Tuesday, September 3, 2013


     Mary eased her car off the side of the road, in the little gravel pull off next to Joe and Ellen’s car, which was already parked there.  She rolled down her passenger side window and asked if they'd been waiting long.
     As they said their hellos and discussed which trail they would be hiking, she was suddenly startled by a knock on her window.  She looked out and there he stood: AmazingMan.  In his green tights and yellow cape, his muscles bulging, the perfect male specimen.  She rolled down her window.
     "Can I help you?" she asked.
     "The question is, can I help you?"  He replied.  It sounded like he had said it too many times already in too many other situations.  Not exactly rehearsed, but still the way a smarmy barfly lothario might deliver a line designed to pick up a girl but was destined to fail.
     “No, not today AmazingMan, I’m just meeting my friends to go hiking.”  She told him.
     “Oh, okay” He replied, sounding disappointed.  “No kidnap ransom being delivered?  You can tell me, you don’t need to be afraid of them.” He scowled in Joe and Ellen’s direction.
     “No, nothing like that.” Mary assured him.  “Just, you know, going hiking.”
     “Hmmm.” AmazingMan furrowed his brow.  “Are you sure this isn’t some kind of drug deal?”
     “You have x-ray vision AmazingMan, you would certainly see if there were any drugs here.”
     “Yes, that’s true.” He agreed.  “Okay citizen, be secure in the knowledge that AmazingMan is always on the alert, watching out for the good people of this fair city …”
     “I know AmazingMan, She cut him off, “thanks and all, but my friends and I really need to hit the trail, so …” 
     “So …?”
     “So, could you please move so I can get out of my car and go hiking?”
    “Certainly.”  He stammered, “You have a good day and be sure to observe all the rules posted along the trail.  They are put there for your safety”
     “Okay.”  She answered, short and terse.
     She finally just opened the door against his thigh and he got the message and moved back. 
     “I’m off then, unless there’s something else you need me to help you with.”
     “Nope.  We’re quite okay here. Bye.”  She went around the car to her friends.
     AmazingMan walked away, looking dejected.  He would usually fly of course, but he secretly hoped walking would drive home his unhappiness and make them feel guilty.  It didn’t.  As he got a distance away from the cars, he trained his super hearing on them.
     “It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?”  Ellen was saying, “There’s really no crime for him to fight anymore.”
     “Yes, but he doesn’t have to pester innocent people all the time, does he?” Joe asked.
     “Shhhh!” Warned Mary, “He might hear you!”
      Joe and Ellen were right though.  Since he had come here a year and a half ago, the crime had really dried up.  When criminals realized there was an invincible flying strongman that could see through walls, hear you from blocks away and move faster than sound they either gave up on crime or moved to another part of the country.  He thought perhaps some super villain might arise to become his arch nemesis, but it turned out that there were no super villains.  Most criminals weren’t that smart, and the ones that were knew enough not to challenge a very powerful crime fighter from another planet over and over again. 
     Nor were there any super criminals from any other worlds.  It turned out that space was immense.  The only reason he had arrived from earth was because his father, with his great intellect and his civilization’s vast technology, managed to send him here directly and on purpose.  The chances of another person from another civilization doing the same thing were astronomical, let alone someone from beyond the stars just happening upon Earth randomly.
     With no crime to fight, he was basically useless unless there was some kind of natural disaster to help with, but even they were few and far between these days.  He could blow a hurricane or tornado off course before they even did any damage, and that only took a half hour at most.  If there was an earthquake somewhere he couldn’t do much to stop it, and humans had gotten surprising good at responding to disasters and rescuing and rebuilding.  He was mostly in the way in those situations. 
     He supposed he should go assume his alter ego Sam Smith, and get back to his job.  He thanked his lucky stars that he had the ability to produce AmazingMan any time the TV station wanted an interview.  It was true though that there wasn’t as much of a call for interviews with him anymore.  
