AN/ This is a continuation of my submission to CCC #70. “The Impossible Man”. Which has nothing to do with a little green man that may or may not be, Mr. Mxyzpiylk at the same time because reasons having to do with 5th dimensional nonsense. Which I had no idea existed until I was informed that my original name wasn’t at all.
Howard Leach, survived the attack at the hospital. While his body healed he lied there buried under rubble as the hospital was on fire. Howard could hear the shrieking of people trapped inside or also buried under rubble. Then for some time he heard nothing. Howard, just laid there.
“What’s the point anymore?” He thought. Howard could not protect anyone. Not when his opponent could over power him. Howard couldn’t stop her.
“What was the point of being a hero when you can’t be one to the ones you love?” Howard wished he would have let that woman incinerate him. He wished his injuries weren’t going to just heal. Howard wished he could suffocate and the rubble on his chest would crush him.
“Please stop!” Howard cried as he thought repeatedly that night about his lover, Viviana’s death. How she felt alive against him and then in a second that to him felt like minutes because of his heightened senses she was gone. Her body burnt beyond recognition. He thought about the people still inside the hospital, he could hear them cry, he could hear them all scream and beg for help. Howard could hear the sirens in the distance.
“Please stop…” Howard begged a little quieter as he cried. He cursed his powers. Without them he could be with Viviana and their son. If there were such a way. He wouldn’t be able to hear the people crying out to be saved only for them to suddenly go silent. If only he could just die. Howard closed his eyes and wished for that to be even a small possibility.
Howard awoke disappointed. Howard could hear workers excavating the rubble he was buried under. “Stop.” Howard pleaded weakly with a hoarse voice. Howard had no idea how long he had been under the rubble of the wall. His body had healed by this point. He was just so tired. His throat was dry and he was hungry, but even if he had food he wouldn’t eat. Lying in his own filth and hopeless all he wanted was to be left there.
There was an off smell. Not his soiled body, but gas. “What’s tha—” Howard groaned as he moved for the first time. His muscles ached as he willed himself to move. He felt stiff and sore. He launched himself straight up through debris and above workers bulldozing the area that had been the hospital parking lot.
He landed in front of a backhoe that had been digging where he had been buried. As the arm came down he caught it in his hand and held it. The workers all yelled, “Holy shi—"
“Gas! Gas!” Howard tried to speak through a cough. “Call the cops!”
Howard coughed, he was so thirsty. “Water!”
One of the construction workers handed Howard a water bottle, “You freaking stink man!”
Howard gulped as much was he could swallow and most of it spilled all over him. The sun was nearly blinding, it was the first time he’d seen it in days and it did nothing for him. Howard felt sick. He dropped to his knees and heaved. Vomit erupted from his throat as stomach acid, debris accumulated from days of being buried and the water he drank scratched his throat raw.
“Christ man!” The construction worker that handed him the water reached out to touch Howard. Howard jumped away, the workers were left in awe as he soared into the distance.
After a few minutes of violent coughing and more vomiting Howard rolled over on a roof top and passed out. Howard awoke hours later. It was night and he was still naked. He rolled on his stomach and dragged himself to his feet. He walked to the edge of the building walked off. He landed in front of a fire hydrant. The construction worker was right he did stink. He twisted the valve open and washed himself as he was sprayed by water.
For an hour he shop-lifted from various stores nearby. He had no clothes and he couldn’t just walk around naked. Since he couldn’t remain buried he might as well be dressed he figured. Once he was fully clothed he pulled himself along. He tried to not think about Viviana and their son. All he did was cry when he did. Howard wondered into a corner store and then as Chicago frequently did for him, it produced a problem.
“Pockets on the ground!” A mugger said, to Howard. The cashier had his hands raised and his face lit up with fear. Howard rolled his eyes. He was in no mood for this or any heroics. Too much was on his mind and he just didn’t care.
Howard had stolen a scarf that covered his face and sun glasses. He didn’t care to be noticed. Howard placed some cash he had lifted from a safe in one of the stores he used to acquire his disguise. Howard asked. “You just don’t have anything better to do, tonight do you?”
In almost slow motion as the mugger fired two rounds into his chest, Howard stepped in front of the bullets after he determined the mugger would have missed. “How bad are you now wit a—” The mugger looked at the man. Two holes where he shot were there, but there was no blood. He looked down. The bullets were fragmented on the floor.
Howard had twisted a soda he had bought and let his scarf down. Everyone in the city knew who he was and typically that was enough to send a coward on the run, “Two-minute head start?”
The mugger began to tremble violently and dropped his pistol, as he turned to run out of the store. Howard smiled and took a sip of his soda. “Works every time.” He thought. Howard grabbed the gun. Howard raised his scarf over his face and turned to the cashier. The cashier had no words. He was in awe of this feat and even after years of being an active hero people still were amazed. That was a humbling thing for Howard.
Howard had put the gun he had taken and put it on the counter. He crushed the barrel of the weapon and turned around and walked off as if nothing had happened, “Hey! Call the police, they’ll find that guy on the corner of 4th and Addison in about a minute.”
Howard had no idea what he was thinking. He showed his face and he had no idea if that woman that attacked him was still watching. Or even why he was attacked in the first place. Now wasn’t the time to catch a robber. He needed to figure out his next move. He needed to mourn. Yet, Howard kept on.
Howard leapt and cut through the air like a hurricane. Howard looked down the mugger grew closer as Howard hurdled to earth. Howard landed in front of the mugger and crouched low, the mugger slammed into Howard as the hero swept his legs from under him and he slammed into the side walk head first.
The mugger was out cold from the hit. Howard checked the mugger’s pockets and took his smart phone and a roll of cash. Howard had to know what was happening. Howard used the man’s thumb to unlock the cell phone and opened the web browser on it. Howard had read he had died in a meteor shower that struck the hospital. No word of his family having died, no word on the woman in black besides an Info Wars conspiracy video that happened to be real and that it had all been a week since it happened.
Howard sighed with relief that Viviana’s face wasn’t being used in the media. He wasn’t ready to see her yet. His grief had started well up in him has he thought about his family as he read each article covering his death. He had so many questions. Who was the woman in black? The government’s response to his death was quick. It seemed too quick, like it had been entirely made up.
Howard then read a story that amazed him and filled him with wonder as if it were the first time he had gone out on patrol, “Mark freaking Metcalf has powers!”
Howard wasn’t alone anymore and that made him feel better than he had in days. Besides the woman in black there was another person who had powers. Howard needed to go to New York right away. What could he say? What could he do? Mark was a movie star and Howard was a dead celebrity super hero. Howard had decided he had all the time in the world to figure out that one, he had to make his way to New York City right now. At the very least, Howard felt like he needed to warn him.