Can’t

 

The bus was filled with people escaping the city, fathers holding daughters, crying for their lost mothers, couples holding each other, fear holding them.  If they knew who the man in the black woolen hat and long coat who sat amongst them was, they would be more fearful, and likely angry at him.  It was for him that the creature came, the creature that brought the destruction of their homes, of their city and of their lives.

The man sit’s at the back of the bus as it meanders along the torn up, rubble strewn highway towards the bridge.  He is doing what he thought he never would, leaving the city, leaving the people he had sworn to protect, behind.  As cold wind rattles the windows, he pulls his hat down around his ears and wraps his coat tightly around him.

For years he had defended the city from all manner of dangers; criminals and crime of all sorts, natural disasters, psychopaths bent on murder torture and destruction.  He was tested many times, faltered at some, but has always triumphed, thanks to the powers he was born with; strength, speed, agility and intelligence. But this new threat was unlike any of the others.  It was surely not of the world of men, It most closely resembled an ape, a great gorilla, but only in shape, as the finer details of its anatomy differed as much as a fish does to a cockroach.  The creature stood at roughly twelve foot, but it rarely stood, preferring to travel at a hunched over run.  Its skin was translucent pale blue, like the edges of the sky, and it had great teeth, like a shark, though jagged and odd sizes.  Its hands were disproportionate to its body, much bigger than sense would call for and it wore not a thread of clothing on its body, and its excitement during times of destruction where apparent in its engorged member, which it rubbed against the entrails of humans, bystanders to its hunt, that it had torn to pieces.

The bus continued its stunted exit from the city, and as it neared the bridge would would take them clear of what seemed to be the beast’s range of destruction, the passengers became more animated.  They began to look out the windows, where previously they had looked at each other, or a nothing at all.  They felt that they where about to be free of the danger that had stunned their lives.

The man in the hat and coat did not move.  For him, the struggle in his mind was taking up all his energy.  In his mind he heard the voices of people who had made him into the man, the hero he had become.  His mother, who was one of the first to notice that he was different than other children, hard not to when he had spoke his first words at two months of age, which had been ‘Mother’ a week later, he was calling her ‘Mother’, ‘Mom’ and ‘Ma’.  Before he was one, he could address her in several languages.  Rather than being intimidated or overtly proud of this exceptional behaviour, his Mother had merely applauded each new achievement, and pushed him to another. When she spoke in his mind, it was always in a calm and questioning form.

“Where will you go?” she asked, but the man did not know, so he said “I can’t stay.”

Next the voice of his Father, a much darker figure from his youth spoke to him.

“You running away boy?  Why ain’t I surprised?” his Father had always pushed him to display his powers, to show that he was a better man than his supposed peers.  He was far beyond apologising to his father, who was now a politician and wielded power of his own.

The hum of voices increased as the bus neared the halfway point of the bridge, the voices increased as influential and important people from his life spoke to him with words of encouragement, with questions, and entreaties to change his mind and return to the city he had once championed.

“If you gotta go, you gotta go.” His oldest and closest friend, Derek Prince.

“If you can’t stop this thing, no one can, what will happen to this city?” Pauline Short, his boss at his day job, an investment banker, which he used as cover for the income that his role as city protector provided.

“Wad goin’ happen’ when ‘e rips da city to da groun’, figures you ain’t dere no mo’, you fink he goin’ jus’ gi’ up?” Old Con, in his broken dancing southern drawl, always a straight talking man.

The voices rose and flowed over one another, caterwauling in his mind, his heart beat rose as he struggled to contol himself, thumping loudly against his chest. He flung himself forward in his seat clutching his raging head in his hands, grimacing as he fought his training and his beliefs to allow to leave so that he might live.  Next to him a small boy who was sat on his sleeping grandmothers lap noticed his distress, but before he could open his mouth to ask the man if he was okay, he noticed the mans clothes.  His dark hat and coat where nondescript, but when he flew forward to the edge of his seat, his coat hung open, and beneath it the boy could see the glint of mettle, and the familiar colours of the cities hero, orange on black.  The boy began to tug on his grandmothers arm, his eyes flicking from her slowly waking face to the struggling hero sat across from him.

The voices became to much for the man and he screamed from behind his hands.

“I CAN’T!” he roared, and every head on the bus turned to look at him.  He stood, panting, his jacket hanging open so that everyone cold see the symbol that covered his chest, one that they all knew.  A man near the middle of the bus stood and rose a trembling finger towards the hero.

“You… your…” he began, but he was interrupted by a great noise from outside. The bus shook as the bridge swung from the force of impact.  The beast had landed, about forty feet from the bus.  The bus driver yanked up the handbrake, and the bus skidded to a stop.  The creature roared and slammed its huge fists into the road, shaking the bus further still, so that the man who had attempted to identify the hero fell back into his chair, but the hero stood still, staring down the length of the bus and out of the windshield at the salivating beast that waited for him on the last stretch of bridge.

The voices in his head where silent now, he knew what he had to do.  He pulled the woolen cap off his head, and tossed it to the side, where it fell into the hands of the boy who had first recognised him.  The boy held it close.  He shrugged the jacket off of his shoulders and let it fall to his feet.  He stood to his full impressive height, chest pushed pushed out, biceps flexing underneath his orange and black skin suit.  He reached to his waist and unsheathed the traditional samurai sword that hung there, a gift from an old ally.  He walked slowly to the front of the bus, keeping his sword in front of him, always in a battle stance, prepared that the beast may attack the bus at any moment.

But it did not, it waited for him on the road, seemingly aware that what it desired was at last was about to happen.  That it would get its chance to feast on the flesh of the best that man could offer.

The hero, stepped onto the bridge and looked back at the city for a brief moment.  He was glad that the voices had stilled now, but hoped that in his final moment, they would return top help him through to the other side.  He did not want to be alone.

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3 comments
  1. “Its skin was translucent pale blue, like the edges of the sky” Amazing line. I think it may even have inspired me to paint something…..

  2. Debbie said:

    That was riveting! Very long read for the AtoZ Challenge though. Will try to drop by again. You write so well. 🙂

    • Oh, there are shorter ones coming! Especially towards the end of the month…

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Limerick Writers' Centre

Supporting Literature, Arts and Culture in Limerick since 2008.

NUIG Writers' Society

NUIG's society for exploring each other's writing in a welcoming environment.

The Lacklustre Emporium

The strange ravings of Joshua Kenehan, writer, illustrator, student, madman.

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