glam and flash

glam and flash

There’s been some pushback on my “Mata Hairy” article which you can read here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2019/05/01/mata-hairy/

I am being told, by those who claim to understand reality far better than I, that the liberals have a sinister agenda with their fat acceptance and hairy women and that the Lena Dunhams of the world are out there marching around pushing their boobs into people’s faces trying to get a particular reaction. 

I am being told by these reality-understanders, that what I’m saying in “Mata Hairy” – requesting a basic level of politeness from conservative men – amounts to thought control. THOUGHT CONTROL. It’s good and right that conservative men belittle and mock not only Lena Dunham but ALL ugly and overweight women, publicly, because Lena Dunham has an agenda and in order to fight this agenda we as cons need to use every weapon at our disposal. And if other, non-liberal-agenda-promoting fat chicks get their feelings hurt in the process, it’s unfortunate but it’s collateral damage.

Let me just pause to say that these are not bad guys. These are not pussy-grabbing boors. These are otherwise decent men who simply think it’s ok to go through life deciding if a woman is worthwhile of existing or not based on literally no other quality than her physical attractiveness, and not keeping that silently to themselves but broadcasting it loudly into the public arena every chance they get. I recently had a tweet about whether or not women should wear yoga pants or not. I have an opinion about that (which is FUCK YEAH) and some dude came winging in from the stratosphere – a Twitter follower of a Twitter follower, a person I didn’t even know, to mention “you ladies can wear whatever you like but be aware, cargo pants are highly unattractive!”

GEE THANKS MISTER!

BTW I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the dude in question was not at all attractive. He looked like a hippie took a shit on an Ayn Rand book and left it to age in the sun for 75 years. And since the question on the table wasn’t even cargo pants, he wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed either. But I of course took the high road and thanked him for his opinion, pulled up my big-girl cargo pants and decided to write this piece instead, getting my revenge behind his back which is my favorite way to get revenge since it’s less stressful that way.

It is obvious and undeniable that yes, many liberal feminists do have an agenda with their slut walks and Lena-Dunham-posing (honestly, I’m worried about that girl, she seems a lot less empowered and a lot more terrified and desperately trying to stay relevant to me). SO DAFUQ WHAT. Why does the liberal agenda then give carte blanche to conservative men to act like the worst stereotypes the liberals have created about them? Why is it then THOUGHT CONTROL for me to point out, in a highly entertaining and comedic fashion too BTW in one of my very best pieces of the whole wide year last year, that hey, maybe they shouldn’t do that? 

The answer is, it isn’t. It isn’t thought control any more than it’s thought control for them to point out that they think I’m being unfair, that I’m wrong, that my take is bad, that I see trends where there are no trends to see. If it’s ok for men to shout into the public arena that ugly girls make their peepees sad and justify it because they’re achtually fighting against the liberal agenda, surely it’s ok for me to shout back, “maybe so but you are being super mean assholes when you do.”  

Because I am fighting against an agenda too. You see, cargo-pants-hating-men, it is possible to both be your compatriot in the Culture War but at the same time be an internal critic of trends that I see in conservatism that I don’t like. In fact, it’s my bread and butter, yo. Just because we both agree that the liberal movement in 2020 is thoroughly rotten and needs to be stood up to, it doesn’t mean that now conservatives never get things wrong, that any cockamamie idea conservative persons come up with from now till forever will be 100% completely and totally right. And it doesn’t mean I’m a Quisling for taking note of those times when members of the conservative movement are wrong and pointing it out. Indeed, it’s one of the strengths of conservatism that we’re a big tent with lots of ideas in it, unlike the libs who have to be in lockstep on everything all the time or they get drummed out of their own damn movement.

My dudes, I’m saying this stuff not because I think you’re bad people, it’s because I know you’re BETTER than you’re being and I want to spur you on to doing so. I know from firsthand experience and making my own mistakes along the way (like, back in middle school and not when I was fifty years old but whatevs) that lot of the times when people tease and mock others, they’re not even really thinking things through. They get caught up in the heat of the moment, in the mob mentality, think of something funny, and blurt things out that they’d never say if they’d thought about it longer, things they may not even truly believe. But whether or not you truly believe these things you say, they affect the feelings of other women who may happen to be your conservative compatriots and do not deserve being bullied and shamed because of the size of their clothing or because their face looks like the north end of a south bound cow.

YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT, guys. I’m not trying to control your thoughts, I promise.  I’m trying to get you to control your deeds because I believe conservative men really are gentlemen down deep inside, somewhere, even though at present they aren’t acting like it, and a conservative world based on conservative values really is better. 

Don’t you? Because I thought you did.

It seems to me, as a casual observer looking in from the outside while I adjust my bra, that many men (conservative and liberal alike) want to take what benefits them most from old-school retro conservatism and what benefits them most from new-school self-indulgent liberalism and combine it into this toxic stew where scantily-clad nymphomaniacs with no rights, no body hair, and no interests of their own are bringing them a steady stream of beers in between scrubbing toilets and cooking 5 course meals and pole dancing while the men sit there watching “2 girls, 1 cup” on their computer and wondering how they can get a piece of that action. It seems to me, as a casual observer looking in from outside while I unwedge my deeply wedged thong underwear, that many men (conservative and liberal alike) have written this fantasy story where if they don’t get to indulge their sexual whims to the nth degree and have the hottest chicks doing the most fucked up stuff with the least output of energy and effort on the man’s part, then somehow they done been robbed of what is rightfully theirs.

But this is not a harem, and you are not the sultan. Not getting everything you want precisely how you want it all the time every second of every day is not a tragedy. It’s part of the human condition to not always or even usually get what you want and to have to count your blessings every day to remind yourself how good you actually have it.

I look around and I see a lot of guys who don’t count their blessings often enough.

I am acquainted with this guy who claims not to be able to find “love” but when you pressure him on it (I didn’t, but this other really nice woman did with far more patience and understanding than IMO he deserved) he admitted that his problem was he only liked women with “glam and flash”.  Dancers. Actresses. Regular ordinary women didn’t do it for him, because in his words, he deserved better. He’d waited so long for love, that meant he deserved only the best of the best of the best. And by the way, he also expects women to ask him out, feels galactically wronged that they don’t, and since by his own admission he only likes super attractive women, I’ll wager he would turn down a girl of lesser attractiveness doing exactly that.

Yep, I’m mean. This a mean post that is beneath me, which is why the bulk of it has sat on my word processor for months as a vent I never intended to publish, before I finished it today in a rage after this person was inconsiderate to my friend.

I’m feeling mean about this right now because it’s such a goddamn anti-women double-standard to have the entire culture created as Xanadu pleasure palace for the entertainment and gratification of men and find that some of them are still whining because girls don’t ask them out when they’ve admitted they’d turn down the ones they don’t think are attractive because they deserve better and their window of attractive is as small as that tiny corner window of an old car, the ones you have to twist to the side to open.

It’s kind of hard to have sympathy for a guy like that. And there are a LOT of guys like that. But this guy would say, as was said to me by some others after reading “Mata Hairy” that you can’t help who you’re attracted to. If you like “glam and flash” and aren’t attracted to anything short of that, you can’t MAKE yourself be, right?

It’s funny to me how the implication of “glam and flash” is that women have wronged this poor man for not keeping themselves up to his standards, though. Isn’t it? He definitely seems to feel like he’s been screwed over unfairly by women and said he’d been FROZEN OUT OF the romance area of life!) But as it was pointed out to him (and remember, he agreed, I’m not creating a straw man here, he agreed this was true) he was deliberately choosing to ignore any woman that didn’t meet a very narrow standard of beauty. Because he deserved “better”. (implying that every woman who didn’t meet that very narrow standard of beauty was “worser” by default). And there ain’t never been a narrower standard of beauty than the standard of beauty that exists here in 2020. They have beauty products to put on our beauty products, people!!

The problem underlying “Mata Hairy” and “glam and flash” is that no woman in the history of all womankind has ever had to do even a fraction of what modern women are supposed to do to keep themselves up, to keep a man, to be a good girlfriend, wife, and mother. The expectations are not only unrealistic, they’re freaking IMPOSSIBLE unless a woman is very rich, very genetically gifted, and very bored. While I completely have sympathy for a person who really just likes a certain thing (I do, absolutely), if what you like is freaking impossible, maybe your personal unhappiness has a lot more to do with where your head is at and not the many flaws and failings of women as a class.

Given all this, do you really think that “glam and flash” is a fair and rational standard?

It’s not. It isn’t. Hollywood standards are infiltrating your brain, boyo. You want to talk about thought control, let’s talk about how much YOU have let – you, men, not me – how much y’all have let Hollywood and pornography and corporations peddling beauty products, aka, the people who want to sell you shit, control YOUR thoughts. Because it’s considerable. You want women that look more like sex toys than real people because you saw pictures of them in a book or something and never stopped to think that no woman ever looked like that without interventions that stop just this side of sorcery.

That’s on you. That is not on me for pushing back against it and requesting a basic level of consideration for the 95% of us who do not look like sex toys because we have better things to do with our time than starve ourselves for our entire lives and endure the 5 hour beauty routines models go through before they get their pictures taken to go into books. THAT SHIT ISN’T EVEN REAL! 

Thought control??  Are you SERIOUS here?  I am Morpheus trying to give you a colorful pill and wake you up from the sinister spells of the people who are actually controlling your thoughts. I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only open the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.

MY CONSERVATIVE DUDES, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS.  And my liberal dudes, you are better than this too.

