War? Good God, y’all!

War? Good God, y’all!

Since I wrote my last blog entry back in February, the world has changed. The coronavirus happened, and some people are saying we shouldn’t talk about things like politics any more, because it’s just not that important. But politics matter, and in times of crisis they matter if anything more because they’re governing the direction our country will be heading into the future. And in case you hadn’t noticed, even if it’s considered gauche to talk about, politics continue even when no one dares to analyze them. 

So, I carry on.

In my last piece,  I talked about how I had given up for a while on writing about politics, but I’d restarted again because I felt like it was my responsibility to push back on things that many people assume to be true, that are not true.

And I’m sure a lot of people said War?  Come on, atomic, you gotta be exaggerating here.

But I’m not. I believe we are closer to a civil war than at any point in my adult life.  I feel like we’re (in the words of Jim Steinman/Bonnie Tyler) livin’ in a powder keg and giving off sparks and the weird thing is, a whole lot of people don’t even seem to care. A whole lot of people in any given moment seem hell bent on giving off MORE sparks. The few of us who try to act as voices of reason within our own respective movements, are immediately lumped in as working for “the bad guys”. I would go so far as to say this is one of the major things that has changed over the course of my life.  The voices of reason, of moderation, who used to be listened to and respected even when it was secretly disagreed-with, are shouted down and even demonized as simply another set of enemies. If you don’t believe me, Google “Centrists are the literal worst” because there are a whole lot of people out there, particularly on the left, who view anyone willing to compromise with the opposition as traitors even worse than overt political enemies.

It’s been my hope as the Covid crisis developed, that by seeing how quickly our world can be turned upside down and inside out, how quickly all this unprecedented liberty and comfort and safety so many take completely for granted can go away leaving us not only with no toilet paper and boneless chicken breasts, but no ANYTHING, not even liberty and comfort and security, would wake people up to how precarious our situation truly is. But it doesn’t seem to be the case. People are still continuing to spew hate and create/consume/share fake news and actually ROOT for our country to fail so they can own the other side.

It’s insane.  Even I, who knew all along it could come down to this, finds it insane.         

One of the more dismaying things I’ve seen the past month is people who I respect and love, people who raised me to be the relatively thoughtful, ethical, empathetic person I like to think that I am, delighting…DELIGHTING…in people they politically disagree with getting and even dying from coronavirus. And I don’t mean politicians like Boris Johnson, I mean actual human beings like people whose “sin” was going to church or watching Fox News. I’m having a really hard time seeing the person who exhorted to me, time after time, to “never judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins” (it was a different time then) DELIGHTING in seeing people die from coronavirus because they don’t have the “right” beliefs. I don’t even know what to do with that. I truly don’t.

So yeah. I do think it’s war. I’m not happy about it, but I’ve never been good at pretending the Emperor has no clothes.

What does war look like, anyway? We all know what the later stages look like, all yelling and shooting and bleeding and dying, but I think war starts off long before it turns into war-war. I suspect that in most of humanity’s conflagrations, before there was a single shot fired, there was a war being waged for hearts and minds. A war in which each side was still mulling things over, thinking things through, and that is a war women fight just as much as men do if not even more so. We encounter it every time we go to the store or church or our child’s school and overhear our loved ones and neighbors and our frenemies saying things that are wrong, wrong, wrong. People don’t want to realize this is war and they particularly don’t want to realize they have to be the ones to fight it, but it is and you do.

Why not just play nice though?? I mean, if we’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks, why give off MORE sparks by challenging people? Why escalate and aggravate by pointing out inconvenient truths like “actually, people who live in America’s rural areas are NOT stupid racist inhuman monsters”? Why not just nod and smile and grab your green beans or your children and be on your way? Doesn’t it just increase the divisions to push back?

People say that to me, in fact someone said it fairly recently, and I understand where they’re coming from. I really do. But there’s a huge gulf between calling someone a snowflake or similar demeaning names to escalate an argument, and pointing out an ugly belief that a person may not have thought through. These things are not the same, and equating them is completely unfair. Because ugly and ignorant beliefs snowball if they’re never pushed back on. They grow and pick up speed until they become completely unstoppable when ignored.

In fact that’s exactly what ugly beliefs are like, is a snowball rolling down a hill. They start off small, and are easily stopped with a gentle hand. Maybe if they get a little momentum built up, they roll till they smack into a tree and stop rolling, or even disintegrate totally. But if you let them keep rolling along without meeting any resistance at all, pretty soon they have enough speed and mass to obliterate anything in their paths and then boom, that’s the end of your ski lodge.

