(Content Warning: Some mild violence.)
She falls like a ghost lost in the endless void. Light-as-a-feather, yet heavy as a concrete brick, she falls. Her eyes point to the sky as the wind whips through her golden locks, so vast, so beautiful. The blue floral dress that she spent so much time contemplating whether or not to wear that morning flapped in the updraft of gravity.
There were no tears to cry. What would be the point of sobbing anyway? Her life would soon be over with a bloody splat on the pavement below. People would glance at her lifeless body as they walked by, and she supposed a few people would scream at the sight, but even that didn’t matter. Would they even want to know her name?
Her heart beats heavy, almost in slow motion, and the bitter taste of bile erupts in her mouth. How inconvenient, but again, it doesn’t matter. The maniacal laughter from the bald-headed man was the only thing she could hear. Why did he push her off the building in the first place?
They say that no one is born evil, but at this moment, she had the perfect argument to challenge that statement. She closed her soft green eyes and tried to picture those most cherished memories, but they didn’t come. Instead, her mind was filled with reckless thoughts of life after death. Was there an afterlife? Did she do enough good in the world to pass final judgment? Would she feel the impact?
She couldn’t answer those questions.
No use praying now because there wasn’t any more hope to hang onto. Hope is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s all we have to keep us going. Hope brings purpose; purpose brings aspiration, desire, expectations, ambition, and dreams. Something to hold onto in this God-forsaken world. Hope.
Spreading her arms wide open, she felt the weightlessness of her body. Her time was coming to an end, and she could feel every second pass by. There were no cries of mercy or forgiveness. She was now an angel falling from grace.
Out of nowhere, two warm arms cradled her body close to his, and she could feel her descent slow to a screeching halt. The man was wearing a symbol of hope on his chiseled chest. She looked into his steely blue eyes and felt comforted.
“Don’t worry, ma’am. I’ll make sure you’re safe.” He set her down in a sea of spectators, and before he could fly away, he asked, “What is your name?”
“Lilly,” she replied.
He smiled warmly. “Are you alright, Lilly?”
“Yes… Yes, I am.”
“Glad to hear it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to deal with a psychotic mad man.”
Feeling her hope return, Lilly shouted, “Go get him, Superma-”
Snapping back to his senses, Jake turned his attention to his mother’s voice. He took a few deep breaths and trudged up the stairs. He checked the living room first because that’s where she liked to relax while watching her night-time soap operas.
“Mom? Where are you at?”
“I’m the kitchen! We’re out of milk, and I need you to go get some more!”
Jake walked into the kitchen to find his mother rummaging through the fridge like a rat looking for a piece of cheese. She was wearing a light blue bathrobe, and her silvery hair had pink curlers spread throughout her enormous scalp.
She poked her head above the refrigerator door and fired, “Why are you still here? We need milk!”
“Do I have to go right now?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind. I love to watch my shows with a big bowl of Coco Pebbles, and how can I eat this delicious cereal without milk?” She paused and eyeballed Jake. “Why are you wearing a suit?”
Jake grimaced. “I always wear a suit, mom.”
Rolling her eyes, she snapped, “Well, whatever! Go get my milk!”
Jake grabbed his wallet and briskly walked out the door. It was a good thing that Jake’s mom didn’t know about his secret double life because if his enemies ever found out who he really was, it would put her in danger. By day, Jake was a student at National American College, and by night, he was a hero - at least in his own mind. The constant bombardment of mental abuse from his mother caused Jake to escape into his own fantasy world where no one could hurt him. He loved his mom more than anything, but being a hero was his true purpose in life.
Just last week, Jake had reported two armed burglaries that he witnessed from his bedroom window. He saved the day, and that feeling was like a drug. Sure, it was a personal call, but he did the right thing. His neighbors were happy, even though they had no idea who called the police. That’s what selfless heroes are supposed to do, right?
As Jake drove his scooter down to the local gas station, he could smell the sweet aroma of fried food in the air. Ruby City was always bustling with food vendors lined up at every street corner. He loved the chili dogs Merle sold from his stand and thought about buying one or two for later.
It was late, and the gas station was dead. That was good news for Jake because he just wanted to get in and out, so he could return home and keep his watchful eyes on the community.
The bright lights pierced Jake’s eyes as he entered the store. It took a moment for his pupils to adjust. He quickly grabbed a gallon of milk and some potato chips, just in case. He knew that his mother loved snacking, and the only thing she loved more than cereal was potato chips. Better safe than sorry, he thought.
Making his way back to his scooter, Jake placed the milk and chips into the storage department underneath his seat. Suddenly, like a flash of lightning in the night sky, he heard a scream coming from the alley behind the gas station. Curious, Jake had to take a look. What kind of hero would he be if he ignored the solemn cries of a person in need?
He tiptoed to the back alley and glanced around the corner. There he saw a beautiful blonde woman wearing a floral dress pressed up against the wall by a scruffy-looking old man dressed in black. He had a gun pointed at her head, and Jake noticed that her entire body was trembling in fear.
“Give me all your money now, or I’ll blow your head off!” threatened the scruffy man.
“Please, don’t kill me. I-I have a family!” sobbed the beautiful woman.
Standing defiantly before the dark criminal with fierce determination and courage in his eyes, Jake sneered through clenched teeth, “Get away from her!”
The dark man turned his attention to Jake and saw a young, stupid kid wearing a soft black suit, dark glasses, and nicely combed hair. He smiled at the absurdity of the situation. The man placed one hand on the woman’s neck to hold her in place and pointed his gun at Jake.
“Runaway, kid. No one has to get hurt tonight. Forget you ever saw this, and I’ll let you live.”
Jake balled his fists, ready to attack, and spat back, “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Mr.”
The man started to laugh as he squeezed the woman’s throat. She squealed and tried to plead with the man, but no words would come out.
“This is your last warning! Leave now, and I promise no one will get hurt!”
Jake ruffled his face in anger and reached down to his white buttoned dress shirt. He pulled as hard as he could, and the buttons popped off like popcorn. “I don’t think you know who you’re messing with. I’m Superma-”
The dark man fired two shots at Jake, thinking he was reaching for a gun. The bullets hit their mark clear and true, puncturing Jake’s heart like two spears. He fell to the pavement gasping for air.
That distraction was just what the woman needed. The scruffy old man released his grip from her throat just long enough to fire at Jake. The woman reached down and pulled her high heel shoe off. When the dark man turned his attention back to her, she stabbed him in the right eye. Thick warm crimson blood spewed forth and splattered the woman’s face. The old man screamed and fired his gun with reckless abandon until he ran out of bullets. The woman had ducked down long enough to escape the onslaught of carnage.
The police arrived on the scene and tackled the dark man to the ground. As they placed their handcuffs on him, the beautiful woman ran over to her fallen hero, Jake. He was still breathing, but just barely.
“Call an ambulance!” she yelled.
One of the officers declared, “We have one in route, ma’am. Are you alright?”
She sat down next to Jake and held his cold hand. Her eyes were filled with tears, and her heart was full of sorrow and appreciation for what he did. “I’m just fine, thanks to my hero!”
Jake smiled as the light faded from his eyes.
In the end, Jake gave the woman what she needed. Something that may have been lost in that terrifying moment. Hope.
Daniel R. Hayes