Zipped Shut

via Daily Prompt: Zip

Have you ever felt yourself losing your own will? Have you ever felt drained of even the most fundamental desires to do basic things. I have. I cannot speak. I haven’t been able to open my mouth since my imprisonment. It’s like my mouth is zipped shut.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, or if I could tell you, but I used to be a wonderful singer. It was said of me that I could make anyone’s day just a little bit brighter just by the sound of my voice. I found my first love through my song. I wonder where she is now.

The only time I can even separate my lips is when I have to eat. I don’t know why. It’s as if the mental barrier that makes me unable to open my mouth has a key made of food. Even though my mouth opens though, I still can’t speak, let alone, sing.

Singing was when I felt the most free. Ironically, it’s what got me imprisoned. My captors heard me singing in the woods, and the next thing I knew, I was behind bars. Don’t ask me why they wanted to capture me. I never caused any trouble. All I did was sing and taught my children to do the same. Maybe they didn’t like my high notes.

After the loss of my voice, the worse part was the way people stared. For some reason, people liked to visit my prison. Before my confinement, I had a general rule. I only wanted to be heard, not seen. In prison, however, I was only seen and not heard. Even if I had a functioning voice, I doubted people would notice. It’s always so loud in here, one more voice wouldn’t be observed.

I am quite old now. I have not only lost my will to sing, but also to live. I long ago gave up hope that I would see my family again. I recently gave up hope that I would see outside this prison again, and now I’ve given up hope of seeing another sunrise.

I just wanted to sleep. Maybe in my dreams afterwards I could see my family. Maybe it was in my final rest that I would once again let my voice flow pleasantly into the wind and into the ears of others.

My head started to feel light, and I could feel my balance decreasing. I swayed back and forth for a moment, and then I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time… peace. I was ready to go. I just needed to do one more thing.

I opened my mouth, and let out one long note. My voice was just as beautiful as it had been years before. For the first time since morning, the prison went quiet. Everyone stared at me. I stared back for a moment, and then I collapsed.

I fell all the way from my perch and onto the hard floor of my cage. I noticed my wing broke from the fall, but it didn’t hurt. I knew that I was going to fly forever from that moment forward, along with my mate and my chicks.

Fortune

via Daily Prompt: Fortune

The man walked toward the vending machine for lottery tickets. He took out a crinkled up ten-dollar bill and fed it into the machine. After spitting it out a couple of times, the machine finally gave in and swallowed the bill. The man pushed a few buttons and took a ticket from the machine.

The ticket read “Win a Fortune” in bold and colorful letters, but the man had never won anything. Not even a dollar. When asked why he bought a ticket from the same lottery every day, the man would smile and say that he knows the day he doesn’t buy one, someone else will be the winner.

He fumbled around his pocket until he found his lucky coin. It was a football-shaped penny that his dad bought him at a museum when the man was five-years old. The edge of the penny had dulled and turned black from scratching off countless lottery tickets. His dad told him that since this penny was chosen among all of the other pennies to be crushed, then its luck could only increase from there. Thus far, the theory had proven to be incorrect.

Just like any other day, the man won nothing. He smiled regretfully at the cashier, and walked out the door. He looked down at his watch, which read 9:15. He should be getting home soon. He didn’t like to be away from home much past 9:00.

The man looked both ways, and walked cautiously across the street. He’d always been weary of the street ever since a drunk driver grazed him along the side of his car and broke the man’s arm. The doctor told the man that he was lucky it wasn’t worse. The man just wondered what the odds were that he crossed the street at the same time as a intoxicated driver with dysfunctional headlights.

The man reached for his phone only to remember it had fallen out of his pocket into a puddle a couple of days ago. Eventually, he got to his apartment building, and walked up the stairs. He always took the stairs after the time the elevator shut down and trapped him for three hours.

He got to his door, and forced the heavy wood to open.