We – those of us with those moderating, reasonable voices – have to push back on the little things because little things become big things and big things cannot be stopped.  And even though I know everyone rightfully hates Nazi references, you don’t wait till Hitler’s having a rally with tens of thousands of people in it to stand in the middle of the crowd and be all like “you know, I like the Jews, they’re good people, just like you and me, and the stuff you’re saying about them is bullshit”. That fight needed to be fought in grocery stores and churches and schools, and it needed to be fought by all reasonable people, thereby stopping that ugly and ignorant snowball, long before Hitler ever came to power. And it needed to be fought even if the people talking shit about Jews in 1920 didn’t like you that much for saying something about it. 

As most of you know already, I believe the conservative reluctance to engage and push back because we wanted to play nice and avoid social censure has brought about a state of affairs in which it’s nearly impossible to communicate with liberals, because liberals don’t honestly KNOW much about what conservatives think, feel, and believe. At least, not much that didn’t come from their own side – many of whom profit bigly from the business of demonizing cons. This is not the rank and file liberals’ fault. It is not even the liberal grifters’ fault. 

It is OUR fault, conservatives. You cannot fault a person for having ugly and ignorant beliefs if their beliefs are never challenged and brought to the light. You cannot fault a person for believing a thing if they’ve only ever heard one side from everyone they ever talked to. You cannot fault a person for not stopping to think about something if no one ever said “well achtually” to them, in their whole entire lives. It is our fault, conservatives, our fault for keeping our mouths shut to keep the peace, for letting the liberals take over Hollywood and the media and the school system and using them to indoctrinate everyone while we did nothing, for keeping our beliefs secret to be sure no one ever thought the worse of us for our “embarrassing” and “problematic” beliefs.

A couple weeks back on Twitter there was a blue check (a member of the “official press”) who was in a minor car accident somewhere in rural America. He was flabbergasted, FLABBERGASTED that the emergency responders and tow truck drivers and car repairmen were nice to him. He said he was surprised that they were kind to “someone with New York licence plates and a California driver’s license”. He was shocked that people in Middle America treated he and his family (including a small child, to whom one of the responders generously gave a little stuffed animal present) with kindness and decency. It was apparently some sort of mind-boggling revelation to the guy that he received excellent and skillful post-accident treatment, let alone kindness and generosity in a red state.

Do you understand how fucked up this is?  A member of the American press corps fully believed with every fiber of his being that after being in a car accident, because he was from New York City (New York City??  GET A ROPE!  That’s how rural people think, right??  Like a stupid commercial from the 1980s that was set in cowboy times) or maybe California that he was going to encounter rudeness and hostility at best, or be sacrificed to our rural gods or something at worst, like he’d stumbled into Midsommar by crashing his car in the wrong place. And he posted this in complete seriousness! Please understand, his amazement was NOT centered around the notion that “oh wow gosh maybe I was wrong about rural people all along, they actually are nice, normal, and talented” either BTW. He posted from a perspective of “OMG guys can you believe there actually ARE a couple cool people in Red States, they’re not all actually inbred troglodytes, isn’t that AMAZEBALLZ?” He learned absolutely nothing from the experience. His completely flawed and disgusting underlying assumption remained the same, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If ever there was something that needed to be pushed back on, it was that. And so I politely did, politely, mind you, gently, maybe even, and from a fellow conservative, I got “OMG CAN’T YOU JUST BE NICE” like I was calling the dude a snowflake or being inflammatory in some way, when I absolutely was not in any way shape or form. I found that pretty ironic given the fact that I’ve gone out of my way to reach out to liberals again and again and been repeatedly shit on as I’ve talked about in the past, and also because I’m such a vocal critic of meanspiritedness among conservatives as I’ve also talked about in the past, but I digress.   

(I’m not gonna screenshot this because the whole thing was frustrating and I don’t particularly want to keep going with an argument I walked away from by going to look it up. If you haven’t seen this type of exchange happen 500k times per year on social media, you’re probably not spending much time on social media. But it happened exactly the way I am characterizing it.)

Can you please try to understand, my eminently respectable conservative peeps, try and wrap your little Bulwark-soaked brains around this factoid – a whole lot of basically decent leftists ACTUALLY believe that everyone on the right lives in Rural America, and furthermore see everyone who lives in Rural America as inhuman barely-literate monsters who are inflamed to hostility at the sight of a license plate that reads “New York” on it. That’s not hyperbole. It’s not a political ploy. They BELIEVE IT. And the reason why they find something that goddamn ridick so easy to believe is that all us nice and normal people keep our mouths shut because we don’t want anyone to think we are a big fat meanie pants leaving only whack jobs like Milo and Richard Spencer flapping their decidedly awful and disgusting flappers. Much of this is by design, with the media amplifying the handful of terrible conservative voices whilst muting the many sensible ones, but much of it is the failure of people like you and me to ever say a word even in the face of really gross and terribly wrong beliefs.  

