Coloring Book

Seventeen weeks ago I wrestled a Russian down the length of Oak street. I slammed him across the faces of the buildings lining the street, and he did his fair share of damage back to me. At the end of it all, I stood over him. My orange boot planted firmly on his chest, I looked back down the street. Smoke billowed from a fire. Water gushed from the hydrant we had knocked over. People peeked out of alleyways to see if the area was safe enough for a proper retreat. Down at the other end of street sat the armored truck carrying all of the bank’s money that The Russian had been trying to get into. I had saved the day. Then one of the Sentinels swooped down from the sky and knocked me out of the city entirely. I sat in the crater my body created when it had landed until I felt the familiar need to vomit and did so. I had to walk to the highway then hitchhike back to the city. I caught the evening news before I went to sleep. Northwest Sentinel saves the city from The Russian and Agent Orange. Apparently, they had decided we were a duo and our fight was a disagreement between villains and not actually a rescue of the armored vehicle and all its money.
Sixteen weeks ago I dressed all in yellow. I went to the rooftops and leapt from peak to peak. I looked down on the people and searched for any crime. Finding none, I jumped back home and threw up. I didn’t have the pleasure of stopping any wrongdoing, but it felt good to fly through the air. To feel my legs pushing off from the roofs with such power. The concrete and bricks crumbling beneath the force as I launch upwards. When I sat down to unwind, I felt, if not fulfilled in my purpose, at least satisfied with my journey. Then I turned on the news. They reported about a new yellow terror visiting the city. This villain wasn’t interested in robbery or murder however, only the destruction of property, specifically roofs. Someone interviewed dubbed me The Dandelion, a weed sowing its destruction through the city. They put out an open request to any hero listening to stop me even if I wasn’t a top priority villain. I threw away my yellow suit and went to bed.
Fifteen weeks ago, I took a break. I read a book that had been staring me down for months. Not all of it, of course. I only got through a chapter before I started watching television for the night. Too many shows, too little time.
Fourteen weeks ago, I went to purchase more Hyperion Seeds. I tried to go to my usual dealer, but they were nowhere to be found. I asked around the streets to find a new dealer, but every lead lead to a dead end. No one was dealing the stuff anymore it seemed, but I was able to finally find at least one promising lead. I went to a seedy bar that was said to be a source for Hyperion seeds. The conversations stopped when I walked through the door. The place was darker than bars tend to be. I looked around the room and everyone lowered their faces. So I went to the bar and tried to get the attention of the bartender. They had their back to me and didn’t turn when I cleared my throat.
“Excuse me.”
The bartender turned to face me. Yet face wasn’t quite the right word. The bartenders front was a mix of bark and leaves. The leaves rustled and some twigs moved and it said “Excuse you is right. It’d be best if you weren’t here and forgot you ever were.”
“Just looking for some seeds.”
I heard clicks behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know that every patron had just cocked their guns in my direction; I had been doing this vigilante stuff long enough to know that sound.
“Look elsewhere.”
I was about to pop a seed and settle this situation when the bartender looked past me.
“Y’all trees know anything about Hyperion seeds?” a voice yelled from behind me.
I turned around and saw that all the guns were now pointed at the newcomers. The four that had just walked in were scoping out the bar. One had some goggles on and appeared to be scanning the crowd. I inched out of the way, hoping not to be center stage if anything went down. I didn’t know if this was a rival gang or what, I just wanted some seeds so I could keep doing good for this city. One of the four yelled, dropped, and tossed something into the center of the room. I dove behind the bar and popped one of the seeds I had on me. I pulled on the mask I kept in my pocket. I wasn’t fully color-coordinated as usual, but at least I would be able to keep my identity secret.
Shooting erupted while I felt the warmth of the seed course through my limbs.
“What’s your name?” I asked while I waited for the seed to take full effect.
“Spruce,” said the bartender
“Who are these guys?”
“I assume the ones that have been causing us trouble around town.” Spruce rummaged around under the bar and produced a shotgun.
“Rival gang?”
He scoffed. “If only. They’re trying to shut down the whole seed business.” He loaded the gun.
“Well, we can’t have that.” I stretched my arms and cracked my neck. “You help me find seeds if I help get rid of them?”