There’s a whole world of women out here in the world, we are real and we are spectacular, and you do not get to lurch through your life saying that the gorgeous ones are the only ones that matter, at least not without hearing from me about it. 

I ain’t the bad guy here. Not even close. If I’m calling for “thought control” aka a basic standard of fucking politeness, it’s only because I want you, the supposed gents of conservatism in particular, to control your OWN thoughts and wake up from the airbrushed-makeup plastic-surgeried capped-teeth hair-extensioned shaved-pussy fake-tittied bleached-a-hole “glam-and-flash” haze that debauched liberal Hollywood magicians and corporate shills have enchanted you with like you’re Mr Spock smelling a flower on a foreign planet. And liberal men, if you want to jump on that bandwagon too there’s plenty of room. It’s basically me alone with a bullhorn up here.

A wise person once told me that the only person who can ever give you everything you need is God. No one else can fully live up to another person’s expectations. Because every other human being on the face of the earth has their own likes/dislikes, their own needs, their own wants, their own burdens to carry, their own physical failings, their own limitations, and so if you go through life demanding only the best of the best of the best, sir, well unless you’re real rich or you’re SuperChad you ain’t gonna get that (and probably not even then). You’ll end up lonely and perpetually dissatisfied, and that is your choice, but should you further choose to then flap your flap about how mean the girls are for not making themselves acceptably pretty for you and/or beating down your door to ask you out after having made themselves acceptably pretty for you, to such extent that you get a chip on your shoulder about how terrible and selfish women are when mostly women are just tired of having to be perpetually perfect AND now apparently shoulder the responsibility of asking super picky men who will probably reject them out as well, I’m gonna have a mighty hard time drumming up a whole lot of sympathy for you.  

I may even write an essay about it.

 

  

 

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 6 – “Time to Clean Up”

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 6 – “Time to Clean Up”

If you’re looking for the beginning of this story (with an explanation as to what this is all about), it’s here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2019/12/20/women-in-fridges-a-cold-day-in-hell-part-1-boy-meets-girl-girl-meets-fridge/  You can click through to the rest either via the prompts from the site or links in the stories.  Thanks for reading!

Before Zoe could reply Sanjay blasted her with fire again and if she’d been a second slower, her healing abilities would have gotten another workout. She wrapped herself in coldness and the flames passed by on either side of her without hurting her. It was terrifying though because she still didn’t feel quite up to snuff; the heat seeped in, she could feel the temperature rising despite her best efforts.

She pieced it together that however long she’d been out had been enough time for Sanjay to recover from whatever Desire had done to him. Maybe not all the way, in fact probably not all the way at all, since he didn’t heal fast like she did, but still. She realized with dismay that in her diminished condition Sanjay could beat her. If he’d been at full power, she’d most likely be dead, actually dead, no backsies this time.

And he was getting stronger every moment that passed. Zoe just hoped she was getting stronger too.

The flames stopped suddenly. He was much closer now, apparently he’d walked several yards towards her while he was shooting her. She could see his face clearly when he grimaced – he’d run out of steam and couldn’t work his flamethrower eyes any more. She said a quick prayer of thanks that Captain Obvious was still very far from full strength. It provided her the window of opportunity she’d been hoping for. “It’s me, it’s me, it’s really me, Sanjay listen…”     

Before she knew what had happened she found herself across the room pressed up against the wall by the entrance to the warehouse. Sanjay’s hand gripped her throat and he was choking her but of course it didn’t hurt since she didn’t feel pain any more. She felt him collapse her windpipe shut totally and crush the hyoid bone in her throat. The arteries carrying blood to her brain squeezed off and everything started to go dark. She felt her tissues hemorrhaging as the tips of his fingers penetrated her skin and she wondered if he was going to rip her throat right out. But then he smashed her a few times against the wall instead.  The bones of her spine audibly cracked as they shattered.

Zoe knew if it went on much longer she would lose consciousness and she might miss her chance to convince him who she really was if that happened. She didn’t even want to consider what might happen if she lost her head totally, if he ripped it from her body; it seemed like maybe not even she could come back from that. She had to make him listen, but she couldn’t catch her breath to speak. He slammed her into the wall again and her skull fractured. Her vision went red, bright red for a moment but then her bones started knitting back together again and Zoe was able to shake it off.

Sanjay sucked air through his teeth and snarled at her. “Why are you not dying?”

She reached up and raked him across the cheek with her fingernails and to her surprise she actually broke his skin. 4 lines of blood welled from his cheek and since Sanjay wasn’t used to people being able to hurt him, he inhaled sharply and released his grip just a little in surprise. Zoe was able to suck in a breath and scream loud enough to knock him back a couple paces. 

There was a metallic whine as DeShawn Wallace pressed his stun gun against the temple of Captain Obvious. Zoe expected him to try and talk him around, convince him, but Wallace didn’t hesitate, just fired the gun time after time, one, two, three, four, five times, and on the fifth time, Sanjay finally blinked and stumbled to the side and fell over.

Before Zoe could react Wallace was standing over Sanjay and firing into his forehead this time, 3 more times, and then the gun clicked empty and wouldn’t shoot any more.  “Ten shots,” Wallace complained, “I’m supposed to have TEN shots, bitches, TEN on full charge, god damn it!” After nearly throwing the gun away in disgust, he holstered his now-useless weapon and vowed to have words with the department. By that time Zoe had recovered enough to move and so she rushed over and slid on her knees next to Sanjay’s head. “Be careful, Zoe, that’s all I got. And it never would have worked except for that Obvious was already in a weakened condition.” Wallace thought Zoe should probably get the hell out of there, but he figured she wouldn’t go even if he told her to.

“I got it, I understand,” Zoe said.  Sanjay groaned. “Sanjay, listen, it’s me, it’s really me, ok?”

His eyes flipped open and the enraged and vicious expression returned. “Who are you!?” he screamed and spit flew out of his mouth when he did. But physically he was so diminished he couldn’t do anything other than raise a hand and paw at the air uselessly.

Wallace put up a hand to stop Zoe from talking as he squatted nearby, resting his arms on his upper thighs. “Cap, ok, think about it man, be cool, just think it through, baby, ok? Shapeshifters, they’ve only ever found two, two in the whole wide world in all this time, does it make any fucking sense at all that with only two shapeshifters ever found in the entire world in nearly 100 years of superhumans that you got two more of em in front of you here today??”

“Not you. HER. She tricked you. She tricked you! That is NOT ZOE!!” he shouted and flailed wildly with his arms and legs. Zoe was dismayed to see him rise several inches off the ground before dropping back to earth again. He was already coming back from being stunned, which, that wasn’t good. Zoe had hoped for more time to get through to him..

“Oh, sure, I’m the figment of everyone’s imagination and you’re the real deal!” Zoe said to Detective Wallace bitterly.

“He did see you dead, Zoe, it’s probably pretty hard to reconcile.” Then he turned back to Captain Obvious. “Even if she was a shapeshifter, even if she pulled the wool right over my eyes, why would a shapeshifter you never met before come here and risk her life to save you? Does that make any sense at all, Cap any sense at all?”

“The government,” Sanjay said.

“The government? The government already scrambled the big heroes out after you, man! You think they’re gonna send one little girl after you? YOU? We’re the only friends you got right now so stop fighting and give us a chance to explain, would you?”

“Sanjay, it’s me, I promise.  Ask me anything, ask me something only I would know.” 

But he must have been convinced already by what Wallace had said.  “Is it…is it really you, Zoe? Really?”     

His voice cracked on the word “really” and Zoe got so emotional she couldn’t speak, just nodded.

“It’s really her,” Wallace confirmed.

“How.” Sanjay couldn’t believe it, he couldn’t let himself believe it. He glanced at the person claiming to be Zoe and then looked away, afraid that if he looked too long he would get sucked into this insane fantasy, and even more afraid that if he looked too close he’d see something that would prove to him that this person wasn’t Zoe at all. And that’s if this was even reality, which it probably wasn’t. The most likely explanation was that this was a dream, he was gonna wake up back in the cage with the vampire standing over him sucking his life away. But if it was a dream was the realest goddamn dream he had ever had and even as he actively tried to fight it off, he felt a tiny flicker of hope.

“I’m like you now, or something, I guess, and I just…I didn’t die.”

“You’re like me?”

“Well, not exactly, but I could do things I couldn’t before, like…survive.”

“Oh, my God, Zoe, oh my God!  No way!”

“Way,” she breathed weakly, since it seemed like something the old Zoe would have said.  She suddenly felt it was very important to let Sanjay see only the old Zoe since for all she knew he wouldn’t like the new one at all.

For his part, Sanjay suddenly felt it was very important for Zoe to see him being stoic and manly and not completely losing it even though on the inside he was 100% totally and completely losing it. “That’s, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s…” he stammered, trying to find a word that would express the cacophonous crescendo of emotions he was experiencing without making Zoe feel like she needed to comfort him, that she needed to be strong for him. Because if it was Zoe, if it was really Zoe, he didn’t want to ask that of her. “That’s, that’s…” If it was really Zoe wanted to be a rock for her and ask nothing from her although he felt a lot more like 100 billion grains of sand being blown every direction by a windstorm rather than a rock. But he couldn’t find the right word. “That’s.” He stood up instead to distract everyone including himself from the fact that he was a fucking mess.

“Are you ok?” she asked him, as Sanjay struggled to his feet. It seemed like his knees were still wobbly; he even stutterstepped to the side till he got his balance, and he was favoring one of his legs. Zoe knew that in addition to the stuns to the head, Desire had undoubtedly done to him what he did to her, and while she’d been able to bounce back from it fairly easily, Sanjay wasn’t able to heal like she could, as evidenced by the scratches she’d put on his cheek which were oozing blood still.