And that is on us. It is our fault, and our failing. We have been cowardly in the face of being attacked again and again. We acted like we were getting attacked by a bear and played dead and hoped it would all go away. But it isn’t going away. I know Jesus says to turn the other cheek and everything, but this is ridiculous. We fight now, or we fight later.

We’re standing here dumbly staring up at all these giant snowballs of ugly and hateful beliefs plummeting down Mount Everest at us, wondering why everyone thinks we’re such awful people that we need to be reeducated and even eradicated when all we’re doing is holding a set of time-honored beliefs about the nature of people and the position of government that was respected by just about everyone up until the past 25 years or so even when they disagreed with them. But in case you haven’t noticed, over the past 25 years a whole lot of people up and decided that conservatives are Actual Bad Guys and Actual Bad Guys deserve to be annihilated.  DESERVE TO BE ANNIHILATED.

They believe this because you and to a lesser extent, I, let them believe it.  

You wanted them to like you, and in trying to curry their favor and “be nice” you ended up staying silent in the face of unforgivable lies and seemingly depthless toxicity. You let even their ugliest and wrongest beliefs go unchallenged because you didn’t want people to think you were “mean.” And I did it too. I was busy, I was tired, I was afraid, I wanted people who I liked, to like me in return. I understand it’s hard to fight the good fight. It carries a price and I haven’t always been willing to pay it. But the bill has come due. We can’t put off paying at least the minimum balance. So I’m not going to keep silent any more, even if it ends up with my fellow cons thinking I’m part of the problem when I am so totally not. And you shouldn’t either.

Because this is war. Like global pandemics, war comes at you whether you want it or not. It comes if you’re ready for it or not. I hate to break it to you, Internet friends and e-neighbors, but in war, you gotta be confrontational sometimes.  Some people are going to conflate confrontational with meanness, that’s just how it goes. But by being a little bit “mean” sooner, by calling some asshole out on their bullshit online in the here and now even though it may be a little awkward and upsetting for everyone involved, it may be that we don’t have to be very, very mean later on.

Please decent people across the political aisle, but most especially conservatives – Join me! Don’t wait till you’re that one little voice in the middle of tens of thousands of people calling for good sense and self-restraint. Don’t wait till unstoppable forces like gravity or mob mentality overwhelm you, because I promise, you are not an immovable object. You are a small and fragile person probably with even smaller and fragile-er children, and you’re all standing in the path of a snowball of indeterminate size and speed. When it comes it’s going to be coming at you with the suddenness of the coronavirus, only it’s gonna be a lot less discerning about who it kills. Your ski lodge will not be enough to protect you. If you don’t believe it, I suggest you Google this thing called “The 20th Century”, it’s fairly illuminating.

Strap on your snowshoes, climb through that deep snow up to the top of the hill with me and let’s stomp on those tiny snowballs before they really get rolling. 

 

 

Oh Lawd, She Comin

Oh Lawd, She Comin

When I started this writing journey back in 2016 I did it mainly because the world felt like it was coming apart at the seams, and I thought I could bring people together.

It seems naive now, but I really did think that. I thought that conservatives were misunderstood because for several decades, we were so busy living our lives, we’d left our movement in the hands of some people who did not have America’s best interests at heart and represented conservatism in ways that did not represent the views of most cons. We kept voting for them and letting them be our mouthpieces since they were better than the alternative, but we didn’t agree with them on all the issues and even when we did, we didn’t approve of their messaging.

Under this assumption, I felt that liberals couldn’t be blamed for thinking the worst of conservatives, because the people who were representing us were all too eager to show them our worst sides, and never seemed to manage to put forth our best. Despite this, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that liberals actually HATED conservatives. I thought we were mostly on the same side and they just needed to get to know us better and understand our motives were pure – we still wanted what was best for America, we just had two different visions of what that was. 

In my innocence, I wrote one of my first widely-published political essays called “America 2017 is a Bad Marriage”Let’s just say that it did not bring people together in the fashion that I’d hoped, at all, and I realized I had an uphill battle in front of me. Over the course of a very long and disillusioning 2017 I was forced to face the reality that liberals and conservatives were a lot further apart than I realized, and that hostility, even hatred, simmered very close to the surface, particularly for liberals.  

A year later I regrouped and tried writing about reconciliation again in “The Odd Couple”, admitting, ok, maybe it’s true, liberals really DO hate conservatives, but we’re stuck together not unlike roommates Oscar and Felix in that old TV show, and we had better learn to get along even if we’re opposites, and you never know, maybe if we try, we could even find some common ground.

That didn’t go much better.

