“So what are we supposed to be doing here?”
“Patrolling the streets!” The Golden Hopper boisterously stated with a triumphant pose, “Keeping the innocent safe and the forces of evil at bay!”
Blake and other assorted bystanders in the park remained quietly unimpressed. As required by unspoken law, a bird chirped to emphasize the silence. Blake continued walking forward as he ignored his golden companion’s dramatics.
“I get that we’re supposed to be walking around and shit, looking like idiots too early for Halloween. But what does all that actually do for these saps?”
“It helps the people here,” Golden Hopper answered, catching up with a leap. “People here in the park will see us present, and they’ll know they’re safe because we’re nearby and on hand to save anyone immediately. I don’t think we look like idiots, by the way.”
As he spoke, he saw a little girl on the other side of the street, playing on her tricycle. When he caught her eye, he waved in a friendly manner to her. She waved back at the shiny man and the brooding man, and pointed them out to her mother. She was then quickly ushered away, gently reprimanded for pointing at strange people.
“That’s great, but there’s nothing here that needs saving.”
“Not now, but-”
“And nothing here will need saving. This is Quietville. It’s Borington, the city that never wakes up. Alien invaders take one look at this place and go back into cryogenic sleep.”
“Then we’ll just be helping the citizens with their everyday problems.”
“Everyday normal problems,” Blake muttered with exasperation to himself, “also known as chores, which makes what we’re doing community service at best.”
He ceased his inquiries and plunged his hands into his pockets. Golden Hopper began extolling the joys and benefits of serving the public, and Blake was sure that his partner was quoting a passage from the orientation instructional guide verbatim. After the first sentence, Blake blocked out the words and mulled over the misfortune of his new dull life as a heroic handyman. Still, at least a predicted future of tedium should surely ensure of injury.
High up on a branch, a cat mewled plaintively, staring wide-eyed at the two strangely-adorned figures below it.
“A cat doesn’t qualify as a citizen.” Blake bluntly said.
“It could belong to a citizen.”
“That citizen can climb up there and get his own damn cat down. This isn’t even a problem. This is the natural world sorting itself out, weeding out the cats who can get stuck in trees.”
“It wouldn’t be heroic at all for us to ignore a helpless cat.”
“Go up and bring it down yourself then! What are you even talking to me for?”
Though his face was completely concealed behind a helmet, Golden Hopper’s body language clearly communicated embarrassment.
“I… actually tried that before, with another cat,” he admitted.
“Another cat? In another tree?”
“Yes, I found one a while back,” sighed the Golden Hopper sighed, shuffling his feet and avoiding eye contact. “It didn’t go so well.”
“You killed the cat?”
“What? No! The cat came down unharmed!”
“Then why aren’t you doing the same thing here?”
“Because… the tree wasn’t. Unharmed. Very harmed actually.”
He kicked at a stone awkwardly with his golden boot, trying even harder to avoid eye contact.
“I’m… still not used to this armour, a bit.”
“Wonderful! Because you don’t have a middle setting between ‘touch’ and ‘pulverize’, the grunt work’s down to me?”
Blake advanced an angry step, continuing his rant at his companion and oblivious to the cat above him.
“I never wanted this stupid gig, and I don’t give a rat’s ass about saving the public! I’m not climbing that tree, so that cat can just sit and stEEARGH!”
With precision, the cat launched itself at the back of Blake’s head, catching him off-guard. Unable to resist the combination of cat-fueled momentum and unforgiving gravity, he fell face-forward into the grass.
Golden Hopper, after side-stepping out of the way of his falling partner, silently observed the scene before him.
“Well, it sorted itself out,” Hopper remarked.
The cat, bearing the situational savviness innate to all cats, folded its legs beneath itself and settled down in a comfortable spot on Blake’s head. It purred triumphantly.
Meanwhile, Blake took his red-hot anger and stowed it away in a secret spot inside himself, for later use.
