D.B.Quaginn

Canada

Quaint and quirky.
The quintessional quantam quoter.

Is that quite enough Q's yet?

Message from Writer

Vade ocius. Vade longius. Vade procul.

(My attempt at a motto.)

Life is like an in-joke: either you get it, or you don't. No amount of explaining will suffice.

I see, said the blind man.

What's worse, reckless abandon or paralyzing indecision?
And why can't I be in the middle?

Heroes

May 14, 2019

FREE WRITING

5
I believe in heroes. The first thing a clerk learns in the New Gastonberg Bank of All Nations is that the hero always saves the day. Villains are endemic to New Gastonberg, and no one knows it better than us clerks. We serve one of the most important jobs in town; we permit the mass exchanges of wealth that have made New Gastonberg a hub for global trade. Being a clerk is a position of status and honour: unfortunately, I still am on lunch shift.

At the moment, I am 27 minutes away from becoming a full clerk. Every potential clerk must first serve one month on lunch shift. I’m one of the lucky ones. Lunch shift is the most vulnerable time of day for the bank. The last guy on lunch shift, Aaron, I think, died before the second week was through. Poor guy.

Business comes to a standstill during lunch shift. The New Gastonberg Bank mainly serves world leaders and billionaires. Lunch, then, is time for lavish feasts and banquets of honour — not for banking. No one comes to the bank at lunch.
I didn’t realize this the first while. I waited eagerly for my first client, double-checking the Clerk’s Handbook for advice. My eyes wandered the bank’s main hall, tracing every detail of the marble columns, the intricate wall carvings. Such a vast space … such few people to fill it. I kept this up until about the beginning of the second week. Now, I hardly look past my cubicle. Today I was watching the live video stream of a banquet in honour of Flame of Justice.

Flame of Justice is the most incredible hero in all of New Gastonberg. On my computer screen, he rose from his chair to recount his origin story.

“I was once just a humble fire, burning in a humble hearth, until the day Dr. Friggenek came. He had perfected the science of animation — the art of bringing things to life. Those items which followed him were his instruments of crime. Those items that displeased him were tortured to the point of death. His fatal mistake was to bring me to life, for fire burns with a passion … for justice.”

His voice was warm and crackling, like a bonfire on a cold autumn’s day. At the moment, he assumed the shape of a tall, heroic man — but in a crisis, all knew he would revert to his primal form; that of a leaping, crackling flame. Now, however, he was every inch of what a hero should be, every inch of what I was not.

I looked at my reflection in the glass of my cubicle with a sigh. His chin was ever so heroic. Mine was dimpled. His red eyes burned with a passion: my murky-blue eyes barely fizzled. Of course, my scraggly, dirt-brown hair could hardly compare with his wild, leaping mane of flame. My suit is sharp, yes, but a crisply-ironed white button-up and black pants just isn’t … heroic. I know I’ll never be a hero; this job is about as close as someone like me can get. I turned to look at the clock on the wall — 19 minutes left.

I caught a movement in the corner of my eye and froze, still as stone. The doors, the massive, shining marble doors, were slowly being pulled open. This could be my big break. It might be a client. I sprung into action: I closed the stream and frantically straightened my black tie. Then another, less pleasant possibility reared its ugly head.

The guy that killed the last clerk —  Speed Demon, I think — never was caught. He could be the one coming through those doors right now. I took a deep breath, folded my hands on my cubicle and prepared for whoever was coming through that door.

A little old lady hobbled in. So much for the dreaded Speed Demon, I thought wryly. With a scraggly shawl the color of bruised plums and a shapeless gray dress that must have been all the rage a couple centuries ago, she looked more like his kindly great-grandma. Her cane must have been magnificent when it was made in the early Mesozoic era, but now — not so much. The woman probably came from the Mesozoic herself; that is, if wrinkles are any indication.

However, as far as I knew, she could be a client. I cleared my throat.

“Hello, Mrs…”

“Oh! Ah, yes. Divoké. Anita Divoké.” Her voice was shrill, but her tone never wavered. It reminded me of my old english teacher’s — terse, well-mannered, but very strict.

“Divoké. How may I help you?”

“Why, thank you, young man! There’s nothing, really. I just … forgot myself.” She gazed into the distance, as if remembering something, or someone...

Or perhaps eying the massive doors to the vaults, flanked on both sides by guards. (Stuck-up idiots. They never even acknowledged me.) As far as I knew, this ‘old lady’ get-up could be a disguise.

“Well then, Mrs. Divoké, I’ll see you when you remember.” But probably not. If she didn't want to do business, then she wasn't any of mine. I opened the stream again. Flame of Justice was in the middle of a speech.

“To be a hero is to never waver, to never hesitate, to never stand down. To be a hero is to stand up for those who cannot do so themselves. To be a hero … is to do what’s right.” 7 minutes left on my shift.