Only slightly daunted (I am not easily daunted) I changed strategy and tried to inspire conservatives to reach across the aisle in less aggressive ways in my “standing up by backing down” series and I did my darndest to be a vocal internal critic of conservatives, calling them out when they were wrong, like I did in “Mata Hairy”.

I even wrote a piece called “fear and loathing” in which I begged liberals to search their hearts and try to see things from the conservative perspective, to think of reasons why cons might actually be fearful of inflammatory liberal rhetoric and extreme and drastic policy suggestions. Yet en masse the liberals, even those I consider good friends, stood before me and blinked and scratched their heads and acted befuddled at the very question, even as social media seethed with declarations of hate and threats of violence against conservatives coming from celebrities, pundits, journalists, and politicians alike.

Since November 8, 2016, I have reached out to liberals repeatedly to try to find common ground, to forge connections, to build upon our mutual foundation of being stuck together as inmates in the insane asylum that is America of the 21st century. And for my trouble I’ve been slapped down, verbally crapped on, humiliated, had my motives and my intelligence called into question, and worst of all, I have had my every deepest fear proven right. As I sit here 3 years later I don’t think we CAN get along. I really don’t. Because the liberals don’t want to get along, they want to win.

I didn’t want to be right. Not at all. I wanted the liberals to prove to me that they actually WERE more moral than conservatives, that they were the better people as they’d claimed for so long, that my worst fears about them becoming hyperpartisan fascists ready to burn the handy scapegoats of conservatism at the proverbial stake were wrong. I wanted all of us who were decent people on both sides to come together, to join forces and shout down the people who would divide us – across the political spectrum.

But liberals, even the decent ones, didn’t want to do that. They only wanted to shout down the people on MY side, and much to my very great surprise, even at times when I tried to criticize conservatives from the inside in ways most liberals should have agreed with, rather than join with me, they turned on me and attacked me instead. Even when they didn’t know what I was talking about, rather than take the time to find out, some of my liberal acquaintances were quite happy to assume I was the worst conservative stereotype their Vox-soaked brains could conjure up.

I realized that they preferred the scary conservative under the bed to the reality of a nuanced person that has weighed the available information and drawn a different conclusion than they have and I have had to do some very deep thinking about why that might be the case.   

The moment I realized my worst fears were 100% true was when I published my piece “Ashes in the Wind”.  Once again, I had tried to write a post about finding common ground, wondering if it was even possible, and once again, liberals treated me disingenuously, claiming that my discussing a book set in the Civil War era that I read as a teenager marked me as a Confederate sympathizer or something. In their rush to damn me and to correct me like I was an errant child, they utterly missed the point of what I was actually saying, which had nothing to do the the Confederacy or racism and was simply about people of divergent beliefs getting along. Even the kindest and most thoughtful among them implied what I should have written instead was yet ANOTHER thought piece in which Problematic Badthink was yet again overanalyzed rather than an IMO-much-more-desperately-needed investigation on whether liberals and conservatives could ever see eye to eye.   

It was baffling. What did they want from me, anyway? I eventually realized that what  they wanted me to write the piece that THEY would have written in my place. They didn’t want to hear my take, they wanted me to write their take for them. They wanted to bully me, a writer of conservative thinkpieces, into writing a liberal thinkpiece!

And let me just say not only no, but HELL NO. If there’s one thing the world has enough of, it is liberal navelgazing about Problematic Badthink. We have very serious issues developing before our eyes here and now that MUST BE DEALT WITH if this nation is to continue, and I find exploring those issues of much more importance than yet another rumination on the Problematic Badthink of the past to be tossed on the heap with the other 123,456,789 of them that were published today alone. But I thanked them for their input anyway, because it made me understand for the first time the mindset of the people who I was dealing with. I am endlessly appreciative for the negativity surrounding “Ashes in the Wind” because above all else, it was the response to this post which really brought it home to me what the liberal endgame is.

This is war. I can’t deny it any more. Whether it’s a political cold war, a culture war, whatever you want to call it, I can’t pretend otherwise any longer. I’ve been attacked one too many times for trying to make peace. I tried to bring people together repeatedly, and I failed spectacularly every time. And much to my surprise the ones who didn’t want to reconcile were liberals – not all of them, but a pretty goddamn large chunk of them.

I can no longer deny what is self-evident – a good many liberals want to destroy what they can destroy of my culture, the culture that has brought women like me more freedom, wealth, and security than has ever been the case through all of history. I can no longer deny that liberals want to tear down the things I love (even a lot of things that ARE LIBERAL) and replace it with a philosophy and a world that I do not think many people, even liberals themselves, are going to like at all. And they’re going to do this by doing what they tried to do to me – tearing conservatives down until the weak-willed give in and start talking about issues of liberal interest (and sadly, I’ve already seen this happen to a couple of good people) and demonizing the ones who refuse to back down.

