27.1 Monster

James Cuthbert was not evil.  He wasn’t angry or hateful, not usually, just… frustrated.

Almost eight years since law school and all he had to show for it were three failed bar attempts and a massive student loan debt.  Eight years working at the law firm of Lobo, Lamb and Love as a paralegal, watching others that were younger than him, better looking than him or just plain luckier than him move up, get the things he’d been cheated out of…  It didn’t make him angry.

He hadn’t been top of his class, sure, but he hadn’t been at the bottom either.  Maybe he hadn’t taken things seriously enough as an undergrad.  It was his first time out of his parents’ house, first time to drink when he wanted, set his own schedule, first time he’d ever… well, a lot of firsts.  He’d been a little distracted, and he’d had to change majors to graduate almost on time, and maybe some of the bad habits he’d picked up then had been carried into law school.  That wasn’t his fault, lots of people went through that.

When he finally finished schooling his parents had offered to let him move back in while he’d looked for a job and studied up for the bar.  James didn’t like that idea so he’d gotten a simple job at a major law firm, a foot in the door he’d thought.  His pay hadn’t been anything great but it let him pay the rent.  He didn’t need to start paying his loans for a bit.  That was a lot of stress, something he’d never learned to really deal with, so some of that pay went to a few nights at clubs or bars.  Maybe that was time that should have been spent studying but it was an understandable decision, right?

Then his loans came due.  He went from just making it to not nearly making enough.  James turned to his parents and they lent him some money, just to let him get by until things came together.  But they wouldn’t keep that up long enough.  They stopped after the second bar failure.  He knew he shouldn’t have stayed up drinking the night before but he’d never done well on tests.  It made sense to try and relax, right?  You couldn’t spend all your time studying and getting ready for stuff like that or you’d go crazy.

After his parents abandoned him, he turned to his girlfriend.  Rather, girlfriends.  They never stuck around long, never seemed to really appreciate him, but he got good at talking them into helping out while they were there.  This time he saw it coming, didn’t waste time on the bar.  He just turned all his efforts to finding a way out.

He transferred to a Border city.  The relocation assistance, the lower cost of living, the monthly stipend… it should’ve been enough.  For a little while, it was.  He caught up on his payments, even got a little ahead of them.  So obviously, after all that, he deserved to have a little fun.  James had learned his lesson, knew that partying wasn’t a smart call.  This time, he took up hobbies.  Eating out, a new car, decorating his house, he even took up dirt biking for a few weeks.  He was so optimistic, he took another shot at the bar.

He gave up after that.  Ignored the letters, the negative reviews at work, just kept going, enduring.  It wasn’t that bad, James could deal.  It wasn’t his fault; he’d just had a run of bad luck.


 

4 DAYS AGO

James swore when he opened the e-mail, pounded the steering wheel while he was waiting for the light to change.  His new wrist-com was top of the line, maybe a little too expensive, but he’d needed something to cheer him up.  Of course, it had literally never given him good news, just unpleasant work emails, notifications of traffic ahead and now this.

A costume party.

He hated parties, especially work ones.  They’d stopped being fun when he stopped drinking at them.  And Halloween was weeks away, why the hell did he have to put together a costume, drive back to work and then be bored out of his mind for a few hours before he could finally slip away?  A tiny voice in the back of his mind answered, because at this point any bad will from his boss could lead to him having to find a new employer.  Mr. Angeles loved the stupid things.

The old man had even chosen a theme.  Everyone was supposed to go as some kind of demon, vampire, witch or some other supernatural-make-believe-piece-of-shit.  He should have picked up something to wear a week ago.  Now he didn’t have the time to do it right and showing up with just a pair of plastic fangs and some fake blood wouldn’t cut it.  James thought about what he had in his closet, tried to figure out if he could improvise something scary or-

He had a great idea.  All he had to do was stop on the way home and buy a plastic knife.

A couple hours later, costume in place, he was on his way back to work when he decided, on an impulse, to stop for a corner store hotdog.  Old, greasy, terrible for you, whatever.  Those things were delicious.  He pulled over to park by the next store he saw and got out.  He hit his head getting out.  Rather than get pissed off about it, he chuckled and reached back in for his motorcycle helmet, put it on.

He walked through the automatic doors, enjoying the sound of his outfit creaking and the feel of his heavy boots.  It made him feel… something, something good.  James went straight to the hotdog corner, ignoring the weird thump behind him.  Sounded like someone ran straight into the door, hit it before it had time to fully open, maybe it was a shoplifter?  Eh, not his problem.

James got his dog, added a little nacho cheese to it, and headed for the counter.  When he got there, his hand automatically went for his wallet, bumped the handle of the plastic knife strapped to his side.

“Please don’t.”  Practically a whisper, it was the clerk’s fear filled voice that made him realize what had happened.  “I- I won’t tell anyone.”  James looked up at the little curved mirror above the kid’s head, examined himself.  “Please, just don’t hurt me.”

Without saying anything, James turned and left the store.  Later, helmet removed and sitting in his car, he laughed while he ate his hotdog.  He’d just walked in, dressed in a cheap motorcycle outfit with a black plastic helmet and a two dollar costume knife, and they’d bought it.  That hadn’t been a shoplifter.  Someone had panicked at the sight of him and made a run for it as soon as he got away from the door.  The clerk had freaked out and just stood there, would’ve let him take anything he wanted.