And that didn’t even get into the emotional shit. He had just crushed her throat himself which would require some considerable unpacking, not to mention the whole Flat Stanley thing. He was probably a fucking mess and didn’t want to let her see it. 

“Are you ok?” he asked, and even though Zoe tried really hard to nod and say yes enthusiastically for his sake and be all like NBD she just couldn’t. No matter how bad he needed her to be ok, no matter how bad she wanted to be ok for his sake, she was not ok. She managed one measly nod and a shrug and Sanjay saw right through it. “You’re not ok.”  

Zoe felt her face crumple and then she shook her head and started crying. Sanjay pulled her up from where she was kneeling on the floor and wrapped his arms around her, and she was so so so incredibly relieved that it didn’t feel scary or strange when he touched her, in his arms felt like the place she was meant to be just the same as it did before. It occurred to her that while there was certainly no shortage of terrible men in the world, there were so many other men who were good men and tried to protect you from the bad ones, who wanted to keep you safe, who would even give their lives for you if it came to that, and she felt a renewal of faith.

“You’re not ok, of course you’re not ok, I’m sorry, Zoe, I’m so sorry,” Sanjay murmured into her hair and as Zoe sobbed into his chest, she could feel him shuddering, and she knew he was crying too.

Detective Wallace took a few steps back to give them some privacy and checked his phone. He had 477 new messages and he knew a good 466 of them were about Obvious. He considered cancelling the rogue alert on Captain Obvious right then and there. But he didn’t feel like he could till he’d talked to the guy and figured out where his head was at. Heroes went rogue and stayed rogue for reasons far less than what Obvious had been through and Wallace just, he needed to be totally sure.  He wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t. “Obvious,” he called, wishing he could give them just a little more time. But for all he knew any second the Flying Brick was gonna come busting down the door like the Kool Aid man wondering why there were two dead superhumans on the floor instead of in a paddy wagon on the way to jail.

Captain Obvious raised his head and Wallace was relieved to see he looked like himself again, no more crazy eyes and hungry alligator smile. Zoe Rose reached up and wiped the tears from off the guy’s cheeks with a proprietary and brilliantly sparkling thumb and while he was happy for them and everything, Wallace felt a small blurp of jealousy. He was on his second divorce, and it just seemed like sometimes all the happy endings were for other people. “DeShawn, thank you, man, seriously, I can’t thank you enough for what you did here today. If there’s ever anything I can do, anything at all…”

“Well, there is something you can do, Cap, you can give me some assurance you’re gonna behave yourself. No more rogue shit, right?”

“I…I…I can’t, I can’t though, because I still have to kill Flat Stanley.”  Then he looked at Zoe for confirmation. “It was Flat Stanley?”

“Was it ever,” she said, and she saw a hint of that same unhinged bloodthirstiness settle back onto Sanjay’s face.

“Come on, dude!” Wallace interrupted.

But before he could get rolling, Zoe continued. “You don’t, though.”

“Zoe, seriously, yes, I do. I have never needed to do anything more. Don’t try to stop me.”

“No, you don’t, see, because I already did, see?” She pointed at the floor and there were all these little pieces of bloody flesh everywhere and a whole bunch of rats had come out of somewhere and were eating the pieces of flesh and carrying other pieces of flesh away to feed their rat babies. “The cycle of life continues.” 

“You did that?” Sanjay asked her, and grabbed her upper arms to push her back far enough to look in her face. Zoe’s heart skipped a beat and then another beat thinking he was going to be horrified by what she’d done, I mean after all he was a superhero for Christ’s sake, he put people like her away. But much to her relief he had a wry, impressed grin on his lips. “Nice work!” he crowed proudly.

“God damn it, you two, that was NOT nice work!” Detective Wallace was so irritated he stamped his foot and swung his fist in front of himself. He pointed at Captain Obvious. “It was illegal, highly, incredibly illegal what she did, and I should have called it in when it happened. But this is about you, Obvious, YOU. Not her right now, you. We’re gonna get to her in a minute, now we’re talking about you. You need to promise me, and I mean right now, that you are through with this vigilante shit. You get me? No more. I don’t even want you looking cross-eyed at a bad guy without going through the proper channels. You need to get a search warrant to get a search warrant, from here on in. I’m gonna call in and cancel the rogue alert, and I’ll do it with joy in my heart, my friend, but be aware I’m putting my reputation on the line for your spandex-clad ass, and before I do I want an assurance that you aren’t going to screw me over here, ok?”  

“Ok, Wallace, yes, sure, ok.  Of course.”

“And when you get far from here, far, far away, so they can’t triangulate this location and uncover the mess the two of you made here tonight, you’re gonna get in contact with your handlers and let them know everything is ok.  You weren’t rogue, you were never rogue, this has all just been a big misunderstanding, and I’ll back you up. ”

“I’m not rogue, I was never rogue,” Obvious repeated, and smiled in a way that Wallace didn’t trust, not one bit.

“And another thing, your girlfriend, she’s gonna sign the paperwork, right here, right now.”

“Hey, way to talk about me like a piece of luggage, DeShawn.”

“Sorry, Zoe, I’m just hoping he can talk some sense into you.” Wallace pulled the paperwork up on his phone; Zoe could sign the agreement with a thumbprint and then once he was safely away a few blocks from the remains of two dead superhumans, he would upload it to the cloud. He shouldn’t be helping them cover this up, shouldn’t be helping them at all, should have called and turned them both in hours ago and waved faretheewell as the starcrossed lovers got dragged to Hellgate, but Desire was a pile of ash, even his bones were ash it looked like, and Flat Stanley was rapidly disappearing into the bellies of several dozen rats. The authorities, if they ever even found the remains, wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of any of it. Wallace just couldn’t bring himself to lose two potential allies – good people, no less – in exchange for justice for two monsters who the world was better off without.

Zoe tucked the curling edge of her blunt-cut brunette hair behind an ear. “Yeah, about good sense, guys? I’m not, actually, going to be signing the paperwork.”

Sanjay spun around on his heels to look at her so fast his cape swung out. “You’re not signing the paperwork?” He seemed more amused than surprised but Zoe felt queasy with nerves going against what she assumed his wishes would be.

“I just think I can do more good without signing the paperwork, Sanjay, is all. And um, I don’t want to make promises I’m not gonna be able to keep. Especially not to you.”

“God DAMN it, Zoe,” Wallace scrubbed a hand across his head and tried to decide what to do.  He had a splitting headache from whatever Desire had done to him and he was just so over superhuman bullshit for one night it was ridiculous.

But before he could do anything, Captain Obvious turned back around to face the detective and said decisively, “She’ll sign the paperwork.”

“I’m not, though, Sanjay. I’m not signing the paperwork.” Zoe’s stomach clenched and her face glowed with heat, heat she found very unpleasant now that she had fridge powers and everything. She looked down and gulped and tried not to start sobbing again because that felt like a cheap and manipulative ploy. It was just that she didn’t want to lose him again, not after coming so close to losing him and both of them fighting their way back to each other somehow. She wanted her happily-ever-after, she wanted it more than anything. But he had to understand she just couldn’t be the hero the government wanted her to be. She had to be a different kind of hero in order to really make the world a better place for women like her. Otherwise she would just become part of the problem.

“Zoe,” said Sanjay very gently. He chucked her under the chin so she was staring up into his incredibly beautiful face. She loved him so much the thought that she was going to lose him made her nauseous and all hyperventilate-y but at the same time she loved him so much she couldn’t lie to him either. “Sign the paperwork.” She opened her mouth to protest, to explain her point of view, but then she noticed something about the tilt of his lips, the look in his eye, the set of his jaw, and while she couldn’t read his mind, she was suddenly certain she knew what he was thinking.

Sanjay was thinking that systems were funny things. People put so much faith into them, treated systems like these wise and perfect entities that could deal with any contingency no matter how unexpected, but at the end of the day systems weren’t only fallible, they were easy to beat. After all, the system had ignored Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein even though there were rumors about them for decades, and even jokes made right out in public. The system ignored Louis CK and Matt Lauer and Jimmy Savile because they existed within the system and the tendency of the system is to protect its own and look the other way. The Boy Scouts was part of the system. The US Gymnastics program was part of the system. The Catholic Church was part of the system. The criminal justice system let Brock Turner go with a slap on the wrist, not to mention Jeffrey Epstein and Mike Tyson. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski never even went to jail.

Great system. 

The United Bureau of Superheroes was part of the system.

That system set Flat Stanley free and never even managed to catch Desire. So why couldn’t a person, or a couple people, exploit the tendency of the system to be blind, deaf, corrupt, and impossibly stupid? A person or persons could, they could do exactly that, especially if they were hiding behind the smokescreen of respectability and the even better smokescreen of celebrity. The system could protect good people surely as it protected actually evil ones – if not even better. If they got caught, IF, it would be years and years down the road. They could do a lot of good behind the scenes and under the table in that amount of time.

Sanjay watched Zoe putting it all together, doing the calculus, following the implications to their logical end, and she smiled a tiny, wonderfully familiar mischievous smile that broke his heart into a thousand pieces since he was so happy to see it again. He pulled her hand to his lips and brushed a kiss across her knuckles and squeezed her hand supportively as she pressed her thumbprint onto the detective’s phone, hereby registering herself as an Official Superhero, or she would be once Wallace pressed send a safe distance away from the crime scene.

“That’s more like it,” Wallace said, and then he left muttering something about how he’d say it had been fun, but it hadn’t been.

