aren’t going to let me leave, are you?”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Tell me one thing then. How did you find a way to cross over?”
“Once I knew where the world was I used emeralds and diamonds doused with ultraviolet ruby radiation to create refraction, bending reality to point the way to the other side. I then charged enough electricity into a small coin sized piece of the mineral hybrid that it’ll be able to change the vibration of a person and reflect them into the other world.”
“Old school. I technically reinvented the mirror. I told you to look at the past.” He pointed up at the approaching meteor, “It’s all been about that rock. A rock gave you power, and when we were in trouble you turned to the rock again. Well now you’ve realized we’re just on another rock, aren’t we? And that huge rock above us is set to wipe us out. What’s your solution now?”
“Get a bigger rock,” a sinister smiled crossed over his face as he stalked towards his brother. “I’m not dying here, not that you seem to care. Just get out of my way.” Ray grabbed his brother’s shoulder and shoved him aside. Eric stumbled backwards. No one had pushed him away in a decade.
He saw Violeta cower as Ray strode towards her. His movements made him appear as a tiger, hunting the small timid prey.
“Ray, don’t make me do this.” Eric clenched his fists and tensed his muscles.
“Do what, Eric?” Ray stopped in his tracks. He turned around and looked back at Eric a grin like ice. “A fight? Right now?”
“I don’t want to.”
“But you will won’t you? You’d fight your brother? Jealous that I have more power than you?”
“You don’t have any qualities I’d ever want.”
“Then let’s see if The Captain can take down the President of the United States,” he turned to Violeta, still sitting in the chair. “Pay attention honey, you won’t see anything like this ever again.”
Ray rolled his shoulder one moment, the next he was holding Eric by the neck. With a spin he slammed his brother into the dirt. Eric struggled beneath him, trying to push his brother off.
“I keep telling you Eric, technology is always advancing.” Ray whispered in his ear.
Eric struggled for breath, first attempting to punch Ray in the face. His hands had once bent steel and crumbled diamonds, but Ray’s flesh was impervious.
Then from the left the angry yapping of a dog erupted from the side. Ray fell backwards as Cosmo tackled him, catching the President off balance. Eric gasped for breath, watching as Ray struggled with the dog in his arms.
With a crack the struggle was over.
“Cosmo!” Eric shouted. The creature that fell at Ray’s feet was no longer a dog. It was a sad sack of bone and flesh covered with fur; a snack for vermin.
As much as he tried to forget, the memories of the dog as a puppy danced as playfully as the dog had once done in his mind. A small pup, no older than one bounding beside his daughter, nuzzling its’ nose against her as they slept. She loved that dog, that puppy. Now he to was gone.
“Well my grand unveiling in the new world won’t be with style,” Ray muttered, pulling on the ripped sleeve of his tuxedo. “I hope they have Armani there.”
Anger wasn’t even what he felt when he lunged at Ray. He never even felt rage during his brutal assault on his brother’s smug features. All that was there was instinct. Pure natural instinct. The urge to attack, to fight, to defend. It wasn’t until now that it became clear to him. Not until now that he felt what he lacked during the days of capes and villains. It had never been so black and white. Not because of Cosmo, though he did love him, but because deep down he’d knew this would happen eventually. Everything had built to this and now it had finally come. The end times.
Ray was right. This was his swan song. His final act.
He was going to make it legendary.
“Armani’s going to be the least of your problems, Mr. President!” His voice booming, he slammed his fist into his brother’s stomach. With the wind knocked out of Ray, the man was helpless when the hero took to the skies. The cacti vanished below them as they rocketed towards the meteor. “You were right! I have lived in the past, but it isn’t until now that I know what all those ideals meant! Not until now that I’m ready to take the title!” With a sudden flip they dove downwards in a spiral. His beard billowed about his face but his voice was strong as he shouted, “I’m ready to be the hero!”
The President’s body hit the ground first allowing The Captain’s fall to be cushioned. Standing tall, a giant among men, he placed his foot against his brother’s head pressing his face downwards into the sand and grit.
“I wasn’t wearing my bifocals, but that looked like it hurt,” The Captain flashed his grin.
“Get off me you lunatic!” The President rammed his fists into the leg that held him captive. “You’re out of you mind! The world’s going to hell and you’re joking?!”
