Monday, May 30, 2011

Real Life Super-powers #1: Human Echolocation

It's not Daredevil and his radioactively amplified hearing, but it is documented echolocation in humans.

It does require you to be blind, and further to develop your blindness early or late in life. I've missed the early life, but how long do I wait to blind myself? I plan on living till I'm about 130 years old, but the average is still somewhere in the 70's. I don't want to miss the party trick of the century.

Except that I think I may be partially deaf, I'm predisposed to this power. I can already tell when my wife comes into the bedroom. Even her slender quiet form leaves a sound shadow as she passes in front of the running dehumidifier.

Twenty bucks to first true-believer who can use echolocation to determine if a criminal is telling the truth.

Album 1: Rock 80

Waiting by the shoreline
In Somalia for your reply
I need you to come see me
That's no lie

The guns are getting close
The sweat pours like dew
That fell from the trees in Tripoli
In the spring

I'm white hot
I can't take it anymore
I'm white hot
By the Somalian shore
Yes, I'm burning to the core
I need rain.

- Red Rider, White Hot, 1980

Fuck it all, that didn’t happen like I visualized.
All the training, all the preparation, all the research… over a year and a half, and I’m sitting here with – according to my self-diagnosis using a few reputable internet sources – 16 self-inflicted stitches, a dislocated shoulder, 6 circular bruises where the bullets must have hit, and since it hurts to breathe I suspect 2 broken ribs just above the floaters on the left side, and it even hurts to smile so I’m pretty sure that guy stomped me a broken orbital or cheek bone, wherever those zigomatic or risorius muscles attach.

I know it hurts when I smile because I smiled afterwards. Before the rush wore off. As I was taking off the get-up in a subway washroom stall. After I puked in the toilet (well, half in the toilet). I nodded to myself and a stupid grin peeled back on my face. I had done it and I was still sucking air. I was actually alive.

And 5 of them were dead.

I was armoured up and I sat in that stinking dumpster for at least a half hour. Every doubt I thought I had dealt with since April --, 20--, came back to me. I doubted why I was there; I doubted every hour of my physical training; I questioned the efficacy of the drugs; I certainly doubted my sanity for waiting in the dark off an alley on ---4 Q---- Street East.

But the single diamond hard point that was unassailable was that somebody had to deal with them. Even if all the one-on-one cognitive and group therapy, even if all the anti-depressant and occasional anti-psychotic meds worked and turned me back into a normal functional human being, somebody had to do this.

So I sat until I heard their two vehicles pull up. Adjusted my legs under me, hoping they wouldn’t cramp up as soon as I straightened them. Listened to their macho bullshit chatter as they came closer. Dialed in my night-vision visor when I heard them whining about the light over the back door being out. And just as one guy, the fattest one, squealed when he stepped on the three inch caltrops I had spread around the door, I tossed out the flash grenade into their midst, covered my eyes for two and half seconds.

First mistake, I smashed the dumpster lid up as I jumped out. I hit it so hard it gonged off the brick wall behind and again when it shut. They couldn’t see but now they had a focus, a direction.
Even so, I killed two before any of them could pull a pistol from their belts, shoulder holsters, or in the case of Squealing Fat Boy, from the crack of his greasy cottage-cheesed ass.

A pat on my own back: I made the right choice going for the serrated edges on the two Spyderco Civilian G-10’s.

One of the guys, a chinless fuck with an over-dose of old-man’s cologne, had his head only half on after I dragged the blade across the middle of his throat. From what I had experienced in those 10 days at the slaughter-house in O-----, the cartilage and bone in the larynx might have saved the guy’s life. But at the abattoir, I wasn’t this amphetamined maniac who had jumped out of a dumpster dressed in a black Kevlar Halloween costume. And of course, there was the mask.

I sliced through that guy’s Adam’s apple like it was a rotten McIntosh.

The second guy was twisting away, running and pulling his gun, kind of bent over. So I got him in the lower back, started at what I hoped was a kidney and pumped my arm twice. Sawing my way in towards his spine. I actually felt the knife’s serrations go clickety over the bone. I twisted like I practiced. On a pig, it opened the wound wider. Not immediately deadly, but let this shithead bleed out. I had 3 more. All of them with their guns out by now.

Out and firing.

Mother-fuckers didn’t care now if they shot their buddies.So that’s what scared people do. I’ll have to remember that.