Zoe and Sanjay weren’t paying attention to him anyway.  Sanjay burned what little was left of Desire and Flat Stanley into nothing and then he sizzled every surface he and Zoe might have touched in the warehouse so there wouldn’t be DNA or fingerprints left to find. All that was left was a cage and a folding chair, and someone would be confused by them when they showed up to the warehouse in the future, but that was it.

Then he picked up Zoe in his arms and flew off into the night. Zoe unfroze the sprinklers so they would wash away whatever was left of the two villains. She loved it how completely obliterated they both were, it was like they had never existed at all, really. They left nothing behind them, not a trace. They existed only in memories that Zoe intended to block out at the first available opportunity.

The further away they got from the glow of Los Urbanos, the better Zoe felt. It felt like everything terrible was receding into the distance leaving only the two people who mattered.    

As they flew over the ocean Zoe felt a surge of instinct. She wriggled in Sanjay’s arms. “Let me go, I want to try something,” she said, and while Sanjay looked stern and worried, and she knew it was going to be hard for him to learn to trust in her strength, he let her go. She plummeted and as she did she started to scream. Just as she’d suspected, she could aim her voice down at whatever was below her, and was able to keep herself aloft that way.

She flew back up to where Sanjay waited. His eardrums were impervious to damage just like the rest of him so her screaming didn’t bother him at all. He said it sounded like music to him, like some sort of really beautiful alien music. They circled around each other in the moonlight playfully a few times. Then Zoe flew back to him and let him carry her again because she wanted to be carried for a while. She snuggled into Sanjay’s chest and was happy to find she still enjoyed his warmth even though she wasn’t cold at all and never would be again.

“So tell me, Killer, who are we going after first?” Sanjay asked.

Inexplicably, Zoe thought about her grandma all of a sudden. She had been married to Zoe’s grandpa for 62 years, which seemed like an impossible length of time. When Zoe asked her how two people could stay together so long in a world where everything had changed so much so fast, she had explained that sometimes when people are very, very lucky, they change in ways that bring them closer together, not further apart.

Zoe Rose really was blessed.  Even cursed, she was still blessed.

She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might start with Chuck down at good old KAQT News.

   

 

   

 

    

 

 

 

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell: Part 5 “Fire and Ice”

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell: Part 5 “Fire and Ice”

Hey, Cats and Kittens, this one is pretty dark towards the end – sorry but I gotta go where the characters take me even when I don’t want to be there either.  Trigger alert.  

Part 4 is here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2020/01/04/women-in-fridges-a-cold-day-in-hell-part-4-surprise/

And if you need to start back at the beginning it’s here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2019/12/20/women-in-fridges-a-cold-day-in-hell-part-1-boy-meets-girl-girl-meets-fridge/

When Sanjay woke up he was stunned to find himself in a black-barred cage in a dark warehouse. There was a single light over his head illuminating only the area he was in and he couldn’t see further into the murk beyond. He struggled to his feet and stumbled to the bars, barely able to pick his toes up off the ground. He tried to bend the bars which should have been easy but he had no strength, no strength at all. Desperately he tugged at the cold metal, grunting and straining; then he tried to shoot them with his eyes but nothing happened.

Sanjay hadn’t felt so helpless since he was a child. He felt an intense flare of longing for his father, who had been dead for three years, to come and make the bad monsters go away.

A laugh came from the dark of the warehouse.

The thing about Desire that made him uniquely qualified to keep prisoners was that he didn’t care about anything other than eating. He had nowhere to go, no appointments to keep, he didn’t have to piss or take a dump, nothing. He slept, but only because he got so bored of existing; he didn’t actually have to so he skipped it when he had better things to do. And the only better thing he ever did than sleep was eating. Whenever he had a meal he would simply sit and wait till his dinner had recovered enough to eat it again and then he would.  

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Desire was pleased by how quick Captain Obvious had come to. It had only been an hour if that even and he was already up, already on his feet, already trying to escape. That was very encouraging. The guy didn’t heal any faster than a regular human, that was a rare skill indeed and Desire had never met a freak who could. But Captain Obvious was incredibly strong, so physically he could take a lot of abuse and bounce back from it.  

His stomach growled and grumbled and he wanted so badly to eat again, to eat it all this time. He wanted to drain Obvious dry, wanted the last drops of the life force on his tongue because those ones were the ones that tasted the sweetest. He wanted to pick up Captain Obvious in his hands and lick the platter clean.  

Desire wanted to suck him down till he heard a slurping sound like a child going after the last little bit of a milkshake.

But if he did that he would only get hungry again anyway, and sooner rather than later. So he forced himself to wait, to wait as long as he dared for the life force to come back enough to make it worth his while. While he waited he watched Captain Obvious testing his prison and lamenting his fate and attempting to figure out what the hell had happened to him. Desire didn’t have to keep them in a cell, of course; any one of them could have escaped in a heartbeat, prison or no, if he ever let them regain their strength enough to do it. He just thought it was funny to see them react to being behind bars, to realize they were being held against their will by being faced with the most definitive symbol of imprisonment there was – a cage.  

Captain Obvious opened and closed his fists in front of him and then shook out his hands and opened and closed them again. He squinched up his eyes and blew air out his cheeks. He tilted his head back and forth like he was clearing his head. Silly Hollywoodesque rituals he’d probably seen in the movies, fictional tricks he resorted to hoping to make his powers work even though the only people they had ever worked for were, like, the Avengers or something. Freaking hilarious was what it was.

Obvious got more and more frantic when nothing happened, when his strength didn’t return.  He started slapping at the bars with his open palms, eventually screaming in frustration and kicking at the metal, raising his leg up in front of him and shoving forward with the flat of his heel. It was the kind of kick superheroes often used when busting down doors; it had worked many a time for Captain Obvious. He had used it earlier that day breaking down the door at the League of Disposable Criminals and it worked like a charm. It had worked well in the past, so Sanjay put every last ounce of what little strength he had into it.

Instead of tearing apart the cage’s wall like he had intended, the kick tore apart his foot. 

It hurt, hurt badly, and he wasn’t used to being hurt; he’d had powers since he was only a little kid. The ironic thing about Sanjay wanting his father to come was that he’d been stronger than his father since he was seven years old.  But he still wanted him.

Captain Obvious pulled up his foot like a cartoon idiot and hopped around and then he fell over. Desire laughed and laughed. It was pretty sweet.

Then he popped back to his feet and limped to the other side of the bars, the ones closest to Desire. So he could see the bewildered and terrified expressions on the Captain’s face as he repeated the performance all over again only wisely without the kick at the end this time. The guy’s red spandex suit was dirty and pitstained from sweat and his shiny cape was askew. Desire knew, he just knew, this was the lowest point of his whole entire life and he was so very thankful he’d been there to see it.

Witnessing the heroes, so-called, reduced to this lowly state was as satisfying as eating them was, just in a different way. These super-a-holes were so freaking entitled, used to being able to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to whoever they wanted to do it to, it was immensely enjoyable to watch them forced into being ordinary like everyone else. Yelling for help, yelling for their mamas, pleading, groveling, not being able to wrap their brains around the fact that this time, they’d met the Big Bad and they couldn’t muscle or blast their way out of it. Priceless.  

Desire sometimes thought he ought to record them melting down and put it online for the everyday people to see, to show them that these were their heroes, their modern-day Gods, to prove to the brainless idiots in the cheap seats that the capes were the same as everyone else down deep inside. Once you took their powers away they were just frightened little kids, they weren’t braver or wiser or more in control of their emotions than anyone else, in fact they were even bigger cowards, even more useless. They quickly became gibbering emotional basket cases because they’d never had to learn to deal with life without getting everything handed to them on a silver platter.  

But that would have gave his game away so he didn’t.

Eventually Cap gave up and sat down in the middle of the floor with his legs criss-crossed underneath him and put his head in his hands. After a while Desire notice his shoulders were shaking. He was crying. Crying? After only an hour in the tank Captain Obvious, the biggest toughest superhero on the West Coast, the guy who’d never been beat, was crying. That seemed so pitiful that Desire couldn’t half-believe it; it usually took em weeks to sink to that level. He’d always heard Obvious was a badass and it was disappointing so he considered finishing him off just on general principle.  

But then he remembered the guy was having a time of it what with the girlfriend in the fridge and all, and decided to let it slide.  

*****

Flat Stanley tracked Desire to a warehouse in the industrial district. Zoe thought how funny it was that everything in real life was just like in a movie, the bad guys hiding out in a warehouse, in an abandoned zoo. She decided that if she ended up declared a supervillain which she probably would be by day’s end, she would hide somewhere really unexpected like the Plaza Hotel or Cabo San Lucas, the French Riviera, maybe, hanging out in plain sight where they probably wouldn’t even think to look.

“How are we gonna get inside?” asked Wallace, who was hoping Zoe had some kind of a plan.

“The door, silly,” Zoe replied, and headed towards it. She figured Wallace would want to go snooping around looking in skylights and stuff which would take forever. She just wanted to find Sanjay before it was too late, before the bad guy, whoever he was, finished him off or Nuclear Option showed up to take the rogue Captain Obvious to Hellgate, whichever came first.

Time was not Zoe’s friend here.  

