Tenth in a series of Flash Fiction shorts that I’m writing while in Thailand. I’m allowing myself a maximum of two hours per story so please forgive the rough edges. Cheers!
Raging fires burned across the continent. From one edge of the known world to the other, the cries of men rose into the sky. Great and ancient cities fell, scoured from the land by an unrelenting and angry god.
For a thousand years after the fire the people of the continent lived in chains. They served their angry god and did penance for their failure to please him. Great monuments rose on the backs of the penitent masses.
The ages brought the angry god remorse at what he had done to his subjects. He questioned his own cruelty. In sorrow he released his people from their chains.
Over the eons the monuments crumbled to dust along with the memory of that angry god. The people scattered into tribes and the memory of their tribulations was lost beyond history.
Fifty years ago a scourge of crime swept the modern continent, which by then had grown into a prosperous nation. They had all of the modern conveniences: cars to whisk them across the land, planes to carry them from coast to coast. Still, they insisted on committing the worst of atrocities against one another.
They needed a hero to save them. An example to live by.
That hero appeared as if answering a distress call.
The newspapers called him Extra Man. Dressed in a shining blue suit adorned with a fluttering red cape, he embodied the ideal man of the age. He could hear the most secret of conversations with his Extra Hearing, and burn through steel walls with the force of his Extra Gaze.
The day he arrived he descended on a group of young men who were pushing a woman into an alley in the mega city of New Polis.
Extra Man floated from the sky, gently touching down on the street.
“I’d suggest you let her go.” The voice was good. Strong, and he’d perfectly mimicked the accent of the gentry. “Ahem, release the–.”
A gunshot sent a bullet directly into his chest. The lead slug pancaked, falling to the ground with a harmless clink.
Extra Man felt pity. How could they know what they were doing, who they were picking a fight with–.
The second shot hit him in the head.
The third in the shoulder.
Extra Man moved faster than the human eye could register, tearing the atmosphere with his speed. He tied the three attackers into a bundle with their own clothes.
The woman sat stunned on her knees. Blood running from her burst eardrums. In the future he must remember how fragile these creatures were.
“Tell your city that I am watching after it now. That you will no longer have anything to fear and that from now on your kind will not be allowed to harm one another.”
The modern city of New Polis slept safe. The night went unravaged by criminals. Men and women walked without cares for even the simplest of dangers.
For fifty years Extra Man kept a keen watch. He patrolled the skies above the entire nation to reassure citizens of their safety. Even the threat of war had ceased, armies stood down on Extra Man’s command. No foreign power dared to approach the continent with aggression.
Two men stood in a secret lab, sealed from any and all prying eyes.
“Factor X: the perfect poison.” Venius Gray held up a small test tube filled with green liquid. “Undetectable. Irrevocably deadly. The tiniest particle will kill.”
“How long before?” Sinclair Klein asked. His eyes were haunted. Sweat crept up around the corners of his expensive suit. “How long will it take, days? Hours?”
Venius Gray paused to do the calculation. “It will take between three and five days depending on the weight and build of the target.”
“Okay.” Mr. Klein took in a deep breath. He sat the briefcase on Venius Gray’s workbench, opening it to reveal stacks of bills. “You’re sure Extra Man can’t hear anything inside this lab?”
“Certain.” Venius closed the briefcase and set it off to the side. “Best of luck. Oh, and Mr. Klein?”
“If anybody learns of this, we’re all dead.”
Mr. Klein’s shoulders sagged under the weight of his conscience. He took the tank of Factor X and left.
NEWS BULLETIN: Contaminated Water Supply. Tri State area decimated by unknown poison. More as the story develops. . . .
The chaos was total.
Extra Man flew into a rage, determined to find the culprits. To bring them to justice. He scoured the country for clues, the search taking him from one coast to the next.
He inspected the molecular structure of the poison using his Extra Sight and pieced together the origins of the raw materials. He traced delivery routes and shipping manifests until he found the lab that synthesized the deadly Factor X poison that had killed over twenty million people in the northeast corner of the continent.
Would that the damage were so contained.
By that time a hundred million more had been killed. The poison having been dropped into water supplies across the country days before.
Finally, Extra Man found the source.
He blew the doors off Venius Gray’s secret lab to find the scientist cowering in a corner with a pistol in his mouth.
The scientist dropped his weapon on the floor.
“Please. I didn’t know what he was going to do . . . I just–“
“Out with it!” Extra Man screamed with rage, his voice shattering all of the tempered glass vials in the lab.
A trickle of blood came from Venius Gray’s ear.
“I just want to die, Extra Man. I deserve to. I’m sorry for what I’ve done.”
The scientist slumped in Extra Man’s hands.
Extra Man left him on the floor of his lab.
Sinclair Klein stood on the edge of a great red cliff. His nice handmade suit torn and dusty after wandering the southwestern desert for several days, tortured by what he had done. The time in the desert steeled him. He had made the right decision.
Extra Man touched down from the sky. Sinclair turned to meet his gaze, steady and calm.
“To free my people. A hundred and twenty million of them, anyway.”
Extra Man’s heart slowed in his chest. He went silent for a long while. Sinclair held his piece and waited for the great hero to speak.
“I saved you from yourselves. I–“ Extra Man’s voice trembled with the realization that his iron fist had not been benevolent, how could he have been so blind? “For the last fifty years I’ve kept you like children or pets to be protected.” The great hero closed his eyes.
“Yes.” Sinclair Klein nodded. He wiped sweat and some dust from his forehead. “And if you must wipe me from the planet as well, then I will welcome it.”
Extra Man went silent. He’d done it again, though he’d promised himself that he wouldn’t.
“I think I can make it up to you, but neither of us will survive.”
Every newspaper on the continent carried the story of Extra Man’s death at the hands of the super villain Sinclair Klein.
The villain used an alien element to strip Extra Man of his power. Then the he lead Extra Man into the desert and brutally killed him with a stone, of all things.
The papers carried a manifesto that Sinclair Klein had stolen from Extra Man’s lair. A creed listing moral behavior, elucidating right from wrong. The people of the continent would study the document at great length. For generations scholars would interpret, and reinterpret the rights and wrongs listed within.
Sinclair Klein’s execution was televised.