It all started with a phone call. Most things inevitably do these days.
Wait. Wait. I need a do-over.
It all ended with a phone call. Most things tended to these days. Ah. That’s better. Hendrick Hahn was lying on the bed in his hotel room when he got the call.
‘What do you want?’ Hendrick Hahn channels his inner asthma when he speaks.
‘Got a job for you. Great Lakes. The target is the Grand Lakes Heroes League.’
‘That’s a mouthful.’
‘Yeah. And it’s been going on for more than ten years. The bosses aren’t not happy that the ratings are slipping. We need a clean exit.’
‘I hope you remember our agreement –‘
‘We don’t forget. We’ve got another project coming up. We’ll find a slot for you there. Now, get to it. You’ll have to be dressed for the part. Get a cape.’
Hendrick Hahn groaned. He hated the cheese-filled lines about responsibility, about justice and all the while there’s tightness around your crotch.
‘And remember, no loose ends. We need to end it. There must be no chance of a seq—‘
‘Don’t worry. Loose ends just make my ass itch.’ Hendrick Hahn puts the phone down and gets to his feet. He waits for the fabric of reality to tear, to pluck him from his hotel room and take him to Great Lakes. He never tries to guess how it works. He is dealing with Gods after all.
Hot sun on his back. Loud foghorns blaring in front of him. He opens his eyes and finds that he is on the side of a highway.
He pats himself and is relieved to find that he is wearing something. Not like the last two times. Phew!
He finds that he is wearing a black leather unitard. And it is tight around his crotch like he expected. Why didn’t get the art deco armour? At least, there was some wriggle room with that.
Emblazoned on the front is the word – Tombstone. Why Tombstone? Well, because every other bloody name is taken.
People stare at him as if he is some kind of crazy cosplayer. Well, fuck you too.
He finds that he is clutching a paper in his left. He pulls it out, smoothens it to read the scrawled writing. It is a list of names and it goes like this.
Well, a long list. He might as well get started.
Captain Commando stares at him from across the room. There in anger sparking in those eyes.
Tombstones raises the guns in either hand but stops when Captain Commando spits, ‘Guns? Do you think you’re the first to try to kill me with guns?
Tombstone’s asthmatic grunt carries barely carries across the room, ‘These aren’t any normal guns. And I’m no normal henchmen.’
She kicks off the ground and jumps toward him, face contorting in a violent scream. Tombstone waits patiently for his moment and then fires two quick rounds from each gun, side-steps the outstretched boot of Captain Commando and then fires two more in the same smooth motion.
The bullets tag her on her shoulder, to her side and she crumbles down. She tries to get up only to fall back down again. She’s able to keep her feet with the second attempt and comes at him, kicking and snarling, much slower now though and trailing blood behind her.
Tombstone is faster as he grabs her in a hold and tosses her across the room. She regains her balance as she lands, sliding back until she rests softly against the wall. And she charges forward again.
The fist catches him on the side of his face like a truck had slammed into it. But he manages to push the following fist away with his right elbow, tries to slide a feet between hers to trip her up. But she was too fast. It becomes impossible to keep dodging or blocking. It descends into a mad scramble until a powerful kick tears him across the room. He thought he would splatter the wall but broke straight through it and came to a stumbling halt in the rubble.
‘That’s it.’ Tombstone growls, asthmatic wheeze, deeper and lower as if he was trying to retch something that was stuck at the back of his throat.
Captain Commando thunders toward him but he stands there, scowl on his face and empties the clips of both his handguns. She catches every bullet and scrunches up, clutching her gut and after a long, anxious moment, she collapses to the ground.
Tombstone stands next to her and finds the floor around her is already wet with blood.
She looks up at him, her blonde hair plastered with blood, eyes filled with pain, ‘I’m…’ a bout of coughing racks her, ‘…I’m not healing…I… What are you?’’
Tombstone flashes the silver bullets as he reloads his guns. ‘You don’t know what these bullets are? They’re Deus Ex Machina bullets.’
Blood now leaks out of Captain Commando’s mouth, her face is slack and the legs have now stopped twitching.