Flat Stanley saw a few issues with the notion of just walking right in to where Desire was. He stammered frantically, “But lady, lookit, you don’t understand who you’re dealing with, here, ok, Desire, he’s, he’s…he’s not like other superhumans, ok, he can do things to you, bad things, real bad things, things like you can’t even imagine…”

Zoe laughed at that because she could imagine a lot of bad things being done to her. Matter of fact, she didn’t have to imagine them at all, all she had to do was remember them. And of course Flat Stanley was very well aware of the fact. So she laughed. Her nose crinkled up and her white teeth showed and she tossed her head back and if you hadn’t known why she was laughing, you would have thought she looked joyful, lighthearted, carefree.

But she was none of those things and severely doubted she ever would be again.  

Zoe twisted the doorknob and was happy to find it unlocked. “Wow, something went right today, it’s a miracle.” She pushed the door open with a metallic squeal and stepped inside. It was dark but she could see light in the distance. “Come on, Stan.” She grabbed Flat Stanley by the upper ear, poking right through the cartilage with her diamond fingernail to make a hole to get her knuckle into, and pulled him through the doorway.

Stanley whimpered. “AAAAHHHH, jeez Louise, you’re mean!  You are a MEAN PERSON!!”

“And to think I haven’t even got warmed up yet.” She tugged Flat Stanley along with her further into the warehouse so Detective Wallace could squeeze past them into the building. “Yoo-hoo,” she called. “Anyone home?”

“Ngyahh!” Flat Stanley grunted through his nose like the Three Stooges. “Look lady, listen, shut up, why don’t you, I mean seriously, think about it, the reason Desire leaves that door unlocked is because he can handle anybody who comes along!“ 

“Zoe, slow down here, just slow down,” Wallace didn’t particularly want to agree with Stanley, but he was appalled by the notion of marching in, marching in announced no less, to a place where someone strong enough to take out Captain Obvious was lurking. “We can’t even see where we’re going.” He followed Zoe anyway, even though it went against every instinct he had, both as a cop and as a human being, because he was in it, and when you’re in it, the only way out is through. He took his gun from the holster cause he figured he was gonna need it.

She groped the wall and found a set of lights, and flipped them on. The warehouse lit up like a football stadium. “Better?” she said sarcastically.

It started to dawn on DeShawn Wallace that maybe, just maybe, it was time to stop trusting Zoe to do the smart thing. Or the right one, either, for that matter, because the way she was acting was like she was planning a showdown and not an arrest.

When the lights came up Flat Stanley moaned because there was no way he was gonna get out of this without Desire seeing him, finding out he had led a cop and whatever it was Zoe Rose was, a hero, maybe, but Stanley wasn’t any too sure about that, right to his lair. “Desire? Desire! Help me, man, these people got ahold of me! Look out, they’re here for you, they want Obvious, help!” He shrieked for help a few more times and then Zoe got sick of it. She let go his ear and froze him solid to put a stop to his idiotic babbling. He turned whitish blue and sparkled with frost.  

“What are you doing, Zoe?” Wallace asked, as he passed Flat Stanley, taking a wary look at the guy. He looked like a statue, his mouth still wide open screeching for someone to save him. Zoe was making Wallace very, very nervous and he had been pretty damn nervous to start out with. No good deed goes unpunished, a wry voice snarked from a distant corner of his mind.

“I don’t need him any more.”

“Can he live through that?” 

“Geez, I have no idea,” Zoe said, looking back at Stanley. “But good point.” Then she gave a little hiccuping Cyndi Lauper yelp which stabbed into Wallace’s eardrums like an overly aggressive Q-tip and the Flat Stanley popsicle shattered into a million pieces, many of which ricocheted off the detective’s pants and leather coat before falling to the ground.  “He can’t live through that, I don’t think.”

“God damn it, Zoe!” Wallace yelled, louder than he’d intended. She pressed her lips together and raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms in front of her and Wallace had the distinct impression the temperature dropped several degrees. So he backed off and mitigated his tone because making Zoe Rose angry or even just slightly irritated, seemed like a piss-poor idea just then. “You know that’s against the rules, Zoe, heroes don’t kill under any circumstances! First, you do no harm!” Oh Lord, the amount of favors he’d have to call in to get her out of this, he didn’t even know if he had enough favors owed him to do it. The authorities didn’t just let heroes kill with impunity, even when they were having a real bad day. It just was not done, not even to pieces of shit like Flat Stanley.  

“I haven’t signed the paperwork, Detective,” she said calmly, and turned away, towards the place where the light in the darkness had been.  The warehouse was full of boxes wrapped with what looked like Saran Wrap, stacked on pallets, and stretching up 10 or 20 feet tall, Zoe didn’t really know how high. All she knew was that that light was where Sanjay most likely was.  

Wallace considered the implications of Zoe’s statement. It was true, she hadn’t signed the government paperwork which meant she hadn’t agreed to follow the rules of engagement, so maybe it would be easier to get her off the hook than he’d first thought. They did occasionally run into a hero who had killed an innocent bystander or in self-defense when their powers first came in, who maybe just needed some help learning to control their gift, and if the person could pass the psych eval they did usually get a second chance. He could talk it up so Flat Stanley was coming at her, maybe, build a case for self-defense, and hopefully Zoe would cooperate.

But the way Zoe had said it was more like she didn’t intend to sign the paperwork at all, and that meant…

Well, that meant she intended to be a villain. Somebody of Zoe’s caliber – a person who couldn’t be killed, not to mention her other party tricks – either signed the paperwork and agreed to work for the government, or else the heroes rounded them up and sent them to Hellgate for intensive counseling or even permanent collaring if the shrinks couldn’t talk them around. That was just how it had to be. And Wallace didn’t want to see that happen to Zoe Rose, was all. She was a victim, an innocent victim. She’d been through more than one person could take. The girl was out of her head, flat out of her head, she didn’t know what she was even doing, she wasn’t responsible.  

“I know exactly what I’m doing, DeShawn,” she said, as if she’d heard his thoughts, and he sure hoped she couldn’t do that. “I made my choice, and I’ll take the consequences.”

Zoe felt bad for Wallace, she could tell he thought she was losing it, but she just couldn’t stand to let Stanley keep those memories of her, that was all. It helped her, so much, to know the person who hurt her was gone and that those thoughts of her were no longer in his filthy mind. It was like that feeling when you’ve been sick with a lingering illness and suddenly you wake up one morning and you’re better again; she felt a surge of renewed energy and a profound sense of relief. She was still scraped raw inside but it was fuckingfantastic knowing he wasn’t reliving what he did to her, and never could again.

Knowing that Flat Stanley was gone felt like a new scab forming over a wound. It was still there, you knew if you bumped it wrong it would start gushing blood all over again, but at least there was something hard and rough protecting her tender skin.  

It occurred to her if she did decide to go to the Dark Side she could help a lot of women the way she’d just helped herself. They could never go back to the way they were before, but at least they could reclaim their memories and maybe feel a little better for it. 

But before she could follow that train of thought back to the station she heard footsteps and a guy stepped out from behind some of the plastic-wrapped boxes. He seemed like he was vibrating slightly all over himself so she couldn’t make out his face or even what color his clothes were. Then she realized it wasn’t him that was vibrating, it was the air around him, and so she gave a shout his direction and disrupted the vibration so she could see him better for a moment before the air started vibrating again.

But even once she had seen him properly, she found him so unremarkable-looking he would have been hard to describe to someone else. He was ageless, raceless, and utterly forgettable. He could have been anyone in a crowd, you’d walk right by and two seconds later be unable to remember what he looked like. He was like if someone drew a stick figure and brought it to life. Zoe thought that if he wasn’t already called Desire, he should name himself Genericman.

He shut the vibrations off so Zoe could see him and then he smiled in an eerie way. Somehow his perfectly average face became even more perfectly average, despite its intense creepiness. “Cold and shrill. Excellent powers for a woman.” he taunted.

“Where’s Captain Obvious?” she asked, but before he answered Detective Wallace was stalking around in front of her with his ridiculous plastic stun gun held out in front of himself with both hands and Zoe totally wanted to do a facepalm. 

“You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law!”

Desire looked at the cop and busted out laughing.  Then he looked at Zoe and she just shrugged. “I told him to stay in the car,” she explained. Zoe knew instinctively that there were two worlds, the human world and the superhuman world, and this was superhuman business that humans had no part in. Detective Wallace was like a mosquito trying to arrest an elephant and mosquitoes tended to get squished when they get too obnoxious. While she supposed she could have tried harder to keep him out of it, he just had to butt in and now he was going to pay the consequences. She felt a twinge of guilt but pushed it away since she didn’t have the mental energy for self-flagellation.

“Leave me alone,” Desire said in a weird way, and Wallace slumped and fell to the ground.  His gun skittered away with a rattling sound.

“Did you kill him?” Zoe asked, hoping that he didn’t but understanding it if he did.

“Nah. I probably should, but humans taste terrible.” Desire, while irritated he’d been found and would now be on the radar of the LUPD unless he killed the cop, was positively thrilled by the new arrival. She smelled strong. Women tasted different than men, sweeter and spicier, so with Captain Obvious and whoever this girl was, it would be like he had himself dinner and a dessert. Maybe two supers might fill him up, finally. He wondered if he could drain them both at the same time, a trick that had never occurred to him probably since he’d never managed to catch two at the same time before. It sounded positively delish. His stomach growled loudly.  

Plus, she was incredibly cute, delectable you might even say, and while he no longer had the ability to devour women in a sexual sense, an attractive meal was like sitting down to eat an elaborate bento box or maybe a beautifully frosted cake – he just appreciated the care that had been put into the package, was all. A feast for the eyes in addition to the stomach. His mouth watered and he had to actually swallow down his saliva.

So hungry.  So so hungry. 