“Daddy!” came a screech, and the man’s four-year-old daughter ran up and hugged him. She was supposed to be in bed, but she always waited up for him. His wife walked out of his bedroom bleary-eyed, but happy to see him. And at that moment, that man was the most fortunate person in the entire world.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fortune-2/

Hercules vs. Santa Clause

Hercules

Once upon a time there was a jolly red man

That got as fat as a man can

Who made a plan to sneak into children’s places

Whether it was in chimneys or children

He liked tight spaces

Who is this man we’re speaking of

Why it’s Santa Clause

So you better watch out

You better start to cry

Because I’m about

To shoot your reindeer out of the sky

Santa

Ho Ho HOLY CRAP

Someone has problems, tell me about them

Come sit on my lap

Tell me, what do you want from St. Nick

How about lessons on how to rap

You big pompous… Richard

Be prepared because I’m always ready to pounce

And I’ve got it where it counts

Yes you’re stronger than me

But your biceps have the only bulge I can see

Those steroids have effects on the side

No wonder your second wife committed suicide

Speaking of wives you killed your first along with the rest of your family

And your third wife gives me the Hebe Jeebies

Hercules

Talking about wives? Is that really what you want to do?

You married the only person on the planet as ugly as you

Your bellies are so big, you probably can’t reach in for a kiss

And does peeping on children put you on the naughty list?

If it doesn’t then I don’t know what does

You must have made an allowance for stalking in your contract’s secret Clause

So come into the house of my kids and you’ll be chopped to bits

I must warn you, my fireplace is always lit

And my arrows have poisoned tips

I’ve survived Hera and Hades

Cerberus and Diomedes

Atlas and Hesperides

And Boars and children of Ares

I’ve fought everywhere from Egypt to Thebes

And I’m great with the ladies

You think you can threaten me? Please!

You must be blind

Because you will Acheloos this battle as fast as the Keryneian hind!

Santa Clause

You want to know what puts you on the naughty list?

How about killing your family and your mentor and being an obnoxious fur-wearing misogynist?

Delivering gifts to all the nice children of the world isn’t too much to ask

But listening to a single one of your verses? Now that’s a Herculean task

After all of this fighting, I do have some good news

You no longer have to kill yourself because I did the roasting for you

Now in a battle you might win bouts one two and three

But you’ll never beat me

Because I’m like Hydra: twice as hard is how I’ll come back

Maybe after I proclaim you for myself as my elf I’ll let you hold Santa’s sack

Luke Skywalker vs. Harry Potter

Harry Potter
Lets start this battle with a little introduction
I’m the boy who lived
And you ain’t got nuttin’
Except daddy issues
So I’m going to ask you to move because I’m getting some love
From someone who’s not my sister
I can’t believe you kissed her
You infectious incestous homo erectus mister
Now I’m going to give you one last chance
To walk away now, here, I’ll give you a hand

Luke Skywalker
Oh please, is this the best you got for me
You’re like training
I deflect your blows with my eyes closed
Because I don’t need my eyes to feel your weak forced flow as the flow of the force flows cold in my veins high to low
My rhymes are as hot as my light saber
And I’m going to savor the flavor of victory
You have nerve to bring up fathers
At least I got to meet mine
And guess what, he got to see me with his own eyes
Not through some BS Mirror on Erise
You’re dead like Sirius Black
You had your verse, but Skywalker Struck Back!
HP
What people see in your movies leaves me stupefied
You still can’t entice me, and you’re on your eighth try
For goodness sake
during your movies, I still have to force myself to stay awake
They make me feel deathly hallow
And the only way someone would enjoy it if they were Sorcerer’s stoned
And you’re the problem is what I think
You’re the second worst character after Jar Jar Binks
We’re wizards! Your lightsaber doesn’t alarm us
We can get rid of that with the flick of our wrists: EXPELIARMUS!
And you can move objects with your mind? Oh big deal
With a simple Crucio, I can make this little girl squeal
Come back again if you want anymore
Because this victory goes to… GRIFFYNDOR!!!