“The world’s been going to hell for over a decade,” The Captain said. “Of course I don’t expect someone who looks towards the future remembering breakfast.”
“A dog, really?!” The President’s head tilted. A blast of red energy flew from his eyes into The Captain’s face. Stumbling backwards, the hero rubbed the burn marks from his skin. When his eyes opened again a well-manicured hand collided with his jaw.
“After all these years all it takes to motivate you is the death of a dog?!” another swift jab to the gut and The Captain dropped to one knee. “The apartment building was destroyed and you ran away. I created new gods and you ran away. Your family died and you ran away. Your experiment failed and you ran away. Why don’t you run now?!”
“Because right now I’m not fighting for government, the people, or even my family. I’m fighting because I’m staring evil right in the face, and this is the only thing I can think of to do.” He snickered, “That, and there’s nowhere left to run.” As The President was about to bring his fists down upon his brother’s head, The Captain used the optic blasts to send his brother stumbling backwards. The chest of his tuxedo now burned through to the skin, The President opened his palm and an explosion of blue fire flew from his hands.
The Captain shielded his face as the flames ignited his clothes.
“You’re saying I’m evil!” The President screamed continuing his assault with an ongoing inferno. “I did all this to help you and you’re calling me evil?! I was trying to be like you! To save the world! It’s not my fault the only way to do that is through power!”
Like the fires of Hades the weapon used against the hero consisted of a soul. Unlike Hell, which was made of many, this inferno had only one. One angry tormented twisted soul. It fizzled and screamed, frothing at the mouth with rage. Yet even though the flames were meant to kill him, even though every inch forward was a tremendous effort, The Captain still attempted to reach The President. Not only physically but in heart. Because despite everything that happened, all the mistakes committed, the man was still his little brother.
“It was never about me!” The Captain roared, eyes watering from the blaze. “Even back then I saw how your eyes lit up at power! You only wanted to be God!”
“So what if I did?!” the President shouted, forcing the heat to intensify. “You were my hero! I wanted to be you! To be a god that everyone could look up to!”
“I’m only human! Not God!” The Captain reached forward and grabbed The President by the scruff of his suit. He looked upon his brother, eyes filled with sorrow. Yet the eyes that looked back were filled with only hate and the fires that fueled them.
“You are a God!” The President spat, “We’re both gods! You’re more than human, dammit! You’re The Captain!”
“Not Captain,” Eric said before punching his brother across the face. Limp in his arms, he cradled his family, his friend, and let his brother sink into unconsciousness. The adrenaline wore off, not from exhaustion but from Rays face. The calm almost smiling features he had when he slept. At this moment he was no longer The Captain and his brother was no longer The President.
“I’m just Eric and your Ray. I’m sorry I couldn’t be everything you expected me to be.” He placed his brother on the ground and let him sleep. Finally after over a decade of being The Captain or Eric or whomever he was he let the years catch up to him. Because even when he was still in his forties he felt like he lived a hundred lifetimes. He’d seen so much, done so much; but one job was left to do.
“Mr. Eric! Please, are you alright?”” Violeta’s sweaty hands touched his face. But then came the realization that it was he who was sweating. It felt good. He felt human.
For a moment he rested his head against her hand. Remembering the touch of Annette. But there wasn’t enough time for that. No time to reminisce or enjoy the last moments of his life.
“Hurry Violeta,” he reached for the locket hanging around his neck, “Where is the Key? Please tell me you have it.”
She produced the coin sized object from her pocket. With shaking hands she placed it in his large hand, an obvious curiosity behind her green eyes. Pulling the necklace off he kissed the locket, the metal cool to his lips. His whispered a silent prayer to his family before he tenderly draped it around Violeta’s neck.
“What is this?” she asked, holding the locket in her delicate hand.
“Inside is the ashes of my wife and daughter,” he put the small coin sized key to the front of the locket. With a small click it connected together. A crude welding of a circle with a heart. “It takes a few minutes for the current to flow, but when it happens you’ll be gone.”
“Where?” she asked, eyes wide with fear.
“To a pure world, a better world full of cities and people. So similar to our own but without people like me.”
“But I want one with people like you,” she held onto his hand.
