REAL WORLD HEROISM • by Matthias R. Gollackner

Ethan stood atop a thirty-two-storey apartment building, looking out over the city. His black cape moved with the wind, making a sound like that of a flag caught in a stiff breeze. His dream was finally coming true, he thought. Comic books and movies were one thing, but tonight he was going to live it. He was going to save a life, stop a crime, and take on his role as the nighttime protector of this city. He hadn’t yet thought of a name for himself, but surely the citizens below would create one for him.

He sat amongst his thoughts up on the building for what felt like hours, waiting for some sign that he was needed in the streets below. He had been a quiet, geeky kid most of his life; spending countless days caught up in his video games and comics. Once he moved out on his own he had started to change himself. He took self defence classes, and began to work out, all with a set goal in mind. It had taken him two long years to perfect his body for this dream of his. Sadly, he thought, in his dream he had a better costume. This tight black shirt, black track pants and old ski mask made him look more like a common criminal than a hero, but this was, after all, only his test run. A better costume would come eventually.

Just as he was beginning to wonder if this night held any adventure for him, sirens rang out from the streets below. His heart began to beat violently against his chest; adrenaline began to flow through his body. “This is it!” he thought to himself. “My chance to be a hero!”

He quickly realized that he was unable to see where the sirens were coming from while at the top of the building and decided he needed to get closer to the ground. Maybe he should have invested in a police scanner, he mentally noted, but there was no point in turning back now.

He stood motionless for a moment, considering the possibility of taking the elevator, but that would take too long, and it wasn’t very heroic. Looking around, he saw the fire escape. Not as heroic, but until the rappelling equipment he’d bought online showed up, this was going to have to do.

After only three flights of stairs, the sirens had long since disappeared into the night, and he realized that this was never going to work. Superheroes didn’t run down fire escapes, and even if they did, what was he to do when he got to the street? Hail a taxi to follow the cop cars? Defeated and depressed, he returned to the top of the building and changed out of his outfit. He needed to rethink his approach.

Three nights had passed before he got another chance. Across the hallway from his apartment he heard a loud banging. Typical of where he lived, he ignored it, and directed his attention to his TV. The banging was quickly followed by yelling, which perked Ethan’s attention. He inched his way from his couch to the peephole in his door where he saw three large men, one bearded, one with a brightly coloured mohawk, and one wearing a ball cap. “Beard-man, Mohawk, and Ball-cap,” he whispered. “My first villains.”

The lady living across from Ethan was arguing with the men; something about money, but Ethan couldn’t hear everything. It was during this argument that Mohawk shoved the woman inside her apartment and forced his way in. The other two followed behind him, slamming the door shut. Again, Ethan felt excitement well up inside him. He quickly threw on his black outfit and threw open the door to his apartment. Taking a deep breath, he tried the doorknob across the hall. They hadn’t locked the door, he realized as a smile crossed his masked face.

Rushing into the apartment, Ethan quickly took in his surroundings. The woman had been standing off to the side as the men were rummaging through her apartment. Now, however, everyone had turned their attention to Ethan. He struggled to think of a line to say, something that everybody would remember, but nothing came to mind.

“Who the hell is he?” Beard-man asked. “Are you expecting company?”

“No,” the woman answered, clearly as confused as the other three.

Ethan took a step inside, and Ball-cap began to laugh at him. “Look at this guy! Is that a cape?”

“I suggest the three of you leave.” Ethan tried to make his voice sound as deep as he could.

At this point, all three men were snickering. Beard-man walked toward Ethan until the two were face to face; Mohawk and Ball-cap returned to rummaging through the apartment.

“Screw off, kid, or you’re going to get hurt,” Beard-man growled. Neither he nor Ethan moved, so Beard-man grabbed Ethan by the collar of his shirt. “I said…” Beard-man began.

Quickly, Ethan grabbed Beard-man by the wrist and twisted his arm. Beard-man grunted in surprise and pain, and the other two turned their attention to Ethan. Ethan brought his knee to Beard-man’s nose, and shoved him outside of the door, where he fell to the ground. Ethan had never felt a rush like this before in his life.

The other two men moved on him, but Ethan was faster than they were. He blocked a punch from Mohawk and hit him back. Turning quickly, Ethan kicked Ball-cap hard in the chest before he had the chance to attack. “I’m doing it!” Ethan thought, “I’m really doing it!”

His back to the door, Ethan looked at the downed villains in front of him. He felt a sense of pride at having stopped his first crime. Ethan then felt the barrel of a gun press against the back of his head; his excitement was all too quickly replaced by fear. “I told you to leave, kid,” the previously forgotten Beard-man whispered harshly into Ethan’s ear.

Matthias R. Gollackner is a student studying English at the University of Toronto. His fiction often takes on a life of its own, branching from the mundane to the fantastical. He writes whenever he can, providing of course that he can wrestle his computer chair away from his over-sized cats.

This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.

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