     That was another thing.  Why didn’t his boss even figure out why he could even get in touch with AmazingMan?  He helped and protected humans, but they sure were stupid.  Take off his glasses and put on a cape and nobody even looked twice.  Not one of his so-called “friends” ever noticed him long enough to put two and two together and figure out that he was AmazingMan.  He sighed.  People sure knew how to be a disappointment.
     He suddenly felt foolish to realize that he was still walking.  He half-heartedly leapt in the air and took off, making his way to channel 19’s studio.
     When he first arrived here from the family farm, he had figured on getting a job at the local newspaper.   Where better to keep your finger on the pulse of a busy metropolis?  Alas, there were only two papers in town and the same out-of-town conglomerate owned them both.  Most of the stories in the papers came from the wire service and there was very little news left in them.  The daily edition was mostly entertainment news, local sports and classified ads.
     The closest thing he could find to a city news desk was the local television news, but even that was a joke.  Still, they were on top of breaking crime stories because sensationalism sells.  He wanted a job writing copy for the anchors, but with no college degree or any real experience, he was out of luck.  He finally took a course at the community college learning to work a camera.  He got an unpaid internship at he station and even then they weren’t looking to hire him when he graduated.  He finally just started crime fighting and used the “getting an interview with AmazingMan” angle to finally get a job operating the camera.  Truth be told, though, he wasn’t really very good at it.  He hardly worked the camera much anymore; he mostly just tried to stay out of the way.  He was just grateful that his AmazingMan connection would ensure that he always had a job. 
     He landed behind the studio and quickly changed and snuck inside. 
     “Anyone been looking for me?”  He asked everyone on set.
     “No” half of them replied, not even looking up from whatever they were doing.
     “Okay, well if anyone needs anything …” he added
     “NO!” said the same people.
      AmazingMan, who was now Sam Smith again by virtue of his glasses, walked down the hall to Lori Lund’s office.  Lori, like everyone else here, pretty much ignored Sam Smith.  She was the evening co-anchor, and she was also AmazingMan’s girlfriend.  Well, kind of.  She was always flirting with him, finding ways to be around him, he would catch her mooning over his picture.  At least she used to. She was always happy to talk to Sam, if for nothing else to ask if he had spoken to AmazingMan lately, or if he asked about her.   Lately it seemed the bloom was off the rose for her.
     He poked his head in her office door. 
     “Hi Lori.”  He called out, “How’s it going today.”
     “Fine Sam” She answered without looking up.  “I’m really busy right now, okay.”
      “You know, if you wanted, I could see if I could get a hold of AmazingMan, tell him to stop by or call.”
     “No, that’s okay Sam.” She replied, still not even looking up from her desk.
     “Oh, yeah, alright.  I’ll be working tonight if you want to talk or anything.”  He stood there for a second.  “Tonight.  At work.”  He added, and felt foolish for doing so but it was all part of the Sam Smith act. 
      It used to be, but now he was starting to feel like Sam most of the time and more like the made up act was AmazingMan.  He really had spent the vast majority of his life being Sam Smith, not AmazingMan anyway.  Who was he really? 
      Questions like those made his head ache so he left Lori’s office and headed off to find a nice spot out of the way of everyone that was actually doing work.
      Lori was thankful Sam left.  He was nice enough, and she knew he had a little crush on her, but so did a lot of guys.  She was on the evening news every night, so she had her fair share of men fawning over her.  Now it was uncomfortable though, with him knowing AmazingMan and all.  It wasn’t that she didn’t care for AmazingMan, she did, but … oh she didn’t even know these days. 
      It was all very exciting at first; he was so big and important and seemed dangerous fighting all those criminals.  AmazingMan really got her juices flowing when he first arrived, but now it didn’t seem so new and dangerous, it felt like a routine. 