I heard the door slide shut. She’d left after all. I looked up from my computer — and stopped dead still. I was suddenly very aware of my own heart beating. It isn’t supposed to be that fast or that loud, is it?

Standing in front of me, just a few feet from my face, was a man. A skin-tight suit covered him, from his head to his toes, with an inky blackness, the sort of black of endless pits and darkest despair. His fingers — or talons, to be more precise — drummed against the counter on the other side of my cubicle, making little scritches on the marble. His face was worse, though. The fabric that covered his body stretched over his face as well. I could only see dimples where his mouth and eyes should be — hollow dimples, like something had been gouged out. His hair wasn’t covered, though. No, his blood-red hair was clear to see. I noticed two black little horns sticking out of the tangled mess. Subtle. So this was Speed Demon.

The guards next to the vault immediately took action. They aimed their guns straight at the crook’s head as they marched forward.

“There is no need for that, gentlemen.” His voice was oily — silky smooth, and dark.

After he moved, I understood the meaning of his name. He blurred past my cubicle, past the guards, and back again. The guards stopped mid-stride, then fell, their guns clattering out of reach. Speed Demon flicked the blood off his index finger and onto the counter.

“Now look, boy. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.” What did the Clerk’s Handbook say about this sort of situation again? Think! Think!

I pulled open the bottom drawer of the cubicle. Just as the Handbook had promised, there were three buttons just begging to be pressed.

I hit the left one.

“I already took care of the other guards.”

The middle one.

He held up the batteries to the robot guardian.

The right one.

A muffled boom echoed out from the walls.

“Short circuit,” he explained, holding up the fuse.

There was still one last chance. As soon as I had opened the drawer, a message had gone out to the greatest of all heroes, Flame of Justice. He should be here any minute now, and then he’d sort this guy out.

“Your hero’s not coming, boy,” he said, condescendly. “He’s too busy enjoying his lunch party.” His voice had a cruel smile in it as he pointed towards my computer screen. Flame of Justice was still giving his speech.

“Hold it right there, young man!” Mrs. Divoké hadn’t left. She was hobbling towards Speed Demon as fast as her legs would carry her. It would have been comical were it not so serious, so deadly serious...

“And what, pray tell, are you going to do?” Speed Demon asked, cracking his knuckles menacingly. What was she doing? She was being reckless! Stupid! That was the sort of thing that, that … a hero would do.

I looked down at the floor. The guard’s gun still lay there, fully loaded. I reached down for it — and noticed the time. My shift was over. Whatever happened next wasn’t my responsibility. I could leave!

I looked at Mrs. Divoké. No, I couldn’t.

I picked up the gun and stepped up from the cubicle.

“Hands up,” I commanded, my hands quivering. The gun was as cold as the heart of the man on the other side of it.

“What’s this?” he asked, his head slowly turning towards me. I could feel his eyes raking my soul.

“Ah, how cute. The boy wants to be a hero.” The gun fell from my hands. I turned and ran.

“What’s the point in running from me, boy?” I heard him close behind me. I ran faster.

Then I thought, maybe he’s right. What’s the point?

I stopped mid-stride. He ran into my foot with a sickening thud. I wheeled around to see him bent over, clutching his stomach. I raised my fist to finish him off.

It never connected. He was up, grabbing it and pulling me close. Beads of blood sprung up from where his claws held my wrist. His face was inches from mine. I could feel his breath.

“You know what happens to boys who play hero? They get —”

“Oh no you don’t, sonny!”

Speed Demon’s head whirled around.

“Wha—”

“Take that!”

Crack!

“And that!”

Whack!

“And that!”

Ker-smash!

Her cane broke over Speed Demon’s head. He slumped to the floor, senseless.

A clerk rushed in from his office elsewhere in the building.

“What’s going on he — oh!”

I looked at him for a moment, and then turned back to Mrs. Divoké. She was looking forlornly at the remains of her cane.

“Do you, uh, need a hand getting home? I could help. My shift’s over.” I held out an arm. She took it.

“Oh, why thank you, young man!” She smiled at me, her crinkles wrinkling with good nature.

“I don’t think I ever got your name.”

“It’s Aaron. Aaron Held.”
“Aaron… such a nice name. My grandson’s name was Aaron,” she said, reflectively.

And so off we walked, Mrs. Divoké leaning on my arm, as the sirens screamed behind us.

You know, I still believe in heroes. I just don’t believe in the same ones as everyone else.

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  • May 14, 2019 - 2:18pm (Now Viewing)

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1 Comment
  • Juliana

    This is so good!!!! Your tone of writing is consistent, strong, and capturing, your description is amazing, and the whole story is really creative. I absolutely loved this.


    over 1 year ago