The two heroes courageously combed through the long grass for a teenager’s keys that were tragically lost. One hour later, the keys were miraculously discovered to have never been lost at all, and were in fact safetly nestled in the teen’s back-pocket. Blake returned to the long grass and spent another fifteen minutes crouched inside. Golden Hopper hoped it was a gesture of thanks for nature’s bounty, and not an attempt to hide a frustrated scream of rage.
“Thank you so much for helping me with my groceries dears,” said the elderly woman.
Behind the old lady slowly tottering along the path, the Golden Hopper effortlessly hoisted several bags of foodstuffs. The advanced armour he wore compensated for the excess weight, and the hero barely felt anything. Blake ambled sullenly alongside him, carrying the last bag just for the show of it.
“It’s no trouble at all, madam! We’re happy to help out in any way we can,” chimed the hero in an upbeat tone.
Blake snorted derisively, but that sound went unheard by the senior citizen before them, who stared straight ahead with short-sighted eyes.
“Oh! Such kind dears! It does my poor heart good to see such decent souls in this day and age.”
“Oh it’s no big deal. It’s our-”
“Mildred never liked your type, superwhos was it?”
“Uh, superhumans actually-”
“She’s my sister, you see. A year older, but you’d think it was ten from the way she carries on. Anyway, she does not like superwhos, well superwhos these days at least. She just goes on and on once she sees any on the news, about how it’s not like the old days.”
“Too many young ones putting on the cape, she says. Not enough respect for the old traditions, she says. Only she doesn’t put it in quite so delicate a way like I do. If you ask me, I think she’s just being bitter over how all these new names are hogging the limelight. Now, don’t tell her I told you this.”
“She actually had a big crush on this one superwho fellow. The Good Sport, I think his name was. You won’t know him because he’s from our time, and yes I know that’s a long time ago. I won’t like to myself. Anyway, my sister and I actually met him in person once upon a time! She was so smitten, my goodness!”
The power armour does not compensate for heavy loads of one-sided dialogue. Golden Hopper looked about and realized how very little they had advanced forward in the few long minutes he had been listening to the elder before him. She seemed much more interested in speaking than in progressing onwards along the path to whatever destination she intended.
“Nothing ever came of it, mind you. They were just worlds apart. She won’t admit it, but she always dreamed of having a whirlwind superwho romance like in the books. The older stories, I mean. Not the newer ones; too smutty for her, she says, and I actually agree with her. Now, I don’t mind a little sauciness, but ‘too much and it’ll spoil the broth’ as someone once said, I think. Too much and it overpowers everything else! I won’t say anything about sauciness, but I know my cooking and I’ve always firmly believed that a lot of what you learn from cooking can apply to a lot else in life. I can guarantee that!”
Golden Hopper looked to his side, hoping to find an idea on how to excuse himself from Blake. Instead, he saw nothing and felt something go over his head. He turned sharply to the opposite side, just in time to see the rapidly retreating back of Blake. The armoured hero reached behind him, and felt the last bag of groceries resting on his back, held in place by the handles around his neck, like a loose noose.
“Thank you again so much for helping me with my bags. It’s always such a long walk from the park to our humble home, so it’s nice to finally have someone to chat with on the way. Oh, and have I told you about my other sisters?”
With very gentle motions, the Golden Hopper tried to calm the frantic man, as Ash struggled with difficulty to hold down the arm swinging a heavy lead pipe. In a slow voice, he reassured the wild-eyed man that the tiny denizens of Neem were not going to paddle him and later harvest his nipples.
“Are you both perverts?” The little girl asked.
Blake considered the question carefully, weighing the pro of hilariously framing his partner against the con of being implicated as an accomplice.
“No,” Blake answered, deciding to go with the boring truth. “We are not.”
“Mama says lots of heroes are perverts, because they keep running around wearing tight clothing to show their naughty bits.”
The little girl sat on her tricycle, as if ever prepared for a hasty exit in case her mother’s warnings proved true. So far, Blake’s dull baggy clothes and general disinterest were dispelling her suspicions. Meanwhile, a young shetland sheepdog off its leash was manically running circles around the Golden Hopper. The hero was trying his best to catch the dog without accidentally activating his power armour’s boosters and send himself hurtling out of the park.