      In addition, it was all a lot of flirting that never seemed to go anywhere.  They never really dated or went out to a restaurant or club, but how could they?  Was there in reality any future with AmazingMan?  Besides, where did he go when he wasn’t flying around town fighting crime?  Did he have a bunch of other girls all over town?  Or the world for that matter?  He could go anywhere at any time with anyone, and enough girls would swoon wherever he showed up.  Perhaps not so much anymore.  She thought it funny that the fact that girls not swooning now diminished him a little in her eyes, but when they were swooning it made her miserable and jealous and that made her want him more. 
     Maybe he was gay.
     Sam was standing against a wall watching the crew tape off the marks on the floor for tonight’s broadcast when his boss came over to him. 
     “Sam, can I talk to you in my office?”  Maury Brown asked.
     “Sure thing” Sam replied.  Maybe someone wants an interview with AmazingMan.  Perhaps Lori even put him up to it so she had an excuse to see him again.
     “Looking for an exclusive with AmazingMan, chief?” Sam asked hopefully.
     “Not exactly Sam.” Maury told him. “It’s never easy to say something like this Sam.  Things aren’t going real well around the station; we’re trying to cut costs.  We’re going to have to let you go.”
     Sam stood dumfounded. 
     “Excuse me, what?” He managed.
     “It’s not me Sam, it’s the higher ups.  They’re always looking to cut the budget.”
     “But … but … what if you want to talk to AmazingMan?  I can get in touch with him if you need a story.”
     “Well Sam,” Maury said, “There’s really no story there anymore, is there?   AmazingMan’s yesterday’s news.  There’s no real crime anymore.  Hell, we have to lead with stories from other cities these days.  Nothing sensational happens around here anymore.”
     “Maury, I need my job.  Where would I go?  Besides, Lori’s here …”  He stopped and looked at Maury, realizing what he had just said.
     “Exactly, she could probably get in touch with him if we needed.”
     Sam just stared at him.  Wow, he was a moron. 
     “Please Maury,” there must be something you can do”
     “Well, maybe I could knock you back to part time.”
     “Okay.”  Sam agreed immediately.  “I can work part time.”
     “And being part time means no more health benefits.  Obamacare and all that.”  Maury pressed further.
     “That’s fine.” Sam replied sullenly.  Truth be told, only working part time gave him more time to fight crime … well, to look for crime.  He didn’t need the health care.  Still, it stung him to have to accept the demotion and loss of benefits. 
     He had resorted to squeezing coal into diamonds long ago to supplement his income so money really wasn’t a problem.  His job was just one more area that he failed at, but there were ways around it.
     He left the studio after shaking Maury’s hand and actually thanking him for the pay cut. 
     He didn’t like being Sam Smith anymore.  He could live with it because he got to be AmazingMan some of the time, adored and celebrated.  Those days were behind him now, apparently. 
     He had thought about packing up and moving to a new town, wiping out crime there.  That wouldn’t work.  People were stupid, but eventually they would start figuring out what was going on whenever Sam Smith shows up to work with his AmazingMan connections.  Besides, Lori was here.  He felt foolish and impotent even thinking that.  He supposed he could just stay Sam Smith here and head out to another city when he could, but he had done enough commuting in his life already.
     No, there was only one answer.  He had no purpose, no life, no girl, nothing really.  He couldn’t even tell people who he really was.
     He ducked into an alley and took off as AmazingMan.  He couldn’t kill himself here on Earth, nothing was strong enough to harm him.  Perhaps if he flew directly into the Sun, that would burn him up and this torturous life would be over. 
    Outward he flew, leaving the Earth behind, past Venus and Mercury before he plunged into the Sun.  At first, the flames and then the roiling mass of the Sun engulfed his body, and he waited for it to be over.  Then it came to him as it always did at this point.  This alien star only made him stronger.  There would be no peace today.
     AmazingMan sighed heavily and slowly headed back to Earth.

© David Ferraris 2013

1 comment:

  1. Nice flip on the story. The characters sound really familiar...