I figured there would be gun fire. I mean that’s why I was here murdering them in the first place. I had hung out at a firing range just to get used to the sound; so it wouldn’t freeze me up. I had molded rubber ear protection in under my helmet. But it was still so goddamned loud. That close, the percussion of bullets being catapulted out of the muzzle, it actually jars your bones. I could feel my teeth rattle inside my mouth-guard.(When I had spit it out later, I saw that I had actually bitten clean through it.)

The first three rounds that hit me caught me square in the gut. Knocked the wind out of me, making me drop one of the blades. Finally, something went as I expected. My breath was gone, but the anaerobic training allowed me to get to the next guy. Some muscle bound freak who might have been taking more steroids than me.

But no matter how shrunken the roids make his balls, he still noticed when my steel-toed combat boot knocked them up into his oesophagus.

As he crumpled over, I slammed my knife down, hammer-fisted it right through his back ribs and into his heart. It jammed in there. Maybe between two ribs, or maybe his Hulk-like trapezius muscles had contracted around it. It happened with the pigs; sometimes you had to put a foot on them, and use both hands to yank it out.

Two more slugs told me I didn’t have that kind of time. One off the thigh. And one straight off the knee cap, hyper-extending it. Kevlar and alumina ceramics kept the joint from completely exploding.

Fat Boy’s buddy charged me. Bulled me over and started stomping on my head. That trashed the night vision. Lights started to explode inside my skull.

My brain was bouncing around in my skull. Unconsciousness started to creep up. It was really peaceful. Like a big thick duvet that your grandma would pull up to your chin on Christmas Eve. Heavy and lulling.

I was ready for that. I had planned that this is the situation in which I would actively think of them.

I don’t know that the army has dreamed up this kind emotional training yet. The dress as the enemy and brutally kill the two most important people in your life. Right in front of you. And then use your memories of them, everything gentle and soothing, like the skip of her flip-floppered feet over the old peeling floorboards at the cottage. Like the surprised happy-shock when the puppy decided to lick the inside of her little mussel shaped ear.

Take those most powerful memories, practice getting over the barf-inducing sobs and super-charge them into an anger so pointed you can feel sweat prickling through your skin.

Cognitive behaviour therapy turned on its fucking ass.

With that lightning coursing through me, my head turned into a painless rock. With the image of the back of her head exploding onto the black rubber of a car tire, I grabbed his patent-fucking-leather-shoed foot and twisted it so hard, I felt his knee come crunchingly unglued.

He fell wailing. I rolled up and hammered his useless knee with the knucks I had built in to my gloves.

As a piece of her skull flapped a white flag in slow motion, I kept smashing at his knee until it was the consistency of school-room mucilage.

Distantly I noticed Fat Boy pinging a shot off my helmet and one into my side.

I took my jack-hammering hand over to Patent-Leather’s head. The dome of the skull hardens as you get older, but there are these lines of cartilage through it, called sutures. I pounded. It only took three shots, and his head caved along the sutures. The membranous bag that held his brain together split so fast, he didn’t even have time to twitch.

Fat Boy was all out of bullets and his eyes had adjusted to the gloom. He had watched it all. With the caltrops embedded in his fat feet, he couldn’t run. And the tetanus bacteria on the spikes would let him live long enough to tell them. He could blather until his fat fucking jaw locked right up.

I turned the mask to him.

That mask is the only artistic thing I’ve ever made in my life.
The look on Fat Boy’s face told me it was a masterpiece.

“You tell them.” My voice, powered by the emotional and physical drain of what I had just accomplished, resonated through the cave of my throat. “You tell the rest of them.”

And then I ran. Ran before my insides turned to liquid and I started Hershey squirting in my pants.

Monday, May 23, 2011

62 Records in the Crate

That was Monday. The crate must’ve stayed on the floor outside my bathroom till Saturday. Saturday is a day you can take extra long craps. You sit on the throne relaxing in the breezy luxury of being bare-assed. Relaxation at one end allows thoughts to drift into the other.

Sometimes you close your eyes and wonder why it is your smell only makes other people puke. Sometimes you look about the bathroom, noticing how you should clean the dried dew drops off the mirror or fix the toilet handle that needs jiggling each time it’s flushed.

And other times you read. Things you wouldn’t bother to read anywheres else suddenly become mesmerizing. The snake-oil descriptions on the back of a shampoo bottle. The we-assume-you’re-a-cheap-rummy warnings on rubbing alcohol. The tiny print that informs you the nail clippers have already travelled farther than you ever will.

That Saturday, the edge of the crate was poking past the horizon of the bathroom door jamb.

