The Splintered Savior
There are some things all the vodka in the world won’t let you forget, but I’m determined to die trying. It would be easier than the alternative. Do you know what happens when you don’t sleep? A night or two, you feel fuzzy, tired, almost drunk, but you can still function. Longer than that, you start to get paranoid, to see things. What you see depends on how fucked up you are inside. I haven’t slept for two weeks, and the dead are getting restless.
I’m so tired, but every time I close my eyes, they pounce. All those poor jerks I wasn’t able to save. Passing out is the only rest I can get. Saving the world can be a messy business.
Sure, it was great at first. I remember when it was just the Black Tornado and me, ripping a hole in the criminal underworld, maybe a tiny tear into the fabric of society too. Then came the supervillains; why the hell do they all feel the need to destroy the world, anyway? Fucking idiots. Anyway, that’s when we joined the Silver Shepard and Ultima, had ourselves a proper team. What can I say, that was what you did in those days. Taking down a crime boss or two was a respectable Friday night’s entertainment.
But then it all changed. Out crawled the terrorist, the neo-nazis, the rotten politicians. It wasn’t so clear-cut anymore. Silver Shepard got blown to smithereens trying to dismantle a bomb on a plane, and Ultima’s in prison for assault and battery. When Tornado died I got out of the game. We saved the world from the mole-rat women, stopped Doctor Tinsel from making it Christmas every day, and sunk the invading fleet of the Gora-Ga. I figure that’s plenty.
I still miss Tornado. Her real name was Tiffany, and she was amazing in bed. And she made me pancakes afterwards. I’m pretty sure I was in love with her, and maybe she liked me a little, too, not just for a tumble. She died taking down her nemesis, the Tempest. Saved a whole lot of school kids while doing it. Her face is the first one I see when I try to sleep.
I open my second bottle of the day. It’s still chilled from the freezer, and goes down smoother than the last one. The TV’s blaring about yet another school shooting. That’s fucking depressing. I click through the channels until I find some old action movie, where Schwarzenegger is still kicking ass. It fills me with nostalgia for about a minute and a half. I turn the TV off. That’s when I hear the commotion from the hallway. I struggle up. It’s those damn kids again.
The door slams into the wall and bounces back, hard. I step out, filled with indignant rage. Three scared boys look up at me. They have the look of bullies. My suspicion is confirmed when I see the fourth boy. He’s got a bloody nose and his clothes are torn.
“What the hell is going on here?” I growl. “You let that kid go right now.”
“Fuck you!” the bravest one of them says, not letting go of the kid.
I crack my knuckles. “Do you know who I am, you little punk?”
One of his friends whispers in his ear and pulls at his jacket sleeve. He clearly knows.
“Now get out of here before I wring your scrawny, worthless necks.” My power stirs, even through the vodka, and I can feel their heartbeats, fast, like baby mice. How easy it would be to snuff them out.
The bully sees something in my eye and lets go of the kid. They run.
I give the kid a hand up. “You okay, kiddo?”
He sniffles, but mostly from the bloody nose. “Yeah. Thanks, Mr. Agrioli.”
“It’s nothing.” I look the kid up and down. He’s got that nerdy look to him, gangly and nearsighted. I turn to go back inside.
“Umm, Mr. Agrioli?”
“I lost my key.”
“Mom’s not coming home ‘til six. Can I stay with you until then?”
God the kid looks pathetic.
“Okay, fine. C’mon then.”
Once we’re inside, the kid makes a beeline for the pictures on my bookcase. I don’t even know why I have them. Been too drunk to throw them out, probably.
He holds one up. “Is this the Black Tornado?”
He keeps up the third degree for an hour, picking up every picture and knick-knack in the living room. I gaze longingly at the vodka bottle on the table as I answer him. He finds the plants on my windowsill and wrinkles his nose.
“How come these are all dead, Mr. Agrioli? Wasn’t that kind of your thing, bringing dead things to life?”
It was a nice party trick, making a wilted rose bloom, very popular with the ladies, but life and death, that’s something you take seriously; I get that now. But the kid stares at me, eyes full of hero-worship. What the heck, just this once. I wave my hand and the plants spring to life. The kid laughs with delight. I can’t take it anymore. I grab my bottle, slump into the easy chair, and take a long swallow. Without thinking, I offer the bottle to the kid.
“Hey! I’m only eight!”
“Oh, sorry.” I take another swallow.
He fidgets. “Mr. Agrioli? Why did you stop being the Resurrectionist?”
“I dunno. Just didn’t want to be him anymore, I guess. Don’t you ever want to be someone else?”
“Yeah, all the time.” He pulls off his jacket and reveals a Superman t-shirt.
His mother finally picks him up at half past six and thanks me profusely for helping her boy. I sit in my chair, contemplating the half-empty bottle in my hand. A warmth fills me, but not from the drink. I smile and put the bottle down.
Maybe it’s not that tough being me after all.