Luke
Whether it’s the Emperor or Vader, Bounty Hunters, or slug gangsters
I’m the ultimate evader and immune to all dangers
I’ve got forty years in the industry
And you can’t touch me
Of real power, you barely have an ounce
Tell me, what’s your midichlorian count?
Your rhymes are measly
And your movies have about as much magic as Ron Weasley
How great can Hogwarts be?
And you need glasses just to see
With a school full of magic, you still rely on muggle technology?
So come at me you little snitch
Or will you tuck your broom between your legs and fly away like quidditch?
I’m the New Hope to end this drawn out franchise
The wizards are done
Now it’s Return of the Jedi

Stevie Wonder vs. Daredevil

Daredevil
Of all the people to rap against me
They make me face this Ray Charles Wannabe?
I fought Spider-Man, and I kicked his DONKEY
You’re not even a fighter man, you will not last
I prey on on your Superstition
I move so fast I make you look as slow as Fisk Wilson
With all the hurt I’ll be dishin’ you’ll be wishin’ it was The Punisher doing the punishin’

Stevie Wonder
You seem angry
Why don’t you take a metronome and count to three
Once you calm down, then you can talk to me
You actually think I’m scared
Cross me even the Devil wouldn’t Dare
I hope you have your wits about
Because we’re about to Sir Duke it out
Of my victory, there is no doubt
I’m about to have a rap attack that goes so fast that you’ll need life insurance
Better call Ben… Affleck

Daredevil
I can tell your nervous, I hear your heart beating
This place is overheating
Because I spit fire so hot, I’m like a dragon breathing
Your words you’ll be eating
You think you can beat me? You couldn’t be my sidekick even
I’ll let you go now if you repent
Stand trial for your sins
Nelson and Murdock represent
And don’t try me again
Because when it comes to rapping, I’m the Kingpin

Stevie Wonder
Call me Eminem because I’ll keep rapping
Call me Einstein, because I’m a force that won’t be stopping
Call your daddy, because this beating is free
Call me JOHN CENA, because you can’t see me
Your name is Matt, because I’ll step all over you
You can’t defend yourself against this verbal abuse
I wonder what drugs the writers had to be on to create you
Pick up your phone, it’s me, I’m Just Calling to say I hate you

Chapter 6

Hector woke up and groggily got up out o bed. He felt cool from his freezing sweat. As he descended on his own two feet, he felt like he was going to just fall forward like someone who had just been stabbed in the back.

He’d had his first bout of PTSD in years last night. It was the eyes. It was always the eyes for him. Hector could clearly picture Mingus’s eyes looking into the camera. They were as real as the ones he stared at every day in the mirror.

Hector had been foolish enough to watch the news. He watched as people mourned the death of a beloved public figure, and Hector knew it would only get worse when they realized that the public figure had spent his private life fighting for the good of the city and the world.

“It’s not real,” Hector kept telling himself. But the words sounded hollow to him. Everything felt real, he even had an exact replica of his own home in this world. And it didn’t help that Thaddeus had gone completely quiet in his head. It was if Thaddeus enjoyed watching him collapse inside his own mind.

Hector found himself walking toward his training room. It was exactly how he left it in the real world. The weights were still in the exact spot that he expected. He walked over to the punching bag that was exactly how he left it, right down to the small tear in the top right corner.

Without putting on gloves, Hector hit the bag. Hitting it hurt his knuckles, but the pain felt good. He proceeded to pound the bag with no rhythm, just rapid strikes that would render a real opponent crippled for life. He imagined himself hitting Thaddeus for putting him in this situation, and his punches got harder. He was almost determined to see what would break first, his hands or the bag.

After nearly an hour of with the bag, Hector let out a cry and gave one last massive punch and walked away, leaving the bag swinging like rapid metronome. He instinctively began to unwrap his hands, only to realize for the first time he wasn’t wearing any wraps, or any protection for his hands. He went back over to the bag and steadied it. He saw his own blood all over it.

“It’s not real,” Thaddeus’s voice rang in his head.

“What?” Asked Hector, not fully processing anything at that moment.

“The blood, it’s not real. None of this is. It’s all a figment of your imagination. Well, my imagination. In your head.”

Hector had had enough, “get me out of here.”

The voice just laughed, “Don’t be so dramatic, you know what you need to do to get out of here.”