I had to actually raise my ass off the toilet to reach it. But I did, and dragged it over the linoleum. I didn’t plan to look at all of them, so I slid a sleeve up and out from the middle.

The Go-Go’s “Vacation”. The pinkily-clad girls in a water-skiing pyramid on the front. Boy, Belinda became far cuter after she left the other ladies behind. I peeked in the opening and the black-blue gloss of the record winked at me. I rolled it out, maybe just to see how big the unavoidable scratches on it would be. Maybe to see how they did the sticker around the spindle hole.

Why is long forgotten now.

That one extra-long crap session on that one particular Saturday in late August went a lot longer. The blood-infused pressure circle on my ass must have taken a month to wear off.

Along with the disk, two hand-written sheets were tucked in the jacket. The first page began in mid-sentence, so it wasn’t the first first page. I’m not one to spoil a story for myself by reading the last page of a novel; hell, I freak on anybody who tells me what happens on the next DVD of the Sopranos.

I left the pages unread. Put them back in the sleeve. And went to the end of the crate where I surmised that the beginning would be. That first disk was "K-Tel’s Rock 80". And the two pages that peeled off either side of its record were numbered.

One page started with a circled number one.

Three hours later, twenty minutes after my ass started to have the pins and needles, I reluctantly wiped, flushed and popped my knee joints straight.

I had read 7 of the 62 albums’ hidden diary pages. The author’s tight, crabbed, slightly slanted scrawl was burned on the white parts of my eyes. Whenever I blinked, I could see it in red on the inside of my eye-lids.

The guy who wrote it – a guy who I realized was now dead – would never call himself this, but it was obvious to me. These pages, this diary was written by a superhero.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Introductions & Explanations

Early in the summer of 2010, there was an estate sale in my neighbourhood.

Now normally, I’ll see a garage or yard sale and continue to walk by. My life’s quota of gaudy neon stuffed animals is filled and all my relatives have had boy babies. So frilly girl’s dresses on white plastic hangers are alien and useless to me. I’m too pessimistic to believe that I’ll find a mint copy of Amazing Fantasy number 15 amidst the piles of Archie comics, so I always keep on truckin'.

However, that Monday morn I was doing my stepping right when a tired looking woman was propping up the “Estate Sale” sign in the postage-stamp sized garden. I was only a block and a half from my Toronto home. Coincidence is composed of soundless, tiny chains.

I thought estate sales were grandiose affairs that happened at manors and mansions, not at a well-kept semi-detached just outside the downtown core. But you don't need wealth, just death, to sell off a mortal's trappings.

Death and your proximity to it come with built-in morbidity generators, so even though my feet kept a-walking, my eyes must have hesitated. The tired sign woman had turned to prop open the screen door. That hydraulic-looking thingamajig at the bottom of the door gave her some trouble, but as she stood up from it, she saw me seeing her.

She looked haggard and down enough that I felt obligated to cheer her up. It’s this instant obligation, even for people I don’t know – I think – that’s making me post this stuff.

So cheerily, but not too – after all, estate sales mean somebody died, right? – I asked, “Open for business?”

She half-smiled and responded, “I guess so.”

I could have said, “Well, good luck” or “Maybe I’ll stop in later, I’ve got to get to a dentist appointment”.

But lying to the recently bereaved, which is what I assumed she was, feels cruel and wrong and invites curses from the ghost of the dearly departed.

“Great,” I said and felt my feet moving in a new direction.

Why do obligations lead to ever increasing obligations? I say this because I had no desire to buy some dead person’s stuff; I pictured yellowing doilies and badly framed oil paintings with too many reds and oranges. I had maybe 30 bucks in my wallet and better things to spend it on. But now, I felt obliged to look and looking leads to buy. Especially when you're the only customer in a retail outlet that is a house just down the street from yours.

I was gearing myself to select the first not-too-heinous Dalton knock-off and get the hell out. Duty done.

Though my neighbourhood is ancient, steeped in century old Victorian homes, it’s been gentrifying nicely. The inside of the death house didn’t reek of the ex-occupant who began rotting in the upstairs four-poster bed. Twelve foot high ceiling and a modern minimalist style gave the first room, a dining-family room combo, an airy and light feel. Not my style, but closer than the Addams-family digs I had expected.

“You’re the first one,” she said quietly as she breezed past me to go to the kitchen.

“Oh good.” I scanned the room wondering what I could quickly snag and not pay more than five dollars for.