For the first time in longer than he wanted to think about, James didn’t feel like a failure.  Screw it.  If he felt this good after stealing a hotdog in a cheap knock off costume, what would playing Monster for real be like?


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16 comments on “27.1 Monster

  1. Bets on whether the guy who panicked and ran into the door ended up with minor brain damage and that somehow led to the guy behind a previous Monster nemesis team being hit by a truck of gasoline?

    Also, if people have actually been getting away with doing this, maybe that’s part of why trying to kill him never works. They keep going after different ones with different powers. That said, I think the original attacked Fractal, since he demonstrated the perfectly timed movement you’d expect. Either that, or the real one’s power operates by proxy and all the copycats get his power when there’s someone to impress.

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    • I think James is the first Monster impersonator ever, because even villains have standards. I do think he’s going to be the last too based on the previous update. That could really go two way:

      Monster show up and kill James in costume, after that nobody will ever dare to try to impersonnate him, so everyone can be sure that when they see the costume they are seeing the real Monster.

      Second possibility, Jason was facing James in the previous. That would imply that James is a good actor though, and that the real Monster is letting these events unfold. James isn’t backing down because he expect Jason to do so and think that even if Jason use his power he can like, dodge the first shot and reveal that he isn’t the real Monster. Unfortunately for James, Jason’s power doesn’t have a “warning shot” setting, not that he would use it.
      James dies in the Monster costume, shock, camera crew, the new is relayed that Monster is dead, then the new is relayed that this wasn’t Monster at all. This break Monster’s whole mystique, what will be the effect on his power if everytime someone see him they wonder if he’s the real deal? not to mention that even though it was a fake for a moment the people watching the news believed Monster had been killed?

      Monster could probably use that to his advantage in some way thought. Commiting a massacre somewhere else right after the moment where he’s been “killed” making it seem that not only he is almost impossible to kill but if you do manage it he’ll just reappear somewhere else. Or he could attack the reporters on the scene of his “death”. That kind of things. Let the people have some hope, then crush it from maximum effect.

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  2. The person that guy who-sounds-like-Jason is facing has visible blue eyes, and the trademark metal plates attached to his motorcycle leathers. I don’t know if we’ve had monsters eyes described, I don’t think so but would have to check. Our new friend James originally doesn’t have metal plates sewn to his jacket when he first puts his costume together, but I guess he had time to do so since then.

    I guess my bet is that this is James, not monster, but what do I know? I’m intrigued by probably-Jason’s choice of words in the last update, which, if they refer to Jenny as people assume, make it sound like Jenny wasn’t actually killed, but suffered some other terrible fate. Maybe something having to do with her power? All that’s coming to me is something about her becoming nationally/internationally known in some way that cements everyone’s view of what she is like when being Awesome, trapping her forever in a particular role she really hates…Anyway, if Jenny wasn’t killed maybe that makes it more likely this wasn’t actually Monster.

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    • About the first part of your comment: Monster probably doesn’t like people impersonating him meaning that it is a possibility that he shows up to do something about James.

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  3. I took the previous chapter combined with with one to mean that Jenny hasn’t been killed or anything else more warped into Monsters perfect companion. I mean Jenny’s power works by forcing her to act in a way that the person perceiving her thinks is awesome. So what happens if she runs into Monster? What kind of personality would Monster think is awesome. Also would that Awesomeness be enough to keep her alive once Monster set his sights on her. take as an example Monsters perfect companion is someone who travels with him and does everything they can to help him live his fairly simple life. This could mean that while with him she kills anyone who would oppose him. Even worse would be if she ran into him while with her nemesis team. What would happen to her if she ran into two such conflicting opinions of what people think is awesome? On one side you have the Operatives who think is would be awesome to survive or even kill Monster. On the other Monster himself who would probably think its pretty Awesome if all the operatives died or simply got out of his way. What would her power force her to do here? How could you possible be perceived as awesome by two completely different perceptions? Would her power choose the outcome that effects the most people? Or would it tear her psyche apart trying to reconcile such different opinions? I think that’s what he meant when he said you “Destroyed” her.

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    • I think normally it just works by popular vote of the people who are going to hear about what she does. But, well, she and Monster have related powers and they’re both giant question marks, so there’s really no telling what will happen if they fight.

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      • It all depends on what your audience has seen. I know I have gaps in my pop culture knowledge. I suppose Buffy/Angel is getting to be an old reference.

        “Lupis, Ewe and Cardiac” could have been done more elegantly. As is, it just looked like a random bunch of words to me at first. Something like Lobo, Lamb and Coeur sounds much better. Although Hart is a stand in for deer, not heart the organ.

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        • Buffy/Angel is an old reference now? Ow. I’d hoped the current popularity of Joss would keep that from happening but… ow.

          Changed to Lobo, Lamb and Love because this is a superhero story and alliteration matters gosh darn it. And yeah, a hart is a male deer and the white ones can be shot with a bow to grant you three wishes which is the only reason I knew that. Hope you don’t mind me swiping the first two. (I’ll totally change it if you do.)

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  4. I actually knew about Wolf, Ram, and Heart, but missed the reference and thought it was a law firm that had two ordinary people and a Healer as senior partners.

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