by Himanshu Shukla
“Why can’t I do anything? Why am I always so powerless?”
Bill Snider sat in his large comfortable desk at an accountants’ firm and thought to himself.
“Who am I kidding? I didn’t want to be an accountant. I don’t deserve this job; my uncle gave it to me and told me to look cute in my suit.”
Bill looked down and adjusted his tie as he spoke to himself.
“I didn’t want to sign papers, drink coffee and laugh with greedy people for 10 years; I wanted to be a dancer. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Bill’s assistant opened the door.
“Mr. Snider, some customers are here to file a report. They’re down stairs. Also central campus sent us a letter about your consistently good results. They’d like you to RSVP.”
The women sat a thin stack of papers on Bill’s huge desk.
And she left.
Bill looked at the stack, took out a pencil and some paper from his drawer, and began to write. He spoke as he wrote.
“My wife left me a few years ago. She told me the money wasn’t enough. ‘It’s over Bill. I don’t love you anymore. You’re a loser. I’m taking Richie and going to go live with my aunt in Virginia.’ She told me over the phone, so I couldn’t cry and apologize before she hung up. Julie-Ann…”
His pencil lead snapped. He opened up the drawer and got a new one, and continued writing.
“I know exactly what I’d like to say to these money hungry bastards: buy me a new heart.”
“No matter what I do… No matter what’s given to me, I’m still a loser.”
His pencil snapped again.
“Even with these damn powers…”
His hands began to glow orange.
“I’m powerless, I can’t do anything right! I can’t hold on to anything I care about!”
The Falcon opened his eyes. He kneeled on top of some rubble, next to a bloody teenage kid who lay on the ground, breathing weakly and watching steadily.
“I am a loser. Why am I so powerless??!!”
He screamed and punched the rubble with his fist. His fist sank deep into the rubble.
The kid’s eyebrows furrowed and he tried to get up but couldn’t.
“You aren’t powerless Mr. Falcon, you’re not a loser.”
The Falcon closest his eyes and began to cry again, heavily. He tried to say something cool to encourage the kid but couldn’t control his quivering mouth to form a word. He just sobbed.
“Why are you crying Mr. Falcon? You have to save everyone….”
The kids consciousness waned, but then he continued.
“Because you’re the hero…”
The Falcon looked hard at the fading kid through his tearful eyes, then picked him up and carried him into a nearby building. He laid him down, wiped the boys tears from his sleeping face, and then dried his tears on his outfit. He stood up, and looked out.
“The girl said I still have until 9:30PM to find the last two bombs before they detonate. It’s 9:12 now, that gives me 20 minutes.”
He push his fist above him into the air.
“I swear on my life…”
Clouds began to spiral in the sky, glowing an intense orange color near the center of them.
“On my weak pathetic life…”
The glowing grew brighter, and four heavy streams of light burst through the clouds. Two of them went into the windows of two small houses on opposite sides of city, one shone on him, and the other shone on the 20th floor of a building a few yards away from him. He looked at it.
Then he looked to the light to his right, and he leapt, hard, leaving two small craters where his feet left the ground. He came down on top of small donut shop, and looked back at the light in the skyscraper. He saw the eyes of a man with dark red hair and a sniper rifle. He chuckled to himself, before leaping again towards the light to the right.
He arrived at the house and peaked inside the window. He saw a family eating dinner.
He began to weep. He saw a boy, a woman, and a man. They were all happy.
Suddenly something quick and small whizzed past his head, breaching his costume, and broke the glass. The family inside began to panic.
The Falcon leapt into the window and desperately began speaking.
“Please stay calm. There is a bomb in this house and I’m trying to find it.”
The women stood up harshly, knocking her chair and her plate of macaroni to the ground.
“Bill is that you?! What are you doing?! Why are you dressed like that?! What’s going on?!?!”
The Falcon looked at her with his knees wobbling. He found the strength to pull his trembling arms to his face, and slowly remove his mask. His tears had been flattened upon his cheeks.
“I don’t have time to explain Jan…” He said weakly.
“But I’ve got a job to do. The bomb is in the master bedroom tied up beneath the bed.”
The women’s eyes penetrated the Falcon’s.
Right then, the man sitting stunned at the table was shot in his right shoulder. He was blasted onto the ground. The glass he still had near his hand fell and shattered.
The women and boy screamed as the father writhed in pain. The Falcon looked over and cursed.
“Everyone move away from the windows!! Go take him into another room now!!”
The Falcon ran into the living room, up the stairs, down the hall, into the master bedroom and flipped over the mattress. He found a small bundle of dynamite explosives taped to its bottom with a screen that read 5:05. He cursed again, ripped off the bombs, jumped out of the window towards the other light and forced each one of the cylindrical explosives still connected to the screen into his throat and swallowed them. He bit off the wires to the screen, and the inside of his eyes lit up as his body spread out wide. He was still in the air, roaring in agony, and smashed into a nearby house. The boy came outside, and watched the smoke leave his dumbly opened mouth. He thought The Falcon looked like a cartoon character.