He nodded.
I felt the strength fully take hold and I burst out from behind the bar. Tables were flipped over and I spotted a gun taking blind shots over the edge. I strolled up the table and grabbed the gun. I didn’t snatch it, I just squeezed. The gun crumpled in my hand. I peered over the flipped table. “You lost?”
The group scurried out from behind the table and out the door.
Some trees chased after them. I turned to the bartender.
“What are you waiting for? Get them.”
“The deal was to get rid of them and they’re gone.”
Spruce scoffed at me, then he reached behind the bar and tossed a baggy in my direction.
Thirteen weeks ago I patrolled the city all in purple. But then, something happened. Something I can’t really remember. I took the seed. I felt the warmth. Then I woke up in the dark curled up next to a puddle of vomit. I watched the news and apparently I had gone on a rampage. Throwing cars into buildings and ripping the city apart. Apparently, no hero was able to stop me before I disappeared. They called me the bruise. Not the kind of name I’m going for, but that seemed to be the least of my problems at that point. It seems I had gotten a bad batch or something. I shouldn’t have trusted that tree guy.
Twelve weeks ago, I tracked Spruce down. He claimed he didn’t know the seed were tainted, but if I wanted a good supply of them, he had a job for me. One where you don’t flake out on me this time he said. One where you better define the job ahead of time, I said back. I accepted.
Eleven weeks ago, it all went down. Not just in the colloquial sense, but everything. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. I dressed in green again. This time a full suit and not just the mask. If I was to be working with the trees, I figured I might as well blend in.
I met up with the trees at their warehouse. Spruce introduced me to some other trees that have names I couldn’t pronounce. I tried, but I think the human mouth works differently than however they actually produce sound. They showed me around the facility. I saw the trees shaking seeds from themselves onto conveyor belts. I saw the masses of seeds getting collected into a vat for the coating process. I saw some of the seeds get ground up and moved to another part of the warehouse. They hand me some seeds and tell me that there’s plenty more where that came from if I can protect this place. Someone mentioned a lifetime supply and if I wasn’t invested in the gig before, I was after that. I swallowed a seed and went outside. I figured the best way to stop them, was to keep them from even entering the building.
I leapt from roof to roof, roof to street, and then from building corner to corner. I had the whole place covered from entry. I threw up and took another seed. This cycle happened a couple of times before anything actually started, but by the time it had started, it was already too late.
I heard the explosion and leapt around to see where it had come from. All sides of the building were intact, but then I realized the mistake. Smoke rose out from the windows of the building. I leapt through a wall and saw the smoldering hole in the middle of the room. They had come up from the sewers. I cursed my luck and joined the fray. Trees shot into the smoke, but they didn’t seem to be hitting anyone. I leapt to the top of a machine to get a better vantage point. I spotted one of them, but they had spotted me and before I could react a grappling hook was flying at my face.
Now, that didn’t hurt with the seed active, but I was no longer up on a perch. I took a second on the smoke-filled ground to get my bearings. I wondered what my next move should be when one runs right past me. Without getting up, I launched myself at their legs. My body slid across the floor and separated their feet from it.
A young man lay sprawled on the floor across from me. I stood. Pops sounded in the air from the gunfire, but I also cracked my knuckles to add to the effect. My size didn’t change to reflect my new strength when I took the seeds, but my time fighting crime had taught me a few techniques of intimidation. I always stood with my shoulders back and puffed myself up. Cracking the knuckles was always a good standby. I stomped as I walked over. This cracked the floor with each step and helped with the intimidation game. When I reached him, he looked up at me. He was young. Too young. What was he doing here?
He pulled out a gun from behind his back and pointed it at me. I kicked his hand and the gun flew across the room. His scream of pain drowned out the chaos around us. His hand was broken. He pushed away from me with his feet but reached the machinery behind him before getting anywhere. I walked after him. He propped himself up with his one good hand. The speaker on his collar spoke up.
“Eugene where are you?”
I put a foot on his knee. “Call them off.”
He scoffed. “I ain’t doing anything for a freak.”
I flex the muscles in my leg and break his. He cried out again.
“You got another leg.”
He tried another scoff, but it came out as a sob. “I don’t listen to abominations, let alone supervillain abominations.”
