Embrace it. Allow it. Immersed within it. Darkness. Every superhero, every vigilante, needs a shade of darkness tinting their soul. My eyes closed, my mind existing with the darkness. Calm, serene, placid. Thoughts racing through my mind. Villains to vanquish, days to save, hearts to win. Perched, a hint of strain whispering out from the muscles in my leg, threatening to soil my meditative state. My hand clutches tightly for support, veins pulsing, threatening to hack through the skin of my wrist. Strength. Unrelenting strength. Immovable resolve. I sigh, content, warmed by the darkness, and slowly open my eyes…
The city stretches out below me. Vast, sprawling, intricate. Buildings of all sizes burst into the air as far as the eye can see. A thousand varying steps thrust out before me. A million windows glittering and reflecting at every height as the mid-morning sun timidly creeps out from behind the obligatory cloud cover. To the right the ocean nudges the coastline, the limited beach, ever so gently. Almost threatening to unleash its tide but never quite following through on its threat. One hundred something stories below cars, buses, lorries weave their way through the streets, feint blasts of angrily-battered horns make their way up to me. Pedestrians gather, scatter, mill disparately through their own lives, problems and mornings. Nothing more than specs. Dots. Ants, even. Ants aimlessly burrowing back and forward, listless in direction, aimless in ambition.
And I perch here. On the edge of this roof. A slight breeze brushes through my hair. Fading tiles quiver unsteadily below my rigid feet. Hundreds of feet above the ground. Above them. Looking down on them. Looking down on all. Watching over. Protecting. Saving. They’re beginning. Beginning to realise my worth. My cause…
They never saw it coming! A one-two, straight from the shadows. No time to prepare. No time to reconcile. This is how I operate. This is how WE operate. All vigilantes. All superheroes. Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Matt Murdock; they spend their life in the shadows. Cloaked by the night, veiled by the city. Ready to pounce, to liberate. The villains, they’re different. They hide in plain sight. Eased by their arrogance, their treachery. Strengthened by their belief that they’ll never be caught. Tried. Convicted. Defeated. But the shadows is our dominion. Our territory. In the dark we are all the same. Sightless, unsure, afraid perhaps. We are equal, unbound by the constraints of the daylight, unfettered by the power that comes with our daily existence. I look at all those ‘glittering’ windows. Behind everyone a crook, a criminal. In this part of town anyway. The Financial District. The cesspit of the city. The swamp of society. Fraud, extortion, embezzlement stalk the halls and staircases of these buildings. The stench filters all the way from the ground floor reception to the upper reaches of these sky-scraping behemoths. Particularly in this building below me. More so than most.
And so I did what needed to be done.
The authorities will be dealing with the culprits now. Led away. In cuffs. In chains. Their eyes filled with tears, fear dripping from their trembling lips. Ruing the day I ever entered their lives. Cursing my very existence. My cause.
I see them far below, gathering, huddling. Ants. A few have spotted me I bet. Many will be cursing, more will be in awe. Such is the life of the superhero. You take the hatred with the love. The villainy with the adulation. But I will not hide. No longer. Those who try to discredit me, to bad name me, will not succeed. The people need to see their hero. They need to see the one who will always have their back in these poisonous times. They need someone they can trust. Someone they can look up to. Someone who allows them to live their life without fear, without torment.
That someone is me.
I AM THE…
‘I…SAID…THAT’S…THE…WHISTLEBLOWER!’ a suited man screeched through the everyday city sounds – car horns, a pneumatic drill, a myriad of lorries reversing seemingly simultaneously – in an attempt to be heard by his colleague standing next to him.
‘What? The one that snitched on his colleagues!?’ came the softer reply as the drilling ceased momentarily – the attention of the ‘driller’ arrested by the sight of the man currently perched a hundred-odd stories in the air on top of the high-rise towering above the streets below.
‘How do you know it’s him?! He looks like a bloody ant all the way up there!’
‘It’s him. He ran through the office before we were ‘evacuated’.’
‘What’s he doing!? Is he going to jump!?’
‘Who the fuck knows!’
‘Why would he jump!? I mean, it’s the others that’ll be spending their next four or five decades cooped up behind bars, not him?’
‘Why would you say that?’
‘Because that bastard was in as deep as any of the others! That’s why! He embezzled millions! Price-fixing, money laundering, the lot. He only turned grass when he was caught!’
‘Bastard. But surely he’s done a deal? You know, to exonerate himself?’
‘Only for a handful of the charges, not for the rest. There’s a whole host of charges against him. The other bastards are guilty as sin, and deserve to fucking rot, but this guy? This bastard was the worst of the lot! Pensions, savings, mortgages. Everything. There’s no way the prosecutors could let him off without charge. No, he’s got a long, long stretch ahead of him I would think.’
‘If he makes it that far…’ nodded the colleague distractedly as he turned to see police officers running from a hastily parked patrol car and forcing their way through the now-large assembled mass of onlookers. All craning their necks, some shielding their eyes from the glare, as they stared skywards.
‘It’s always the quiet ones,’ the suited man rubbed his neck to relive the strain as he stared toward the heavens ‘well…it’s the arrogant, brash bastards aswell but the quiet ones are the ones that surprise you.’
‘I don’t think I ever worked with him, come to think of it. Never even came across him.’
‘I did, once or twice. Quiet one. Worked towards the back of the 33rd floor, in ‘the shadows’ as we call it. One of the light bulbs there has been knackered for years you see and never replaced so it’s slightly darker in that part of the office. He would slink about like a bloody phantom sometimes. Odd bugger. Not very sociable. The only thing anyone seemed to know about him was he was a massive comic-book nerd. And even that’s only because he would wear Superman or Captain America or whoever-the-hell t-shirts on dress-down Fridays. Every week a different one, without fail.’
‘Superheroes for god’s sake!’ scoffed the colleague. ‘He’ll need a bloody superhero to get him out of this mess!’
‘Yeah, he’s…oh shit…’
The crowd surged, sporadic screams and intakes of breath shooting into the air, as the figure perched on the building roof hundreds of feet above them suddenly let go of the pole he had, until now, been clinging to so steadfastly for the best part of an hour. He seemed to edge forward ever so gradually, raising himself slowly to a standing position. His arms suddenly outstretched.
Stomachs, hearts, throats in the assembled crowd took another lurch as he edged closer and closer to the edge. A dark cloud crept slowly above the building as the speck of a man, arms outstretched as if preparing to take flight, stepped off the roof of the building.