And I guess I will be demonized because I will NEVER EVER EVER start writing liberal thinkpieces to make people like me. EVER.

Bring it. Because what I learned from watching Republican morons like Jeb Bush try and fail and try and fail to curry favor with Democrats is that it doesn’t matter, liberals are gonna demonize me anyway, because they need to believe in the conservative boogeyman under the bed. They NEED me to be a boogeyman because they’re more comfortable with a conservative boogeyman than a thoughtful person making a reasoned argument and seeing the world a different way. If I don’t look enough like a boogeyman for their liking, they’ll poke me with sharp sticks and thrust hot torches into my face to try to provoke me to act like the boogeyman they want me to be. And even if I stay strong and continue to be the better person, they’ll twist my words and take things out of context or even outright lie about my intentions.  

If I write an article about a book I read in junior high school, they’ll make it about me being a Confederate sympathizer. If I say a nice thing about Kellyanne Conway – regardless of her politics, an admirable woman who truly worked her butt off to get where she is today – they’ll call me a Nazi (MY GOOD FRIEND CALLED ME A NAZI. A GOOD FRIEND!) I’ve been accused of wanting children in cages and hoping that people without health insurance die. And why?? Because I have to be a boogeyman. If I exist, and I am not a boogeyman, worse still I am a thoughtful and kind person, then it means that the liberal worldview may actually be wrong because I’ve seen the same dataset and I drew a different conclusion. They don’t want to inspect my conclusions too much because they might find reasons to question the massive holes in their philosophy.

A whole lot of liberals have some burning and undeniable need to see themselves as the smartest and nicest and most ethical people who know the One True Way to carry America forward to her glorious future because that’s how they defined themselves back in 1968, and the existence of people like me who are also smart and nice and ethical and think there’s a different way, shatters their illusions.

Knowing this, I quit writing about politics openly for a while, I admit it, because I got fed up with the perpetually deceit-soaked responses to the entirely reasonable stuff I wrote and I was, quite frankly, so upset at times that I felt tempted to resort to being a boogeyman, to lash out against the liberals as they lashed out against me. That’s the way the game is played, you see – attack until a conservative lashes out, and then retreat to the moral high ground and congratulate yourselves on how much better a person you are.

 I thought maybe what my purpose was instead, was to prove to the liberals in my readership that a conservative can be witty, bright, insightful, talented, AND conservativeAnd that, I think, is a mission that I have accomplished. A liberal I admire greatly once called me “everything a conservative should be” and another one I don’t admire at all called me “a knockoff version of Ann Coulter” and I take both of those as huge compliments even though the one was meant as an insult.  

But it’s not enough.

Since my first post in 2017 I’ve concluded that we got to where we are now NOT because Republican voters left the conservative movement in the hands of some people who did not have America’s best interests at heart. The truth is, the media simply didn’t cover any of the conservative pundits and politicians making better arguments. They existed, I just didn’t know it at the time.  The media has been cherrypicking the voices we heard, amplifying the useful idiot conservatives who either said what liberals wanted to hear, like Mitt Romney, or who said what liberals wanted to fear, like Steve King. Before November 8, 2016, I still accepted the mainstream media at face value, but after 3 years of fake news and laughably wrong predictions, of scare tactics and deceptive statistics, of stories based around the single tweet of a lunatic living under a rock somewhere, now I know better. And thus I really really guess that I gotta, even though I don’t want to not even a little, start hitting it harder on politics than I have been lately.  Because I cannot trust the mainstream media to represent reality. Their game is creating boogeymen.

If I tell liberals “hey, I’m scared of you” and they really, truly can’t come up with a single reason why cons might have some concerns about the rhetoric coming from the liberal movement (while I think the bulk of them were dirty rotten fakers, some – the best of them, matter of fact – did appear to be genuinely at a loss why I might fear their movement because don’t you know it’s all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, and LOVE SWEET LOVE????) then we as conservatives have got to do better at making our case to them. We can’t trust the middlemen to do it for us, be they the Republican Party or the New York Times. Decent liberals are not even hearing most of the arguments we might make to them, and only part of this is due to selective hearing. The media is telling them lies. Politicians are telling them lies. And their friends and cohorts just say what they want to believe back and forth to each other like a circle of parrots. 

Liberals haven’t wised up like we have, cons, they still believe the media and the politicians and the swamp creatures of Washington DC, and they WANT to see the conservative boogeyman wherever they look. They want to see the conservative boogeyman because it justifies not only their hatred, but their sense of superiority.

They have no one to speak truth to them if we don’t do it.  