Then, an idea came into Hector’s mind, “I do know what I need to do.” He strided toward the drawer beside his couch, and he pulled his handgun out of it. It was fully loaded, just like it would be in the real world. Hector turned it around and faced the barrel toward his own forehead.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the voice chided.

“Why not? If none of this is real, then I won’t actually die.”

“Look around you, Hector. You logically know that this world isn’t real, but your conscience believes that it is real. Feel the pain on your hands, it’s the exact pain that you would expect from hitting the bag. The gun in your hand feels exactly how your brain expects it to, and if you pull that trigger, it’s going to feel exactly how you would anticipate. Your conscience will believe that you are dead, so for all intents and purposes you will be. Even in the real world.”

“Why did you not tell me this before I came here?” Hector demanded.

“You didn’t ask,” the voice replied simply, “you were so caught up in the idea or a challenge, you didn’t ask about the risks. So, if you want to get out of this world you’re going to have to do what I tell you, which is to destroy this world. And you know how to do that, don’t you?”

The normally calm and calculated brain of Hector was starting to feel shaken. His thoughts were racing to the point where he could feel his head burning.

“You’re a b*stard!” Hector screamed.

“You can call me whatever you want,” the voice said, “it won’t change what you have to do.”

And then, the voice was silent.

Chapter 5

Eric Bishop watched from a distance as detectives and rescue teams scrambled around to look for survivors from the blast at the Mingus Tower. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind of who the target was. They all knew that Mark Mingus was in almost the exact spot of the explosion, and they all assumed that this was an act of terrorism. But Bishop knew better.

The police didn’t know what Mingus truly did at night. They probably assumed that he did what most billionaires did, and they didn’t know what most billionaires did either. But Bishop knew that Mingus was the Mind Doctor. In fact, Bishop had worked closely with him on many occasions. So when he heard the news of the explosion, Bishop came right over to St. Charles.

Bishop had originally doubted that Mingus was killed, after all, there had been many attempts at his life before, and none of them had succeeded yet. But the police evidence reports of security footage of Mingus walking into his office not even a minute before the explosion was indisputable. Bishop figured that it was only a matter of time before the police found the secret elevator that lead to Mingus’s hideout.

Scanning the crime scene, Bishop eventually found who he was looking for. It was Detective Hal Davis, a tall man in his late twenties whose brown hair looked dangerously close to balding. What set Davis apart was the fact that he was able to deduce the Mind Doctor’s secret identity in his first year as a police officer. He was quite possibly the only person in the city who knew what kind of change the death of Mingus would cause. And he was most certainly the only police officer that Bishop had every worked closely with.

“Hal,” Bishop called out.

Detective Davis turned at the sound of his name. After a moment’s hesitation, he recognized Bishop and strided toward him. Ducking under the yellow tape, he took an abrupt turn to the left and signaled with his head for Bishop to follow him. He walked about fifty feet, before stopping and turning around, and Bishop met him at the spot.

“Sorry,” said Davis, “I didn’t want to be overheard. Over here, you’ll just look like a distressed relative of a victim.”

Bishop nodded and began to speak, “do you know who did this?”

“We have a few suspects, mostly business rivals and super villains, but those all look to be dead ends.”

“It’s not flashy enough to be the work of the Red Crusader, or any one of his other… Rivals,” Bishop agreed.

“There is one interesting piece of evidence.  The security cameras had a small glitch at around one-thirty. We barely even noticed it at first.”

“Well it’s not too hard to get past a security system,” Bishop said.

Davis shook his head, “you don’t understand. This building had some of the best security in the world. It was the top-of-the-line quality from Rookman Industries. It’s said that the Mingus Tower is the most secure privately owned building in the world.”

“No, the most secure ones are the ones that you don’t know exist,” Bishop stated, and he walked away, leaving Davis  gawking at him in confusion.

Chapter Four

It was nighttime in St. Charles. Although it was too cloudy for the stars or the moon to take much of an effect on the darkness, the streetlights and the virtual billboards provided Hector with enough light to see what he was doing, but not so much light that it was impossible to avoid detection.