“In that necklace there are two people, two people who are even better than I was,” with every blink tears slid down his dirt stained face. “But it’s up to you, Violeta, to make sure that both their good, your good, and your child’s good survive in the other world.”
“Why me?” she asked through sobs. “Why did you choose me?”
“Because you’re wisdom, honor, kindness, perseverance, joy, laughter, beauty, but most importantly humanity. You’re all the good that our world has to offer. You’re the one who is truly special.”
“I can’t represent the whole world,” she wiped at her cheeks. Her eyes were wide with terror at the prospect of the legacy she would have to fulfill.
“Violeta,” he gently stroked her night black hair, “there are almost 500 different types of violets. They grow all over the world. Even your name is everything our world is.” He let out a long exhale. Finally at long last his job was done.
“What was her name?” Violeta asked.
“Your daughter. Every time I see you looking at me it’s the way my own father watched me. What was her name?”
“Her name was Alison,” Eric said with a sad smile, “It means exalted in German. I practically worshipped that little girl.”
“Alison,” Violeta repeated smiling through a face of tears, “I’ll always-”
There was a single flash of light and she was gone.
Eric was alone.
For the first time in years he felt heat. Around him the cactuses burned and the very sand beneath him turned to glass. His clothes were ablaze as his body turned bright red.
Above him he could see only see the boiling surface of the meteor. He knew he was about to die. So he decided to fall asleep. Not as The Captain. But as the man he had always been. Eric Falkman.
“It started in Texas, it ends in Texas,” he whispered as he dozed off. In a little giggle he whispered, “I saved the world, Annette. Get it? I saved the-”
He drifted into oblivion, never to wake again.
Violeta busied herself with setting the dishes. Her husband was out back, cooking the hamburgers and hotdogs. He’d returned from a business trip to Scarlet City a few days ago and was eager to go back to the grill. Their neighbor couple helped with the decoration in the living room, laughing at each others jokes. Streamers were hung above the doorway while balloons were being taped to the walls.
It was a quiet life. A happy life. No gods in the sky.
And the sky.
It was a beautiful creamy blue with rolling clouds drifting above them at a leisurely pace. Nothing had to move quickly. There was no rush. No danger. Just beauty.
Everything was as he promised. There world was identical, but without the deadly wonders hers possessed. But she still remembered them. Yet that’s all they were, a memory.
“Violeta!” the blonde woman called from the living room. She heard the school bus stopping in front of the house and she hurried to wipe some of the icing off her fingers before she ran to the door.
Her husband joined by her side as they opened the front door to see two children running down the driveway. One was her daughter and the other the neighbor’s son.
“Mommy!” her daughter cried and jumped into her arms. “Everyone loved your book!”
“That’s great honey,” she said bringing her daughter in for a close hug.
“Everyone loved the part where The Captain saved the little girl,” her daughter grabbed the hand of the little boy and led him inside. Her large dark brown eyes lit up when she saw how her living room was decorated. “Is this for me?” she held her hands up to her chest whilst dancing around in the dramatic way she always did.
“We all did this just for you sweetheart,” her father patted her long black hair. Even though he wasn’t related by blood he loved her just as much as Violeta.
“Can I open a present now?” she asked looking at the pile of gifts on the table.
“You can if you remember what to say,” Violeta lectured in a motherly way, “Remember to say…”
“Thank you Dad,” she hugged him first, “Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Jenson.” She hugged them both next. Finally she ran up to her mother and hugged her again. “Thank you mom.” She then stood back expectantly.
“Well, I was going to give this to you when you were older but I think you are ready now,” she pulled the necklace off from around her neck and held it up to her daughter.
With wide eyes, her daughter stared at the necklace. The necklace she’d been warned not to touch. The necklace her mother always wore. The necklace that had been present since as far back as she could remember. And now it was going to be hers.
“You will take good care of it?” Violeta asked.
Her daughter nodded as the necklace was placed around her small neck. With gentle fingers, she petted the heart locket welded to the odd circle. To her it was like magic, only to be touched with the gentlest of fingers.
“Thank you,” she gripped her mother for the third time. But this time the hug meant so much more. Violeta had always known the necklace wasn’t meant for her. She was just holding onto it until the proper time.
She petted the girl’s long black hair, “Happy birthday Alison.”