REBIRTH Blogfest Entry – Valiance
I am hoping to add some artwork to this piece over the course of this week. In any case, here is my entry for the REBIRTH Project Blogfest.
by Rob Lopez
Val had no idea how long he had been laying in the crater. The ground beneath him was warm and he cleared his lungs of the smoke. Small fires surrounded him and as he looked down at his own body, he saw the remains of an astronaut’s space suit. Did I fall from orbit? He thought as he struggled to remember who he was beyond his name, how he ended up here, and why he was still alive.
He raised his right arm and brought his hand up to his face. The tattered remains of a glove hung from it. He flexed his fingers and there was pain and a slight glow pulsating from beneath the flesh of the palm of his hand. What? Pain lanced through his arm, neck, chest, solar plexus and head. It was like fire and ice and his sight went red, orange and black before it cleared up again. He pulled himself out of the body-shaped indentation at the center of the crater and tried to get to his feet, but the pain and a spike of vertigo dropped him back to the ground into a fetal position.
Distantly, there was the sound of a zing and explosion. Then another. And another.
Shhhzzzz, boom! Shhhhzzzzboom!
The smoke was clearing. The sky was blue, with a few scattered white, puffy clouds and a half dozen contrail streaks.
Then an airliner tumbled across the sky.
Oh, God, what is happening? Val thought. Then something inside him, perhaps his training, told him to move. Move, dammit, get clear of this crater and get yourself some help! You probably have internal injuries. You could be dying, man!
He stumbled up towards the rim of the crater, shedding what was left of his space suit along the way. He reached up and pulled his skullcap off, and tested the built in radio—nothing.
He ditched it, stood at the rim of the crater and looked out at his surroundings. The outskirts of a city, San Jose, maybe, sprawled before him, and much of it was on fire. Sirens, car horns and alarms blared. Meteors fell from the sky and struck the ground with so much force, the earth shook beneath his feet.
The burning pain radiate from within him again, bringing him to his knees. Tears ran down his cheeks. He wiped them away, and noticed that they stained the back of his hand with a kind of phosphorescent glow. Before he could form a hypothesis, he heard a skittering beside him, he turned, half coming to his feet.
A critter that resembled a Giant Japanese Spider Crab, about twelve feet from claw to claw, standing at a height of about five feet, clad in an exoskeleton of charcoal and red, chittered at Val and brandished its forward sword-like claws at him.
It sparked a memory of a little blond, blue-eyed girl, Kassie, sitting in a high chair with a Red Lobster bib around her neck, chewing on a noodle of fettucini alfredo and holding a lobster claw and giggling. I have a daughter?
The spider crab leaped at him, and he instinctively leapt out of the way, launching himself much farther into the air than he expected to fly. It was as if gravity had lost its hold on him! He hit the ground rolling. The burning pain concentrated in his legs. His toenails seemed to be lit from beneath. What? Is? HAPPENING TO ME? He thought, as the spider crab turned and bridged the thirty foot distance to pursue him. He scrambled back and his hand caught hold of a rock and he through it at the critter. The rock exploded against the surface of its shell, but it fell back, stunned.
Val turned and ran. His chest started to burn, but he wanted to put some real distance between himself and that thing, so he fought through it. I don’t remember being this fast.
He came upon a highway, and was surprised to see almost no cars on it. And the few that were scattered across it were crashed along the cement divider or sitting idle, the drivers unconscious or missing. A lone truck weaved in and out of the dead obstacles. Val tried to stop it, but it almost ran him down.
A black boy in a Forty-Niners jersey and shorts walked along the divider, carrying a backpack and a gun. He was coming towards Val, towards the city. Before Val could call out to him, a spider crab leaped out of a car and onto the divider between them. The boy screamed, raised the gun and shot at it. The bullet lanced it, but barely phased it and it rose up to strike the boy down with its sword arms.
No! Val screamed, but it didn’t come out of his mouth. He bounded towards the creature and in two great leaps he was on its back. His fingers found hold along the rim of the head of the thing and he pulled back with all his strength. The shell snapped off, and he and the spider crab went sprawling backwards. It pinned him and he grappled with it, its pincer like jaws about to come down on his neck, when he heard the gun go off again. The creature went limp and Val tossed it aside. The boy had fired the gun nearly point blank at its exposed brain, or what might have passed for it—and this time the bullet had found its mark.
He rose over the boy and nodded a thank you.
“Just returning the favor, dude,” the boy said. He couldn’t have been older than ten. “Are you a superhero?” The boy asked.
He was about to answer, when the reflective hull of a gas tank truck caught his eye. He walked over to it and saw that his skin had taken on a red-orange hue, his extremities were glowing, and his buzzcut had grown into a long, ghostly mane. Thankfully, his briefs were still intact.
But he had no mouth or nose. Some kind of membrane had grown over them.
Kid, I don’t know what I am.
“Can you help my dad? We were getting out of the city to go hide out with my uncle in the mountains, last night when the crabsteroids started falling. But then he just went to sleep. I tried to keep the car from crashing, but we went off the road a few miles back. I think everyone on the road went to sleep. Except me.”
Val went over to one of the idle cars, reached in to check the pulse of the driver. Alive. Asleep. Weird.
Everything’s weird. This is the world. This is me. So many questions. I still could be dying, He thought. But I might be able to do some good along the way.
Val walked over to the kid and pantomimed his name.
“Val? No, no, no, that’s not a superhero name.” The kid said, brows furrowing. He pulled out a couple of comics from his backpack, flipped through them and put a finger to his lip. “But Valiant is. I’m gonna call you Valiant.”
Whatever, kid. What’s your name? Val thought, bemusedly, though looking over his shoulder for signs of more critters.
“My name is Milo, but if this is an adventure, I’ll need a sidekick name.”
You’re not my sidekick.
Milo pulled his gun, a glock, from his holster, slung over his shoulder, “Kid Glock—“
No guns for you. Val said, and snapped it out of Milo’s hand.
“Hey, I saved your life with that gun.”
Val stared him down and held his hand out for the holster. Milo hesitated, then took it off and handed it to him. Val slung it over his own shoulder and looked over the city. We need answers.
“My mom works at the University. She wouldn’t come with us. So that’s where I was headed.”
Good enough for me, Milo. Lead the way.
Val looked to the sky and recalled falling.
I fell for a long time.
“Do you think you can fly? That could sure save us some time.”
Val shrugged his shoulders. He reached down and picked up Milo. Hold on tight, kid, if I can fly, I’m not sure if I can land. So far, all I know is that I’m great at crashing.
“Uh, you sure about this?” Milo asked.
And then Valiant launched into the sky.
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