Hector had bought a navy blue suit with a matching tie and briefcase. Although he did not want to be seen, he did not want to look like he was hiding. If anyone looked at the security system, they would just assume that Hector was a worker who forgot something at the office. The cost for the clothes was too microscopic to even be counted as a cost for Hector. He had discovered that all of his assets from the real world had transferred to his new world.

Hector pulled out the his key card. It wasn’t a key card meant for this particular building, but when Hector had built the key card system he had given himself a Master Key over all the locks produced in the world. He had done it more or less on impulse, but now he was glad that he did. Although Thaddeus could’ve just input one into the story, Hector only wanted to work with tools he would have in the real world.

Hector walked across the dimly lit lobby as he was typing on his phone. The average observer would’ve assumed that he was texting, but he was really overriding the security protocols that he’d buillt himself. Now that the cameras and the motion detectors were dead, Hector was free to ride the elevator up to the top floor of the building, which was the office of Mark Mingus, the Mind Doctor himself.

The elevator let out a ding to show that Hector had reached the sixty-eighth and last floor. Hector walked past the receptionist desk where the Mind Doctor’s frequent love interest, Henrietta, sat. He walked up to two large oak doors. These walls weren’t protected by Rookman Industries, rather they were protected by a knock frequency detector, where, you had to tap the right spot at the right time on the doors for them to open. Hector remembered how Mingus had done it in the book. He reached up, and gave two rapid taps, then he moved his hand to the left and gave a tap, then to the right, and then back up.

Nothing happened at first, and then the doors slowly opened toward the inside of the room. The room had an emerald green floor, with maroon walls, which was the same color scheme as the Mind Doctor’s crime fighting suit. Next to a large, bulletproof window, was an oak desk that matched the doors at the entrance of the office. Hector knew that if he entered the right code onto the keypad on the desk, then the walls would rotate, revealing an elevator that would go down an old abandoned garbage chute and into an arena-like room that was many layers underneath the ground. In that room was where the crime-fighting suit of the Mind Doctor, and a concoction that allowed him hear the thoughts of those in danger.

The desk, however, was the important part of Hector’s plan. His plan was quite simple. It is much easier to kill Mark Mingus than the Mind Doctor. So Hector went to the desk, set the briefcase down, and got to work.

Once he finished working on the desk, he had one more place to go… The security room.

 

Hector woke up in his hotel room. Apparently, the need for sleep is a consistency in both the fictional and the real world. Whether or not the body was doing actual work, his mind was working overtime and needed rest. Another thing that he discovered was that he needs to eat. As Thaddeus had said in Hector’s mind, “the rules in this world apply to you, so you will need to eat, sleep, and perform all of the other necessary body functions.”

Hector glanced at the alarm clock next to his bed, although he always knew what time it was within a few minutes, he needed to be precise at this moment.  Hector turned on his phone, and saw a picture of Mark Mingus’s doops to his office. Only it wasn’t a picture, it was a live feed from the security camera in order to tell when Mingus went into the room.

Hector stared at his phone screen for about four hours. He didn’t mind. He was like a hunter in a tree stand, safe with the knowledge that once the prey comes into sight, all of the waiting would be worth it. And eventually, all of the waiting paid off.

Mark Mingus appeared at the bottom of the phone screen camera, and walked into the center right next to the desk, and he was totally oblivious to the rig of explosives that Hector had placed there.

Hector grabbed his detonator and placed his thumb onto the button. Then, Mingus seemed to stare right at the camera. Hector froze. He looked so real. As much as he loved a challenge, Hector had never wanted to hurt anyone.

Hector shook himself, and reminded himself that the man on the phone screen wasn’t real, and then he pressed the button. There was a flash of light, and then the screen went black.

 

He

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Hector set his book down. It was the last one of Thaddeus’s novels.  In order to prepare for his role, Thaddeus had insisted that Hector read all of the books about his superheroes. Thirty years of writing for Thaddeus took Hector two weeks to read. In the words of Thaddeus, “your superpower is your knowledge.”