So I guess I can’t keep hiding behind Jane Austen vampire stories and reviews of 30 year old romance novels, as much as I’d like to. I gotta take the fight to the entrenched liberal battlements because they’ll never come down off their intellectual mountaintop to hear it otherwise. Even if they disagree, and they will, at least they’ll hear an argument from someone who ain’t Tom Nichols or Newt Gingrich or Evan McMullin or Matt Shea – conservatives who tell liberals what they want to hear and a few more who confirm their priors.

And so I gird my loins and don my spiritual armor and prepare once more to jump into the fray, to speak truth, even though my voice shakes. As is the case in any war, even a cultural war, being one of the guys in the trenches is hard and scary and may even cost you your life (literally, or figuratively) and a lot of people are too cowardly or too weak to do it. But I can do it, I have the ability. I understand the arguments and I can make them eloquently without calling anyone “snowflake” even when it’s so, so very tempting to. Most people don’t have the ability, or the strength. So I don’t have the choice not to answer the call.

Pray for me, for wisdom, for strength, for courage, and above all else for the future of the nation who depends upon the people like you and me who are not so all consumed with partisanship we can no longer see the world beyond the colors red and blue.

JLo’s Vent

JLo’s Vent

I curse an awful lot in this, and am mean to several people, a few of them who don’t even deserve it.  Just wanna let you know that going in.

As some of you know, there was a brouhaha on Twitter the other day regarding the Superbowl halftime show and unfortunately this brouhaha involved me.  

I didn’t want to get involved in a brouhaha.  I try to remain as brouhaha-free as a writer of thinkpieces can be in this crazy old world.  I was attempting to criticize the conservative movement (Matt Walsh in particular) for being anti-woman, much as I did in my piece Mata Hairy  and its followup piece glam and flash.  But some liberals I’m chummy with decided that me being an internal critic of conservatism gave them an opening to then pile on to bitch about ALL conservatives, including me, it sure seemed like anyway even though they tried to walk it back after they did it, for thinking “ya know, maybe that Superbowl halftime show was just a little bit over the top, and it probably should have been dialed down a bit since the Superbowl is one of the few things we still come together with our families to watch, and maybe we didn’t need to see JLo jackin it on national TV.”

Because that’s what happened.  Aside from skimpy costumes, stripper poles, and very unfortunate camera angles brought to you by CrotchVision, now in Cinemascope, JLo actually pretended to masturbate while writhing around on her back, and I’m sorry, that is where I draw the line with Sunday Afternoon Family Entertainment.  Luckily my kids weren’t watching right then, but I can imagine the questions seeing a woman explicitly finger her VJ in the middle of a dance routine might warrant from 10 and 12 year old boys in particular (By the way, I have actually complained to the NFL twice in the past about them putting ads for gory slasher films in football games, so my concern about inappropriate content is in no way limited to sex acts). Yes, it was brief, but it was by far clearer than the Janet Jackson nip slip thing, and it just did not need to happen.

I’m not going to give the arguments that were made at me much print since I don’t want to expend any more of my precious time to even encapsulate them.  I’m sure you can imagine. It was basically “Prude” and “Adam Levine had no shirt last year” and “U watch violence” and my personal fave “ur kid already watches internet porn”!

No, I assure you, they don’t. 

The absolutely stunning thing about all this (and the actual reason I’m writing this essay instead of just letting it go, Jake, it’s Liberaltown, you can’t expect shit to make any fucking sense here, because it doesn’t) is that these passionate brouhaha commenters didn’t even know what I was complaining about.  They had no idea JLo had done anything beyond wearing slighty risque attire and bebopping around.  It simply confirmed their priors to jump to the very huge conclusion that all conservatives are flying off the handle at seeing girls in sparkly swimsuits gyrate and they were off to the races, not caring to slow down enough to even find out what I was actually concerned about, let alone not caring enough to realize I was actually CRITICIZING THE CONSERVATIVE RESPONSE in my original Tweet.  They came to my Twitter feed to make fun of me and the people like me and then feigned befuddled confusion that I might have a problem with their behavior, simultaneously managing to entirely undermine the conservative-critical point I was making when they did it.  

THANKS, FUCKTARDS!

Some of these people are cool people too.  Not a-holes. Well, a couple of them were decidedly a-holes, but I don’t care about them.  My upsettedness comes from the snapjudgementalism of the people I like who are apparently willing to immediately lump me in with the Bible Brigade Biddies, when I was really making a nuanced argument that was ACTUALLY ABOUT FEMINISM.  More than that, when I tried to correct them since they were so totally wrong about what I was even saying, some of these folks made it perfectly clear they didn’t care a fig for my opinion or feelings and instead tripped all over themselves rushing to tell me how wrong I was again, only louder.  They were willing to happily ride roughshod over a woman making a feminist argument in order to joyously mock prudish conservatives, high fiving each other and doing shirtless chest bumps, only thankfully figuratively because not even Adam Levine gets by with that shit.  