‘And don’t worry, you are not going to wake up with amnesia a few hours later. I’ve seen that movie. I won’t be doing that mistake. This is the end.’
He slams the clip home, points the gun right above her head, ‘Smile when you see the flash.’
Last on the list is the Rocket – smart, self-deprecating, just your stereotypical nerd, reluctant hero but with a central of moral outrage waiting to be unleashed. Usually at a suitable, dramatic moment.
He doesn’t have to go anywhere to find him. Just waits around to be found. He was tired after his killing spree after all. And it doesn’t take very long. He hears the Rocket before he sees him.
‘MURDERER.’ The speakers blare out making him clutch his ears. He stares up at the sky and the distant blot speeds up, becoming a gold and black blur until it finally slams down to the ground, splitting the pavement into hundreds of cracks.
The Rocket just stands there, doesn’t move but it takes the slight step forward, the unconscious twist of the back as if prepping himself for the long monologue. It is a tradition after all. But before the metallic mask blares out angry words, Tombstone clobbers him with his right fist.
The Rocket stumbles back, clutching his face.
‘You hit me. You hit me.’ The voice that comes out now is a tiny breathless wheeze.
Tombstone stares back with a quizzical expression.
The metal helmet opens to reveal a sweaty young face. There’s blood around the cut to his lips. ‘You fucking hit me!’
Tombstone shrugs, unable to follow.
‘I thought we were supposed to monologue you idiot—‘
The bored drawl from the director draws a sudden intake of breath from everybody in the room. The sounds of talking fill the previously silent scene as the director drags his feet toward them. ‘We’ve made some changes to the script—‘
‘What? I was supposed to get hit on the face?’ The actor who plays Nick Klein dabs his face with cotton handed to him by an anxious looking stagehand.
The director groans, ‘We’ve cut to the monologue. We’re going straight to the action.’
‘Cut the monologue? Why?’
The director sighs, as if wondering why he bothered, ‘Because we’re on a deadline. We had to cut a lot of stuff.’
‘I hate this. I was a star on this show for ten years man, ten years. And now, I don’t get the benefit of going out with a bang.’
‘There’s certainly going to be a bang. But we’ve got so many deaths. We’re on a schedule here.’
‘So, what’s going to happen?’ The actor who plays Nick Klein waves an impatient hand, ‘So what’re we going to be doing? Apart from him clobbering me?’
‘Well, he clobbers you,’ The director drones, rifling through a wad of papers in his hand, ‘then zaps with you a special energy and you lay there paraylysed. The graphics guys will get that so you don’t have to worry about doing that. Then he kills you by banging your head in with your helmet.’
‘Who the hell was responsible for making this shit up?’
‘Some hack. But the thing is that he’s cheap and he got the job done. Now, can we continue rolling?
The actor who plays Nick Klein looks as if he has just swallowed a turd. ‘This stuff is terrible. You can’t be serious.’
‘We very much are. Now, silence on set.’ The director gets a little animated now, ‘What’s the take?’
‘Take 4?’ One of the stagehands proffers.
‘Yeah. Yeah. Start rolling.’
Tombstone stalks forward, grabs the armour and then slowly begins to pry the helmet loose, then raises the helmet and slams it down on the face inside. Bang. Bang. It is the sound of metal scraping on metal. Again. Again. And again until blood sputters out like from a geyser, splashing the screen with blood and some gristle. Cue for grand orchestral music. The words ‘The End’ falls down as if from the heaven and then the camera shakes and everything fades to black. The banging metal sound stops only after a while into the credits.
And there’s no point waiting, there’ not going to be any post-credits scene. This is the end.
This was written by the author of The Open Road at http://karavanir.com/theopenroad/.
I wrote for Rev Fitz at Existential Horror and Breakfast. You might want to read some of his earlier posts to see the context of what I’m doing. It’s possible you’ll recognize at least one character in the story.
For a full list of all April Fool’s Swappers and their stories, as well as dozens of other serial novels that will tickle your fancy, check out The Web Fiction Guide Forums.