Hector had never really thought of himself as any kind of superhero or villain. When he was younger, most children dreamed of flying, Hector had dreamed of finding a new way to fly. One that would make rocket ships obsolete.  He didn’t like the idea of magically being able to do anything. What was the challenge in that?

Eventually, it was recreational period, and Hector had a phone call to make. There was a long line of people, but they spread out and let Hector go to the front. Evidently, they had heard what had happened to the four people who had attacked him. However, they heard it was eight people, and three of them were dead.

Hector got to the front of the line, and stood there waiting for the person using the phone to be done. The phone-user looked up like child who had been caught with his hand in his father’s wallet.

“Baby,” the caller said hastily, “baby I’ve gotta go. I know, I know, baby… Love you too! Bye!”

The caller turned to Hector, “a-after you… Sir.”

Hector shrugged. He’d never threatened the guy, but it was useful that everyone was afraid of him. After all, he wasn’t here to make friends.

He recalled the phone number that Thaddeus had given him weeks before and punched it into the phone. The phone on the other line rang once, and then was picked up.

“Mr. Smith,” said Hector, calling him by his birth name, “I’m ready.”

Hector was lead into a plain, silver, eight by eight foot room, with a large, cushion less chair in the middle of it. Next to the chair, was some sort of machine with wires protruding from it. Thaddeus and Doctor Truman were waiting on either side of the chair. Truman then indicated for Hector to sit.

Hector got in the chair, and they pulled some straps from the arm and wrapped them around his wrist.

“The effects can be shocking, and you may lash out. We’re doing this for your safety and ours,” Truman explained. Hector nodded, but he was still nervous. There were few things that Hector was afraid of, and not being in control of his movements was one of them.

Doctor Truman proceeded to place wires onto Hector’s head. Hector recognized each spot where they were being put. The frontal lobe, in order to read his movement, intelligence and behavior among other things. The parietal lobe, for intelligence reasoning, language, and reading. The occipital lobe, for his vision. The temporal lobe, for his hearing, emotions, and other sensory details. The plugs weren’t set up in the areas of the brain required for breathing, and other necessary for survival functions. Those would take care of themselves.

“This will hurt a bit,” Truman warned.

Thaddeus stood over him, “remember the mission, Hector. If I know you as well as I think I do, you will be back before you know it.”

Just then, Hectors brain felt like it was exploding. He could feel electrical currents run back and forth inside of his head. He was dimly aware that he was screaming in pain, which was something that had rarely ever happened to him. He longed to drop to his knees, but his wrists were completely confound of movement underneath the straps.

Just when Hector was sure that his brain had turned into a jello-like swimming pool in his skull, he found himself standing in the middle of a crowded street. Hector looked around, and saw a skyscraper with a huge letter M on it. The voice of Thaddeus rang inside of his head.

“Hector,” the voice said, “can you hear me? Dr. Truman assures me that you can. You are currently in Saint Charles, the city of Mark Mingus, also known as the Mind Doctor.”

Thaddeus didn’t need to say anymore. Hector had read the books, he knew all about the Mind Doctor. To the general public, he was Mark Mingus,a billionaire researcher neurologist who had made huge steps for humanity in brain research. Mingus had since expanded his operations into numerous philanthropy programs and had revitalized the city, all the while digging up dirty secrets from corrupt politicians and stopping petty crime. His superpower… Mind reading and control.

Hector had to appreciate Thaddeus’s sense of irony. His mind had been taken control of in order to fight a mind controller. Hector had already thought out how to take out the Mind Doctor, and the solution was easy, take him out from a distance.

This could not be an intelligence operation where Hector would use a disguise or an alter ego, because the idea of tricking a mind relder was absurd. He must set a trap.

Hector then heard Thaddeus’s voice in his head, “I made this easy for you, go to the Mingus Tower and examine the key card reader.”

The building was about one hundred feet away from Hector, but with the foot traffic, it took him about two minutes to get there. When he got to the front door, he bent down and studied the key card reader. On the reader, in faded black letters, it read, “Rookman Industries,” Hector’s security company that he had made his billions on.

Now that breaking into the building was easier than he could have imagined, Hector just had a few things he needed to pick up. At nightfall, Hector would make his move.