“Kid, we are innocent lambs,” Blake lied. “We say our prayers, we brush our teeth, and we kiss at least five kittens before we go to sleep every night. The last thing we’re going to do is swing our bits out in public, ok?”
“So just sit there quietly until your dog gets tired of running around.”
The girl sat quietly. After five seconds, she decided that was enough.
“So what kind of hero stuff does he do?”
“What, that guy over there?”
Blake pointed at the golden figure valiantly trying to herd the dog into a corner for easier capture. In turn, the dog was doing the same to hero, simply because that was what his entire lineage had been bred to do. The dog was winning.
“Yes, him. What hero stuff does he do? Lasers?”
“Nah. I’m pretty sure he’s not a laser guy,” Blake remarked, half to himself.
It suddenly occurred to the masked man that he didn’t actually know what his companion was capable of, and vice versa. While Blake asked blunt and rude questions all the time, the issue of heroic powers had completely slipped his mind. He supposed he could just shout to Hopper and ask what his whole hero deal was… but then he thought of a better and more instructive way.
“Watch this,” he said to the girl while he picked up a sizeable stone. He gauged the distance between him and his partner, and he weighed the stone in his hand.
“What?” The Golden Hopper asked, turning to Blake’s voice.
Out the corner of his eye, he saw the stone coming towards his head, and then his reflexes took over. Training moved his leg and his armour’s hydraulics hastened it further. He kicked the stone cleanly in its center, and the force of his blow turned the stone to dust. The dog barked excitedly as it jumped up and around the hero while tiny bits of stone rained down.
“He kicks stuff,” Blake answered the girl.
“Hey!” The Golden Hopper yelled in exasperation. “Don’t do that! I could’ve hit someone! I could’ve hit the dog!”
“Well you didn’t!” Blake yelled back. “Now grab the kid’s dog and get over here!”
“It’s not my dog.”
Blake turned to the girl in confusion. Golden Hopper had not heard her and was returning his attentions to the canine who had returned to speedily circling the hero.
“It’s not my dog yet, but it will be my dog when you give it to me,” stated the girl in a calm matter-of-fact manner.
“But you said-”
Blake paused and thought back to the specific wording of the girl’s request half-an-hour ago. It was ‘Can you get me that dog’. That dog, not her dog.
He turned back to the girl, and begrudgingly admired the amorality of children. Meanwhile, a young couple was asking the bewildered Golden Hopper why he was holding their new dog. The dog panted with the satisfaction of a good herding job done well.
“Lost and alone, the unicorn woke up to a dark mysterious place. Though he was afraid, the unicorn knew that he must complete his magical quest to find Candy Mountain. Suddenly, the clouds part and the sun shines down to show a magical forest!”
A ragged curtain hung from two trees parts, revealing a number of shoddy cardboard bushes and another two ‘trees’ made from cardboard. Two amateur actors in a unicorn costume frolick onto the scene.
“Why are we doing this?” asked Blake from inside one of the trees.
“I don’t know,” answered Golden Hopper from another.
“Is this of any positive benefit to the city in any way?”
“I don’t know.”
“How much longer are we going to be here?”
“This and three more acts.”
“At least there can’t be anything worse than this.”
“I think so too.”
“This is something worse.”
“I think so too.”
The two of them watched on as a group of men in outrageous sequinned outfits circle a park statue on their rollerblades. Blaring disco music from large radios, they demanded that the city surrender a truck full of artificial fruit snacks to them, or they will continue skating and playing loud music. One of them put on sunglasses and began shouting ‘Yeah!’ repeatedly.
“Please kick them.” Blake pleaded, covering his face with his hands.
“That would hurt them! Badly!”
“Yes, that’s why I asked.”
“I can’t- Well- It’s not-” Golden Hopper stammered, his conscience struggling against his sense of taste.
