Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ode to a Genre

I depart from my usual ramblings this time for a little fiction.

Our story takes place on the foxed pages of a comic book. The year is 1946. Entering our splash page we see a laboratory with test tubes, Tesla particle machines, and crackling electricity. In one corner of the room sits a large glass jar. Floating in that jar a human head. There is a man, or what is left of one, working the controls feverishly. His skin is yellow with pocked marks along his arms, his teeth dagger sharp with great spaces between. Underweight and over-aged his twisted body pulls levers and turns dials all while sporting a sinister smile. His Playtex green gloves conceal the horror that is left of his hands. The oversize skull holds a dark and evil brain inside while a pimply brow covers the outside. He goes by Professor Death, although I don’t believe that’s his given name or that he really taught at any school with the possible exception of Liberty University. His assistants are many smaller versions of himself, a scattering of which run about like roaches when the lights flicker on. They add to the chaos that is his lair. Pretty scary, eh?

But what our eyes rest upon is the figure of a woman, blonde of course, and beautiful. Her red dress is torn to a revealing length showing off her figure, full like a tank of gas before a holiday weekend. Arms above her head and held in bondage she lies on a wooden table unable to move. The horrible figure of Professor Death leers at her. Saliva drips from his mouth like a Saint Bernard in summer. Her name is Dolores, or Mary, or maybe even Alice. Names long ago forgotten. He speaks to her.

“You can scream all you want. Soon we’ll be in a place where no one can find you.”
“What do you want from me?” she asks with a twinge of hysteria in her voice.
“To stay with me forever!” he cackles maniacally.
“Good Lord,” she chokes.
“Yes my dear. You are to be my bride.”
“Wait, what? This is how you ask? You’re a sick bastard!” she yells at him.
“Silence!” he yells out. He throws a few more switches and the lights dim for a moment. “You will change your mind my dear after I inject you with my secret formula.”
“Only if it makes me go deaf, blind, and hard of smelling. Doesn’t this castle have any bathrooms?”

The little men stop and growl at her. Suddenly, there is a large CRASH! The cinderblock wall in the back is blown in. Standing among the rubble is a tall statue of a man. His hair is black with blue highlights. He is deceptively strong with arms and legs that look slightly plump. He is not at all effeminate in his blue and red leotards, or his black mask that barely cover his eyes. His name is Rex but while he is wearing this outfit he goes by Deluxo, Man of Might. A strange combination of bravado and modesty, he has never told Dolores, Mary, or Alice that he loves her. In his right hand he holds a huge gun pointed at Professor Death.

“Hold it right there Professor, if you really are one,” he calls out.
“Check my résumé if you don’t believe me, Deluxo.”
“I’m on a tenure track!”
 “Maybe an adjunct.”
“Silence!!” the professor yells out. “One more move and I’ll throw this switch.”
“Then what?” asks Deluxo.
“We will be catapulted into the future and your lives will be changed forever!” He finds this very humorous and laughs an unearthly laugh. He continues. “There in 1975 I’ll drive my flying atomic car and take off with my new bride to our colony on Mars.”
“I haven’t said yes yet,” says Dolores, Mary, or Alice.
"Listen you evil beast, you'll never get away with this," yells Deluxo.
"I'm not really that evil. It's just the lighting in here."
“Yeah, then what about that human head you keep in that jar?”
“Oh that. Well, that was here when I bought the place and I just haven’t gotten around to throwing it out. Now, as I was saying, don’t make me throw this switch!”
“You haven’t got the guts Professor.”
“Just try me.” And Deluxo does by taking a leap, a leap so large it’s spelled out in capital letters across the page. But he’s too late. Professor Death throws the switch and the room spins into a vortex of black and white spirals. Eerie music comes from an invisible pipe organ. Then, everything goes white…

When they regain their senses their world has changed. 

“What happened? Where are we?” asks Dolores, Mary, or Alice.
“It worked! My invention worked. We’re in the future!”
“Is that you Professor? You’ve changed.”
“My skin. It’s cleared up! And my teeth are human size. Even my scoliosis has straightened out. And look! All my henchmen have turned into grad students. My laboratory has Formica cabinets.”
“These aren’t my clothes.” Dolores, Mary, or Alice is now wearing a white blouse and a charcoal pencil skirt all neatly starched and trimmed. “Even my shape is different. I finally lost those ten extra pounds.”
“Who took my gun? I had it right here,” asks Deluxo. “Gee whiz Dolores, Mary, or Alice, look at my arms. I’m ripped!”
“Did you really just say gee whiz? And my name is Tiffany,” says Tiffany who use to be Dolores, Mary, or Alice. “Professor what has happened to us?” she asks.
“It must be because of the code.’
“Code? What code?”
“Yes, that’s it. The comic book code they were trying to pass. A group of 'concerned citizens' believed comics were the cause of all things wrong with young people. So they wanted to take out its teeth and sanitized the industry. Those fools. Meddling with creative freedom. Look what we have become, two-dimensional characters in a formulaic setting. What a nightmare. A horrible predictable nightmare.”
“I kind of like it,” says Deluxo flexing and looking at himself in a mirror. “I could never have a body like this back in the 50s.”
“Idiot,” mumbles Professor Death.
“I do have to get use to these smaller breasts, but it’s not so bad. I feel sort of —liberated,” adds Tiffany.
“It’s all gone,” he sits dejected on the linoleum floor.
“Don’t say that Professor Death. You know something, you clean up really well.”
“You think so?”
 “C’mon, you can buy me a drink,” suggests Tiffany.
“What about him?” The Professor points to Deluxo over in the corner who is still admiring his new looks.
“In all the years I’ve known him he never once tried to kiss me. I think he might be, you know.  Besides, you don’t find many men that want long-term relationships as badly as you do Professor.
“It’s Larry.”
“How much does a tenure track professor make anyway, Larry?” she smiles at him and he can’t help but smile back. This time, however, it’s not creepy.
“Okay I guess. The health benefits are good. Wait, what about all that creativity we lost? There must be a way to go back.”
“Face it. The future is going to come whether we like it or not. Larry. We’ll just have to make our own story as we go along.”

The end