Friday, May 2, 2014

You Aren't - #fridayflash

Take none of this personally because you aren’t. Whatever you’re hearing, whatever I say you’re thinking, it should all be taken with due skepticism as all evidence suggests you do not exist. You can't exist as I describe you, though you as a listener, or reader, or telepathic audience, ought to. Otherwise, how are these sentences operating?

You don’t care about that semantic babble. You care about the slime molds that have swallowed the first floor of our house.

You’re the second person to occupy this house, you know because the first person has dissolved into no more than a gangly skeleton inside the gelatinous mass presently overflowing the first floor. The bones of the first person’s right hand stretch out to the stairs as though begging for company.

You don’t feel like company; you’re almost alone here, except for the third person, myself, and I am just a voice. You never thought about it before, but you find disembodied voices annoying. Less annoying than carnivorous slime, but annoying nonetheless.

Even if you aren’t, you still would be a few things. Spry and resourceful, if I may flatter, are traits that describe you. You sprint up the staircase, pulling picture frames and shelves from the walls, and lobbing them down the steps at the slime. The slime absorbs all of these as easily as it did the first person, dissolving bits of organic matter like the butterfly collection you threw at it. It only stops at a broken salt shaker on the top stop, deliberately oozing around the white grains.

Thinking of slugs, you rush into the second floor pantry for a bag of salt. You don't wonder about why you have a pantry on the second floor, where almost no one keeps a pantry. You do wonder as the slime undulates and sloshes onto the second floor, growing upon receipt of the salt, and growing so rapidly that it catches your left leg.

You think two things then: that the slime burns like ice packing around your flesh, and that the slime was probably saving the broken salt shaker for dessert since it clearly loves the stuff. You curse Morton's and all salt distributors as you are sucked inside the slime mold, the first person's undigested cranium bumping against your chest. Your chest, like your legs and arms and eyes and pancreas, dissolves.

You find that none of this hurts. You find that you aren't scared. How is this possible?

Because you aren’t. The second person is a handy thing to be, and to not be.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Wolverine and Archie (RIP)

Dear Wolverine and Archie,

I was in elementary school when they killed Superman. It was big and dramatic; my mother ordered my brother and I separate copies of the black-bagged issue without even asking us because it seemed so culturally important. Being a villain-kid, I was just happy to see such an annoying icon scrubbed, but I was interested. The cafeteria buzzed with speculation about how it happened. It was a pop culture event.

It's been a stupid twenty-two years since then. The decreasing relevance of superhero comics has led the industry to many stunts, including killing characters whenever they get desperate for attention. I'm afraid you two are the most recent victims, and I sincerely apologize to you both that you had to share an announcement month. Archie, you're not even a superhero. You both worked hard enough to deserve better P.R. You're both iconic in such different ways that you getting stunt-murdered at the same time makes it all feel like… well, stunts.

And your announcements came only weeks after Marvel announced the who-dunnit murder of The Watcher. Oh, for a meta-comic about The Watcher observing this desperate trend.

Even as a villain kid, you were my hero, Wolverine. I was a runt like you. This is a perplexing week, as I should be upset that you're going to die, and yet, I'm not. If anything, I'm upset that I'm not upset. The problem is that you'll be back, probably in the next two years. Why, just last week Marvel resurrected Spider-Man after a year of being dead. He's alive again in time to make his own movie premiere.

Not only did Superman come back, but his killer, Doomsday? He's been killed and resurrected at least three times. In the last few years they've killed and resurrected Batman, the female Robin, Captain America, Nightcrawler, Superboy, Wasp, and Thor. Every dead Flash has come back. Marvel and D.C. brought back the perennial tragic sidekicks Bucky and Jason Todd almost in parallel, to identical drama with their mentors and antihero lives.

D.C. pulled "Blackest Night," a Green Lantern story that brought back every dead character in their universe, and boldly ended it with the characters surmising the dead could never return again and death was now permanent. A year later, D.C. rebooted its universe and brought back a bunch of those same dead characters.

Remember when Marvel killed Ultimate Spider-Man, a Spider-Man from another universe, and tried to convince the public they'd killed the one they actually knew about? Just to get on CNN? Later they killed the real one, but as you both know, he's back.
This has devalued death, which ought to be the greatest stakes in all the combat-based stories superhero comics keep telling. Archie, you've never been about fighting, so it's not fair that you're been sucked into this, but you have. I honestly wonder if you'll return, too, the next time your publisher needs attention.

And Wolverine? Death may be the rest you deserve, but it won't be permanent. In the last ten years Marvel has already killed and resurrected your nemeses, Sabretooth, Gorgon and Cyber. When Psylocke died, you yourself visited a friend in NYC for a method of bringing her back. That guy can probably hook you up if you want it.

You both have no control over your mortality, just like me. But if you could write for your own comics, don't you think the interesting story at this point would be about a universe where death isn't permanent and what it does to people's psyches? If C-list heroes routinely rise from the grave, does the public no longer fear death? How does religion change? What happens to the blood feuds between heroes and villains when bloodshed doesn't end anything?

There are stories there. There's an upheaval of the way I live, and the way you both will probably be living again in a few years.

I'm sorry that I'm not sorry you died. You deserved better.

John Wiswell
Counter est. March 2, 2008