“Anything particular you’re looking for?” she called from the kitchen. Sounded like she was pouring herself a glass of water.

In my head I said, “Oh yeah, I comb dead people’s stuff with shopping list in hand. I follow the obituaries every Sunday, barely able to restrain my consumeristic glee. In a former life, I scavenged corpses on medieval battlefields.”

But what I said was, “Music?”

She came back out sipping her water and pointing to a wooden box in the corner. The solidly built crate was labelled “Dynamex” in faded ink.

“He had some vinyl.”

“Oh really?” I sauntered quickly over, feigning interest. Honestly, I was sure that a box of old records would cost far more than what I had on me, and I could scoot out looking disappointed. Hell, the dynamite crate must be worth more than twenty bucks alone.

I knelt down and fingered through the records. Looked like 70’s and 80’s mostly. I pulled up a couple, but I didn’t even read the band-names or register the album art. Too eager to get on with my soul-shriveling plan of escape.

“Wow, cool. Hmmm,” and a beat to lend realism, then, “How much?”

She shrugged gave me a “I dunno” pressing of the lips together. Then, “Twenty?”

My eyebrows rose in what I hoped was a look of consideration, but inside I swore. I knew I had twenty, but I didn’t want to spend that much, especially on something I utterly did not want.

“You could get more for them,” I told her with sagacity and kindness.

“It’s okay. I’m not up to haggling.”

Oh, not fair, even if somebody in your family did just die.

I looked back to the wooden crate stuffed with the Pat Benetars and Triumph discs. Damn this dead guy’s choice in music, and damn his taste in minimalism; not a brass unicorn or faux-crystal candle holder in sight.

Desperation wins.

“Ok, 20 it is.” My hand was already flipping open my wallet and pulling out the required legal tender. “Here you go.”

I scooped up my booty and headed for the door. I tossed a “Thanks!” over my shoulder. She didn’t say good-bye immediately, so I knew something else was coming. “Do you live near here?”

I told her. She nodded and asked, “So did you ever see him or meet him, or from before, his wife and daughter?”

My face was a mask of neutral pleasantry, immune to further inquiry. “No, I didn’t.”

She expected this answer. “Well, thanks.” A slight waving of the twenty.

“Oh no, thank you!” A slight raising of the albatross crate. I said it with genuine joy. I was, after all, now getting out of there.

Off the heating sidewalk, the late summer breeze wafted the smell of old cardboard from the box into my face.

Twenty bucks. Lousy music. A dynamite crate.

Too much spent to just ignore what was bought. A purchase too lousy to dump to a friend. A container too large to give to the garbage on the way inside the house.

All those things. And my own stupid curiousity and sense of obligation led me to find what was hidden, page by page, inside the sleeves of the records.

Caveat Lector

Hi there.

I don't know how you feel about somebody saying "Hi there" and immediately spitting out this:

"In order to protect myself and my family from potential legal and even physical harm, I have changed the names of people and locations. Hopefully this is just excessive paranoia, but better safe than sorry."

But consider it spat, and we'll forget that it ever was.

If you think you might be one of the people that I or the journal is describing, then please let me know immediately. Hopefully, we can work something out. If we can't, then, I'll stop posting and delete the blog. No problem.

I do think, though, that this blog does have a purpose. I'm hoping that it will help curb a growing trend -- an idiotic one in my estimation.

There are regular people who dress up in costumes that make 60's psychodelia look restrained, adopt nom-de-costumes that would make Stan Lee throw up a little in his mouth, and “patrol” their neighbourhoods looking to prevent... well, I'm not sure. Gangs of supervillainous raccoons knocking over the First National Garbage Can? Evil geniuses bent on parking illegally after 12 a.m.?
Interfering in real crime is going to get you hurt. Hell, you'll probably get your ass handed to you by those three 13 year olds smoking weed in the park.None of you have “powers”. Very few of you have superhuman skills that were honed in a secret Buddhist Ninjitsu monasteries in Tibet. You're more than likely frightened of the spider in the tub, radioactive or not. Most of you probably don't even work out on a regular basis, what with all the patrolling you've been doing.
Yes fellow mortals, they are out there. Their dreams of kicking ass have led them to try forming their own Little Justice Leagues:

Just call the cops. Please.

I'm not being a downer. I'm not against good samaritinism. I just think that once you've read these pages, this superhero diary, you'll be very happy to stay a Peter Parker or a Clark Kent.

Okay, I know. Enough blathering and start posting these damn things right?
Come back every week. I'll have something new for you.