Two short pieces of writing, freely written in a recent writing workshop on the theme of superheroes.
The Coward Crusader
I am the coward crusader.
I flee in the face of danger.
I cry, crouching in dark corners, turning my back on the face of crime.
Safe in anonymity, masked to protect my secret identity. Yet I am known to all, always in the papers. On page four. At the bottom.
If you’re in trouble, held at gunpoint, fist threatened; if you’re that unfortunate innocent you may see me.
And you’ll undoubtedly say, “Ah bugger it all to pieces. That’s the wrong superhero.”
I’ve heard it before. A thousand times. A thousand more as each night I prowl the streets and scrapers of Gotham failing to respond to sweet civilians in any useful way.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to help. Why else would I dress this way and seek out the suffering masses when I could be at home with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa? I feel their pain. Every time. Deeply. Too deeply. That’s the problem. My super hyper hero empath powers work overtime. Paralysed in panic I hide until it’s safe to come out. Crime over. Perpetrator a bit richer. Victim poorer. Or dead. I’ve seen too many murders. Fortunately not my own.
I was trained by the best. That other hero and me, we shared our teacher. We went all the way to some horrible cold mountain for that. Why we couldn’t have been taught in the local community centre I’ll never know. My partner in the dojo enjoyed it though. He seemed to get some kind of kick out of needless suffering.
“Be the fear,” our teacher said. “Be the bloody fear.” I became the fear alright. “I am fear, the destroyed of hope.” Some superhero I turned out to be. I hate every broken facet of my uselessness. The other hero, how he did it I don’t know. He became fear and transformed fear into being feared. I became a bigger joke than The Joker. He became the Batman.
And I, dressed in the blandest grey, am the Mouseman.
Feared by none. Despised by the Commissioner. A laughing stock. They never light up a mouse signal to call for my assistance. They never ever call me up in the mouse hole on the cheese phone.
Tomorrow, if you’re unlucky, you’ll be a victim of crime in Gotham.
I will be there. I will try to help you, to save you from evil. I’ll fail. Sob my heart out from behind a dustbin and watch. I’m sorry. That’s just how it is. It hurts me more than it hurts you.
I am the coward crusader. Ever watchful, ever vigilant.
- Criminals are bad. Catch the criminal. Letting the criminal go will result in an existential crisis borne out of your childhood traumas. It will also make us look bad in the eyes of newspaper editors. Protect our reputation.
- Try not to kill bystanders or allow them by your action or inaction to be killed, maimed, or physically and/or emotionally scarred for life. Unless by failing to harm the innocent the criminal would go free.
- Try not to destroy the whole city either by fire, unnatural disaster, or nuclear fallout unless by failing to destroy at least two city blocks a criminal might escape.
- Deliberate destruction of property is acceptable, especially after a successful apprehending of a prisoner, if newspaper photographers are present. Deliberate destruction is an ideal outcome if it would make an exciting special effects sequence in a movie that might one day be made about us.
- Very important. Simon, do NOT abuse your power. Do not under any circumstances face slap a vegetarian with either of your salmon.
- If the criminal escapes, the maximum allowed time for sulking is seventy-two hours. Lollipops and duvets will be provided in this eventuality. Lucy is entitled to double quantities of lollipops due to being the best hero in the club.
- If being sued for criminal destruction, negligence, personal injury, or acting like a clown, always ask for Judge Larry. He’s a darling and worships heroes.
- Car crashes are always acceptable. They are much better when more than fifteen cars are involved. Please destroy cars even when no crime has been committed. I hate cars. Everyone should ride a bicycle. Except Lucy. Her rainbow car is pretty. Don’t scratch her car, you hear me? Not a scratch or I’ll boil wash your costume so it shrinks and I’ll stick itching powder down your knickers. Unless you wear them on the outside in which case I’ll just have to think of something else. You don’t want to do anything to Lucy’s car because I love Lucy and one day I hope she’ll accept my offer of a lollipop and a duvet.
- Romantic relationships between heroes is banned. It just gets too messy and would slow down the pace of the move mentioned in rule four. The only exception to this rule is me and Lucy if she ever accepts that lollipop.
- Finally, and most important of all, have fun. Crime fighting should be a good laugh. Harry, smile. Stop being morose or I’ll sack you from the club.