“I’m here for Captain Obvious?” she prompted.  While she was inclined to freeze first and ask questions later, the fact was that she didn’t know where Sanjay even was, if he was even here, and she didn’t want to kill the guy without being sure she’d found him.

“He’s in my BELLEH,” he replied, in a terrible Scottish accent like the guy on Austin Powers.  

Zoe felt horror rising up her spine and hoped it wasn’t true.

“Get in my BELLEH,” he said to her and laughed in this sinister way, and Zoe realized he meant to eat her, to actually eat her, like, EAT HER eat her, which seemed like the capper on a pretty shit day overall. She send a dozen icicles his way and was stunned to see them drop right out of the air and shatter when they hit the floor. She shook her head which felt awfully fuzzy all of a sudden. “I need,” Desire said. “I NEED.”

She opened up her mouth to scream and all that came out was a mew like a kitten. Frying pan, fire, frying pan, fire, frying pan, fire, her brain babbled at her.

“I need,” Desire said again and started walking towards her.

One time when Zoe had been in high school she’d gotten anemia really bad, and after she’d done anything, even small tasks like just getting ready for school in the morning were exhausting; her muscles would shake and her heart would pound and she couldn’t catch her breath. Whatever was happening to her felt exactly like that. She could hardly stand up and so she bent over and tried to prop herself up with her hands on her knees and thought about how maybe she should have proceeded with just a smidge more caution.

What else did she have, what else did she have? She thought of her claws and they seemed permanent, like something no one could take away from her, and forced herself to shuffle forward an inch at a time, her right hand extended out in front of her. She had to get to him, she had to get close enough to get him.   

“What?” Desire said. Something was wrong. He’d just given her a double whammy, a triple whammy even, by far and away more than it had taken to bring down Obvious, and not only was she was still on her feet, she was actually coming at him. “I NEED,” he said again, and drank down a great big gulp of her. Finally she crumpled to the floor. But only a few seconds later, much to Desire’s shock, she was trying to get up again.

He needs, he needs, he needs, Jesus. Zoe was just so sick of men and their needs, always taking precedence over everything else, it seemed like she was drawing power from it. Even though logically she knew it was her body healing itself she felt like it was that rage giving her strength and she shoved her elbow underneath herself and pushed her torso up. Men and their goddamn needs, most of which weren’t needs at all, they were wants stoked by porn and a world that told them that every momentary urge they ever experienced was fucking sacred and if they didn’t immediately act upon every whim they ever had they weren’t really living. Needs, FFS. Men’s “needs” were a freaking joke, only the joke was on women. She cocked a knee up beneath her other leg and struggled to get her feet back under her again. If she could just get close enough she could sink her fingernails into his throat and find the jugular, she just knew it. She just had to get close enough.

Desire couldn’t even believe his eyes. She was still coming. “I need?” he whispered, gently, so very gently, because he was starting to suspect he had someone special on his hands, someone he had been looking for for a long time. He was terrified of killing her so he mustered every ounce of self-control he had and sipped at her, looking for the sweet spot where she was incapacitated but not dead. He reached out with his hunger and tentatively probed her, felt her life force draining away into him, and then much to his surprise felt her filling up again the way a toilet fills up after you flush it, only far more appetizing.   

Much to Desire’s amazement he realized he could take nearly everything out of her and then it just came back again. It was like magic and so he drained her and waited and drained her and waited and drained her and waited and he didn’t even know how long it went on. He lost all track of time. It was marvelous, it was bliss, it was paradise, it was like his every dream had come true. He could eat as much as he wanted to, he didn’t have to stop, he didn’t ever want to stop.

And then the most remarkable thing happened.       

The hunger was gone. He wasn’t hungry. He wasn’t hungry at all, in fact, the idea of eating was vaguely repellent like he’d just eaten an extra large 4 meat pizza and an order of cheesy breadsticks and a 6 pack of beer and a bag of M and M’s a box of ice cream sandwiches and was still licking melting ice cream and bits of chocolate cookie off his fingers. He was finally full. He felt a surge of gratitude towards the unconscious girl and relief so great he actually felt a sob escape his chest.

With the hunger gone, finally gone, his body stepped on the clutch and shifted gears.  Desire realized he had an erection, an urgent and undeniable erection, for the first time in seven years, since the truck carrying toxic waste had crashed into his Prius and the nickel-metal hydride batteries exploded turning him into whatever the fuck he was.

The girl was there already sprawled out on the floor. She was incredibly cute. Delectable. He thought he might love her, because he was so grateful to her, so thankful for her, she seemed like the answer to his every prayer. Even though he never would have thought himself the type of guy who could do such a thing, he found himself fumbling at his pants in desperation. His balls ached, itched, burned, throbbed from the agony of being pent up for seven years and he had to get it out of him before the moment passed or it would be stuck in there possibly forever. He had to, he had no choice. It had to come out. It wasn’t his fault, he had to do it. It wasn’t his fault, it was just his stupid body, he was a prisoner in it, a slave to it, he had no responsibility, he couldn’t be blamed, he was the real victim here, it wasn’t his fault, it had to come out. He was going to eat the girl anyway, what difference did it make anyway, no one would ever know anyway, no one would ever have to know what happened anyway, and he wondered how long he could keep her alive so he could do it again.  And again and again. And again.

She stirred then, and he was glad because he kind of wanted to look in her eyes when it happened. Her eyelids flickered like a sleeping child and then flew open. She pushed up on both elbows and Desire was surprised to see an eager expression on her face.

Zoe bit her lip and willed him to get close enough, imagined her claws ripping open his throat, imagined him clutching at the wound with a betrayed expression, imagined the skin of his impossibly average face turning ghastly white as the blood drained out of his head, imagined him falling over and twitching and then going still. Then he smiled at her, a real smile this time, an open and guileless and warm smile that Zoe’s brain could make no sense of whatsoever, and burst into flames.

The heat coming off him was incredible; Zoe scrambled to her feet and took a couple steps back trying to get away from it before she remembered she could just create a pocket of cold air to protect herself. She heard Desire making horrific noises and saw him flailing around but she couldn’t see anything else beyond him since the light of the fire was so bright. Then he fell down and stopped moving, and the fire sprinklers came on, which was irritating so she froze them all solid so they would stop spraying her. It was enough water to knock down the flames a bit, though, so she could see someone walking towards her, a man with long black hair, in a crimson suit, with a gold cape swinging out behind him.

“Sanjay!” she exclaimed, her heart jumping for joy.  Zoe wanted to run into his arms but there was a flaming man in the way.  

By the time she’d said it he’d gotten close enough to see his face and it was furious, downright malignant, and she barely recognized him. If it hadn’t been for his costume she wasn’t sure she would have recognized him at all.

“Who the fuck are you?” Captain Obvious asked in a strangled voice.

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 4: “Surprise”

Women in Fridges – A Cold Day in Hell Part 4: “Surprise”

 

Wallace called in a few favors and bent a few rules and they found out Flat Stanley was living at the abandoned zoo outside of town. While there were occasional calls from John Q. Public to raze the place since it was an eyesore not to mention a public safety hazard, enough homeless superhumans lived there that the powers-that-be decided to leave the zoo standing. After all, if the supers weren’t living at the zoo, they were gonna be living someplace else, on the streets or in the sewers or in a neighborhood next door to somebody who voted, and nobody respectable wanted that. Short of tent city jails which the tender hearts decried as a violation of civil liberties, an abandoned zoo seemed like a reasonable enough containment system. Even had a fence around it. A nice tall one with razor wire curling along the top.

The freaks actually kept the place up pretty good, all things considered. The more functional ones took a proprietary interest in their living quarters, so while the zoo had been officially abandoned since the 70’s, the buildings were still standing, the brush wasn’t terribly overgrown, and there was a surprising lack of garbage piled up. It looked like all you needed to do was bring in some truckloads of zebras and a hippo or two to get the place back up and running again.

So the LUPD left the place alone, let the superhumans self-police what happened within the borders of their fiefdom, partly out of practicality and partly because the thought of going into that zoo – especially alone – was what a cop’s nightmares were made of.  But sometimes nightmares came true, especially for cops.

“No offense,” Zoe said as Wallace pulled up in the zoo’s vacant parking lot. The overhead lights had been shot out a long time ago, and there were weeds growing up through cracks in the asphalt. “But I think you should stay in the car.”

The detective shut off the ignition with a laugh. While the idea of going into the abandoned zoo didn’t thrill him even a little, whatever powers Zoe Rose was packing now, it wasn’t gonna be enough. That zoo was full up of all sorts of rough and tumble superhumans, and very likely a borderline unhinged Captain Obvious to boot. Wallace was pretty freaking sure Cap wasn’t going to just accept his girlfriend had come back from the dead on her good word. He figured Obvious would be more likely to believe two familiar faces rather than just one, especially when that one was meant to be dead.

Hell, Wallace barely believed it himself, and he’d had ample opportunity on the drive over to observe her playing with her new powers, frosting up the windshields, freezing his coffee accidentally then apologizing profusely for it. She grew icicles from her fingertips and floated giant snowflakes in midair, then disappeared them again as if they’d never existed.  

Impressive and all, especially for a corpse, but it was nothing compared to what some of the superhumans could do. Nothing. And unlike Zoe Rose, DeShawn Wallace didn’t have the ability to come back from the dead. He strongly considered calling for backup but he knew that if he did and the backup arrived before they could get to Cap, the chances were Obvious would be taking a trip to Hellgate Island, possibly even a one way trip. The thought of the affable Captain Obvious locked up for the rest of his life alongside hardcore irredeemables like Dread Scott and Suckerpunk, it just didn’t sit right. Plus there was more than a little voice telling him Zoe herself could end up in Hellgate right alongside of her boyfriend if a bunch of capes showed up to take him in. She wouldn’t let him go without putting up a fight, Wallace figured.

