My sacrifice

Submitted into Contest #48 in response to: Write about a person who collects superhero comics.... view prompt



Albert lifts his glasses to rub his eyes. He proceeds to pinch himself and yelps. Nope, not a dream. Rob Con, aka The Magic Claw, stands just two isles down, swaying slightly. Albert has a mental flash of Falcon, teetering on the edge of the Elbow skyscraper, almost on the verge of losing… and then striking back, his motions graceful.

Comic books are his everything. He has tons of them. Each and every shelf lining the walls is his treasure trove. The books are meticulously organized according to the series, the year, and the dimension. The Magic Claw series - his all-time favorite - is dusted faithfully every day, revered, and reread at least three times. Falcon the Claw is his favorite superhero. Lean and mean, he is like an angel clad in golden armor. And Rob Con, the actor that played Falcon, is, to Albert's mind, a perfect fit. A huge poster of Rob Con above his bed is a testament to that.

Albert has the knack for drawing figures, but he doesn’t show his sketches to anyone. If only a chubby 14-year old boy, bespectacled and painfully shy, could snap his fingers and change it all! Like the Magic Claw could.  Albert’s passion for superheroes does not help much in terms of bullying. His mother would not stop pressuring him to start exercising. Albert would not listen. He is deep in his daydreams.

But here in Spain, daydreams do come true. Albert totters across the store. He feels dizzy. His arms and legs are made of rubber. The blood is pounding his temples like a hammer. His mouth is dry. He comes up to his superhero and squeaks out a 'Hello', in a rather high-pitched voice. The next thing Albert knows is that Rob-the-God is drunk...his eyes glassy, pupils huge. He looks through Albert and then utters a string of profanities so obscene that Albert's ears start burning. The Magic Claw gets halfway to taking a swing at the boy and falls over. The security guard rushes to them, spitting out Spanish words Albert does not understand. Albert slowly turns and walks out of the store, his shoulders sagging in defeat. He cries. The dream is gone. Snapped like a bubble. Albert flies back home.

One warm September day Albert gathers all his comic books and sets them on fire in the backyard, nearly burning the shed. Albert starts therapy. His therapist is a tall, black-haired lanky woman, who nods sympathetically throughout the session, reminding Albert of a nodding doll. She talks about the dangers of idolizing people and urges Albert to be his own superhero.

Six months pass. Albert's mother is on the phone with the therapist, thanking her tearfully. Albert is a changed boy, she says. He has lost weight. He works out. In fact, he is turning into a gym rat, Albert's mother jokes. His spectacles are long gone, replaced by invisible contacts. He does not need his inhaler anymore. His cholesterol is down. The odd thing is, she has yet to meet his friends. The therapist assures her that he probably does not tell about his friends because…well, he is fifteen, and... you have to give the boy some privacy. ‘The best thing’, she says in a confident voice, ‘is that he has understood the risks of putting people on a pedestal.’ In his room, Albert is hanging up a poster of Bulldozer above his bed, and his mood soars. The women end their conversation, pleased with each other.

       Albert is standing outside the Claw style wrestling club. He is crumpling the edge of Bulldozer’s photo in his hand. Finally, he gets to meet his superhero! The doors swing open and the crowd goes wild. Bulldozer steps out, followed by two square-shouldered security guards. He is signing autographs as he walks. Albert is watching him in awe. Bulldozer is coming closer… Suddenly there is a slight movement ahead and Albert can sense a change in crowd’s mood. He raises himself on tiptoes just in time to see his superhero’s huge fist waving in front of a fair-haired, bespectacled young guy from the front row. The guy is slightly pale. Afterwards the news said Bulldozer was posing for a picture.

Something clicks in Albert’s head and his memory takes him back to the Spanish store. For a moment, Albert goes still. And then, he sees red. He does not recall pushing his way through the crowd or stabbing Bulldozer  in the neck with the pocket knife his mother gave him for his eighteenth birthday. The only thing he can remembers is the blood-spattered blade.

        The walls in Albert’s cell are white. They feel empty and add to the emptiness he feels inside. On the outside, he has a slight stoop, and his uniform shirt is tight around his gut. He is often tearful. Albert’s therapist, Dr. Nuell, is a tall, bald man with sharp grey eyes. Albert tells him that he feels guilty. Albert takes his medicine twice a day. Two blue pills. The institution has become his home. Albert has been allowed to receive mail. His mother has written him twice. Her letters are filled with sorrow. He does not write back. One day, a yellow envelope arrives. Albert turns the envelope over, staring at his name written on the front. He does not see any return address. Just a bunch of multi-colored stamps. Albert rips the envelope open and finds a single folded sheet of paper. As he looks at it, his heart seems to stop for a moment and then starts pounding madly.  The envelope contains a single sheet of paper. Albert unfolds  the paper. He sees three sentences written in block letters. WE ALL HAVE OUR DEMONS. I FORGIVE YOU.  BD.  As Albert reads it, a tiny smile spreading across his face. He puts the note on his bed, face up, and stares at it, tracing his finger over the letters. The next day, Albert asks for  some paper and pencils.

Three years later, The BullDozer becomes the best-selling comic book series.

All Albert’s books begin with the same epigraph: ‘My sacrifice.’

July 03, 2020 13:27

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