Supervillain. The words hit me harder than any punch he could have thrown even on the seeds. I had been getting used to being called a supervillain, but it was hard to deny the truth of his words with his broken hand and leg as evidence. I was defending a gang. Drug dealers. I was the villain. I backed away from him. I shook my head. I reached into my pocket and threw some seeds at him.
“Take one. It’ll heal you up.”
I leapt away before I could hear his reply.
After that, I lost track of time. I put a lot of work into fighting the real bad guys, but none of that went over so well. I should have known where wearing all white would have lead name-wise. I wore all pink thinking they couldn’t come up with a name to tarnish that, but I was wrong again. I battled some weird plant monster that burst through the streets. I don’t think there was any relation to the tree guys, but who knows. The battle with the plant didn’t lead to any casualties or excessive property damage. It didn’t look like I was stealing money somehow. I thought I had beat the curse, but a week later the news proved me wrong. I watched as the anchor explained that the itching sensation that had been plaguing the city for the past week was due to a Supervillain known as Pink Eye. It was not a battle between man and plant that had occurred on the city streets, but instead a mad scientist releasing plant spores into the air. These spores seemed to be mostly harmless, but when they got into the eyes, they did cause an extreme itch. If I were a scientist I would have invented a better delivery mechanism for my minor annoyance than punching a giant plant thing in the streets, but I guess that’s just me.
Two weeks ago I ran out of fresh seeds. They weren’t available on the streets anymore. I had just been subsisting on the supply I got from the job at the warehouse. I had been saving the leftovers of what I threw up but was afraid to plunge into that regurgitated stash. I had heard the stories about the trees sprouting out of the bodies of those that took them. Besides, it didn’t seem like my talents as a hero were being appreciated anyway. I could let the city wait while I gathered my courage.
One week ago I went to see Jen. I wanted to see if she still had any fully intact seeds. She wouldn’t open the door. I don’t know if she was inside and didn’t want to see me or if she wasn’t even home. Maybe she moved. I just sat against the door and wept and waited for something to happen. Nothing did. I guess at some point I left.
Now, I stare at this baggy of little seedlets. The emetic coating already digested and thrown up with them. I washed them off after I collected them, but they still the faint sick smell to them. What happens if I eat one and don’t throw it up? What happens if I eat more than one? There are no more seeds out and about. I couldn’t find any tree people to answer any of my questions. I wonder if death is the worst that could happen if I take them. I’ve been pacing my apartment the whole day. The sun is setting and I have to make a decision if I’m going to go out for patrol tonight or if I’m going to do like I’ve done the past few weeks and just don’t decide until I fall asleep and wake up with the opportunity already passed. I can’t keep doing nothing though. I take one. I swallow. Then I keep going. I don’t know what compels me to keep downing them, but I do. Then I’m just staring at an empty baggy. I don’t feel anything though. I don’t feel that usual warmth. I don’t feel the strength taking hold of my limbs. I don’t feel it.
I walk to the bathroom to get a glass of water to take the slight vomit taste from my mouth. Maybe splash some water on my face. I look in the mirror. I see each individual speck of dried toothpaste crusted to the mirror. I see the smudges of handprints. I see tiny bits of shaved beard that have made it oh so very far from the sink. Then I see my face, and it doesn’t seem like I’m looking at myself. I’m looking at someone apart from myself. The mirror wobbles. I get dizzy from the sensation and close my eyes to stop it. With my eyes closed, I can determine the world is not actually spinning. I open them again and it actually is. Off-kilter and off balance I trip forward and fall into the mirror. I expect resistance, but I keep falling. I fall into my own reflection and then past it and into my own bathroom and then past it. I fall past the floor. I fall through the floor below mine. I fall through the building and then through the ground and then I keep falling. The earth’s core whizzes by me, then The other side of the earth. Then the moon. Stars, planets, galaxies fly by me. Then nothing. I look behind me and see the vastness of everything shrink down into a point. I turn my head back forward again and see it. A face? A being? Eyes? Fire? Wood? I can’t tell if I’m still falling and it’s passing me or if I’m inside it and not moving or if it’s merely just in front of me. Then it spoke.

The End.

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