He had to play everything just so to get them out of the mess they were in, and part of that just so involved him walking into the Los Urbanos zoo on his own alongside a glorified weathergirl who could yell real loud.

Wallace said a prayer under his breath and got out his stun gun; thankfully he’d remembered to charge it, sometimes he forgot. While stunning would never work on someone as strong as Obvious, even on max, it might help them get past some of the zoo’s weaker inhabitants. Then with any luck they’d find the Captain quick, convince him that Zoe was really who she said she was, and talk him back down off the ledge. Once they did that, they’d be safe. Captain Obvious could get them back out of the zoo again easily.

Zoe rolled her eyes at the sight of Detective Wallace checking his gun.  It was cheap-looking, plastic, she couldn’t imagine it would work on a human, let alone a supervillain. “All right, it’s your funeral.”

After she said the word funeral she started to wonder if she even could die, if her body would just keep healing itself forever. No funeral, no gravestone, no obituary, no mourners. Would she keep aging, just get older and older but never be able to die? While Zoe certainly didn’t want to die any time soon, that sounded awful. If she stayed young forever and all her friends and loved ones aged and died around her, that sounded equally awful. Sanjay had impenetrable skin and super strength, but he definitely aged, she’d seen pictures of him when he was younger and he had wrinkles between his brows and a couple white hairs in amongst the ebony ones. He was 35 years old already and that meant his life was half-over. That didn’t give them very much time, especially if you measured it against an eternal lifespan or even just an unusually long one.  

Zoe felt a wave of resentment that she had had to change, that someone had forced her to change forever because they were horny, because they were angry, because they wanted to prove some point to another man. So many men went through the world like they owned everything in it. Other people, female people especially, were a resource for them to consume and toss over their shoulder like an empty crushed pop can. She thought of Chuck at KAQT, he was just the same as Flat Stanley was, just a matter of degree. She thought of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer and all the guys who had gotten away with it for years and would continue to get away with it in the future. What difference did it make if they got caught eventually, if along the way they hurt people and changed them forever?   

It was galling, the sense of entitlement some men had. Whenever they had a momentary urge of some sort they got to act on it, whenever they had an itch they had the God-given right to scratch. They took what they wanted and kept it, that was the worst part, they KEPT what they took. Staked a claim in you like planting a flag on Mars or something. They got to walk around forever with the memories of what they had stolen, they got to think back on it fondly and relive the experience as many times as they wanted to and what did you get? You either died or got changed into something else and had to just carry on that way and never let anyone see the cracks in you which was a challenge even if you were like Zoe and didn’t have any scars that were visible.

Zoe thought ok she may be stronger now, wiser and more powerful, but she preferred being what she had been before. She missed being an innocent human woman who was just…happy. Fragile and innocent and living in the bliss of ignorance, it had been a good thing to be. Now that she had them, she knew without a doubt that strength and wisdom were overrated. She could never have imagined what a luxury it was to be stupid and weak and happy. She wanted to be that person she had been before still. 

No matter what happened, she decided, no matter what the consequences were, she was going to kill Flat Stanley. He may have changed her forever but he couldn’t keep those memories of her. They didn’t belong to him. She didn’t want for anyone to know those things that happened except for her, not that she wanted to know them either.  

She would never be the same but then again, he would never BE again. It seemed fair.

The detective shut the car door with a slam, which snapped Zoe out of her reverie. She got out of the car and followed Detective Wallace towards the big sign that read “City Zoo”.  

*****

Captain Obvious stalked through the zoo, with all the confidence having upper echelon superpowers afforded him. The few people he encountered saw that crimson suit coming at them and headed in the other direction. There was hardly anyone around, which was odd; usually the zoo was crawling with freaks, and he figured they must’ve heard he was coming and made themselves scarce.   

Which was fine by him. Let them scurry off to hide. Anyone stupid enough to challenge him was going to get a firsthand taste of Cap’s new rules of engagement. Kill em all, let God sort em out, a sentiment he’d heretofore found alarmingly militant, but now just seemed to be stating an obvious fact.

Adjudicating morality was someone else’s job. His job was executioner.

He didn’t think he’d need to find Flat Stanley, he figured Flat Stanley was gonna find him, since he had that inhuman sense of smell and everything. Probably how he’d found Zoe was by smelling his way to Sanjay’s apartment and then there she was like a lamb for the slaughter.

Why hadn’t Sanjay read his messages? Captain Obvious thought for the hundredth time. He had certainly updated his social media accounts repeatedly but hadn’t ever bothered to open the several messages he’d received on said social media accounts warning him that Flat Stanley was back on the streets. When he’d finally checked he’d found 17 messages from various government organizations and he’d melted his phone in frustration. But people send me so many messages, Sanjay whined and Captain Obvious longed to cut out his own tongue even though he hadn’t said anything out loud. Sanjay was such a selfish self-absorbed idiot. He deserved every bit of the pain he was in right now and Captain Obvious wished it was possible for him to reach inside himself and beat the hell out of the guy and then roast him alive for his sheer mindboggling stupidity.

Captain Obvious realized he was imagining Sanjay Biswas in the third person, like he was someone else, another person with another life, some utterly useless guy curled up inside of him sobbing in a fetal position, and he knew it was because he couldn’t afford the luxury of being in mourning right now. Right now, the person who was in pain was someone else, and he was a wrecking ball. He wasn’t a person, not any more, the person he had been died with Zoe. He was vengeance wearing spandex. 

In the back of his mind, an alarm bell sounded. Obvious was very well aware that this was how superheroes cracked up – they started thinking of themselves as two separate people, the hero and the secret identity, till they actually BECAME two separate people and the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing any more. Sometimes the secret identity even forgot they were heroes entirely – they’d just wake up somewhere wearing a costume with no idea how they got there or what was happening to them.  It was how Pop Fly had got killed, people said. Reverted to her secret identity in the middle of a fight and swatted by a villain she could have easily handled under normal circumstances.

When superheroes developed split personalities like that they got hauled off to Hellgate Island for a mandatory reintegration and even if they got released, they couldn’t be heroes any more. They had to wear suppression collars for the rest of their lives. It was for their own protection, but they’d have to catch him first. And he wasn’t going to go down easy. He wasn’t gonna go down easy because he had a job to do.  

Seriously, why would you not kill bad guys? Why wouldn’t you? They never got rehabilitated, never learned a thing, just offended and reoffended and re-reoffended as many chances as you gave them. How could such a stupid, effed-up criminal justice system have even evolved in a world full of people who could obliterate bad guys with a thought, with the flick of a finger or the wink of an eye? It was fricking ridiculous was what it was. Accepting the deaths of innocent people to protect the civil rights of monsters, literal monsters like Flat Stanley? Ridiculous. 

And to think he’d been ok with it since up till now it had never been anyone he personally cared about. It was disgusting. He was thoroughly disgusted with Sanjay.

It occurred to Captain Obvious that Sanjay Biswas had not exactly been living up to his end of the superhero bargain. He’d been granted incredible Godlike powers and then what did he do with them? Wallowed in the fame and the glory, the fun stuff, and skated by doing just the barest minimum of crimefighting to justify his celebrity. He thought about all the people who had lost loved ones because Sanjay had been too late to save them or too busy accepting some bullshit award or because someone he’d put in jail had walked and he’d just shrugged over it. Yet they had hurt just like poor faraway Sanjay off in the distance somewhere hurt now.

Meanwhile he had been out taking selfies and posting comical memes on Twitter when those people he had failed were shattered by loss.  

Captain Obvious had thought he cared about them, but it was all academic to him. Hypothetical. He suddenly understood why some of the heroes like Batverine and Bully Pulpit were so antisocial and jerkish, why they could never put heroics aside and chill. It was because they actually cared about the people they were meant to be saving rather than accruing likes on Instagram which was how Sanjay had spent a good deal of his time and energy.

But all that was about to change.  And who knew, if Batverine showed up maybe Obvious could talk him around and they could team up. If you wanted to talk about practically insane heroes, Batverine was at least ⅞ of the way there. He hung around Crazy Cat Lady for God’s sake, and she was just this side of a bad guy. 

You could kill evil people and still be good, surely. It was killing in self-defense, which was allowed. You were just defending yourself a little sooner in the game, was all. Did it really matter if you waited till someone’s hands were clenched around your throat before you killed them? What if they were just a couple feet away, a couple yards away, a couple blocks or miles? Wasn’t their intent what mattered and not whether or not they’d managed to act upon their intent yet?

That noble talk about power corrupting was foolishness. Power only corrupted you if you let it. If you were good, a truly good person, you couldn’t BE corrupted, because your power would be used only in the service of good. A good person couldn’t be corrupted, they could only go too far. But what if you were careful, so very careful to never go too far? Captain Obvious would never start playing moral policeman. He would stay away from the shades of gray.  He would kill the Actual Bad Guys, only the Actual Bad guys.   

It all made so much sense he couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen it before. He wondered if this train of thought had always been inside of him lurking in the back of his mind. Percolating. Maybe it was just the eventual and undeniable realization of a person who had lived long enough in this effed up world. Maybe it was just the logical conclusion that any rational person would eventually be forced to draw whether they wanted to or not. You either trusted the good guys to do good, or you empowered the bad guys.