“Hey!!! That was amazing!! That was amazing man!! You’re a real life super hero!!!!”
The Falcon opened his eyes, and saw his ex wife, and his child, standing outside of the house, watching him. The woman was crying. She was smiling and crying.
“Please… Please go back inside.”
As The Falcon got up to his feet, an immense force struck his left arm behind his bicep. It forced him to the ground again. It made him bleed profusely. The woman gasped. The child yelled.
“No!! You’ve got to get up!! Get up!! Get the bad guy!!”
The Falcon used his left hand to sit up, and he watched the boy with his tired eyes.
“Hey you! Kid!!”
The boy looked surprised. He looked at his mother, and then back at The Falcon, shyly asking, “who me?”
The Falcon smiled.
“Yea you! Listen, always protect your mommy, okay? Protect her and be strong like me okay?? If you be strong, then you can do this!”
The Falcon jumped up into the air, a bullet whizzed past his feet and harpooned deep into the dirt. He landed on the building he was beside, and smiled at the child and mother.
“Wow that was coooooool!!!” yelled the kid.
The mother’s face looked worried. She wanted to talk but didn’t know what to say.
She finally called out to him.
“Be careful out there Mister! We believe in you! I believe in you!!”
The Falcon smiled at them both, and his eyes intensified. His irises glowed with a red passion. He looked towards the 20th story of the skyscraper with the sniper lurking inside. A bullet whizzed towards his head, but he dodged it with only a move of the neck. His line of sight stayed intact.
“I don’t have time for this…”
The Falcon then jumped towards the light to the left.
The bloody teenager struggled to his feet. Both of his eyes were soaked in blood, which made it hard for him to see so late at night. He used the beams of light from the sky as a compass, and walked towards the light on the left.
“Damn it, where is Nevaeh?” the boy asked himself as he walked.
He looked down at his watch, which said 9:15PM, and caught a glimpse of the tattoo on his forearm that Nevaeh gave him before they were split up. It read “Uh Oh!” and had a double underline. The boy chuckled.
“Haha, ‘Uh Oh!’ That girl is so weird.”
The boy kept walking until he arrived at the house engulfed in The Falcon’s orange light. A family of cats was nestled up underneath the house. The boy knocked on the door and waited for an answer. He didn’t get one. He peered into the window of the house and saw the lights were off.
“Do normal people really go to sleep this early? But it’s a Saturday!”
He went around the back of the house, climbing the fence on the house’s side. There, he noticed a small bundle of explosives connected to a screen that read 10:03, attached to the power switch box behind the house. He began trying to un-knot the wiring from the box. He heard a small, inhuman voice.
“So you’re the one she calls Rocket…”
The injured boy whipped his head back in surprise, feeling nauseous at the speed of his turn.
“ugh…” the boy groaned at the dizziness. “Who’s there?”
The little voice continued, this time accompanied by other little voices chuckling and chattering delightfully, “You have the tattoo! You really ARE Rocket!! And you’re here to save us from our fate!”
The boy searched the darkness for the source of the voice to no avail.
“I need something to cut the wires of this bomb. If you mean peace, please bring me something to cut with.”
The boy heard a bunch of rustling coming from all sides, he wasn’t sure how this person, or people, could move so fast and have such an odd voice.
“Use this tool friend.”
The boy looked around confused and tired.
“Look down here friend, at your feet.”
The boy gasped.
“You’re a cat! And you can talk!! You’re all talking cats!!”
The cat he saw beneath the house was holding some old gardening scissors in it’s mouth near the boy’s feet, and many other cats of different colors and sizes were scattered amongst the yard as well, hugging and laughing victoriously. The boy picked the scissors from the cat’s mouth.
The cat that’d given him the scissors backed up a bit, and began to speak.
“We used to live in this house. My memories are still fragmented, but I’ve pieced together most of the important details. I was the father, and these two here were my children.”
The two kittens beside him squee’d when they were mentioned.
“All of these cats here used to live with their families on this street. We weren’t born this way. We were forced to live like this!”
The boy’s eyes narrowed with knowing.
“Nevaeh was here?”
The father cat’s whiskers rose.
“Yes, the clever girl! She arrived here with some men who planted that bomb. They were policemen!!”
The cat looked out in the distance, as if remembering a fond memory.
“While the policemen worked on the bomb, she told us she had a friend named Rocket who would help her save all of us. She said you were trustworthy!”
Rocket looked at his feet.
“She said that about me…? If she only knew how beat up I was now”
“Alright cats, I mean guys…”
He began cutting the wires attaching the bomb to the power switch box. The cat’s watched him and speculated about his personality as he worked. Once he freed the bomb, he held it in his hands and thought. It read 5:04. A small brown cat with a white stripe on the bridge of its nose walked over to Rocket.
“Rocket, I used to be a doctor… before the government changed us.”
Rocket looked down at the white nosed cat.
“I can tell by your bleeding that you’ll die if you don’t get some rest soon.”
Rocket wiped the bloody sweat from his forehead and smiled brightly. The cat continued.
