Her world was silver and glass and cold as ice. It hadn’t always been like this. Sometimes, she could remember the feeling of the sun on her skin or the warmth of another’s touch. These days, she barely remembered what it was like to have skin. She was a nightmare monster given substance and forced to haunt the slumber party set. She was blood red eyes and terror sealed between silver and glass. She was the specter of midnight and thrice spoken names.
She was a promise in the dark and a crossroads. The words of the game were a key to her prison and the players were her sustenance.
The forms were nearly observed and soon she would feed. Soon, the little sweet sixteen who dared challenge her memory would be nothing more than a statistic and a mystery.
The girl opened her mouth a third time.
The child would have powers. She had promised herself that when he had been born. This child would have powers one way or another. No matter what it took, she would not let her son be one of the few Normals of Scuttle Bay. Even if she was, even if her husband was. The question was how. It wasn’t in his blood, that much was clear. That left magic and science as her options. From the day he was born, she started in with everything she had. Vitamibe, spellwork, offerings left for Faeries and gods alike. None of it worked. Finally, she took her infant son to the coast. A pirate wreck lay deep under the water still and she could just barely see the shadow there. Holding the child by the ankle, she held him in the water. He would have powers. He would be a hero. He would make it in this place. Of that, she was convinced. The boy stopped moving. She pulled him out, a mad gleam in her eye. What great powers would he manifest? But his eyes were glassy and dull and he didn’t move
lips touch in fiery passion
hands clasp, hands grasp
clinging in darkness
never let go
just playing a game
the widow’s kiss
She raised her shield, blocking the blade coming down at her head, and pivoted as the crowd above her roared. Her own blade cut deeply into the leathers her foe wore and she heard another cheer go up. Footsteps sounded on the sand behind her and she dropped, rolling to the side. Back on her feet, she faced two foes now. They were burly men, gladiators trained. Not like her. She was something else. Something they’d never seen before. She kicked the sand up into the face of one man and slammed her shield into the other, roaring her own battle cry.
She swept his feet out from under him and laughed with triumph as she looked up at the Emperor. Would he give her the signal and let her draw their blood in her father’s name? He nodded as the crowd cheered, every one of them as bloodthirsty as the last. Her blade bit deep and she relished the feeling of strength that flooded into her body as she offered her fallen foe to Mars Ultor. Then she stood again, twirling her gladius as she looked for her other opponent. He must be here somewhere.
It’s not like the comics.
My name is Brooke, but most of the world knows me as the Cobalt Crusader. Not exactly the name I would have picked if I’d had a say in it, but you know how these things work. But pretty soon, they’re gonna have a new name for me. The latest victim of the Bronx Ripper. He started out as a two-bit serial killer, nothing special. The kind of guy the detectives go looking for. Sure, I kept an eye out, just like I always do. But I’m in it to protect people actively. I don’t solve crimes. Then he got a name and people finally realized what his MO was. Whoever this guy really was, he thought he was Jack the Ripper. He said so in the letters he was sending to the NYPD, talking about being the Ripper reborn to finish his work. He does his research too, the bastard. He knew how the armor plates in my suit work, knew exactly where to get me with a knife to bypass the armor. And he knew my fighting style. Now he knows my face. And I’m on the floor with nothing. The armor is worthless, the training means nothing, and I’m out of tricks. I’m not like the other heroes. I don’t have powers, just the stuff I made. He’s setting up a camera now. All I can think is to wonder what time it is. Will my face, my name, and my death be on the 6 o’clock news or the 11 o’clock? I’m beyond the point of fear. Fear is good, it helps you survive. But when there’s no hope, the fear goes too. Now all I have is the pounding of my stubborn heart as he turns on me with that knife of his. It’s not like the comics. Never let anyone tell you it is.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the news anchor was pale, unusually shaken, as he tried to pull his words together. “It falls upon me tonight to express a sorrow that cannot be described.”
The doorbell interrupted the news and Joe sighed, getting up from the couch. He dropped his greasy slice of pizza on the counter and stalked towards the door of the shabby apartment. Whoever was at the door started to bang on it, rather urgently.
“I’m comin’, I’m comin’. Jeez, can’t a guy eat in peace?”
When he opened the door, he looked up several inches into the face of the police officer standing there.
“Sir, are you Joseph Tucker?”
“Yeah, that’s me. What’s this about?”
The officer looked uncomfortable for a moment and then spoke again.
“I’m here about your daughter-“
“Brooke ain’t home. She’s never home on time. What’d she do this time?”
The silence was interrupted by the news anchor’s voice.
“The hero we knew and loved as the Cobalt Crusader has died at the hands of the Ripper.”
The officer looked at his partner and then gestured towards the television.
“We’re going to need you to identify the body. It’s…it’s an honor to meet you. It was a pleasure working with your daughter.”
Joe didn’t know how to respond to that in the slightest.
Yesterday a woman cried
And the universe stopped to listen
The smoked glass bottle of poison on the windowsill
Of the child’s room was empty
And the little girl was a broken doll on the floor
The woman cried not out of sorrow
As she cradled the little doll
There was nothing but silence as she sobbed
And the little girl walked away into a ferocious eternity
Escaping the imprisoning embrace
Guilt wracked the woman
And the universe stopped to watch
She lifted the stiff little doll to lay her on the bed
Then went to call them to take away her unwanted toy,
With one hand on her unborn but welcome son
Whenever a kingdom needs a hero, it seems like they always find a farm boy with hopes in his eyes and dreams in his head. We’re fresh out of those. Every last one recruited up into a military school at the age of 6 and taught to be soldiers loyal only to my uncle. We need a hero, but it won’t be one of them. So, it will have to be me.
But it was one thing to decide all of that standing in front of my mirror and entirely something else to stand in the hall and wait for a chance to strike. Watch as he led my father’s kingdom further and further into ruin. Watch as he slaughtered those who might still be loyal to my father. I knew perfectly well that the only reason I was still alive was because he didn’t believe a girl-child would have what it took to stop him in any meaningful way. That, and I was his means of legitimizing his rule. See, he could say, see how I protect my niece? See how I keep her safe from those who killed her family? And then he never once says that he was the one.
So here I stand with a hand on his wine bottle and a packet of herbs up my sleeve. He has no heir save me. No true friends. And he has created an army that will serve loyally. Adding the poison to his drink, I smile. I will rebuild my father’s kingdom but then I’ll have to find something to do with my new army. A slow smile crosses my face. I’m sure I can find a use for them.