I don’t quite see how I can interpret any of that as being anything other than tribalism > feminism, I really don’t.  Dunkin on cons is wayyyy more fun than listening to some feminist harpy, amirite boys?

Hey and by the way, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back telling yourself what a good ally you are any time soon, dickweeds.

These dudes came rolling up to shoot me down based on me allegedly being a prude and they HADN’T EVEN WATCHED THE HALFTIME SHOW, didn’t know what had happened, did not know that woman had just feigned masturbation on national television, and some of them did not even bother to read my original tweet in which I was criticizing a conservative for their response to the halftime show.  (!!!!!) They were just incredibly fucking sure they knew the score, entirely fucking convinced they had the market on reality cornered, and were so very happy to see the Church Lady whereever they looked, even in their adorable and totally outrageous friend atomic, and so they couldn’t bring themselves to shut the fuck up even when repeatedly asked to.

Tell me how this is any different from someone who’s never read Harry Potter crying “Witch!”

It isn’t.  It isn’t at all.  It’s the behavior of people who are blind with prejudice, engaging in tribalism as ridiculous as anyone with a colorfully painted face screaming at a football game, going through the world assuming that everyone they encounter who ain’t on their team is a stereotype of a caricature who never actually existed.

Some of these people probably think I’m being unfair, and I am, but this is my blog, and I get to be unfair here.  I’m tired of playing fair and giving the benefit of every doubt to people who don’t extend me the same courtesy, like, seriously ever, even though I slave away over a hot keyboard creating mountains of content for their ungrateful asses.  

So tell me this, Liberal Geniuses of the Internet – do we as a culture have to have any standards of decency or is it anything goes?  Will the Superbowl halftime show in 2040 be brought to you by Astroglide and feature people actually fucking on there, and if anyone has a problem with their kids seeing that, well, they shouldn’t let them watch a sportsball match in the first place because violence is OHBVEEUSLEE just the same as sex.  UR A BAD PARENT!

(Record scratch…sex and violence  – if football is violence, which I do not concede – ain’t the same thing, yo.  They aren’t the same at all, and I can prove that because after u watch porn, u want to have sex, like, right then and there, immediately if not sooner, and I have watched a lot of dudes play football and a lot of shows where people slice other people with swords and headbutt each other and I’ve never wanted to do any of those things, and certainly not within 2 minutes of watching.  But hey, by all means, keep lying about reality, liberals, you’re really convincing me of how I should vote for your candidates and let you run the whole entire world.  That’s sarcasm since u seem to have such a dreadfully hard time understanding the subtle nuances of the shit I say.)

Because just as I’d fully agree the liberals had a point with tearing the old sexually repressive ways down, the conservatives have a point too in saying enough is enough already.  Somewhere between burqas and Tijuana donkey shows there’s gotta be some kind of line where most of us look around and say “ok this is a pretty good place to set our boundary, where most of us aren’t going around offended most of the time and small children don’t need the terms “santorum” and “filthy sanchez” defined for them, yet most of us have the freedom to dress how we would like within reason and adults can enjoy some titillating entertainment in venues in which titillation is appropriate.

(helpful hint – The Superbowl is NOT one of those venues, and don’t you dare come at me with “shirtless Adam Levine, double standards because a chick pretending to masturbate is just as explicit as a dude without his shirt on OHBVEEUSLEE.”  Heads up – first of all, I thought Shirtless Levine was tacky as hell too, but more importantly, men and women are not the same. MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT THE SAME and the rules governing our public sexual behavior are therefore different for a wide variety of reasons any person not completely drunk on partisan KoolAid would admit.  You can shout ur rage at the sky about how unfair it is chicks can’t go round without their titties swinging free all you like, but it doesn’t make it a fact that men and women have the same sexual reactions to stuff because they DON’T.  Women can see men without a shirt and not go berserk, whereas men, particularly of the youngish variety of whom God has entrusted four of the little bastards into my care – not so much.  Whether that is innate or cultural is irrelevant, I don’t give two shits what happens “in nature”, it’s absolutely the case in America 2020, and again, pretending otherwise simply reveals to me the utter disingenuousness of liberal arguments on this topic.)

And furthermore, claiming “parents need to raise their sons not to be misogynistic rapey toxic masculinity bastards, don’t objectify women” out of one side of your mouth while telling me “JLo’s visbly shaved pussy needs to be exhibited on TV in front of your pubescent sons during a national sporting event with a thin strap of sparkly material covering it and how dare you complain about ur sons seeing that because head injuries and Adam Levine and also by the way let’s throw Shakira’s wiggly ass in there too” has gotta be the most whiplash-inducing set of directives since Liz Warren told me we needed a president that was honest and forthright. 