Chapter 2

Hector Rookman sat down on his cot and stared at the blank white wall of his cell. As of now, he didn’t have a roommate. His roommate had been among the four people who tried to jump him, and he had been forced to defend himself, so his roommate was now in the hospital ward along with the other attackers. Hector didn’t know what it was about being rich that made inmates want to kill him, but he was alright with it. He preferred to be alone.

When he was among the richest people in the world, he had always kept his private life as it should be… Private. So the inmates had no idea that the time he wasn’t spending working or sleeping, he spent practicing various martial arts. It had started as a calming method for his PTSD. When he got back from the army, he would have outs of paranoia and would oftentimes lose track of what was real and what wasn’t. That was five years ago, and he still suffered from minor bouts.

Now, martial arts were the opposite of a calming method for him. He needed something to get his heart racing, and to feel the heat of battle, practice or not. When he used a punching bag, it became an enemy to him and he would unleash upon it. One of his friends from the army suggested professional fighting to him, but Hector knew that once he starts, he can’t stop. The feeling was thrilling to him when he was beating on an inanimate object, but it terrified him that he could do that to a person.

The one person that Hector did not regret hurting was the would be kidnapped. He didn’t know why the child he saved did not step forward, but he was glad he saved her anyway. He still might not have been put into prison, but the judge seemed to have a chip on his shoulder about those who are rich. He was desperate not to be accused of being corrupt, or favoring those who had money.

Hector stood up and examined himself in the mirror above the sink in his cell. It was his ritual to study himself everyday. He looked into his own eyes and his blue eyes stared back. They were the eyes of a man who studied everything, who took in every detail. There was a tint of fear in them too. Not the panic of someone haunted by an outside source, but the eyes of a man afraid of himself.

After the eyes, his other significant feature was his size. He was six feet and three inches tall, and packed with muscle from his martial arts. His build was like a professional sprinter, with long, muscled legs and well-defined arms.

Despite his large frame, Hector did all that he could to avoid being recognized. His black hair was unkempt, even when he had a choice other than the orange jumpsuits that a prison provided, he just wore whatever would fit him. He never cared about the brand of clothing. He went to a private institutions where he had to wear uniforms throughout his youth, and joined the army where he wore almost exclusively camouflage. So, to worry about style always seemed irrelevant to him.

The barred cell door slid open and Officer David stood outside. He regarded Hector wearily. He hadn’t been part of the group to pull Hector off his attackers, but he had heard vivid descriptions of the former billionaire having to practically be pried off the last conscious aggressor.

“Rookman,” Officer David began, “you have a visitor.”

Curiosity pricked Hector. The guards had been instructed to not let in any more reporters wanting an exclusive with him, so that meant this visit would probably be personal. But Hector wasn’t close to anyone.

Officer David lead Hector into the general meeting room, and indicated to a round table. Sitting on the opposite side of the table was two men that Hector had never seen before. One man was about five and a half feet tall, with hair gelled to look like an actor’s on the red carpet, and an arrogant-looking face.

The man beside him was built like a scarecrow. He was almost as tall as Hector, but he was lanky, with a balding head, and glasses that loosely fit on his face. There wasn’t an ounce of muscle on him.

The shorter man stood up and grinned maniacally. “Mr. Rookman,” he proclaimed, “Thaddeus Chesterton.” and he extended his hand, and awkwardly pulled it back when he realized that Hector was in handcuffs.

Thaddeus clearly knew who Hector was, so he didn’t bother introducing himself. However, Thaddeus was looking at him expectantly, as if he expected Hector to be excited by the mere sight of him.

“Does my name mean anything to you, Mr. Rookman?” Thaddeus persisted.

Hector shrugged, “it sounds like a made up name,” he responded. Thaddeus’s smile that seemed to be welded onto his face wavered for a moment. Hector realized that he had struck a nerve. He did it on purpose, Thaddeus was far too confident for Hector’s liking, so he just wanted to put him in his place.

Thaddeus was back to smiling again. He would never forget how Hector had insulted his perfect name, that was made up but it certainly did not sound like it. But, however angry he was, he needed Hector, so he kept his charm going.