There would be time to figure it all out later, when things calmed down, when his primary mission was complete. Maybe when Flat Stanley was gone he’d turn back into one person again and that person would know right from wrong without question like he had before. Or not. With any luck, he’d be killed, and the entire puzzle would never need to be solved.

Captain Obvious walked down the food court where the concession stands used to be. It still smelled vaguely of hot oil, like corn dogs and elephant ears and funnel cakes even after all this time. Then he saw Flat Stanley at the far end of the boulevard, in front of the reptile house. He stretched his hands out as if issuing a challenge. Obvious wondered if the guy was possibly suicidal or something, because he wasn’t that strong, and he’d been easily beaten in the past. Had Stanley come after Captain Obvious trying to get himself killed and found Zoe instead?   

But the world would never learn what Flat Stanley’s motivation had been. Despite an intense craving for some explanation as to why, why, WHY? Captain Obvious felt his eyes heating up almost of their own accord, and he wished for self-control, wished for the patience to make the pain last all night, for days, for weeks, but even as he wished it he knew didn’t have it in him. He didn’t have the time to indulge himself anyway. Stanley needed to be barbecued immediately and then Obvious could move on to the next villain on his list. The quicker he killed them, the more he could get through before the Flying Brick showed up to slap a collar around his neck and take him to Hellgate.  

But then a man stepped out of the shadows from behind a booth that said “Cotton Candy” on it in faded pink letters. The man was totally unremarkable in every way, and Captain Obvious suddenly realized he couldn’t exactly see the guy even though he was standing right in front of him. Average height, average weight, indeterminate race, and had absolutely no unique characteristics whatsoever. His clothes were gray or brown or maybe navy blue. When Obvious squinted to get a closer look, the guy’s face went blurry making it even harder to get a grasp on what he looked like.  

“I need,” the stranger said, as he came closer. “I NEED,” he said again. Captain Obvious felt really weird, like someone was sucking the life right out of him. He tried to shoot fire from his eyes but the flames came out only a couple inches and then died out.

“What?  What??” Sanjay said and he fell to his knees and then flopped forward onto his hands.  

Flat Stanley walked up and all Sanjay could do was raise his head a little. He couldn’t look Stanley in the face, he couldn’t raise his head up enough to do it. His skull felt like a bowling ball attached to a neck made of linguini or something. All he could see was Flat Stanley’s hands which were hairy like an animal and had dirty fingernails. Sanjay thought of those disgusting hands on Zoe and wanted to kill him so bad, so bad it was like he was boiling over from it, but he didn’t have any strength in his body. “That’s just what his girlfriend kept saying.  What, what, what like some kind of a fucking retard.”

“What?” Sanjay said again and both the men laughed. They thought he was beat so they laughed at him. But he dug deep, to depths he didn’t even know he had, and struggled to stand. He pushed up somehow back onto his knees again and managed to thrust a foot out in front of him and trying, desperately trying to shift his weight onto that leg so he could get to his feet. 

“Look at him go. Heh. Lost cause, buddy, lost cause!” Flat Stanley jeered at him.

“I need,” the strange man hissed again, and Sanjay deflated like a balloon. His lead leg started sliding forwards till he was practically doing the splits and then he fell over to the side, writhing on the asphalt like a worm after a rain.  

Sanjay couldn’t understand what was happening, he just couldn’t understand it. “What?” he said again, and then everything faded to black.

“How was it,” Flat Stanley joked, looking down at the limp body of Captain Obvious.

“Tasted like curry,” Desire joked back, and laughed. Stanley laughed too although he didn’t get it. “Thanks, my man.”

“No worries,” Stanley replied, although he thought Desire had cut it a little close. 

Desire picked up Captain Obvious in a fireman’s carry and headed off into the night with him.  He kept his meals alive as long as possible since they were so few and far between. Licorice Whip had made it nearly 2 months before he finally got too greedy one night and ate him all up. Obvious, being extra strong and all, who even knew how long he could stretch him out??

He was still hungry though. Despite having just drained one of the stronger capes, Desire still ached with hunger. It was damn disappointing.

Would he never not be hungry?

*****

Flat Stanley had set up housekeeping in the reptile house, in a Plexiglass-walled habitat that had, at one point, housed Burmese pythons. The thing about the reptile house was, since reptiles were cold blooded, it was closed to the weather. Primo real estate. He’d had to forcibly evict the previous residents when he’d arrived, but that hadn’t been much of a challenge. Since Stanley had the ability to pass through walls transdimensionally, as the girlfriend of Captain Obvious had found out firsthand, he had barricaded the door shut so the same thing didn’t happen to him if a stronger super happened to come along.

So he was pretty fricking pissed to get back to his place and see a big round circle cut out of the clear window of the habitat. He went inside and there was a black guy with a stungun inside. Human by the smell of him, which meant he was soon to be a dead human. Flat Stanley made plans to steal the guy’s cool leather jacket, even though it would never fit over his shoulders. Maybe if he made some relief cuts in the leather he could get his arms into it.  

“You’re under arrest, Stanley,” the guy said, and flashed a badge, which complicated matters but wasn’t insurmountable. Any human stupid enough to come to the zoo alone deserved what they got, and that was true even if it was a cop. Everyone knew it, even the authorities. Flat Stanley made plans to invoke the stand-your-ground law and figured he’d get off scot-free. 

“For what?”

“The murder of Zoe Rose.”

“I don’t have a clue who that even is.”

Flat Stanley heard a sound behind him and smelled…someone. A superhuman, he could tell that much immediately. In addition to the peculiar nasal tanginess of the hormones created by mutant DNA there was a familiar scent, like baby powder and cherry blossoms and coconut shampoo, a scent that he felt he’d smelled very recently. He tried to wrap his nose around it good enough to place it, but it was all overlaid with hospital smells – iodine and formaldehyde and disinfectant and old blood. He couldn’t figure out where he’d smelled whoever-it-was before.

He turned around and saw a ghost. “Surprise,” the ghost said.

“What?” Flat Stanley asked. “What?”

The black cop stepped forward with his stungun til it was pressed against Stanley’s temple. “You know what they say, Stan, when you come for the queen, you’d best not miss.”

“How is this…how,” Flat Stanley stammered before realizing that by asking how it was possible the girl was alive, he was basically giving a confession right in front of a cop. “Um, what?”

“Where’s Captain Obvious?” the dead girl asked and Stanley laughed because maybe he had the upper hand after all.

“Now why in the world would I tell you that?”  

She smiled and before Stanley knew what had hit him, he was totally encased in ice from his feet to his neck. The ice smelled old and stale with a faint hint of ketchup and rancid meat juice in it, like a fridge that needed to be defrosted. He could have phased through it but he didn’t want to escalate an already escalated situation. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” Flat Stanley replied, planning to offer as little information has he could get away with. Crossing Desire was not something you did if you didn’t want to get ate. “I can’t tell you.”

Zoe tipped her head forward just the slightest amount and a fist of ice shot directly into Flat Stanley’s balls. “Have it your way. Believe me when I say I’m more than happy to beat it out of you. And please, take your time, why don’t you?”  

“Seriously, I don’t know,” he replied when he finished coughing and gasping from the shot to the nads. It was dawning on him that whether he got ate by Desire or frozen by some vindictive bitch who took things way too personal, it was all the same for him. Dead was dead. “I wish I could help you guys, really, but Desire got ahold of him. I got no clue where he took him.”

“Desire?” the girl asked and looked at the black guy for clarification.

“Never heard of him, Zoe.” Wallace didn’t like it that there was an unknown villain out there strong enough to take out Obvious. Didn’t like that at all. He thought back; the zoo had been deserted, deserted like Wallace had never seen it before. Him and Zoe had walked in like they owned the joint; no one challenged them, not even once. And while he would very much like to chalk it up to Captain Obvious being there too, there was a little voice nagging at him that maybe the freaks were hiding from more than one threat.         

“Tell me everything you know.” 

“I don’t know nothing, the guy keeps his cards close to his vest. Secretive, you know?? Alls I know is, he’s a real bad guy, real bad, not like, not like me.”

Zoe looked at Flat Stanley in disbelief. She tilted her head and her sleek blunt-cut brunette hair swung out on one side and laid against her cheek on the other. Her brown eyes widened and then narrowed into slits. Stanley was sure he was about to get crushed so he prepared to phase through the ice and take his chances with whatever else this chick was packing. But before he could, the ice holding him in place turned liquid and dropped to earth, dousing his clothes with frigid, rank-smelling water.  

“What are we going to do with him?” asked Wallace.

“Take him with us,” Zoe replied. “Even if he doesn’t know where this Desire is, he can find him.”

“How?”

“Same way he found me.” Zoe created a ring of small sharp icicles encircling Flat Stanley’s neck, but hovered them in midair a foot away from him. “See those?” she asked, and Stanley nodded quick small nods and gulped. Then she made a much larger and much pointier icicle and hovered that about 6 inches from his crotch. “See that?” she asked, and Flat Stanley, who had got very red in the face, nodded again. “Turn around.” The largest and pointiest icicle of all she hovered right behind his ass and while he watched she grew it longer and pointier still.

“Oh, boy,” Flat Stanley whimpered. Then Zoe turned the neck icicles into a collar and the other icicles into a diaper-ish thing as she smacked them onto the guy as hard as she could. He started coughing again, partly from getting hit in the nuts again, but it was the blow to the Adam’s apple at the same time that really got him choking and sputtering. It was nice, Zoe thought, a nice feeling to see him suffer. She technically didn’t need to do it since she could just remake the icicles again at any time, but she thought he might need a constant and hopefully very painful reminder of the truth.

“You work for me now,” she said.