Forget it, Jake, it’s Liberaltown.  

Enough is enough already.  Why is is so EEEVVULLLL of me to want some areas of human existence that don’t involve people masturbating?  Why is it EEEVVULLLL of me to want a safe space for my kids to grow up without seeing sex before they’re ready?  I’m not the one being unreasonable here, Sport, it’s you.  I’m just trying to be a good mama.  My requests for a few tiny pockets of this world to remain somewhat sex-free and suitable for a family to enter them together are perfectly reasonable and relatively minor and I am not a bad person or a hypocrite for making them.  Let there be some family shit for families without thrusting pelvises, ok?  Why is that so fucking hard?

WHY DO YOU WANT SEX ON THE SUPERBOWL?  Why?  Why is this a necessity?  Why is JLo’s twat in the Superbowl up there with Mom and apple pie for you?  Do you even know?  You want to peddle sex to children, to LITTLE CHILDREN, you want sex everywhere in every thing all the time, you want cartoon characters and Muppets to have sexualities for some reason even, and you don’t even know why.  I think I know why, but I’m not telling, because it’s a nuanced argument and I’m fed up with making nuanced arguments to people so stupefied with tribalism that they basically have adult-onset Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  Long story short – “Our team Good, our team have boobies.  Ur team BAD, ur team have no boobies.”

Did ya get that one or did you need me to dumb it down a little more for ya?

Again, I say, once upon a time, liberals were correct to kick down some old and dusty Puritanical stupidities like laws against dildos and homosexuality.  I for one like very much being able to wear yoga pants and tank tops in public and not marrying the first man I kissed.  These freedoms are good freedoms.  These freedoms virtually all of us would agree upon, liberal and conservative alike.  These freedoms are fanfuckintastic.  There are women and girls, and not a few, walking around Planet Earth right now who have had their clitoris surgically removed to prevent them from experiencing sexual pleasure.  There are women and girls who risk getting stoned to death for being raped or being homosexual.  In America 2020, the battle has been won, we have an insane and amazing amount of sexual freedom the likes of which no human being has ever seen, and especially not any woman.   

When will it be enough for you?  Ever?  

Public decency is by necessity a line drawing exercise and drawing lines means that some of us who exist on the margins will have to suck it up and deal.  And maybe, just maybe, the group that needs to suck it up and deal is YOU this time.  Just because ur team has built its self-image around a mythology where they’re the brave superheroes bringing Shakira’s quivering tush to the deprived pre-teen masses doesn’t make you actual heroes.   It’s cosplay just like about 90% of everything you #resisters do is cosplay.  You don’t give a shit about kids, you don’t give a shit about women, you don’t give a shit about freedom of expression (you’re trying to erode it every goddamn chance you get, except when it involves seeing JLo’s taint apparently).  You mock prudish conservatives because your movement defined itself on being pro-boobie a long time ago and you gotta go scream at your football game like the primitive tribe member you are.

The thing I learned about the Bible Brigade Biddies when I actually took the time to get to know them, is that they are concerned about modesty because they actually kind of care about girls and think they know what is best for them.  They may be wrong, but their motivation (like that of a good many feminists too BTW) is to protect girls from messages that the world is telling them – to dress like a slut to make boys like you because your sexuality is the only thing that matters about you – a toxic message that I myself internalized growing up.  And the Biddies’ other motivation is to protect girls from boys who get too interested in sexish stuff when they’re not old enough to handle it and may pressure girls to do things they’re not old enough to handle either.  Their motive is to PROTECT those who are not capable of protecting themselves because they are still in their formative years.  You may disagree about the necessity of their protection, but don’t you dare impugn their motivation. 

Most conservatives aren’t Handmaid’s Tale prudes looking to keep women barefoot and pregnant and they never actually were.  Most conservatives are simply people who have a different view of what the world ought to look like and a different opinion regarding what is the best way for people to live to attain maximum happiness.  Like a good many myths, this myth of heroic liberals fighting prudish conservatives may have been historically useful and even somewhat true (I’m skeptical, but I’ll give it to you) but in the modern world, it’s no longer valid.  YOU WON.  We all won.  Why not give conservatives a charitable read on their concerns, huh?  We have a pretty fucking amazing level of freedom both sexually and otherwise, and all we’re asking for is a little moderation in how we exercise that freedom in certain venues.

No pretend masturbation on the Superbowl because children might be watching.  Maybe forgo the stripper pole next year, and let’s do away with the up-close-and-personal crotch shots.   It’s a family sporting event, not Vegas.  It’s a reasonable request we’re making and is not at all extreme.  That you insist on saying it’s an extreme position, I think says more about you than it does me – namely that you’re so in love with the idea your own mythology you can’t recognize a sensible, legitimate argument when you see one. 

 

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.