“I have a boy at home who looks just like you. Thank God he was living with my sister when they came… I haven’t seen him in two years Rocket.”
Rocket stared at the cat, and then at the others. He felt anger.
“Listen to me. The people you and your friend are about to face are evil. They don’t care about things like family and humanity, and what’s worse is that they may be the people we’ve come to trust the most.”
Rocket looked back at the bomb’s timer, it still read 5:04.
“It’ll be impossible to turn us back, I know that…”
Rocket kept looking at the clock.
“But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on life. My wife and I still want to see my boy achieve his dreams Rocket! I still want him to be the best Goddamn dancer he can be… Even if it’s never what I wanted for him. I just want him to know that it doesn’t matter, that I’ll still love him, right here, forever.”
The small cat stopped talking, and released a soft meow, a sad one it seemed.
Right then, a large human figure walked out from behind one of the trees. His right hand covered his mouth intensely, as his left arm dangled to his side.
“I just want him to know…”
The figure petted the cat on the head, stopping it from saying anything else. He picked it up, held it to his chest with his right arm, and cried hard into its forehead. Rocket was near tears himself, and gave the bomb to the man to hold. The man put down the white-nosed cat.
At that moment one of the cats began to scream out in horror. A bullet had pierced through a kitten’s thigh and the surrounding exploded into a panic.
“Ok, give me the bomb, I’ve got to get out of here. Moves these people somewhere safe kid!”
The kid gave him the bomb, and as The Falcon grabbed it with his right arm, a bullet hit him in his right shoulder, throwing out his right arm too.
“Damn it!!” The falcon screamed out in pain. The cats howled and panicked at the scene. The white-nosed cat looked wide-eyed at The Falcon, and then turned to Rocket.
“Please! You’ve got to get him out of here! Go as far as you can! Go now!!!!”
“But what about the bomb!! It’s going to explode in a few minutes!!”
The white-nosed cat looked back at the panicking clowder.
“Don’t worry about the bomb, we’ll move it into an empty house. We couldn’t touch it before because it was too high up. Drop the bomb and run Rocket! Run with my life in your hands!!”
Rocket dropped the bomb near the white-nosed cat, and took The Falcon by the arm.
“Let’s go Falcon!!”
But The Falcon didn’t move. His left leg stepped forward but wobbled, and he feel to his knee. He touched his chest and felt the bloody wound where a bullet had just penetrated his lungs. He laid backwards onto the ground, and the white-nosed cat and Rocket got in close to him.
“…I’m sorry guys. But I… I couldn’t do it…”
“You’ve gotta get up Falcon!!! YOU CAN’T DIE LIKE THIS!!!”
The white-nosed cat looked at the wound, and then at his son’s face, at his eyes, and he said,
“Billy, I don’t know what you’ve done in your life, and I don’t care…”
The Falcon began to cry, he was trying to say something, but he couldn’t articulate it while bawling like he was.
“Everyday of my life I’ve wished that I could tell you just once… just once how much your life means to me Billy.”
The Falcon looked at the building that housed his killer, with sheer terror in his eyes. Rocket followed his eyes to that same building, and he felt something like pure hatred. The white-nosed cat laid his head on The Falcon’s body, pushing his face into his stomach, and meowed. The Falcon swallowed his misery, and looked at Rocket.
“Boy… Listen to me…”
Rocket turned from the building and bent his back lower to hear Falcon’s last breaths.
“I’m not a hero Rocket… I’m a coward.”
The Falcon strained to bring his right arm up to his chest, above where his father’s head lay on his stomach. He did.
“These evil people will stop at nothing to get what they want. And I’d never be able to stop them… not in a billion years…”
Bill’s father meowed harder, and his back shuttered. Rocket’s face was contorted in pain. The Falcon clenched his chest tightly, and he roared out a bellow that could be heard for miles. He pulled something from his chest, a glowing orange orb, and almost instantly his fingers, toes, hair, and every part of him too far from the orb began to petrify. He looked deep into Rocket’s eyes, as his own eyes began turning to stone.
“Take this Rocket! Take this and point your fist towards the sky so I can see it in heaven!”
The Falcon slammed his arm firmly into Rocket’s chest. Rocket began convulsing on the ground beside The Falcon’s statue. Rocket rolled over in agony, and looked up at the sky. He saw Bill dancing on stage, in front of his wife and his child. He was a good dancer.
“I get it Mr. Falcon. I get it.”
He turned to the white-nosed cat.
“Before he died, Billy told me to tell you that it’s okay, that you don’t have to live in regret anymore. He said seeing you cry this one time was good enough for him. He was happy Mr. Snider.”
The white-nosed cat’s spine slumped, and he looked toward the sky.
“It was good enough for him… I see… Thank you Rocket.”
Rocket took the bomb, which now read 00:33, and threw it high into the air. The force of the throw ignited the bomb when it reached the peak of its climb. The explosion reminded him of a T.V. show he watched once. He snickered at the silliness of the thought.
Rocket stood up, with his eyes glowing orange like the sun, and looked at the building holding The Falcon’s killer. He looked at it, and he smiled.