By: Andrew Thomas Prenger
Dana Devastation exited from the parking garage to the street. There was a bounce in her step as she walked to the door of her house. It was a good day. The rucksack slung over her shoulder was stuffed with hundred dollar bills. She and Black Hat pulled off a very successful bank robbery and gotten away clean. All she had to do now was take it to her guy who would wash it and deposit in her account and then she could use it.
That could wait, though. It was late in the day and there was little chance her guy would be sober. Tomorrow then.
She ran her hand through her hair and it came back streaked with blood. That stopped her. She wondered where it came from. If someone shot her in the head she would’ve felt that. Any wound she suffered would’ve healed by now, like the bullet wounds to her stomach. It didn’t hurt so she decided not to worry about it anymore. Probably from a cop, that one she threw through the wall. No one important.
Dana opened the door and was assaulted by the sound of warbling. It surprised her so much that she forgot to duck down and smacked her forehead against the top of the doorframe. Her heart sank when she realized that it was Hank Williams blaring out of her stereo. Not her music. She didn’t own any country music at all. She barely owned any music made in America anyway. Her preference ran to J-Pop. Lately she’d become obsessed with finding every song ever made by the band “Cutest Wave of Destruction.” They were about the exact opposite of Hank Williams.
It wasn’t so much that there was strange, old music blaring out of her cutting edge sound system, but what it meant: her boyfriend Blood Shadow was in her house and that he’d had a bad day. He only ever listened to Hank Williams when something bad happened. She took off her trench coat and tossed on the back of a chair. She undid her belt and let it, along with the mace hanging from it, drop to the floor with a clang. As she started unlacing her boots she thought about the last time she’d come home to this song.
A little less than a year ago. A Marine buddy of his died in Iraq; one of the few people Blood Shadow was close to. They had worked together as a sniper team for almost the entirety of Blood Shadow’s military career.
Dana walked to the fridge and grabbed two beers. Then she went to the bathroom where she found B.S. soaking in the tub, just like last time. There were two empty bottles on the bathmat while another rested on his forehead. His hand hung over the side of the tub, half-heartedly holding onto a pistol. When he heard the door creak open the gun snapped at attention. His right eye opened just a little bit. When he saw who it was he let the gun rest again.
“Hey, B, need a fresh one?”
B.S. took the bottle off his forehead and drank what little was left. He let the bottle drop to the ground and accepted the one Dana offered.
“Thanks. I’ll be out in a bit. I figure you’ll want to jump in the shower.”
“Is there really that much blood on me? I didn’t think there was.” She ran her fingers through her hair again. Little crimson flakes of dried blood fluttered down like dandruff. Looking in the mirror she found that was all that was wrong with her aside from some smudged dirt and gunpowder on her face.
“Eh, I’ve seen you in worse.”
After moving the empty bottles out of the way Dana sat down on the bathroom floor with her back up against the tub. B.S. put his gun on the edge of the tub and rested his hand on her shoulder. After a little he started massaging it. They sat like that through another song of heartache from Hank Williams.
“Want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Come on, it’s just the two of us.”
“I’ll sound like an idiot.”
“You always sound like an idiot.”
“Eh, I killed a kid today.”
“I know, right? Anyway, I got hired for security by some mad scientist. A new guy named Dr. Atrocity. He was working on a machine that would summon meteors from space to any place he wanted them to hit. He was having trouble with a hero called Valor Knight. I’ve never heard of him, but he flies around in a metal suit with this laser sword.
“Sure enough Valor Knight crashes into the laboratory intending to stop Dr. Atrocity’s plan. We get into it. I hit him with everything I’ve got, including the fifty and nothing is penetrating the armor. The only thing I can see is that it’s making Valor Knight hesitant. He doesn’t seem so sure that he’s protected.
“Finally I get this idea in my head and I aim for the sword. I hit it right at the hilt and the thing explodes in his hands. I stay in cover until I am sure things are fine. All I can hear is screaming. I can see Dr. Atrocity slumped over his console, knocked out by the blast, so it has to be Valor Knight.
“I finally find him near the back of the lab where he busted in. The explosion took both his arms. Now he’s just this armless man jumping around in a panic in this lab. When he turns towards me I shoot him dead center in the forehead of his helmet and that knocks him to the ground. I walked up to him as he’s writhing in agony and I see that my shot knocked his visor up.
“This guy, this hero who I have been shooting at for the better part of ten minutes, isn’t even fifteen. He’s got this awesome set of armor and he can’t even drive a car. With tears in his eyes he begs for mercy, he begs me to call an ambulance, he’s begging for his mom. He’s making promises that he’ll quit being a hero. Shit like that.
“I’ve killed younger. I’ve killed more innocent. Something about this armless kid who tried to be brave just makes me pause.”
“Did you take him to a hospital?”
“No, I killed him. Two in the head. I think that was mercy. Even if he survived a trip to the hospital I’d already ruined his life. He wouldn’t get over this. Every time he looked at his plastic arms he’d be reminded of the black-suited figure of death that destroyed him. Letting him live felt crueler than killing him.”
Dana reached up and held the hand that was massaging her shoulder. She didn’t know what to tell him. Valor Knight was definitely not the first hero he’d ever killed and it sure as hell wouldn’t be the last.
“Pretty stupid, huh?”
“Just a little bit.”
They sat in silence. Hank Williams was over and neither of them felt like going to the stereo and starting it over again.
“What do you want to eat for dinner tonight?” he asked.