“No!” He refused, his conscience winning out. “I am not going to brutalize a bunch of people just for disturbing the peace. I’m just going to go over there and politely ask them to stop. That’s the civil way to go about it. That’s the heroic way to do it. That’s… what are you doing Blake?”
Suddenly aware that Blake was curiously silent, Golden Hopper saw his masked companion hunched over in a strange position. Blake’s eyes were looking at nothing, and he was murmuring something unintelligible. His hands were over his chest and just a few inches apart. Golden Hopper looked closer, and saw with alarm that between Blake’s hands was a miniscule ball of fire that was steadily growing. He was about to do something drastic; the Golden Hopper reached out to stop him.
“All right brothers!” The leader of the Rollerblading Disco Demons yelled. “It’s time to step it up!”
In unison, the rollerblading disco dancers switched their songs to “Disco Wonderland” and began a dance that consisted entirely of hip-thrusts. This new development was observed by the Golden Hopper and was enough to stun him into confused silence for several minutes. This was the Disco Demons’ undoing.
Laughing riotously, Blake raised the fireball above his head, which was now half the size of his body. The disco dancers’ music was loud enough to conceal his mad laughter, which left him unhindered to hurl his magical explosive directly into their midst.
The explosion was loud, flamboyant, and spread sequins over the entirety of the park.
The Golden Hopper and Blake sat on a bench. Exhausted, they leaned their heads back and faced the sky, looking at nothing and saying nothing. After minutes, Golden Hopper spoke softly.
“So.” Blake replied with uncharacteristic calm.
“That’s your thing.”
“That’s my thing.”
“What is your thing?”
“Anger Magic,” Blake answered directly. “That’s my thing. I get angry, I store the angry, and then I shoot it out like that.”
“It feels good, blasting off and letting it go.” Blake said tiredly, half to himself.
More silence ensued over several minutes. Then, the unexpected happened.
“What?” With no energy for even a smidgen of surprise, Golden Hopper asked it blankly.
“Sorry for what I did.”
“No, no,” Golden Hopper droned, “No harm done. The dancers lived, and they liked it. They thought it was a great finish. No harm done.”
“Not that. I meant me. I was an ass.”
“Am an ass” Golden Hopper corrected. He saw no point in wasting energy sugarcoating things now.
“Fine. I am an ass.”
Even more minutes of silence passed uneventfully before Golden Hopper took his turn to break the quiet. He mustered the strength to turn his head slightly, so as to have his partner in sight.
“You said you didn’t want this.”
“Curse,” Blake said succinctly. “Long story.”
“Ah, sorry.” Golden Hopper said, taking his turn to apologize.
“It’s cool. It’s funny too. I let the anger go, and I look back at… everything.”
Blake did the same, turning his head slightly.
“I got clear eyes now, and I see everything we did and it was… dumb.”
“But it was fun-dumb.”
“Long story, but my life wasn’t fun before. So doing fun-dumb things? That’s a step up for me.”
Blake turned his head back to the sky, the smallest hint of a smile beginning on the mouth beneath the mask.
“Fun-dumb things. Fun-dumb heroes. This could be good.”
Tied to two large boards, the Golden Hopper and Blake found themselves being carried into a dark alley by several rats in tribal masks made from cardboard.
“Neem! Neem! Neem!” They chanted.
From behind trashcans and out of empty boxes, more and more rats poured out, waving makeshift spears and adding their voices to a chant growing ever louder. Suddenly, a rat with an especially elaborate mask leapt onto an overtunred can, flanked by two large bodyguard rats.
“Loyal children of Neem! As foretold, the Master Memer has predicted this most bounteous bounty! Let us celebrate and, after the ceremonial paddling, we shall begin the nipple-harvest!”
Several rats pulled out fireworks and set them off, partly to celebrate the Memer’s glory, but mostly because they thought the fireworks looked awesome. Throughout the raucous ruckus, Blake leaned closer to Hopper so that his voice could be heard over the cacophony.
“You know how I said this could be good?”
“I changed my mind.”
“That’s quite understandable.”
Did you enjoy my ongoing story so far? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, RyebreadWrite a Review