Thaddeus began, “I have something for you Mr. Rookman. I have an interesting opportunity. Have you ever dreamed of being an actor?”

Hector thought he knew where this was going. “I’m not going to give you the rights to make a movie about me.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it, Mr. Rookman. What I want from you is for you to make my next story. You see, I write novels, about superheroes. But I seem to have lost my touch, that’s where you come in.”

Hector had to admit, he was totally lost, which didn’t happen very often. “What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing much, really. Just what you are best at. React. Adapt to an environment around you. What I’m going to do is introduce you into a new world. And what I want you to do is destroy it.”

Hector was still totally confused. He had no idea what this author wanted, but he was a patient man, so he decided to let Thaddeus drone on.

“I’m not making myself clear. Are you a superhero fan? Basically what I want you to do is go into a Superman movie, and destroy the Justice League.”

“If I did agree to this,” Hector began, “how would you get me into this world?”

Thaddeus indicated to the lanky man who had been sitting quietly during this entire conversation. “That’s where my friend, Doctor Truman, comes in.”

Doctor Truman stood up. Despite his ungangly appearance, he spoke with the confidence of a gambler with weighted dice. “As you know, a couple of years ago, it was leaked that the Central Intelligence Agency had neurological wave interpretation machines, or mind readers. As of now, they are quite rare. The less known fact is that not only is there the technology to read the mind, but we can  read to the mind. We can put in thoughts or images.”

Hector finally understood. “You’re going to brainwash me.”

“In a sense, yes. But not for any cynical reason, and there should be no lasting effects.” In reality, you will be strapped in a chair the entire time, but in your mind, you will be in a whole new world. There has been extensive research on this, it is completely safe.”

“No,” said Hector, “why would I ever agree to this?”

Thaddeus spoke up, “I’ve done research on you, Mr. Rookman. As a child, you were frequently getting into trouble for fighting other children who were oftentimes bigger and older than you. As soon as you were eligible, you joined the army. You quickly moved up rank until you were a sergeant, maybe too quickly for your liking. Because you left the army as soon as you could and invented whole new security systems and became an entrepreneur and one of the richest people in the world. However, throughout this time you picked up martial arts. I know that you are a private man, but judging from the rest of your accomplishments, I’d be willing to wager that you are quite good. When you were in prison, you took on four prisoners, who I’m told were not small men. A little bit later, you hacked your way out of this place with a smartphone only to be caught a little bit later. I know you are a smart man, Mr. Rookman, I know you could’ve easily hidden away anyplace in the world if that was your intent. But it wasn’t. You just wanted to see if you could break out. You’re always craving to fight, more than that, you crave a challenge, and there is nothing in the world that can challenge someone like you.”

Hector was silent. However obnoxious this man’s demeanor was, he was not stupid, and more importantly, he was not wrong.

“Why,” asked Hector, “I understand that you want an original story, but if I destroy this world of yours, you will lose your series which by the sound of it, is still making you money”

Thaddeus stared passively at Hector and asked suddenly,  “How old do you thing I am, Mr. Rookman?”

“Judging from the obvious extensive work you’ve done in order to look young, I’d guess mid-fifties, probably fifty-four,” Hector replied.

Thaddeus wanted to curse. He turned fifty-four three weeks ago. Not that his birthday was something he celebrated, why would he celebrate being one year closer to dying?

“Exactly right, Mr. Rookman,” Thaddeus admitted,  “and I’m sure that a man with your economic background has realized that money is not everything. This world that I have created is beginning to take a toll on me. I was the one who started it, and I want to be the one to end it. But with a repertoire of iconic characters that I have created, I cannot just stop writing. I need them to go out with a bang, not with a whimper.”

Thaddeus continued, “all that I am offering to you, is a chance. A chance for you to be the Alexander the Great, of a fictional world with zero consequences.”

Hector continued to be silent. He was thinking of all the negative consequences that agreeing to this proposal could lead to, but the prospect of a challenge excited him more than he could bear to admit.

“Yes,” said Hector, “I’ll do it.”